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Joseph Bell

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Joseph Bell Obituary
Bell, Lt. Col. Joseph William

Lt. Col. Joseph William Bell of Austin, TX died on September 28, 2013, at Austin Hospice Christopher House surrounded by his family.

"Bill" was born in Livingston, Illinois, on April 12, 1923 to Charles W. and Julia (Viola) Bell.

Julia died when Bill was 2 1/2 years old. On Aug 3, 1929, Charles remarried to Marie (Westfahl) and they raised Bill and his younger sister, Imogene. Bill attended Holy Name School and graduated 1941 from North High School in Sheboygan, WI. Bill also participated in the local Drum and Bugle Corp for several years and a Basic Training camp in the summer of 1941.

Bill's Career in the USAF and his family were paramount in importance to him.

Bill enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on Dec 29, 1941 and was stationed at Scott Field, IL where he completed his Radio School Training and also qualified to be a cadet in Pilot Training via exam. Bill received his pilots wings from Blackland Army Air Base, Waco, Texas on Feb 16, 1943 having graduated with Class 43-B as a 2nd Lt.

In summer of 1943 Bill was in a serious air crash and was laid up for over one year. In January 1945 after completion of B-17 Flight Training, Bill and his crew flew their new silver B-17g Flying Fortress to Lucera near the Foggia, Italy 15th Air Force complex. After about 14 missions and having been awarded several Air Medals, he was promoted to 1st Lt.

During a mission in mid-March, 1945, Bill and his crew had survived the landing of a crippled flak-ridden B-17 (with only 1 engine operating by the time the wheels touched the ground) in the forward airstrip at Cattolica, Italy. In his words: "That airplane was junk"!

Bill and Norma Jean Chastain were married in Waco, Texas July14, 1945 as soon as it was possible to return stateside after VE Day in Europe. Bill remained in the U.S. Air Force for 30+ years in total military service attaining the rank of Lt. Col.

The Bell family was stationed in many places over the years, including: Sandy Gulley, Jamaica; St. Johns, Newfoundland; Ramstein AFB, Germany; The Hague, Netherlands; The Pentagon, Washington, D.C.; Gallup, NM; Ventura, CA, Mascoutah, IL and Kansas City, MO.

Bill was closely involved in protecting our country from military attack and was responsible for devising new methods of early detection and warning. Bill devised a new way to receive radar signals using a very simple, yet large array of chicken wire fencing held up by telephone poles and was first deployed in Greenland and in Canada. During the years of 1956-1960 he commanded the 7420th Squadron in Ramstein AFB, Germany where early detection radar sites were sited and developed. He was very proud of his work there related to protecting US aircraft navigating to and from West Berlin safely through air corridors and also in improving airport safety using radar and improving methods of removing "ground clutter" which had been responsible for several air crashes. Additionally, he traveled extensively in Asian countries on Temporary Duty where he worked on-site with our allies in Radar related activities during the Cold War era.

During 1965-1968 Bill served in The Hague, Netherlands with the NATO related SHAPE Technical Center as the U.S. Research and Development Coordinator.

Bill also served in the Vietnam War from 1968-1969 where he flew unarmed C-47's providing flare assistance for night missions and PSYOP missions dropping leaflets to the enemy.

Lt. Col. Joseph W. Bell was awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) for his bravery and dedication in the performance of his duty in a 1969 night mission flying an unarmed C-47.

Between 1970-1972, Bill served as the USAF Inspector General for the Communications Command requiring a top security clearance.

Bill is survived by all of his sons and their wives: Jay (Rhonda), James (Charling), Gregory (Jana) (all of Austin), Peter (Karen) of Mt. Juliet, TN, and Christopher (Wendy) of Ventura, CA.

Bill is further survived by his sister Dolores (Raymond) Burgin, brother Charles (Donna) Bell Jr, sister-in-law, Joanne Lasher, brother-in-law, Robert Benson, and his precious 17 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews, most notably Jennifer Burgin (David Cooney) and his newest close friends here in Austin, TX, Vera Mae Syptak and Jessica Madson.

Bill was predeceased by his loving wife Norma in 2009, his daughter Susan in 2012, his mother, father, step mother, sister Iomogene Benson and father and mother in laws.

After he retired from the US Air Force the couple enjoyed touring the US in their RV - visiting family and friends. Bill and Norma shared a passion for flying, in addition to traveling.

The couple decided to work together to restore a 1950's era Piper short-wing single-engine airplane. One of their greatest pleasures was flying in the Piper together - their mission was nearly always to visit with their family and friends.

Bill will be missed by all who knew him.

Church Service arrangements are Pending.

Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetary at a later date.

Donations can be made to one of his favorite charities:

, Breast Cancer Foundation

The Humane Society (ASPCA)

Obituary and guestbook online at

Published in Sheboygan Press on Oct. 12, 2013
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