Fifty years later Dad described him as “exceptional.”
In 1944, Dad and Joe were tent mates in the 340th Bomber Squadron, 97th Bomber Group in Foggia, Italy. Dad — Capt. Joel E. Ferris II, of Spokane — was an adjutant and was the squadron’s office manager, bookkeeper and sometime bartender. Lt. Joseph J. McCarthy of New Jersey was a navigator for the B-17 squadron. Dad admired Joe’s good humor, devotion to his new bride he was anxious to get back to and his quiet faith; kneeling in prayer next to his cot every night. In early May, Joe had completed his requisite missions and was packed to go home.
Squadron Commander Col. Jacob E. Smart was tough and known for flying his lead plane straight through any German flak. The mission was May 10, 1944, and target was the Messerschmidt fighter plane factory in Wiener Neustadt outside Vienna. Col. Smart’s navigator called out sick and for whatever reason, forever a mystery, Lt. McCarthy volunteered to be the navigator in Col. Smart’s lead plane.
Joe never came back. The plane was destroyed over Austria and he rests in the Lorraine American Cemetery in France. His wife remarried but always kept Joe’s picture near.
I live in the Bay Area now and every Memorial Day my family visits the National Cemetery in San Francisco. As we walk among the sea of white tombstones I think of Joe and I thank him.
San Anselmo, Calif.