Swiss-born World War II spy to be buried at Arlington
ALBANY -- René Joyeuse shot his way out of a Nazi ambush and provided vital information to the Allies before the D-Day invasion, exploits that earned him one of the U.S. military's highest medals, with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower pinning the Distinguished Service Cross on the Swiss-born spy at the end of World War II.
After trading espionage for medicine following the war, he immigrated to America, settled in the Adirondacks, and helped pioneer emergency trauma care at hospitals across his adopted country. All he asked in return, according to his family, was to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Initially rejected because he didn't meet the cemetery's eligibility criteria, Joyeuse's burial at Arlington will take place March 29, one of his two sons said Monday.
"It's the one thing that he wanted," Rémi Joyeuse, of Knoxville, Tenn., said.
If any veteran deserves to be buried alongside America's heroes, it's Joyeuse, according to author and military historian Patrick O'Donnell, who wrote about his wartime exploits in a 2004 book, "Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs."
"He was one of the most extraordinary spies of World War II," O'Donnell said.
Joyeuse, a retired physician, was 92 when he died in June in Saranac Lake, where he lived and worked, after battling Alzheimer's disease for more than a decade. Soon after, his wife Suzanne and sons Rémi and Marc-Jérome were crushed to learn from Arlington officials that he wasn't eligible for burial there.
They said they were told it was because he wasn't a U.S. citizen during the war. An Arlington official said Monday that the reason may have had more to do with his not being a member of the American military at the time of his heroics.
After the rejection, the family reached out to members of Congress and current and former military and intelligence officials. In November, Army Secretary John McHugh, the former Republican representative from upstate Watertown, approved Joyeuse's burial at Arlington.
Joyeuse was raised in France, leaving after the war started for the United States, where he enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania. He also joined the Free French forces. His fluency in French, German, Italian and English caught the attention of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA.
The OSS had him parachuted into German-held France in the spring of 1944. Despite narrowly escaping capture and suffering a leg wound during a shootout with the Gestapo, he provided key information on an oil refinery and a V-1 rocket factory. Both were bombed by Allied planes in the weeks before the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944, O'Donnell said.
After the war, Joyeuse served with the French army in Indochina as a medic. He entered the medical profession upon his return to France and his subsequent move to America, with Suzanne, in the 1950s.
"He put away his cloak and dagger and picked up his doctor's coat and went to work," O'Donnell said.