Joseph Baldeschi

Joseph Baldeschi was born in Pennsylvania in 1924 but following the untimely death of his mother was sent to Italy to be raised by his grandparents. Returning to the US in 1938, Joe graduated from high school in 1943 and was inducted into the US Navy. He was trained as an aerial gunner and subsequently transferred to NAS Whidbey Island, WA and assigned to Fleet Wing Four, VPB-139 destined for Attu Island, Alaska. Their assignment was to photograph the northern section of the Japanese Kurile Islands, primarily the islands of Paramushiro and Shimushu, and destroy military installations. Just 10 days into his tour, Joe was wounded by shrapnel created by the explosion of an enemy shell. He was later awarded the Purple Heart.

Read an account of Joe's injury during combat, written by Joe's crewmate Chet Silas.
Photo of Joseph Baldeschi receiving purple heart beside recent photo of himself with his wife
An officer from Fleet Airwing 4 awarding Joe Baldeschi the purple heart.

Courtesy Joe Baldeschi, ARM 2c, VB-139, June 1943-June 1945.

The following is from a letter written by Chester E. Silas in 2004 and delivered to the Naval Legal Services Southeast office in Florida in December 2004.

November 4, 2003[sic]

To Whom It May Concern:

The following is my recollection of the events that occurred during the flight of Squadron VPB-139 on May 10, 1945.

On the tenth of May, 1945, two flights of four planes each made an anti-shipping sweep to the Kurile Islands, with Minamizaki as the secondary target. Crew Five was part of the first flight under the command of LCDR Glenn A. David USNR, Commanding Officer of Squadron VPB-139.

On this flight, Drew Five was made up of the following personnel:
Pilot A. Paul Stehley Lt. Deceased
Co-pilot R.D. Switzer Ens. Deceased
Navigator H.T. Janssen Ens. Deceased
Plane Captain A.G. Molten AMM 1/C Deceased
Radioman J. Baldeschi ARM 2/C Retired
Gunner C.E. Silas AOM 3/C Retired

The mission was uneventful during the anti-shipping sweep. When the decision was made to drop our bombs and strafe Minamizaki, our plane was met with heavy A/A fire. During this phase of the mission, our plane was hit over thirty times by shrapnel. One or more of the hits caused an electrical fire in the radio compartment. ARM 2/C Joe Baldeschi was wounded in the right arm and right leg, but remained at his post. in the plane we were flying (PV-2 Harpoon), the Navigator's table was located on top of a fuel tank. The electrical fire in the radio compartment was very close to this fuel tank. ARM 2/C Baldeschi grabbed the wiring with both hands, pulling the wires free, thus stopping the fire from reaching the fuel tank. I believe that ARM 2/C Baldeschi's quick action resulted in the members of Crew 5 being able to live full, productive and happy lives. Yes, I truly believe that this action by Joe saved our lives.

If I can be of further service or provide more information to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.


[signed 12/2/04]
Chester E. Silas

Last updated: April 5, 2018

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