Profiles of Valor: BG Joseph Stringham
“Smokin’ Joe was harder than a Woodpecker’s lips!”
According to my friend David Yuzuk, author of The Giant Killers, you may not recognize the name Joseph Stringham, but many will recall him by his nickname. He earned the moniker “Smokin’ Joe” for his exploits in Vietnam.
David notes, “Smokin’ Joe was harder than a Woodpecker’s lips!”
Brigadier General Joe Stringham, in his more than 32 years of military service, commanded at every echelon from rifle platoon through brigade. This included command of the 75th Ranger Regiment; three U.S. Army Infantry Battalions, including the 1st Ranger Battalion; and the U.S. Military Group in El Salvador at a pivotal point in the war in that country.
Stringham is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1961.
His ability to lead from the front became obvious with his first active-duty assignment in Korea as XO of the 7th Infantry Division Long Range Patrol Detachment, then as a rifle company commander in 17th Infantry Battle Group. His final command, almost three decades later, would be the gem of his military ambition: Commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
BG Stringham was an Airborne Ranger Infantryman who, as a Green Beret, organized, trained, and led in combat the first MIKE Force unit (an indigenous rapid-reaction force unit) in Vietnam. MIKE Force was legendary in U.S. Army Vietnam lore. Stringham and his missions were the subject of the John Wayne movie “The Green Berets.”
Between Vietnam and El Salvador, and in the rank of MAJ and LTC, Stringham commanded three infantry battalions, culminating with the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. During this command, he was nicknamed “Smokin’ Joe,” which fit him well then, as it certainly does now.
Over the course of his service career, BG Stringham is credited with 42 months of close-combat duty beginning during 1963-1964-1965 with the Special Forces in Vietnam, then again in Vietnam during 1967-1968 as Company Commander and Battalion S3 in the 31st Infantry Battalion of the Americal Division, and finally, Commander of the U.S. Military Group in El Salvador during the critical phase of the insurgency.
Stringham served at the highest levels of the U.S. Army staff in the Pentagon and as the Senior Military Attaché in the U.S. Embassies in Brazil and Mexico. In the latter, he was the focal point for directing Department of Defense activities associated with the counter-narcotics interdiction effort in these regions.
The list of General Stringham’s awards complements his service as both a leader and a warrior. He holds two Distinguished Service Medals, four Legion of Merit medals, and seven combat awards for valor, to include the Silver Star Medal. He also holds six foreign medals and awards, including El Salvador’s Medalla de Oro (Gold Medal), and foreign parachutist wings from seven allied nations.
Half of his military service was in overseas theaters ranging from East and Southeast Asia to the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America. He retired from active duty in November 1992.
In 1995, he was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame. In 2010, he was inducted into the Special Forces Hall of Fame.
Since his retirement from active duty, General Stringham has served as Chairman of the National Ranger Memorial Foundation. He has worked in both the public and private sectors of the U.S. as well as overseas in Brazil, Mexico, Angola, and the UAE. He has been a frequent lecturer in numerous Latin American countries on the subject of “Strategy Development in Counter-Terrorist Operations.”
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776
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- Profiles of Valor
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