close
close

He died for freedom. She makes sure he is not forgotten – Deseret News

Next Saturday, June 22, in a pasture outside the village of Épagne-Épagnette in northern France, a young patriotic Utah woman will help unveil a plaque commemorating the World War II soldiers who died 53 years before she was born.

The dedication ceremony is expected to draw hundreds of spectators. Mayors of surrounding towns have confirmed their attendance, a reporter from Stars and Stripes will be present, a lieutenant colonel will officially represent the US Army, plus residents of surrounding towns and the more than 50 family members flying in from America who are related to the men being honoured and remembered. A letter from Senator Mitt Romney of Utah will also be read.

This memorial to the crew of the “Spare Charlie”, including Utahn Jack Lundberg, will be inaugurated in France on June 22, 2024. | Camille Noel

The expected crowd says a lot about people's enthusiasm to salute the soldiers who fought and died to preserve freedom eight decades ago.

It also says a lot about the person who made it all possible. And all because of a college assignment.

In 2019, Utah native Camille Noel was enrolled at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to pursue a history degree. In one of her classes, students were assigned to write a short history of a World War II veteran from their state.

That’s how Camille found out about Jack Lundberg.

Maybe it was because the house Jack grew up in in Bountiful was less than a mile from the house she grew up in, or maybe it was because of another reason entirely: Something about Jack Lundberg attracted her so much that in her senior year of college, when she had to write her thesis—the most important requirement for her degree—she decided to write not only about Jack, but also about the seven men who died with him when their B-17 bomber, “Spare Charlie,” was shot down over German-occupied France on June 22, 1944.

Except for a gunner who was sucked out of the middle of the plane in the explosion, everyone on board died, probably instantly (after the gunner parachuted out, he was taken prisoner of war). Jack Lundberg's body was not discovered at the swampy crash site until six months later. He was initially buried in local cemeteries and eventually transferred to the American Cemetery in Normandy, where he is one of 14 Utahns buried on this hallowed ground.

Camille learned that Lt. Lundberg had been part of the D-Day invasion force 16 days before the crash on June 6, 1944, but fog prevented his crew from dropping bombs that day. It was the beginning of a busy period for Lundberg, an Army Air Corps navigator. He took off from Ridgeway Air Base in southeast England and over the next two weeks was involved in several bombing raids across Europe, reaching as far as Belgium and Berlin. Then came the attack on June 22. The target was a munitions factory just outside Abbeville, a small town 120 miles northwest of Paris. The B-17 had just dropped its bombs when Nazi anti-aircraft shells reached and destroyed the plane. Lt. Lundberg's war was over.

The more Camille learned about Jack and his crewmates – she researched the Library of Congress and other World War II history archives – the deeper she dug. Seeking more information, she emailed the Abbeville newspaper and, using Google Translate, asked if the paper could publish an appeal to its readers asking for any other information locals might have about the long-ago crash.

That's how she came into contact with Emmanuel Berle, a man who lives just three miles from the crash site. As it turned out, he was as passionate as Camille about uncovering the details of the mission. Soon, two people separated by the Atlantic but united by a common cause were shining a spotlight on men who gave their lives fighting for freedom.

Together, Emmanuel and Camille managed to compile a detailed report of the events of that fateful day, including extensive background information on each soldier involved.

When Emmanuel suggested that the crew of the Spare Charlie deserved a memorial, Camille enthusiastically agreed. Together they raised enough money to design and pay for a metal plaque bearing each man's name and rank, as well as his photograph.

Of course, there was only one suitable day for the inauguration of the monument: June 22nd.

Camille will be accompanied to France for the upcoming ceremony by numerous relatives of the deceased men, including a large part of Jack Lundberg's family.

Camille, who works at Ancestry.com, is scheduled to give a talk as part of the program. She hopes she can make it, but has her doubts.

“I don’t know how to speak, I get so emotional,” she says.

Seeing life through the eyes of a World War II aviator changed her life.

“Jack came into my life when I didn't know what direction I wanted to go in,” she says. “With this project, I thought, 'Oh yeah, this is what I want to do,' and through the research, he taught me so much. He just gave me such a deep understanding of service and sacrifice. He was about the same age as me when he died (Camille is 27, Jack died at 25). He was such a good person, he treated everyone so kindly. He did things for the right reasons. He was one of the most influential people in my life. I want to try to be like him.”

Anna Harden

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *