The Fourth Division landed on Green Beach and took the airfield on June 19, 1944.
The Japanese had 22,702 Army troops and some 7000 “Imperial Marines” on Saipan to protect the island.
Pastor Joe and his friend, Dave McEwen, were wounded by rounds of rifle fire as they jumped into a self-dug foxhole late on the evening of June 27, 1944. One bullet grazed the lower part of Pastor Joe’s nose. He also took a direct hit to his right arm and shoulder, shattering his right arm. Forty years later, Pastor Joe went back to Saipan in February 1984 and found the place where he was shot and wounded in that foxhole.
On July 9, 1944, after 25 days of battle, Saipan was secured but with a cost of 5,981 American boys killed, wounded or missing. The Japanese had 23,811 known dead and 1,810 taken prisoner.
The Fourth Division went to Tinian and Iwo Jima and on to Japan, but a different battle faced Pastor Joe. He was flown to a Pearl Harbor hospital, where he spent three months being treated for wounds and a Gangrene infection. Then he spent three additional months at Oakland Bay Hospital. His last three months of hospitalization were in Corpus Christi before he was well enough to be discharged from the Marines. Recovery was long and slow but God strengthened him for the challenges still to come.
Back to Texas
After his long hospital stays, he returned to Austin, where he and Hazel Dean Lester were married on March 17, 1945, at Hyde Park Baptist Church. Pastor Joe says it was at Hyde Park where he found his master, the Lord Jesus Christ, his mate, Hazel Dean, and found his mission in life as God’s servant – a pastor.
Previously, Joe preached his first sermon on Nov. 23, 1942, at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin before serving in the Marines. Three years later he received his first pastorate at Bee Cave Baptist Church of Austin, where he served until 1948; Pastor Joe and Hazel Dean continued in their service to God at Elmont Baptist Church in Van Alstyne, 1948-52; Fairview Baptist Church in Sherman, 1952-55; First Baptist Church in Abernathy, 1955-61; and then served 20 years at Northside Baptist Church in Weatherford, 1961-1981.