Joel Paris was born on December 6, 1922, in Atlanta, Georgia. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on March 12, 1942, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Spence Field, Georgia, on February 16, 1943. Lt Paris served as an instructor pilot at Spence Field from February to March 1943, and then deployed to the Pacific, where he served as a P-40 Warhawk pilot with the 78th Fighter Squadron of the 15th Fighter Group in Hawaii from April to December 1943. His next assignment was as a P-38 Lightning pilot with the 7th Fighter Squadron of the 49th Fighter Group in New Guinea, the Netherlands East Indies, and in the Philippines from December 1943 to December 1944, followed by service as Operations Officer for the 49th Fighter Group in the Philippines from December 1944 to May 1945. During this time, Capt Paris was credited with the destruction of 9 enemy aircraft in aerial combat. After returning to the United States and taking leave, he served as an instructor pilot at Luke Field, Arizona, from August to October 1945, and then was on leave until leaving active duty on December 28, 1945. Capt Paris joined the Georgia Army National Guard on August 20, 1946, and served as a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot and Operations and Training Officer for the 128th Fighter Squadron at Marietta Army Airfield, Georgia, from August 1946 to June 1947. His next assignment was as Commanding Officer of the 116th Aircraft Control Squadron at Dobbins AFB, Georgia, from June 1947 to January 1951, followed by active duty service as Commander of the 116th Tactical Control Squadron in Tennessee from January 1951 to February 1952. Lt Col Paris remained on active duty as Operations and Training Officer for the 154th Air Control and Warning Group in Tennessee from February to June 1952, and then returned to the Georgia Air National Guard, where he served as Air Operations Officer for the 128th Fighter-Bomber Squadron at Dobbins AFB from July 1952 to March 1953. He served as Air Operations Officer for the 116th Fighter Bomber Group at Dobbins from March to June 1953, followed by service as Air Commander of the 128th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Dobbins from June 1953 to June 1956. His last assignments with the Georgia Air National Guard were as Director of Material and then as Wing Executive with the 116th Fighter Interceptor Wing at Dobbins AFB from June 1956 until he returned to active duty in the Air Force on May 1, 1957. Col Paris next served as Assistant for Air National Guard Affairs with 14th Air Force at Robins AFB, Georgia, from May 1957 to July 1960, followed by service as Chief of the Air National Guard Affairs Branch with Headquarters Tactical Air Command at Langley AFB, Virginia, from July 1960 to January 1961. He served as Assistant Director of Tactical Evaluation with Headquarters Tactical Air Command at Langley from February 1961 to January 1962, and then as Special Assistant for Air National Guard Affairs with the 4450th Stan/Eval Group at Langley from January to December 1962. Col Paris next served as Chief of the Air National Guard Division with Headquarters Tactical Air Command at Langley from December 1962 to October 1963, followed by service as Director of Air National Guard Affairs with Headquarters Tactical Air Command from October 1963 to August 1968. His final assignment was as Assistant for Air National Guard Affairs in the Strike Forces Division at Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from August 1968 until his retirement from the Air Force on October 1, 1970.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For gallantry in action over the Mindoro area, Philippine Islands, on 20 December 1944. Captain Paris led a flight of three P-38 aircraft escorting a Catalina amphibian to our beachhead on Mindoro. When his wingman left the formation to pursue an enemy airplane, eight or ten hostile fighters dived out of the clouds and attacked the two remaining P-38's from all directions. During the attack, a 20 mm. shell tore a hole in the canopy close to his head. Though stunned by the force of the explosion, Captain Paris retained control of his airplane and quickly instructed the PBY to land in the bay under the protection of Allied anti-aircraft guns. Then, without regard for the heavy odds against him, he turned into the enemy formation, and while being attacked from both sides, drove a fighter away from the tail of one of the P-38's and sent the hostile plane, trailing smoke, into a cloud. Skillfully evading other attacks, he went after a fighter which was closing in on the other P-38 and destroyed the Japanese plane with a tail shot. Throughout the battle he continued to give the Catalina such close protection that the enemy fighters were unable to get at it and were finally forced to flee from the area. The bravery, skill and outstanding devotion to duty displayed by Captain Paris during this flight reflect the highest traditions of the United States Army Air Forces.