T/4 in 3133rd Signal Service Co
Born 1925 in CA, Died 2018
County of residence at enlistment: Alameda County, CA
Other residence(s): San Leandro, CA
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: student
College education before the war: UC Berkeley 1 year
Joe D'Assis was born on January 7, 1925 in San Leandro, CA; he was an only child. His parents had both been born in Portugal, and they owned and operated a grocery store in San Leandro. His father had emigrated to the US as a 21-year-old seaman, and his mother several years later when she was 18.
Joe graduated from San Leandro High School in 1942, and enrolled at UC Berkeley to study international relations and law. He registered for the draft on his 18th birthday, January 7, 1943, and enlisted on May 18, 1943 at the end of his freshman year. He was assigned to the 3133 Signal Service Company, quickly promoted to the rank of T/4, and trained as a tank driver. He went to Europe with the unit in March, 1945 and drove and serviced tanks during the remainder of the war, participating in operations in the Northern Apennines and the Po Valley.
His daughter, Trish, recalls him telling a story about a time when the tank was fired on and "they careened off the road and down an embankment. Luckily the side of the hill was terraced, and the tank's front gun got stuck in the embankment, preventing them from falling further." Trish says that he also talked about the fact that his ears would bleed from the percussion caused by the firing of the tank.
Trish says that Joe was fluent in five languages and, since Portuguese was his primary language, was able to assist with interpretation for the Brazilian commanders who were giving Pope Pius XII an update on their activities.* Trish says that her father was very proud of this opportunity to have a private audience with Pope Pius, and brought back a rosary blessed by him which became his mother's prized possession.
He was discharged on March 11, 1946 and returned to San Leandro. He would have liked to go back to school (he had been an excellent student) but his father needed him in the family grocery business. Joe married Bernice Montez on May 22, 1949 and they would go on to have three children: Dennis, Stephen, and Patricia (Trish).
Joe was an active member of the IDES Portuguese fraternal organization (Society of the Divine Holy Spirit), the Knights of Columbus, and his parish (Assumption Catholic Church in San Leandro). Along with Bernice, he continued to operate the grocery store for many years. In the mid-60s he leased out the store space and took a job as a buyer for Associated Food Stores.
One of Joe's hobbies was collecting coins and stamps. His daughter, Trish, reports that he was an "authority on Hawaiian stamps and wrote a book that is a primary source for collectors." The book, entitled An Informative and Descriptive Catalogue of Hawaii Stamps and Related Issues, was self-published in San Leandro in 1983, with periodic updates until 2000; reference copies are housed at the University of Hawaii Hamilton Library in Honolulu and the San Leandro Community Library. Copies of the book come up for sale on auction sites now and then; at the time of this writing (April 2023) a copy was available on eBay for $142.
Joe also collected Oakland A's pins and had a collection of rare pins that spanned the Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Oakland franchises.
Joe and Bernice retired to Heritage Estates in Livermore, CA in 2007. There he gave a talk on his World War II service that was well-attended. He also had the opportunity to attend a reunion of the 3133rd in New York around 2011.
Bernice died in 2012, and Joe died on July 21, 2018. He is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Hayward, CA.
*Placed under United States command, Brazilian troops fought primarily in the liberation of Italy from September 1944 to May 1945,
1943 draft card
1943 enlistment record
1949 California marriage index
1953 San Leandro city directory
1957 article in the Oakland Tribune (CA); he is active at church
2012 wife's obituary in the Oakland Tribune (CA)
2018 Find a Grave record
2023 (April 15) GALP Veteran Biography Worksheet from daughter Trish D'Assis Grave
Hawaiian Stamps website (contains information about Joe's book)