WASHINGTON — Jack Forgy never forgot how it felt to lose his father, an Army officer, when he was 10 years old.
As he grew up in Arkansas, he wrote letters to his father's colleagues and commanding officer and learned some details of the July 27, 1945, death. Years later, when he became an infantry officer, he went to the Normandy town where his father died.
Few people remembered the battle, and the language barrier almost defeated him.
"Five minutes out of town, a black car pulled him over," said Forgy's son, John Forgy. "It was the doctor who had treated my grandfather, and (my father) got a great first-hand account."
"He knew all the circumstances," agreed Forgy's wife of 44 years, Crystal. Lt. Col. Percy Forgy had climbed into a jeep and just taken command of the troops when hit by shrapnel.
Upon retirement in 1996, Jack Forgy realized his skills could help others who lost their fathers in wars. He could read military personnel files easily; he knew how to research records at the National Archives.
He began volunteering for the American World War II Orphans Network and over the next 12 years uncovered the fates of more than 600 military men whose families always wondered how their relatives died.
Forgy, who died Sept. 26 of lung cancer in Warrenton, Va., was perfect for the task.
"You have to know how the military works," he told USA Today in 2004. "But you also need a sense of intuition, so when you pick up a 700-page file on a division that fought in the Philippines, you'll find what you need."
One of his best-known discoveries resulted in the award of a Silver Star to Gerard Flannick in 2001, 56 years after his death. Flannick was co-pilot of a B-17 that on Feb. 23, 1945, bombed a rail yard in Bolzano, Italy, and then was hit by antiaircraft fire. He flew the plane while eight of his crewmates bailed out. They survived and were sent to a German prison camp; Flannick and another crewmate died when the crippled bomber crashed.