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Joseph T. Bass, was a native of Van Buren, Arkansas, who served in the Civilian Conservation Corps in Salmon, Idaho before World War II.
During the war, he served as a squad leader in 1st platoon, Company 'F' 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. Sergeant Bass parachuted into Normandy on D-Day with the 101st Airborne Division Pathfinders, rejoining his original company after his initial mission was accomplished.
Bass won his first Purple Heart on 13 June, 1944, south of Carentan, France, in a firefight with elements of the 17th SS division. Shot in the head in that fight, Bass was hospitalized but returned to the 501 in time to jump into Holland in September, 1944.
In combat, Bass earned the reputation of being a one-man army, and was generally considered the best combat soldier in F company. The 501st PIR was awarded Presidential Unit Citations for the Normandy Campaign and the epic defense of Bastogne, Belgium.
Bass survived World War II and remained in the Army and the parachute troops, making numerous demonstration jumps in the U.S. in the late 1940's. He also fought in the ring on the Airborne School boxing team, under the name Tommy Bass.
In 1950, Sergeant Bass was in Korea as a member of the 27th Infantry Regiment, (Wolfhounds) of the 25th Division. He was interviewed on the front lines by Jimmy Cannon, who wrote a feature story about Bass which appeared in the New York Post. In this interview, Bass described how he prefered to close with the enemy for hand to hand combat, "to see how they would measure-up".
In September, 1950, Sergeant Joseph T. Bass was killed-in-action in Korea, and his photo appeared in LIFE magazine. Truly one of the great combat soldiers of his generation, Bass had considered Muskogee, Oklahoma as his post-war home. His interrment in Arlington National Cemetery was attended by several of his World War II paratrooper comrades, as well as his brother, who was also on active duty in the U.S. Army at the time.
Via E-Mail: 9 November 2003:
According to the September 11, 1950 issue of Life magazine, on page 46, it states that Colonel Michaelis had recomended Sergeant Bass for the Silver Star. It stated that "Sergeant Bass was near the regimental command post and Chindong when it was attacked. The Reds got within 75 yards. Sergeant Bass on his own initiative took a 20-man patrol and went 500 yards behind the enemy. Bass alone killed 10 men and his patrol's action wiped out the threat to the CP". It was for this action that Sergeant Bass was recomended for the Silver Star. Just thought you would like to know of this Award.