Joseph DiBella

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Joseph DiBella
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Born (1940-03-15) March 15, 1940 (age 84)
Rome, New York, U.S.
EducationUnited States Coast Guard Academy (B.S. 1962)
Alma materColumbia University (M.B.A. 1968)
OccupationUnited States Coast Guard
Spouse(s)Francoise Catherine Chatanay (m. 1968)
ChildrenAlexandra Chatanay DiBella Norcross (b. 1977)
Melissa Chatanay DiBella Miller (b. 1980)

Joseph Patrick DiBella (born March 15, 1940) is best known for coordinating and controlling a U.S. Coast Guard and U.S Navy rescue operation in which 25 lives were saved, U.S Coast Guard Disaster and Rescue Operation Shortly after 2 AM, on Thanksgiving morning, November 26, 1964, off the coast of New Jersey, the 629-foot Israeli liner. S.S. Shalom, cut the Stolt Dagali, a 582-foot Norwegian vessel in half.

It was a foggy, cold, moonless night with rough seas. 33 of the 43 crew members of the stricken vessel, the Stolt Dagali, were dumped into the freezing pitch-dark ocean. The coordinator and controller of the rescue operation was Joseph DiBella, a 24-year-old, lowly ranked, Lieutenant Junior Grade officer. The first notice that the Coast Guard and DiBella received was a radio message from the captain of the Shalom when he radioed “I think I hit something”. Upon receipt of the latitude and longitude coordinates of the ship, DiBella sent a Coast Guard helicopter, from Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, to the scene. Moments later, the captain of the Stolt Dagali radioed to the Coast Guard “I cannot see the stern of my ship”. As soon as the Coast Guard helicopter got “on scene”, the pilot radioed DiBella, described the scene and said “send everything you got”. As the rescue case evolved, DiBella sent 11 Coast Guard and Navy helicopters, 6 Coast Guard cutters, 3 passing Merchant Marine vessels, and a four-engine turboprop transport aircraft – a Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft - to light up the zero-visibilty scene and coordinate the on-scene operation. DiBella also set up a shuttle system of ambulances from the Navy Lakehurst base station to the nearest hospital. 19 lives were lost; 25 lives were saved. The 19 lost lives are probably entombed in the sunken stern of the Stolt Dagali tanker. In recognition of DiBella’s coordination and control of the rescue operation, and for his handling of the local news media (6 New York City newspapers) which routinely monitor the Coast Guard rescue radio station and which stormed the Manhattan rescue center in Battery Park, the Commandant of the Coast Guard issued and published a Letter of Commendation to LTJG Joseph P. DiBella for his “outstanding performance of duty”. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)


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