Before Judy Armour and Janet Sambuceti met Roy Weaver, their most tangible connection to their uncle, Staff Sgt. William Lynch, of Dorchester and the United States Marines, was a portrait that hung in their grandmother’s living room.
“It was almost like my uncle Billy was nonexistent,” says Armour. “It was very hard for my grandmother and mother to speak about him.”
Lynch, a Dorchester resident, joined the Marines in 1937 and was stationed in Shanghai and then the Philippines during World War II. When the U.S. commander in the Philippines surrendered to the Japanese in 1942, Lynch became a prisoner of war.
On May 20, 1944, Lynch escaped Mukden Prison in China after enduring two years of imprisonment and slave labor there. He was captured a few days later and shipped south to an infamous Japanese prison in China where thousands of Chinese and Korean POWs had been butchered. For the next 60 years, that was the last word on the whereabouts of Staff Sgt. Lynch.
In 2008, Judy Armour received a phone call from Ken Moore, of Moore’s Marauders, a non-profit organization dedicated to locating the remains of American veterans still missing in action.
Moore had tracked down Lynch’s family with the help of Marie Daly, Director of the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s (NEHGS) library. He told Armour that his organization was engaged in a mission to identify the remains of soldiers in China and that he believed her uncle’s remains were among those found there.
“It was really out of the blue,” says Armour. “Up until that call Billy was like our uncle who never existed.”
Over the past year and a half, Moore’s Marauders and a Chinese scientist have been working to recover the remains.
The New England Historic Genealogical Society held a panel discussion last Wednesday on the mission to locate Lynch. The event brought Gunnery Sgt. Weaver, 91, and Lynch’s nieces together for the first time. After introductions, they spent the hours prior to the event together eating lunch at the BPL Library at Copley Square and being interviewed by various media outlets at the NEHGS’s library on Newbury Street.
Armour says that meeting Weaver, who shared a bunk with their uncle at Mukden, has made her uncle seem “more real—more than just a picture on the wall. For my sister and I to make a connection with Roy, who was a total stranger to us before today, has brought us closure,” Armour adds.
“Billy has always been important to me,” Weaver says, explaining why he felt compelled to participate in the mission to recover Lynch’s remains. “He’s a guy that I’ve never forgotten.”
The mission to recover Lynch’s remains is nearly complete. Last Wednesday, Armour gave a DNA sample to representatives of Moore’s Marauders that will be used to identify officially the found remains. If they do belong to Lynch, they will be shipped back to the United States after being examined for infectious disease.
Mark Voner, Moore’s Marauders’ director of public relations for Asian affairs, says that this process will take between six and nine months approximately. Armour says that her family plans to bury Lynch at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.