As we #Countdown to Wreath Day 2017, we remind volunteers to say their names while placing a remembrance wreath. This post is submitted by Thomas Freeza, Director of Education at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy about his great-uncle Sgt. Albert Forgue who is now buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60, Site 8675.

Florence Leal recalls the first time she saw her father cry. It was Dec. 29, 1944, after she saw Mr. Gilson, the local pharmacist in Centredale, RI, come up the street to deliver a telegram. All three of her older brothers, Francis, Walter and Albert Forgue, were serving in World War II. Her oldest brothers, Francis and Walter, were with the Marines in the South Pacific, and her youngest brother, Albert, 20, was a U.S. Army Air Force sergeant and a gunner with the 644th Bomber Squadron, 410th Bomber Group, Light, 97th Bomb Wing, 9th Air Force, that was making bombing runs over Germany.

“My father went to get the telegram, but never came up,” says Florence. “That’s when I went down and saw him at the bottom of the stairs crying.”

The telegram from the Department of War said that Albert and two other men had been shot down near Wollseifen, Germany, on Dec. 12, and that they had been missing since.

Later, the family would learn that the A-20J Havoc aircraft (named Carol the Rebel) that had flown out of Coulommiers, France, was last seen entering a steep dive near Cologne, Germany. The news was devastating for everyone in the family. One year after his disappearance, the Department of War declared Albert dead and a funeral was held at St. Lawrence Church in Centredale, RI. He was 20 years old.

Albert’s remains and those of the two other men on that fateful mission — 2nd Lt. John F. Lubben of Wisconsin and gunner Sgt. Charles L. Spiegel of Illinois — were positively identified in 2006. Unbeknownst to the family at the time, a German company that had been clearing mines and unexposed ordinance came upon a shallow grave in 1975 containing the bodies of several unidentified Americans, in the woods near Simmerath, Germany. Upon the discovery, the remains were sent to be reburied along with other unknowns in the Ardennes American Military Cemetery in Neupré, Belgium.

Florence and her daughter, Victoria Frezza, knew there was a possibility that Albert’s remains had been found was when Maford Klein, a German soldier on a private mission to find and identify Americans who had been declared missing in action, reported in 2001 that his MIA group had recovered a parachute and pieces of the airplane similar to the one shot down in 1944.

Based on that report, the Department of Defense’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command ordered that the bodies of the three unknown servicemen be exhumed. It was one more victory of sorts for the JPAC, which has been able to identify about 75 remains a year of the 88,000 American servicemen who have been declared missing in 20th-century conflicts. The bodies of the three airmen were brought back to the US and were buried in Arlington on 20 April 2008.

Florence says her brother was an easygoing teenager who, maybe because he was a few years older, liked to “boss me around.” “He was very handy and could fix anything.” He didn’t much care for school and quit North Providence High before graduation to work at the Greystone Mill and as a truck driver for Centredale Lumber. Unlike his two brothers, who had volunteered for the Marines, Albert waited until he turned 18 and then registered for the draft. He entered the service in February 1943.


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