Joseph Rodgers Steele was born on January 20, 1920, at Birmingham, Ala. After receiving a diploma from Jefferson County High School, Tarrant, Ala., in 1936, he attended Birmingham Southern College for three years and then went on to earn a B.A. Degree from the University of Alabama in 1940. During that period he was enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve for nearly 15 months (1939-40).
He was graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn., with a B.S. Degree and with a commission of Ensign on June 9, 1943, during World War II.
Immediately ordered to combat duty, he served his first assignment as Gunnery Officer on board the Coast Guard combat cutter Bibb on North Atlantic convoy escort duty until the end of 1944. He then served the remainder of the war as Gunnery Officer in the Coast Guard-manned troop transport USS Admiral E.W. Eberle (AP-123) in the Pacific and on trips to Naples and France to move Army troops, and back to the Pacific to assist in the “Magic Carpet” operations of bringing troops back to the States after the surrender of the Japanese.
Beginning flight training in November 1945 at the Naval Air Training Base at Corpus Christi, Texas, he was later graduated with wings from the Naval Air Training Center, Pensacola, Fla., and designated Coast Guard Aviator No. 498 on March 17, 1947. After a short period of advanced training at Banana River and at Pensacola, he served his first tour of duty as Aviator as well as Assistant Engineer Officer at the Coast Guard Air Station, San Francisco, until September 1949. From there he attended the Maintenance Officers School at Chanute AFB, Rantoul, Ill., until April 1950, and then was assigned as Engineering Officer at the Coast Guard Air Station, St. Petersburg, Fla.
From July 1951 to September 1952, he was a graduate student at the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, where he received an M.S. Degree in Aeronautical Engineering. With that he was assigned as Production Control Officer and Engineering Officer at the Coast Guard Aircraft Repair and Supply Center, Elizabeth City, N.C., for three years. While there he earned the designation of Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot No. 18 on June 19, 1953.
In November 1955, he became Chief of the Maintenance and Logistics Section of the Aeronautical Engineering Division at Coast Guard Headquarters where he remained for four years, reaching the rank of Commander. He served his next tour of duty as Aircraft Maintenance Representative, Southern Region, at the 7th Coast Guard District, Miami, from December 1959 to June 1961. He then returned to Elizabeth City to serve as Executive Officer of the Aircraft Repair and supply Center for two years.
In July 1963, he returned to Headquarters for a second tour of duty, serving first as Assistant Chief for one year and then as Chief of the Aeronautical Engineering Division until November 1967. A Captain by then, he was transferred to Alaska where he first served as Chief of Engineering at the 17th Coast Guard District office in Juneau until August 1969, and then assumed command of the Coast Guard Air Station at Kodiak.
In November 1970, he became Chief of Operations, 2nd Coast Guard District, St. Louis, Mo., where he remained for a year and a half. By nomination of the President in January 1971 and approval of the Senate, he was appointed a flag officer to rank as permanent Rear Admiral from June 11, 1971. At that time he returned to Headquarters to assume the post of Chief, Office of Personnel. For outstanding service in that post, RADM Steele was presented the Meritorious Service Medal in December 1973.
Following is a resume of RADM Steele’s appointments in rank: Cadet, July 24, 1940; Ensign, June 9, 1943; Lieutenant (jg), April 1, 1944; Lieutenant, June 23, 1949; Lieut. Commander, August 26, 1952; Commander, July 1, 1959; Captain, July 1, 1965; Rear Admiral, June 11, 1971.
RADM Steele’s World War II campaign service medals and ribbons include the following: American Defense Service (with sea clasp); American Area; European-African-Middle Eastern Area; Asiatic-Pacific (one combat star); Philippine Liberation; World War II Victory. He also has the Meritorious Service Medal (Dec. 1973).
RADM Steele’s wife is the former Jeanne Marie D. S. of Cleveland, Ohio. They have one son, Joseph R., Jr.