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Class Notes Features

Justin Taylan ’00 Uncovers Pacific War History

Justin Taylan ’00

Justin Taylan ’00, who was among the first graduating class of students from Rensselaer’s Electronic Media, Arts, and Communications (EMAC) program, has been recognized by the World War II Veterans Committee with the Hunter Scott Achievement Award, which is awarded to young people who have done significant work to preserve the legacy of the World War II generation.

Taylan created the Pacific Wreck Database, a Web site devoted to World War II Pacific history (pacificwrecks.com). The database is the extension of a senior project Taylan began at Rensselaer, and has expanded to an internationally recognized nonprofit historical entity. His interest in World War II began with his grandfather, a WWII Army veteran nicknamed “Picnic,” and continued with his own travels through the South Pacific to retrace his grandfather’s footsteps. Taylan turned the experience into a graphic novel titled No Place for a Picnic, which he self-published.

At Rensselaer, Taylan turned his love for WWII history into the Pacific Wreck Database Web site. Downed American planes account for some of the more than 35,000 Americans listed as missing in action in the Pacific.

The database began as a repository of known wreck sites, but quickly grew with the help of veterans, authors, and experts from around the world. The site received more than one million hits in its first year. Today, it has been credited with the discovery of “new” wreck sites, identification of other sites, returning relics such as photographs and dog tags, and reuniting former comrades.

“It is an example of technological ingenuity applied to history, and the entrepreneurial aspect of technical education, to create exactly what you want to do with your own skills,” Taylan says.

Last year, Taylan was credited with discovering, reporting on, and helping the Japanese government to recover the remains of a missing-in-action Japanese “Zero” pilot he discovered in the Owen Stanley Mountains of New Guinea.

“Students should know your RPI education can be applied to the past, and your interests,” says Taylan. “It can literally take you to the ends of the world and back again.”

In addition to the Pacific Wrecks site, Taylan also manages the “Pacific Ghosts” Web site (pacificghosts.com). Both products are supported by donations and the sale of CD-ROMs and DVDs about the relics of war.

Contact Taylan at Justin@wanpela.com.


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