Wallace Perry, 65, is a man with...

Wallace Perry, 65, is a man with a mission--an international mission.

The Torrance aviation researcher and World War II veteran wants more of his fellow Americans to visit the European graves of American soldiers killed in war.

The impetus, Perry says, came from his father, who served in World War I and “killed people his own age whose languages he didn’t speak and whose cultures he didn’t know.” The father therefore insisted that Perry get an international education.

Perry went to school in Belgium and returns there three times a year. He says he’s willing to visit graves , place flowers and take photographs for people who can’t afford to go.


“There are so many war dead, and they must never be forgotten,” Perry said. “I’d like to make the American people more aware of the terrible price that was paid to defeat fascism.”

There are 20 cemeteries in Europe with graves or memorials for the more than 100,000 American soldiers killed during the two world wars, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission in Washington.

More than 500 Americans who fought in World War I are buried at a grave site called Waregem in the Flanders region of Belgium. Perry said he was amazed to find that so many were from California.

Citizens who want to visit a grave or memorial for an immediate family member can get a free passport, according to Col. William E. Ryan Jr., director of operations for the monuments commission.


“And if you’re just a close friend, we can send you a color lithograph of the cemetery the person is buried at,” Ryan said. All that is needed is the person’s name, rank, and, if possible, serial number or place of action.

Ryan can be reached at the American Battle Monuments Commission, Washington D.C., 20314. Perry can be reached at Box 11111, Torrance 90510.

“So many Americans go abroad,” Perry said, “and they have no idea, no concept whatsoever, of the existence of these cemeteries, and I think it’s sad.”