May 292016

There are quite a few veterans in my family tree, and even more in my husband’s. But where my research currently stands, there’s only one among them who paid the ultimate price.

Albert Clifford Joyce, Jr., was the son of my great-grandfather’s sister, my first cousin twice removed. He was born in 1919, in Salem, Massachusetts, the youngest child and only son of Margaret Theresa Catherine (Whelton) and Albert Clifford Joyce, Sr. He was educated at Boston Latin School and then Harvard University, which he graduated from in 1942. He had intended to become a lawyer, but because of the war he instead ended up in the US 8th Army Air Corp (390th Bombardment Group, 568th Squadron).

On April 18, 1944, Albert was co-pilot on a B17 Flying Fortress under the command of Ben C. Wassell, when it took off from Suffolk, England, on a bombing run to try to take out an aircraft factory about 20 miles from Berlin. When their tail section was shot off, almost directly over their target, they went down so quickly that witnesses reported no parachutes at all. None of the 10 crew members aboard survived.

It was their 6th mission.

Albert and his crewmates were buried near the site of their crash, all except pilot Ben Wassell in a common grave. In 1952, their remains were moved, Wassell’s to Ardennes Military Cemetery in Belgium, and the others to Arlington National Cemetery, where they still share a grave.


Photo of the crew taken upon completion of training.

Back, left to right
1st Lieutenant Ben C. Wassell, Schenectady, NY – Pilot
2nd Lieutenant Albert C. Joyce, Jr., Salem, MA – Co-Pilot
2nd Lieutenant Anthony C. Formato, Bronxville, NY – Navigator
Flight Officer Leonard Hersch, Brooklyn, NY – Bombardier

Front, left to right
Staff Sergeant Robert D. Stetler, Van Wert, OH – Waist Gunner
Staff Sergeant Eugene J. Harpster, Furnace, PA – Radio Operator
Staff Sergeant James T. Finch, Wantagh, NY – Tail Gunner
Staff Sergeant Pete N. Rayhawk, Sharpsville, PA – Waist Gunner
Staff Sergeant Leon J. Sarnowski, New Britain, CT – Ball Turret Gunner
Staff Sergeant Victor B. Ratliff, Hellier, KY – Engineer & Top Turret Gunner

May 032006

Several traditions believe in honoring ancestors and those that have passed before us. Do you honor your ancestors and if so, what types of things do you do to honor them?

From Witches Weekly.

Life is a gift that we have been given by our ancestors. The DNA that shapes our bodies is what remains of their bodies. Biochemically speaking, they really do live on in us. But they also live in our hearts and minds. Their beliefs and values and ideals, whether we adopt them or reject them, have helped to shape who we are. Would I be who I am now, if my father hadn’t been a teacher and a union official, or if his father hadn’t been a cop and a hunter/fisherman, or if his father hadn’t been a fireman and a temperance leaguer? If my mother’s Lutheran mother and Catholic father hadn’t decided that it was the values in the religion that mattered rather than its surface trappings and sent their kids to the geographically-closer Methodist church? If my maternal grandmother hadn’t been a liberal Irish-American Massachusetts Democrat with an bone-deep hatred of Tip O’Neil? If her mother hadn’t had the strength to raise all those kids alone after losing her husband to tuberculosis?

I don’t always have a lot of time to devote to it, but I am the keeper of the family history in my extended clan. I keep copies of Census records and hoard old photos and keep my ears open at gatherings for interesting stories. I learn a little something every year about who the people were that came before me: their names and jobs, the property they owned, the hardships they endured, the children they lost.

Learning where we come from is, IMHO, probably the biggest honor we can do our ancestors.