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1LT Joseph Michael Voelker

1LT Joseph Michael Voelker

Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
Death 3 Oct 1944 (aged 27)
Galliate, Provincia di Novara, Piemonte, Italy
Burial Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
Plot 110, St. Ambrose Section, Range 41
Memorial ID 42416586 · View Source
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Joseph M. Voelker was born and grew up in Brooklyn, NY. He attended St. Anselm's Grade School (1932), Brooklyn Preparatory School (1936), began college studies at St. Francis College (Loretto PA), and graduated from Cornell University, Ithaca NY in 1940. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on February 11, 1941 and began flight training at Darr Aero Tech School of Aeronautics in Albany, Georgia. Failing to qualify as a pilot, he trained in armaments at Lowry Field, Denver, CO, and was assigned to HQ Squadron of the 1st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, Mount Clemens, Michigan, still holding the rank of Aviation Cadet. After moving around the country with his unit on various exercise, he received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps Reserves, effective November 14, 1941.

After the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the 1st Pursuit Group with its P-38 fighters was rushed out to the West Coast, where they were engaged in anti-submarine patrols. In February Joe was assigned as Squadron Armaments Officer of the 46th Bombardment Squadron, 41st Bomb Group (Medium) stationed at Hammer Field, Fresno, California, where their A-29 Hudson bombers flew anti-submarine patrols. At Fresno he met a local girl, Geraldine Moltzen, who would become his wife.

In August 1942 the 41st Bomb Group was transferred to Cherry Point Marine Air Station, North Carolina, continuing anti-submarine patrols. After a few months, Joe returned briefly to Fresno, where he married Geraldine in St. Therese Church on March 6, 1943. Returning with his new wife to Cherry Point, Joe was so anxious to get assigned overseas that he volunteered for training as a navigator-bombardier. He completed preliminary training at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas and then advanced bombardier and navigator training at San Angelo Army Air Field, San Angelo, Texas, qualifying as Navigator-Bombardier on December 24, 1943 (Class No. 43-16DR). He then underwent further training in the B25 bomber with 472nd Squadron, 334th Bombardment Group (Medium), a training unit based at Greenville Army Air Base, Greenville, South Carolina.

Finally on April 1, 1944 he was assigned to the 445th Squadron, 321st Bombardment Group (Medium), 57th Wing, 12th Air Force, then based at Solenzara, Corsica, France. His B-25J plane left Hunter Field, Georgia, for Corsica on April 7, 1944, not arriving until May 11, after stops in Florida, Puerto Rico, Guyana, Brazil, Ascension Island, Liberia, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco and Algeria.

The 12th Air Force was then engaged in tactical bombing of bridges, railroads, roads, etc., in order to impede the movement of German troops and equipment as the Allied forces moved north up the Italian Peninsula (Operation Strangle). They also flew missions over Southern France in support of the invasion there on August 15, 1944 (Operation Anvil or Dragoon). The B-25's flew frequent missions, weather permitting.

A listing of the various missions for which Joe received the Air Medal and nine Oak Leaf clusters gives a good idea of the kinds of missions he flew. His Air Medal Citation read:
"For meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight as a bombardier of a B-25 type aircraft during an attack upon a railroad viaduct near Vada, Italy, on 28 May 1944, which resulted in the complete destruction of this vital link in enemy communication lines. Lieutenant Voelker's proficiency in combat reflects great credit upon himself and the Military Service of the United States".
The other nine missions for which he was awarded one Silver and four Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters were described as follows:
1. "an attack upon a road bridge at Massa, Italy on 27 May 1944, which resulted in the destruction of the bridge"
2. "an attack upon enemy gun positions at La Ciotat, France on 13 August 1944, which resulted in the destruction or damage of an entire battery of coastal defense guns"
3. "an attack upon a road bridge at Monfaucon, France on 17 August 1944, which resulted in the destruction of the bridge, thereby blocking a vital link in enemy communication and supply lines in Southern France"
4. "an attack upon a concentration of enemy warships in the harbor at Toulon, France on 18 August 1944 which resulted in the destruction of one battleship, a cruiser and a submarine" (The French Battleship Strasbourg and other ships were being used to bombard the landing beaches until the B-25's put them out of action).
5. "an attack upon enemy gun positions defending the harbor at Toulon, France on 19 August 1944, which resulted in the silencing of these guns, thereby contributing immeasurably to the capture of this vital enemy naval base"
6. "an attack upon an enemy road bridge at Anes, France on 28 August 1944 which resulted in heavy damage to the bridge, thereby blocking a main enemy escape route in Southern France"
7. "an attack upon a railroad bridge at Canneto, Italy on 11 September 1944 which resulted in heavy damage to the bridge and approaches"
8. "an attack upon an enemy fuel dump near Casalecchio, Italy on 16 September 1944 which resulted in the destruction of large quantities of fuel and damage to other vital military installations"
9. "an attack upon a railroad bridge at Legnago, Italy on 23 September 1944".

He and the entire crew of their aircraft 43-27553 "Evora" were in action on October 3, 1944, on a mission (#578) against the Galliate Road Bridge, Province of Novara, Italy, when their plane took a direct hit from antiaircraft fire on the left engine as it was making its bomb run. At that time the crew were all classified as Missing in Action.

The bodies of the crewmen were recovered by the German authorities, who were able to identify five of the six. They were then handed over to the Italian authorities who buried them in the municipal cemetery in the town of Tricate. It was not until April 1945 that definitive information about their death reached American authorities through the International Red Cross, and the families were notified.

Later when the area came until Allied control, their remains were re-interred in a temporary military cemetery in Mirandola, Italy. After the war, Joe's parents chose to have his body returned to Brooklyn, where he was buried here at Holy Cross Cemetery.

Some articles:

Lt. J. M. Voelker
Mass Saturday

First Lt. Joseph M, Voelker was killed in action over Italy near Milan, Oct. 3, according to word received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph A. Voelker of 7815 Narrows Ave. and his wife, Geraldine, in Fresno, Cal.
The 27-year-old bombardier-navigator, who wore the Air Medal with Cluster and a Unit Citation, was on his 54th mission with the 12th A. A. F. when downed. A graduate of Brooklyn Prep and Cornell University, Lieutenant Voelker entered service in February, 1941, receiving an assignment as armament and aerial gunnery officer. He wanted combat duty, however, and applied for bombardier-navigator training. He went overseas last April.
A solemn requiem mass will be offered next Sat urday at 10 a.m. in St. Anselm's Church.
(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Wednesday, April 18, 1945, page 13)
VOELKER -1ST LT. JOSEPH MICHAEL, U. S. A. A. F., killed in action October 3, 1944, beloved husband of Geraldine (nee Moltzen) of Fresno, California; devoted son of Joseph A. and Katharine (nee Tarpey) of 7815 Narrows Avenue. One sister, Mrs. James M. Punderson, Jr., also survives. Solemn Requiem Mass, Saturday, 10 a.m., St. Anselm's R. C. Church.
(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Thursday, April 19, 1945, page 11)
First Lt. Joseph M. Voelker, was killed Oct. 3, 1944, according to word received from the War Department by his wife, Geraldine, in Fresno, Cal., and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph A. Voelker, 7815 Narrows Ave., Brooklyn.
Lt. Voelker was on his 54th mission when shot down over German-occupied Italy near Milan. Entering the Air Corps in February 1941, he be became armament and aerial gunnery officer, but wanting combat experience took bombardier navigator training and went overseas April, 1944. He was awarded the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters and Unit Citation.
The 27-year-old flier was a graduate of Brooklyn Preparatory School, St. Francis College of Loretto, Penn., and Cornell College. On Saturday, April 21, a Solemn High Requiem Mass was offered for him at St. Anselm's Church, Brooklyn.
(The Tablet, Brooklyn, NY, 5 May 1945).


The other members of the crew were:

1LT Robert R. Frank, Pilot
ILT Donald C. Reed, Co-Pilot
TSgt Olin Davis, Jr, Radio/Gunner
SSgt Thomas J. Bricen, Jr., Armorer/Gunner
CPL Emmanuel Miller, Engineer/Gunner

Family Members


  • Created by: Joseph R. Punderson
  • Added: 27 Sep 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 42416586
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for 1LT Joseph Michael Voelker (20 Jul 1917–3 Oct 1944), Find A Grave Memorial no. 42416586, citing Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA ; Maintained by Joseph R. Punderson (contributor 46865813) .