"OVERLAND, Mo. — This was the moment Frank Smith had waited for since he was 12 and first held his great-uncle's World War II Purple Heart. Finally, he would get a look at the Navy file of Glen Ray, a radio operator killed at 22 when his patrol plane was shot down by the Japanese over the Aleutian Islands in 1942.
"Smith, a military memorabilia collector, had driven more than 2,100 miles from his home in Edmonds, Wash., to the federal government's massive military personnel records repository in this St. Louis suburb. Now, as he carefully unfolded the first paper in the brown folder, he smiled. It was Ray's application for enlistment. The date was Oct. 14, 1940."