One of our Juniper Berry quarterly issues is published in June. As it falls between Memorial Day and Independence Day, we like to feature patriotic stories in that issue. While researching the history of local residents who had served in war, I came across the story of WWII hero Joseph Schmidt.
Twenty-one-year-old Joseph Schmidt of 69th Lane in Maspeth was called for military duty in 1942 and did his basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia.
He was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One. He was shipped to Tunisia, North Africa for his first campaign of heavy fighting where he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for exemplary conduct in ground combat.
His next mission was the invasion of Sicily.
On June 6, 1944 (D-Day), he landed on Omaha Beach and was promoted from Private to Sergeant on that day. July 21, 1944, he received his second bronze star by fearlessly crossing over open terrain under enemy machine gunfire to rescue a seriously wounded member of his squad. After heavy fighting, spearheading the St. Lo breakthrough to the Falaise Pocket, the 1st Infantry took the first German city of Aachen.
Schmidt received a citation for the Silver Star, on October 15, 1944, by assaulting an enemy Pillbox, crossing open terrain under heavy fire, placing dynamite near steel door structures. Realizing the German soldiers were trapped, more than a score surrendered.
His next move was to the Hyertgen Forest, where he fought in the Battle of The Bulge. He was awarded his fifth Purple Heart on January 28, 1945. During his wartime service, Joseph was awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star with cluster, Purple Heart with 4 clusters, Bronze Arrowhead, Distinguished Unit Badge, European African-Middle Eastern Service, Medal Combat Infantry Badge, and six Battle Stars.
Upon discovering his incredible record of service, I knew it had to be included in the magazine, and his story was featured on the back cover of the June 2019 issue. When Council Member Holden asked me if I could think of anyone to nominate for a street co-naming, one of the first names to come to mind was Joseph Schmidt.
After coming home, Joseph worked for the NYC Department of Sanitation for many years. He was married for 56 years to his wife, Evelyn, and passed away in 2004. He is buried in Calverton Cemetery. Joseph and Evelyn’s children, Evelyn, Robert, Dennis, and Jennifer told heartwarming stories about their father at the ceremony.
I’d like to thank the Council Member for sponsoring this legislation in the City Council, our fellow co-sponsors, Newtown Historical Society, and Haspel-Staab VFW, the Department of Sanitation Color Guard, FDNY Squad 288 which helped with logistics, and the family of Joseph Schmidt for making this day possible. A special thank you to Haspel-Staab VFW 551 for giving us the use of their hall for a lunch reception after the ceremony.
As younger generations grow up never having known the Greatest Generation, it’s become even more important to honor their sacrifices. This is one way to help to ensure that they are never forgotten.