Joe Abbott was born in 1934 in Salem, New Jersey. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program on April 8, 1954, and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force on July 18, 1955. After completing advanced interceptor training, Lt Abbott served as an F-94 Starfire and F-89 Scorpion pilot with the 437th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS) of the 414th Fighter Group at Oxnard AFB, California, from November 1955 to August 1956, and then as an F-89 pilot with the 449th FIS at Ladd AFB, Alaska, from August 1956 to August 1959. He returned to the 437th FIS at Oxnard AFB in August 1959, and served as an F-89 and F-101 Voodoo pilot until September 1962, when he transferred to the staff of the 414th Fighter Group at Oxnard. Capt Abbott's next assignment was as an F-101 pilot with the 62nd FIS at K.I. Sawyer AFB, Michigan, from September 1964 to early 1966 when he went through F-105 Thunderchief Combat Crew Training. He deployed to Southeast Asia as an F-105 pilot and Flying Safety Officer for the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing at Takhli Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from August 1966 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on April 30, 1967. After spending 2,122 days in Captivity, Col Abbott was released during Operation Homecoming on February 18, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Andrews AFB, Maryland, and then attended Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1973 to July 1974. His final assignment was with the Duluth Air Defense Sector at Duluth Airport, Minnesota, where he retired from the Air Force on November 1, 1977.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
Captain Joseph S. Abbott Jr. distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-105 Pilot near Hanoi, North Vietnam on 30 April 1967. On that date, Captain Abbott was flying top cover with his element leader in direct support of search and rescue operations for two downed crews just south of the Red River Delta when he observed a flight of MIG 21s attacking the element. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Captain Abbott deliberately diverted the attacking hostile aircraft from his damaged element leader. The courageous and aggressive display of airmanship, against overwhelming odds, thwarted the attack against his leader and enabled him to recover his damaged aircraft. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Captain Abbott has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.