I served eight years in the United States Air Force and received 11 ribbons that I wore proudly across my chest. I served in the Gulf War during Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield. I’ve met members of the Greatest Generation while I served, and they are a treasure.
So I was floored when I saw Maj. William “Joe” Schneider was recently awarded the Silver Star during a ceremony for his brave actions while commanding an 18-plane bombing raid on Feb. 23, 1945, over Italy in WWII.
There is a LOT of confirmation required to be considered for this award. Many of those with first-hand knowledge would have been separated during and after the war. Most have died in the interim. RESPECT.
U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Commander Maj. Gen. Christopher Bence presided over the ceremony.
From Expeditionary Center:
During the mission, Schneider was responsible for not only directing the bombardment mission, but also the safety of all men in his formation. As his formation approached the heavily defended rail link at Dogna, Italy, an extremely accurate anti-aircraft barrage enveloped the B-25s, severely crippling Schneider’s plane and damaging many other bombers in his formation. With his right engine not functioning, the propeller control mechanism inoperative as well as the airspeed indicator destroyed and a smashed elevator trim tab, Schneider led all the bombardiers to drop their payloads on the communications point.
Afterward, Schneider contacted an air sea rescue unit to be continuously updated with accurate bearings of their location and communicated with a fellow B-25 aircrew in his formation and relayed to his pilot vital information to assist with the return flight. During the landing procedure, Schneider assisted the pilot with a successful emergency crash landing and with the safe return of all his crew members.
“It’s not often you get to stand in the presence of a true hero,” said Bence. “A man who not only answered his nations call, but whose actions directly saved the lives of fellow Americans and helped defeat the Axis powers.”
Schneider was told by his commanders that his actions warranted being awarded the Silver Star, but the paperwork was lost with the Army in the rush to close down the war. However, with the support of his children and Congressman Scott Garret, 5thDistrict of New Jersey, Schneider was finally able to get proper recognition.
After returning home in February of 1946, Schneider went back to Fordham University to finish his degree. While in school he met his wife, Lucille and raised eight children in the house he lives in to this day. He now has 22 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.
Thank you, sir, for your help defeating a monstrous enemy and having gone through the unspeakable stuff you’ve probably seen. Thank you to all the brothers and sisters who run into the fray to shield us from our enemies. You guys are heroes.
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