Swiss-born WWII spy buried at Arlington

A Swiss-born World War II hero who spent the last 25 years of his life in Saranac Lake was laid to rest Friday at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.

Dr. Rene Joyeuse was interred with full military honors in a ceremony in Arlington, Va., attended by his family, including his widow, Suzanne, and his sons Marc and Remi. Village Mayor Clyde Rabideau also made the trip along with his girlfriend, Janie Bevilacqua.

“We were tremendously honored to be invited to attend and witness, on behalf of our Saranac Lake community and as family friends, the interment of such a great American who gave so much of himself to our nation and to the cause of freedom,” Rabideau posted on his Facebook page. “Dr. Rene Joyeuse, so respected and honored, and who, because he is one of us, a Saranac Laker, brings honor to us all.”

Joyeuse was 92 when he died last June in Saranac Lake. His family requested that his remains be buried at Arlington, but the request was initially rejected because Joyeuse wasn’t a member of the American military when he served during World War II to repel the German army occupying France.

Joyeuse’s family, with the help of Rabideau and U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, then successfully lobbied the Department of the Army to reverse the decision.

During World War II, Joyeuse worked with the French resistance for the United States Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency. He parachuted behind German lines before D-Day with orders to gather crucial intelligence about German military installations, supply depots and troop movements so the allies could bombard them before the invasion.

The U.S. later awarded Joyeuse the Distinguished Service Cross, second in magnitude only to the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his heroism. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower hung the medal around Joyeuse’s neck. France gave him its highest military honor, the Legion D’Honneur-Chevalier.

Joyeuse later served with the French military in Southeast Asia, studied medicine in Paris and moved to the U.S. with his wife, becoming a U.S. citizen. He became a noted surgeon, helped develop modern trauma treatment and helped develop the first biological heart valve replacement. He lived in Saranac Lake for the last 25 years of his life, working for the state prison system until he retired.

Joyeuse is one of only 62 foreign nationals to be buried at Arlington and the only one who was born in Switzerland.

Since his death, Joyeuse’s story and his family’s effort to have his remains interred at Arlington has been covered by news media here in the U.S. and in Switzerland. A Washington-based television news crew from the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation traveled to Saranac Lake in December to gather footage for a segment on Joyeuse.