Joseph Cataldo was born on January 18, 1929, in Massachusetts. He enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard on July 19, 1946, and served as a Hospital Corpsman until receiving an honorable discharge on August 19, 1949. He next enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserve on May 23, 1952, and served until receiving his commission as a 2d Lt in the U.S. Army Reserve on October 7, 1957. During this time, Lt Cataldo completed his bachelor of arts degree in BioChemistry at Harvard University in 1953, and then attended the Boston University School of Medicine. He went on active duty in the Army beginning October 14, 1957, and remained a student medical officer while attending Boston University School of Medicine until he completed medical school in June 1958. Capt Cataldo next performed his General Medical Officer Intern Training at the U.S. Army Hospital at Fort Benning, Georgia, from June 1958 to July 1959, followed by service as a Medical Officer with the 10th General Dispensary in West Germany from July 1959 to May 1960, and then as a Medical Officer and then Commanding Officer of the 209th General Dispensary in West Germany from May 1960 to August 1962. He attended additional medical training at Johns Hopkins University from August 1962 to June 1963, followed by additional medical training and then residency training at the U.S. Army Hospital at Fort Ord, California, from June 1963 to June 1965. Maj Cataldo continued his medical training at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, from June 1965 to May 1966, and then served as Commanding Officer of the 20th Preventive Medicine Unit in South Vietnam from May to November 1966. His next assignment was as an Aviation Medical Officer with the 17th Aviation Group in South Vietnam from November 1966 to June 1967, followed by service as a Surgeon with the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from June 1967 to July 1969. LTC Cataldo attended Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from August 1969 to June 1970, and then served as Chief of the Communicable Disease and Immunology Research Branch with the Army Medical Research and Development Command at the Pentagon from June 1970 until his retirement from the Army on December 1, 1974. During this time, Col Cataldo served with the Redwine Security Group during the Son Tay Raid, a clandestine mission to rescue American Prisoners of War in North Vietnam on November 21, 1970. Joseph Cataldo died on February 17, 2014, and was buried at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, New Hampshire.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
Lieutenant Colonel Joseph R. Cataldo, Medical Corps, distinguished himself by gallantry in action on 21 November 1970 as a member of an all-volunteer joint U.S. Army and Air Force raiding force in the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed heliborne assault mission to rescue United States military personnel held as prisoners of war at SON TAY Prison in North Vietnam. This valiant effort was motivated by a deep compassion for his imprisoned comrades and a strong sense of military duty and national pride. Colonel Cataldo, a member of the command group of the raiding force, landed in the target area in the second assault helicopter. As he moved to his assigned security position, he came under fire from the enemy guard quarters. Disregarding this threat, he was able to establish his position and prepare to receive the released prisoners of war and wounded personnel. When the assault plan was suddenly changed, he was able to assist the leader of the command group in recalling his elements. To do so, he exposed himself once again to enemy small arms fire from across the landing zone. When airborne in the extraction helicopter he continued to administer to the wounded and injured while the helicopter was maneuvering violently in an effort to evade enemy surface-to-air missiles. Colonel Cataldo's gallant and unselfish actions reflect great credit on him and the United States Army.