Fittest loser
Article updated: 5/26/2013 1:04 PM

Measuring the loss of WWII generation in 7 days

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This World War II-era photo provided by the family shows Morton Tuller next to a jeep. As a young soldier in the Army Signal Corps, he served as a cryptologist with a high-security clearance post deciphering American codes sent ship-to-ship in the European and Pacific theaters. For decades, he told no one, not even his wife, about his work on Navy ships that landed in Sicily, southern France, north Africa, Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

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This 1943 photo provided by the family shows James Capps with his wife, Hazel in North Carolina.

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This 1950 photo provided by the family shows James Capps in uniform in Korea.

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In this 1989 photo provided by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Dean Carter works with one of his art students in Blacksburg, Va. He served as the head of the art department at Virginia Tech for a decade and taught for more than 40 years.

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This World War II-era photo provided by the family shows James Capps in uniform.

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This 1953 photo provided by the Omaha Fire Department shows Richard Lang, left, standing with others next to a fire truck in Omaha, Neb.

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This circa 1945 photo provided by the family shows Dean Carter during his service with the Army Air Corps during World War II. Carter served in India and China as part of a small radar unit. Unlike many of his peers, Carter already had a post-war career plan. Art, especially sculpture, was his destiny. His three years in uniform were just a detour.

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In this May 21, 2008 photo, Richard Lang, whose right leg was amputated, is escorted up the flight stairs by Marine First Sgt. Wade Jensen at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Neb. during an Honor Flight to Washington for World War II veterans. Bill Williams, whose company sponsored the event, advised him there was a steep set of plane stairs. "I made my big mistake," Williams recalls. "I said, 'We will carry you.' ... He said, 'Listen pal, I haven't been carried since Guam.'"

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This 1969 photo provided by the family shows James Capps in Vietnam. Capps and one of his sons, Bob, were briefly serving in Vietnam at the same time.

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This April 2008 photo provided by the family shows James Capps with his wife, Hazel in Columbus, Ga. At his funeral, Hazel, his wife of 67 years, sat with her four sons. When an officer handed her the folded American flag, she returned his salute.

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This undated photo provided by the Omaha Fire Department shows Richard Lang, left, working as a firefighter. In his 28-year career, Lang worked his way up to lieutenant in the Omaha Fire Department and became known for rescuing people from burning buildings.

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This photo provided by the family shows the Nov. 10, 1044 document from the War Department mistakenly notifying Richard Lang's parents that their son had been killed in action.

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In this May 2008 photo provided by the family, Richard Lang visits the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington as part of the first Heartland Honor flight that took World War II veterans to Washington.

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About this Article

The solemn ritual plays out dozens of times every day with a neatly folded flag, a crisp salute and one more goodbye to a fast-fading generation of soldiers, sailors and Marines. The ranks of World War II vets are shrinking. The youngest are now in their mid-80s. About 650 die each day, thousands are laid to rest every week. Beyond these numbers, there are individual stories of ordinary lives shaped by an extraordinary chapter. Here are their stories.
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