Joseph Henry Picarelli

Army of the United States
17 July 1943 - 15 May 1968
Paterson, New Jersey
Panel 61E Line 001

Silver Star

Combat Infantry

Bronze Star (Merit), Purple Heart (2 awards), National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Joseph Henry Picarelli

22 Mar 2007

I am Arthur David Wardle. On behalf of my family please allow me to present this remembrance of one of your own, and our friend. Joey was like a brother to me.

Many will remember our friend as a man, and as a soldier. Correspondence with your fellow soldiers has been inspirational and enlightening. A portrait has emerged of a young man who was well respected by all who knew him. He was loved by his friends, and described by one and all as a great man, and a great soldier. He was tough, bright, and competent, personable and funny, a good friend, and a loving husband. He belonged to Company A, 1st Battalion Infantry, 198th Infantry Brigade APO6219

To some of us he was known as "Doc", and to others he would be "Pic". He did his duty. He was, Joseph Henry Picarelli.

As you will see, there's another story. There's much more to Joseph Henry Picarelli. It's a memory more than fifty years old that will not be diminished, nor will it dim. It has been tucked safely away, closely within our breasts, and saved, for just this very day.

In the early 1950's Joey lived on North Main Street in Paterson, New Jersey. He lived with his mother, and her elderly parents, in a small apartment over a storefront. His good friends were Bobby, Davey, and Linda Jane. All of us lived in what is best described as "humble" circumstances.

Joey, or "Pic" as he was known even then, came to our house every day. Mostly, he stayed all day, so where we went, Joey went. We all attended grammar school at P.S. #12, and our playgrounds were ball fields, public parks, empty lots, school yards, city streets, and any other place not usable by anyone else.

Our innocence was yet to be lost.

"Pic", as a small boy, was healthy, bright eyed, energetic, and funny. He was also smart, and a very good friend.

He played baseball and went to the movies on Saturday afternoon. Joey, with his friends, attended Sunday School at the First Presbyterian Church of Paterson, New Jersey.

With Bobby and Davey he climbed up the River Street Bridge, to catch a pigeon would have been our plan. All day, every day we played, just for fun. You see, it was much simpler, a peacefully, innocent time.

Joey spent much of his time with our family. He needed some family, and we all now know our Mother understood, and took good care.

As it sometimes happens, our family moved to another near-by town, and Joey would, at times, come in the night, slip into our Father's car, where he could be found in the morning, sleeping the sleep of an innocent waif.

Joey would, in those moments in time, spend long periods of time with our family. He was welcome.

Sadly, when he was much too young, and she still only a very young woman, Joey suffered the loss of his mother, as she passed away.

I have only recently learned that our Father quietly attended Joey's eighth grade graduation, so there would be someone there for him on a special day. Our Father understood, and quietly did his best.

As we grew older, we all went separate ways and all contact with "Pic" was lost, but he was always fondly remembered by one and all. He was not ever forgotten. And then, on a dark day in 1968, a young woman sought out our mother. She was Joey's wife, and her message broke our hearts.

On May 15, 1968 all innocence was forever lost, in a foreign, Asian land, as Joseph Henry Picarelli gave up his life for his country, and for his friends. I cry out now, loud and clear, Joseph's boyhood friends, Bobby, Davey, and Linda Jane remember him fondly, and forevermore.

Joseph, cared for and remembered as a boy, embraced lovingly as a man and a soldier by those with whom he served, and by a good and loving wife.

Life is complete. Joseph Henry Picarelli has always been, and is still in good hands. All seems well, all is well, and that is comforting to know.

Dearest Joseph, please hear our song. Today, and forevermore, these fine soldiers and your friends, Bobby, Davey, and Linda Jane remember you fondly and well.

Sleep tight, rest in peace our brave friend.


For Gallantry in Action, on April 28, 1968, Joseph Henry Picarelli was awarded the Silver Star.

For showing me the way, thank you Larry Swank, Alan Allen, Don Kaiser, Harry Thompson, Jim Fontana, Bob Moles, Frank Brennan, John Hacker, and George Meek.

He received but little, and gave his all.

From Joey was like a brother,
Arthur David Wardle

22 Mar 2007

I only knew Joseph Picarelli for a little over 100 days, but it was a great pleasure to meet and serve with him. Most knew Joe Picarelli as just "Pic." His loss on 15 May 1968 was a pivotal moment in my life. It took years for me to realize that this experience must have been shared by millions of soldiers over time who lost friends in battle, not to mention family and loved ones impacted by such an untimely death. My memories of that death have diminished some over the years, but my recollections of a wonderful young man full of spirit, enthusiasm and life have never faded.

I can see Pic now lifting that heavy radio and pack and cracking some kind of joke about how far we would have to hump it today. I remember nights sharing cooking techniques and the goodies from those packages from home. We also shared plans for "after the Nam". My girlfriend and I were to join Pic and his wife in New York City after our return from the war. The plan was to go to a great restaurant, have the best meal in town, and laugh at all the crap we ate in Vietnam.

In the company command group we all took two hour shifts on guard each night. I had a late shift and it was always great to hear Pic's voice say ... get up sir, we made it through another night. If they didn't hit you by 2 a.m. you were almost always safe until you moved out of your night defensive position. No matter what trouble we ran into Pic was always confident, optimistic, and professional, but above all he was tough and brave.

The 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry had won a Valorous Unit Award in February of 1968 for the battle of Lo Giang, but it would sustain its highest casualties from the end of April through May 1968 on and around Landing Zone Center and Hill 352 during the battle at Nui Hoac Ridge. A review of records at the National Archives II documents 30 members of the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry killed in action, 191 wounded, and 78 valor awards including one Congressional Medal of Honor and one Distinguished Service Cross. Not included in this count are the valiant efforts of companies from the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, who were under the operational control of the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry during this action.

Pic received his first Purple Heart and a Silver Star for action on 28 April 1968. The narrative for his Silver Star was reproduced from Americal General Order 3254, which was awarded posthumously on 17 June 1969:

"For Gallantry in action against a hostile force on 28 April 1968 in the Republic of Vietnam. Specialist Four Picarelli distinguished himself while serving as a radio-telephone operator for the company commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry. On that date, his company had set up a night position when they suddenly came under intense small arms fire from an enemy force of undetermined size. While his company commander was busy on the company frequency, Specialist Picarelli established communications with battalion headquarters and quickly requested gunships for the defense of the company perimeter. As the gunships arrived on station, they were unable to determine the company's perimeter due to total darkness and the density of the vegetation. Upon hearing the problem from the gunships, Specialist Picarelli, with disregard for his own safety, took a strobe light and moved about the company's perimeter, marking the friendly positions. Although he was wounded by shrapnel from an enemy hand grenade, he courageously continued to expose himself to hostile fire as he marked his perimeter until the enemy force was repelled and forced to retreat. Specialist Four Picarelli's unquestioned valor while in close combat with a numerically superior enemy force and his avid devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Americal Division, and the United States Army."

Remaining in the field with his unit, Pic served courageously during a period of sustained combat operations. Soldiers had attempted to assault the enemy bunker complex near Hill 352, but with little success. Their positions were deemed "impregnable." On 14 May 1968 Pic's unit, Company A, 1/6th Infantry, assaulted Hill 352 and routed a company-sized force of North Vietnamese Army regulars positioned in well-fortified, dug-in bunkers. Platoon Sergeant Finnis D. McCleery was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on that day.

On 15 May 1968 Pic's unit was in support of units attacking eastward along the Nui Hoac ridge. Company A was directed to advance across a saddle between two hilltops. The command group came under heavy fire and Pic got caught in an NVA crossfire and was stuck in an exposed sitting position because his pack was hung on an old tree stump. Men from the unit reported that Pic died before they got him to the helicopter for evacuation. In all, 21 Company A soldiers were wounded that day, including the company commander. By the end of May intelligence reports stated that the sustained attacks turned back the 2nd NVA Division from a planned major offensive, and completely decimated the 3rd NVA Regiment and its attached Anti-Aircraft Battalion.

In addition to his second Purple Heart, Joseph Picarelli was awarded a Bronze Star Medal and received a posthumous promotion to Sergeant, E-5.

From a friend and fellow "Gunfighter",
Larry Swank, LTC, US Army (Ret)

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 22 Mar 2007
Last updated 08/10/2009