Joseph Anthony Medas was born in Dartmouth, Massachusetts on 6 December 1923. He was the only child of Antone and Mary Medas. The Medas family moved to Newport, Rhode Island when Joseph was seven years old. He was a 1941 graduate of Rogers High School, Newport, Rhode Island. Joseph entered Rhode Island State College (RISC) in September 1941 with the class of 1945. He was a member of Alpha Tau Gamma Fraternity and participated in the U.S. Army ROTC program while a student. Joseph enlisted in the United States Army Reserve while attending RISC; and after completing two years of college, he was called to active service in June 1943.
Staff Sergeant Medas was sent to Europe in June 1944 as an Infantry Squad Leader, M Company, 21st Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division “The Thunderbolts.” Staff Sergeant Medas landed at Omaha Beach with the 83rd Infantry Division on 18 June 1944 and entered the hedgerow struggle south of Carentan, France. Taking the offensive, the 83rd reached the St. Lo-Periers Road on 25 July 1944 and advanced against strong German opposition as the Normandy campaign ended.
The 83rd Division continued to move forward and took Châteauneuf-d’Ille-et-Vilaine and Dinard during the period 5-15 August 1944. Early in the battle, the 83rd approached the heavily fortified area protecting St. Malo. Intense fighting reduced enemy strong points and a combined attack against the Citadel Fortress of St. Servan caused its surrender. However, the 83rd took heavy casualties; and Staff Sergeant Medas was severely wounded. Sergeant Medas was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the Purple Heart for wounds received in battle. After recovering from his wounds, he returned to combat duty in Luxembourg in October 1944.
In early October 1944 after taking Remich and patrolling defensively along the Moselle, the 83rd resisted counterattacks and advanced to the Siegfried Line defenses across the Sauer after capturing Grevenmacher and Echternach. As the spearhead in operation “Unicorn,” the division took Le Stromberg Hill in the vicinity of Basse Konz against strong opposition on 5 November 1944 and defeated numerous counterattacks. Moving to the Hurtgen Forest, the 83rd Division thrust forward from Gressenich to the west bank of the Roer.
It entered the “Battle of the Bulge” on 27 December 1944 striking at Rochefort and reducing the enemy salient in a bitter struggle. The division moved back to Belgium and the Netherlands for rehabilitation and training on 22 January 1945. On 1 March 1945, the 83rd advanced toward the Rhine in “Operation Grenade” and captured Neuss. The west bank of the Rhine from north of Oberkassel to the Erft Canal was cleared of enemy; and defensive positions were established by 2 March 1945. The division crossed the Rhine River south of Wesel on 29 March and advanced across the Munster Plain to the Weser, crossing it at Bodenwerder.
As opposition disintegrated, Halle fell on 6 April. The division crossed the Leine on 8 April and attacked to the east, pushing over the Harz Mountain region and advancing to the Elbe River at Barby. Sadly, Staff Sergeant Joseph A. Medas was killed in action during the battle to secure the Elbe River at Barby. The city was taken on the 13 April 1945, and the 83rd Division established a bridgehead over the river in support of Patton’s 3rd Army.
Staff Sergeant Joseph A. Medas was awarded the Purple Heart Medal with oak leave cluster. He was buried with full military honors in the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium. Staff Sergeant Joseph A. Medas was a son of Rhode Island who answered the call to service during World War II and gave his life in service to Rhode Island and America. He is a heroic member of the “Greatest Generation.”