First Lieutenant Joseph Lyndon Piché
- Unit: 405th Fighter Group, 509th Fighter Squadron
- Service Number: O-751428
- Date of Birth: November 17, 1922
- Entered the Military: November 20, 1940
- Date of Death: July 17, 1944
- Hometown: Dade County, Florida
- Place of Death: Étienville, France
- Award(s): Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 7 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart
- Cemetery: Plot G, Row 11, Grave 31. Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France
Mentored by Ms. Tea McCaulla
Manatee School for the Arts
Joseph Piché was born in Homestead, Dade County, Florida, on November 17, 1922. Joseph lived in parents and twin brother, Judson. His father was Thomas Darwin Piché, a Canadian immigrant who worked as a fruit farmer and later as a laborer for the Works Progress Administration. His mother, Fern Vera Pickard, married Thomas in December 1920. Thomas filed a petition to become a naturalized citizen on May 21, 1935.
Joseph Piché joined the U.S Army Air Forces just after his eighteenth birthday on November 22, 1940, and entered the service at MacDill Field (now MacDill Air Force Base) near Tampa, Florida. He listed his previous occupation as being an actor. His twin, Judson, enlisted on January 21, 1941, at Chanute Field in Illinois.
Joseph Lyndon Piché became a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Forces and flew with the 509th Fighter Squadron in the 405th Fighter Group. His unit formed in Florida and trained in South Carolina before embarking on the RMS Mauretania in February 1944. The unit settled in Christchurch, Dorset, and began operating over continental Europe.
Joseph Lyndon Piché flew a P-47 Thunderbolt in advance of and in support of the Normandy invasion. They flew many missions intended to disrupt German supply and rail lines.
On July 17, 1944, Piché was the pilot of the P-47 Thunderbolt 42-75461. When returning from a bombing mission over Le Mans when he was hit by anti-aircraft fire and severely wounded, he tried to land the plane but hit a tree. The plane burst into flames, killing Piché.
Lieutenant Piché’s hard work was honored with a Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 7 Oak Leaf Clusters, and a Purple Heart. He is buried at Normandy American Cemetery and memorialized in Christchurch, England, and Étienville, France.
Piché’s brother, Judson, who followed him into the U.S. Army Air Forces, was discharged in August 1943. He passed away on August 8, 1996.
Piché’s father, Thomas, decided to leave his son’s remains in France. However, he did make a special request that the accent be carved above the “e” in his last name, which was honored.
Joseph Lyndon Piché was a beloved son, brother, friend, and a truly heroic man I spent several months researching. The moment I selected Joseph Piche as my soldier, I found myself spending hours reading about him. As I dug deeper, I felt a connection or a bond growing between us due to our lives’ similarities. We both grew up and were raised in Florida. He lived three hours from my front door in Homestead, Dade County, Florida. Just like I am 17, Joseph was also 17 and looking forward to the life ahead of him. Unfortunately, his life was cut short due to his heroic actions. I am sad to say I never got to meet Joseph, but I will always look up to him as if he were my older brother. This is why the day he passed away, July 17, 1944, will not only be a significant day in his family and friends’ life but an important day in my life.
Joseph Piché was fresh out of high school when he joined the Army Air Forces, as were many of the young men who joined the military at that time. He enlisted in 1940 and gave the last four years of his life to fight for our freedom and safety. He served as a first lieutenant with the 509th Fighter Squadron, the 405th Fighter Group.
He fought hard for his country and gave it everything he could. Like many men fighting at that time, he most likely never saw himself as a hero, rather a regular guy fighting for his country. Today, we are here to honor him because he is a hero to me, to his family, to his friends, and to everyone else living today because of his actions.
Piché was the pilot of the P-47 Thunderbolt. On July 17, 1944, he returned from a bombing mission over Le Mans when he was hit by AA fire, wounding him severely. He tried to land but hit a tree. This caused the plane to crash in flames. I often wonder what his last thoughts were. Was he thinking of his family, friends, those he left behind, or the life he could have had?
Joseph Piché sacrificed his life for his country’s people; most he would never know nor meet. However, it did not matter whether he knew every single person he gave his life for; he still gave up everything for the greater good of our nation. At the age of 17, he left behind his mother Fern, his father Thomas, his twin brother, Judson, and a town full of friends and acquaintances. I believe his family was scared when he joined the Army Air Forces, but I am positive that at that moment, they realized what an amazing son they had. If a man, such as Joseph at the age of 17, could decide that giving his life to save hundreds of others is more important than his own life is truly inspirational. I do not personally know any man other than Joseph Piché who would give up every living moment of his life at such a young age. I believe we all have something to gain and learn from the brave actions of this man.
Joseph Piché, there will not be a day in my life that I will forget you. You were the bravest 17-year-old I will ever know. You have truly inspired me to want to do better for my family and country and that I do not have to wait until I am older to accomplish such things. You gave your life to protect us; whether you thought it or not, you are a hero. When the world was in a time of need, you were right there to save it. You will always be a hero in my heart and to those who know your story.
Being a part of Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom institute has changed my life significantly. I started this project knowing the basic facts of World War II that every eleventh-grade student would know. I came out of this program knowing more than the average person about D-Day and World War II. But this program taught me more than just the facts about the war. It made me recognize the soldiers and families who were put through hard times. I believe that everyone should know that along with the soldiers who had to sacrifice, there is also a family that had to sacrifice. This program has taught me that most of us take for granted the things we have today. Before this program, I never once thought about the lives that were sacrificed for us, nor the brave men and women who gave up everything so we could be here today.
We had several months of studying and researching World War II and D-Day during this program. Then we traveled to Washington D.C. and France for two weeks. While we were traveling in Washington D.C. and France, we visited several museums and many significant places related to these battles. I must say every stop we made during our travels taught me something new about the war, but it was not until I stepped foot into Normandy American Cemetery that I felt moved. It was that moment when I truly understood what sacrifice meant. It is not about being a hero or being powerful. It is about being a part of a great cause, even if it means leaving behind everything you know.
I realize not everyone will have the opportunity to have the privilege to travel and have access to the materials I had handed to me; however, I do believe everyone should take the time to honor those who gave their lives for us. Thousands of men died in World War II and D-Day currently buried at the Normandy American Cemetery. They all have names, but yet we do not know their story. It is our job to tell their stories and share them with the world. They gave their lives for us; now, it is our turn to give them a voice.
405th Fighter Group and Christchurch Airfield. Photograph. Imperial War Museum (53189). www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/53189.
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Republic P-47D-27-RE Thunderbolt 42-227312 of the 405th Fighter Wing, 510th Fighter Squadron, RAF Christchurch. Photograph. 1944. National Archives and Records Administration. commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:405fw-p47-2.jpg.
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