World War II Veteran and good buddy
When you are traveling down Greenfield Road, turn west onto Margareta or Clarita Street and you will immediately stumble onto the Joe Bale Playfield. While a student at Michigan State University, “Little Joe” Bale enlisted for duty in World War II. He served with the Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment of the 3rd Division in the invasion of Anzio, Italy and Southern France. A few weeks after turning 21 years, Bale lost his life in the fierce Battle of Colmar Pocket on January 30, 1945 near Wihr-en-Plaine, France.
Bale’s battalion was attacked by enemy tanks. He fearlessly returned fire with his rocket launcher, ignoring shells exploding five yards away and machine gun bullets. Joe knocked out an enemy tank, forcing the Germans to withdraw. Later, the same morning his battalion was again attacked by another tank at 100 yards. Again, he braved shell fire in another single-handed attempt to destroy the tank; unfortunately he was mortally wounded. Joe Bale’s courage was posthumously honored with the Distinguished Service Cross.
Veterans, relatives and friends formed The Pfc. Joseph Bale Post 474 on June 9, 1946 – affiliated with the Jewish War Veterans Association of Michigan. Within two years, the post grew to over 100 members and eventually became the largest JWVA post in the Michigan. In 1953, Bale’s memory was honored with the dedication of this Detroit park. Mayor Albert Cobo, Rabbi Morris Adler, his parents and Post 474 members were in attendance for that Wednesday evening ceremony.
Joe was known as a superior athlete at Central High School in Detroit and at college. MSU named a dormitory building in his honor. [The building has since been renamed.] In 2011, the Michigan Jewish Sports Association honored both ‘Little’ Joe and his cousin ‘Big’ Joe Bale by hanging a plaque in their Hall of Fame to honor the memory of those students who served in war and for those who were never were able to fulfill their dream of competing in college sports.
As of this writing, the Joseph Bale Post 474 continues to hold monthly meetings. They remain a unified group who uphold the memory of all veterans through the fundraisers and attendance at religious and commemorative ceremonies. Importantly, they refuse to forget the simple story of an ‘average Joe’ that rose far above the ordinary. He gave his life fighting for his country and as a result, saved the lives of his buddies.
There are some things that are easily forgotten in 5 minutes and there are other events that can’t be forgotten across a life time. Joe’s memory lives on.
Military photo courtesy of The Rabbi Leo M. Franklin Archive
Copyright 2013. © Andrea Gallucci All rights reserved.