Joseph B. (Joe) Bettencourt was born in the Azores, Portugal. After his family immigrated to the United States, Joe attended schools and worked in Southern California until his induction into the U.S. Army in March 1966.
Joe and his fellow inductees were transported to Fort Ord, California for basic training. During training he fired expert on the M-14 rifle. Upon completion of basic training he was selected for specialized schooling as a heavy equipment operator at Fort Belvedere, Virginia. His next assignment was at Fort Leonard Wood in support of Officer Candidate School training.
Ten months later, with the war in Vietnam escalating, Joe joined a replacement unit and joined the legendary 9th Infantry Division in the III Corps Tactical Zone in Vietnam. The 9th Infantry, first created during World War I, later landed in World War II with Patton’s troops in North Africa, and engaged North Vietnamese enemy forces in the Dinh Tuong and Long An provinces in Operation Palm Beach.
Joe and his fellow soldiers engaged in one of the most challenging assignments, the defense of the Mekong Delta region. The 9th Infantry was charged with protecting the area and its population against Communist insurgents. The division effectively wrote a blueprint for combatting guerilla warfare that influenced army tacticians for decades to come.
Joe operated a variety of heavy machinery in support of combat operations and the establishment of camps and fire bases as well as the construction of facilities. He performed duties as a radio telephone operator on foot patrols seeking out and engaging enemy forces during Operation Speedy Express and the Battle of Ap Bac.
Joe served with the 9th Division at the same time as our current Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, a sergeant in the infantry.
After serving 12 months in Vietnam, Joe returned to the States and was honorably discharged as a Specialist 4. For his service, he was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Vietnamese Unit Cross of Gallantry Ribbon with device and the Expert Rifle Badge.
After his military service, Joe became involved in the dairy business in the Hanford and Merced areas for 38 years. After retiring from the dairy, Joe and his wife Mary, moved to Chowchilla where they continue to make their home. They have two children and two grandchildren.
Joe is a member of the St Columba Church, the Young Men’s Institute, a Life Member of Chowchilla Post 9896 of the V.F. W. and Post 148 of the American Legion. Joe enjoys the friendship of the veterans’ organizations and takes part in many activities.