For Major Joseph Richard Uhler, a football scholarship led him to Georgia Military College from his hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the GMC Junior College in 1942 and immediately went into military service, earning many honors and distinctions throughout World War II.
Uhler was initially assigned to the 139th Tank Destroyer Training Battalion, which was stationed at North Camp Hood, Texas. He was there for only a few weeks before the 894th Tank Destroyer Battalion shipped out to serve in World War II, on August 6, 1942. Having been assigned to that unit, Uhler arrived in England on August 17, 1942. Five months later he landed in Oran, Algeria, due to delays caused by an outbreak of spinal meningitis. He was committed to battle on February 23, 1943 at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, and it was during the heat of battle that Uhler received a field promotion to 1st Lieutenant.
In April, Uhler’s leadership inspired his platoon to hold their position under heavy artillery fire, all while taking extensive losses of both men and equipment. Even after losing half of his transportation vehicles and several of his men, Uhler continued to occupy his position until ordered to withdraw. That same afternoon while still under attack, Uhler advanced to one of his burning vehicles and assisted his men in putting out the fire. He courageously assisted his men even though there was a box of anti-tank mines burning and approximately 80 rounds of 75mm ammunition on the vehicle, likely to explode at any time. Uhler was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry during this North African Campaign.
Uhler and the 894th landed in Italy in late October, and by December, they were in the vicinity of Pignataro, in the Mignano sector. They were then transferred to the Anzio beachhead on January 25, 1944, where his battalion supported British troops. During March to September 1944 Uhler was involved in aerial operations against the enemy. Small planes were used to provide invaluable information for troop movement, enemy placements, and possible target locations. For his service, he was awarded the Air Medal for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial reconnaissance.
The unit entered Rome in June and crossed the Arno River at Pisa in September. They became mired at Porretta Terme late 1944–early 1945 and were finally able to enter Genoa on April 28th. While serving in Italy, Uhler was promoted to Captain. He was also awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious achievement in ground operations against the enemy from August to November 1944.
Uhler served with B Company, where his unit was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the company’s actions near Carroceto, Italy, in February 1944. He also received the French Fourragère, signifying the unit’s award of the Croix de Guerre. Uhler left military service having been promoted to the rank of Major.
After returning home to Georgia from the war, MAJ Uhler continued his education at the University of Georgia’s School of Forestry. While there, he met his future wife, Margaret Anderson. They married on July 22, 1948 and had four children together. MAJ Uhler worked in the Forestry industry, and he resided in Milledgeville until his passing in April 2007.