WWII veteran receives Purple Heart after 75 years

Drew Butler
World War II veteran Joe Bartlett received a Purple Heart on Monday, over 75 years after being injured by Japanese kamikaze pilots in June 1945. From left to right: Rep. Tammy Townley R-Ardmore, State Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Larry Van Schuyver , Joe Bartlett, Rep. Tommy Hardin R-Madill, Commissioner Mike Jackson.

Joe Bartlett, a 94-year-old World War II veteran, received a Purple Heart on Monday, over 75 years after being wounded in action. Bartlett served as an Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class in the United States Navy and had been serving for two years when Japanese kamikaze pilots attacked his ship on June 3, 1945 and injured his leg.

Bartlett said one of the high points of his time in the military came only a few months after his injury when it was announced the Japanese had surrendered and he knew he would be coming home. He was in Manila Bay, Philippines, waiting on orders to go to Japan when it was announced over the loud speaker that Japan had surrendered. He later went to Japan and visited Hiroshima after the bombing. He said he would never forget seeing the total destruction and nothing but cement pillars left standing.

Soon after coming home Bartlett married his wife Betty, who had been writing to him the entire time he had been at war. Bartlett had served with her uncle, and he suggested that she write to Bartlett. After coming back to the United States, Bartlett finally met his long-time pen pal in person and they were married a month later on May 24, 1946. They will be celebrating their 75th anniversary next year.

Bartlett and his wife had five children, eight grandchildren, and 10 great grandchildren. Many of them were present at the ceremony in recognition of his service on Monday.

After leaving the military, Bartlett went on to work as an electrician in Texas and Oklahoma before going to work at Uniroyal and retiring in 1989. He was also an Assembly of God minister for 60 years and preached at churches in Maine, Texas and Oklahoma.

Bartlett said it was an honor to receive the recognition and the Purple Heart, and it was an honor to serve the country. He said he was lucky to be able to come back home and got emotional when he spoke about all of those who gave their lives during the fight.