Military Service





Joe Putman was so eager to join the military that he ran away from home in his early teens to join the Army. Needless to say, he was told he was too young to join without written permission from his parents who were not going to allow it. Disappointed, he returned home to wait until he was old enough to join without his parents permission. In 1937, a few months before his seventeenth birthday, he hopped a freight car which took him to the State of Washington where he joined the United States Army, serving in Battery G of the 14th Coast Artilley at Fort Worden, Washington.

Eventually, he came to be stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii, not long before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As it happened, he was on leave on December 7, 1941, visiting his new bride in Los Angeles. Joe had taken leave in July, 1941. He and his bride, along with her sister and brother-in-law drove to Yuma, Arizona (just over California border) and were married.

When he returned from leave, he was busy in his Army assignment doing sensitive and highly confidential work. The base at his Honolulu post was large and Joe rode a motor scooter around to deliver documents. He had owned a motorcycle as a teen in Arkansas, bought with money he earned painting store windows for special sales and holidays, so he was no stranger to the two-wheeled vehicles. He had, in fact, had an accident on his motorcycle in Arkansas when he ran it off the road and into a ditch while showing off one day before his high school companions. Fortunately, he was unhurt, but did receive a reprimand from the local Sheriff. Apparently, it was his only run in with law enforcement, with the exception of a speed-trap ticket in a small Southern town where he and Jessie traveled after his retirement.  Joe had in his long driving history an excellent driving record -- no accidents and only that one ticket.

The primary work Joe did in the military involved confidential office assignments with daily duties which he didn't discuss with his family.  During wartime, Joe had a security clearance and did secret work which involved troop movements on the battlefield. He never spoke at home about what he was doing during his days at work and it was only later that Jessie and his children learned of the seriousness and importance of his time spent in the military during wartime.  Even then, he rarely spoke about the work he did while on active duty with the military.

Joe served his tour of duty in Honolulu, Hawaii, and also served a short tour in Australia and New Guinea during World War II, and Korea during the Korean conflict.  After his service in Hawaii, Joe was stationed in Northern California, at Ft. McDowell on Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay and served as a member of the Sixth Army, a very old and respected battery in Northern California.   He continued to serve as a member of the Sixth Army until his retirement from military service. 

When called back into the military effort during the Korean conflict, he served two tours of duty in Korea lasting approximately one year each, returning home between them for an extended period of time. His conscripted time in the military complete after his service in Korea, Joe re-enlisted and continued to be stationed at Camp Stoneman in Pittsburg, California, finalizing the details and paperwork for returning soldiers. Following that, he remained at Camp Stoneman with a small crew that worked on closing the facility. It had served as the point of embarkation for troops going to Korea and the place where they returned to be processed out of the Army when the war was over. 

In the late 1960's, he served at an Army Enlistment Center on Clay Street in Oakland, California, that had been the focus of Bay Area draft-card burnings and feverish demonstrations at the height of the anti-Vietnam war movement which had grown in intensity.  His work at that time was finding Army training schools for young high school graduates who had enlisted in order to provide them with training for the work they were interested in doing in the military, as well as prepare them for work when they left the service. Young men who enlisted rather than being drafted were promised admission to Army training in an area in which they were interested.  

Joe continued to re-enlist until he retired in 1967 as a Master Sargeant E-8. At that time he was stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco, CA. With his superior officer's blessing, he had applied for a position at the Presidio which would have advanced him a rank with a substantial grade and pay raise. He filled out an application and, as per the procedures in place, had given it to the his superior officer to review and send on up the ranks for approval. He was eminently qualified for the position and more than capable of doing the work required. When he wasn't accepted for the position, Joe went to the superior officer to ask why he might have been overlooked. The officer opened his desk drawer and pulled out Joe's application and told him that he hadn't sent it on up the ranks. "I need you here, Joe," he said.  Joe was very disappointed and with good reason. His supervisors action, combined with the long commute to San Francisco from the surrounding suburbs (an hour over and an hour back each day, on a good day), somewhat sealed his decision to soon retire from the military.  He then went to work for Bechtel Corporation, Wells Fargo, Kennedy Contractors, and later Parsons Corporation.