A local family with a long history of service to their country and the Catholic Church had seven sons who served in wartime. On Sept. 1, the 78th anniversary of the start of World War II, the Allaire family received medals for Joseph Allaire Sr.'s Navy service aboard the USS Missouri, which officials of the Town of Tonawanda presented to the family in a formal ceremony in front of the Town of Tonawanda Veterans Memorial at Kenney Field in the town.
A group of elected officials and service members, including U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins, Tonawanda Town Supervisor Joseph Emminger and U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. J.T. Redford, gave seven medals to Nancy Allaire, Joseph's widow, and other members of the large family. Father Barry J. Allaire, senior parochial vicar of St. Martin of Tours Parish in Buffalo and Joseph's nephew, read the opening prayer.
"We honor today the seven members of the Allaire family who served honorably and bravely in World War II and the Korean War," said Emminger. "These were ordinary men who did extraordinary things when their country called upon them to serve. We are forever indebted and grateful for the sacrifices they made and to all the members of our armed forces, past and present, who served their country to defend the freedoms we enjoy today."
Higgins added, "We thank the Allaire family for the incredible sacrifices this band of brothers made and pay tribute to those answering the call of duty today."
The ceremony took place after Joseph Allaire Jr., who works in the Catholic Center in downtown Buffalo, contacted Higgins' office in an attempt to locate the medals his father earned but did not receive before his death.
"There were so many soldiers being released from World War II that they didn't have time to give the medals out to the people who served," said Joseph Allaire Jr., whose youngest uncle, a Korean War vet, died in June. "As much as I could get on my own, I could only get so far. It was suggested to go talk to my politicians. That's why I contacted them for that, and then it turned into this. It happened to be near the 72nd anniversary of the surrender."
Joseph Allaire Sr. received the Combat Action Ribbon, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal, Honorable Discharge Button WWII and Honorable Service Lapel Pin while serving in the Navy. A Seaman Second Class, he was on the USS Missouri as a sonar operator and a photographer. This BB-63 battleship was where Japan signed the the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on Sept. 2, 1945. Allaire was among the ship photographers who captured this moment ending the war.
"On the Missouri, he started out as a sonar operator. He helped document the end of World War II on the Missouri on that famous day in Tokyo Bay," Joseph Jr. said of his father.
In addition to Joseph Sr., all of the sons of William W. and Katherine S. Allaire were veterans. William, Donald, Edward Burton ("Burt"), Robert and Richard served in World War II, while the youngest, Charles, was a Korean War vet. Katherine and William, who had Blue Star flags in their home during the war, became Gold Star parents after Burt was declared missing in action. His body was never recovered. Along with their sons, they had two daughters, Dorothy and Norma Margaret.
According to Father Allaire, the medals gave his family what they deserved, and what Joseph Sr. earned in the war, after many years. "Seventy-two years, that's a long time ago now," Father Allaire commented. "It really shows the dedication to freedom and their country, because sometimes you don't see it. They were willing to give of themselves. My father, Donald, was the first in the family to go in the military."
Many other members of the Allaire family, with most siblings having large families of many children, have been active in the Diocese of Buffalo. Many have attended Catholic schools and contributed many hours of volunteer service to parishes, the Boy Scouts and other charities and organizations. However, their service to their country and sacrifices of all U.S. veterans were never far from their minds.
"(The ceremony) was important for the sacrifices they made, and having an uncle I never met, he never had a chance to come back and have a big family," Joseph Jr. said.