A Utah hero died for freedom in World War II. This woman is making sure he's not forgotten

Camille Noel holds a photo of a World War II hero from Utah, Jack Lundberg, in Salt Lake City on May 9. Noel is spearheading a project to recognize Lundberg, who was part of the Normandy invasion.

Camille Noel holds a photo of a World War II hero from Utah, Jack Lundberg, in Salt Lake City on May 9. Noel is spearheading a project to recognize Lundberg, who was part of the Normandy invasion. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)


2 photos
Save Story
Leer en español

Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — On this coming Saturday, in a pasture outside the village of Épagne-Épagnette in northern France, a young patriotic woman from Utah will help unveil a memorial plaque honoring World War II soldiers who died 53 years before she was born.

The dedication ceremony is expected to attract an audience in the hundreds. The mayors of nearby towns have RSVP'd, a reporter for the Stars and Stripes will be there, a lieutenant colonel will officially represent the United States Army, and that's in addition to the local townspeople who will be attending and the more than 50 family members flying in from America who are related to the men being honored and remembered. A letter will also be read from Utah Sen. Mitt Romney.

The anticipated crowd says a lot about people's enthusiasm for saluting soldiers who fought and died to preserve freedom eight decades ago.

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

In 2019, Utah native Camille Noel was enrolled at George Washington University in Washington, pursuing a degree in history. In one of her classes, the students were tasked with writing a short history of a World War II veteran from their state.

That's how Noel found out about Lt. Jack Lundberg.

Maybe it was because the house Lundberg grew up in in Bountiful was less than a mile from the house where she grew up, or maybe it was for another reason entirely, but something about Lundberg called to her, so much so that when it came time her senior year to write her thesis paper, the main requirement to get her degree, she decided to not only write about him, but also about the seven men who died with him when their B-17 bomber, the "Spare Charlie," was shot down over German-occupied France on June 22, 1944.

Save for a waist gunner sucked out of the middle of the plane as it exploded, everyone on board died, presumably instantly (after parachuting down, the waist gunner became a prisoner of war). Jack Lundberg's body wasn't discovered in the marshy crash site for another six months. He was buried first in local cemeteries and eventually transferred to the American Cemetery at Normandy, where he is one of 14 Utahns interred in that hallowed ground.

Sixteen days before the crash, Lundberg, Noel learned, had been part of the D-Day invading force on June 6, 1944, but foggy conditions prevented his crew from dropping any bombs that day. It was the start of a busy time for Lundberg, a navigator with the Army Air Corps. Taking off from the Ridgeway base in southeast England, he was part of several bombing runs over Europe in the next two weeks, extending as far as Belgium and Berlin. Then came the run 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 the Nazi anti-aircraft shells reached up and destroyed the plane.

This memorial to the crew of "Spare Charlie," including Utahn Jack Lundberg, was set to be dedicated in France on June 22.
This memorial to the crew of "Spare Charlie," including Utahn Jack Lundberg, was set to be dedicated in France on June 22. (Photo: Camille Noel)


The more Noel learned about Lundberg and his crewmates — doing her research at the Library of Congress among other repositories of World War II history — the more she dug. Seeking further information, she wrote an email to the newspaper in Abbeville, using Google Translate to ask if the paper could post an appeal to its readers, soliciting any additional information locals might have about the long-ago crash.

That's how she became connected with Emmanuel Berle, a man who lives just three miles from where the plane crashed. As it turned out, he was as passionate as Noel about uncovering the details of the mission. Soon, two people, separated by the Atlantic Ocean but united by a common cause, turned up the spotlight on men who gave their lives fighting for freedom.

Between them, Berle and Noel were able to piece together a detailed narrative of what happened on the fateful day, together with extensive background information on each soldier involved.


(Lt. Jack Lundberg has) been one of the most influential people in my life.

– Camille Noel, historian


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

Of course, there was only one day appropriate for the memorial to be dedicated: June 22.

Accompanying Noel to France for the upcoming ceremony will be many relatives of the men who died, including a sizable contingent from Lundberg's family.

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

"I don't know how I'll be able to talk, I get so emotional," she says.

Seeing life through a World War II airman's eyes has changed hers.

"Jack came into my life when I didn't know what direction I wanted to go," she says. "This project was like, oh yeah, this is what I want to do, and through the research he's taught me so much. He just gave me such a profound understanding of service and sacrifice. He was about the same age I am when he died (Noel is 27, Lundberg died at 25). He was such a good person, he treated everyone so nicely. He did things for the right reasons. He's been one of the most influential people in my life. I want to try and be like him."

Photos

Most recent Historic stories

Related topics

UtahHistoricDavis County
Lee Benson
    Lee Benson has written slice-of-life columns for the Deseret News since 1998. Prior to that he was a sports columnist. A native Utahn, he grew up in Sandy and lives in the mountains with his family.

    STAY IN THE KNOW

    Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the KSL.com Trending 5.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast