Joseph S. Hillenbrand was born on 10 May 1920 in Germany and then the family moved to the US when Joseph was five years old. He joined the United States Army, serving as a combat engineer lieutenant with the 2nd Armored Division in World War II. Lieutenant Hillenbrand was awarded the nation's third highest valor medal, the Silver Star for conspicupus gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving with the 2nd Armored Division. After leaving the service, Joseph Hillenbrand worked for NASA's Systems Analysis and Reliability Division in Huntsville, Alabama. Joseph Hillenbrand retired from NASA in 1979 and remained in the Huntsville, Alabama area until he died in 1992.