Joseph Butcko was born in Ypsilanti and at the time World War II broke out, he apprenticed in the tool and die business. He was drafted into the armed forces at age 19. He was already married at that time, to his high school sweetheart. Both of his brothers were also serving in the war, both in the Pacific Theater.
He chose to enter the Navy and went to basic training at the Great Lakes institution in Chicago, IL. He traveled briefly to Norfolk, VA, and then was sent back to Chicago to practice gunnery at Navy Pier. He was eventually shipped out to Guam as a helmsman on a Landiong Ship Tank (LST). There were over 100 men on his crew and despite the fact that it was considered a big crew, he eventually got to know every soldier on it. While on Guam, he saw many soldiers returning from the battle of Iwo Jima in ambulances and taken to the hospital up the mountain - this experience really drove the reality of war home to him.
Joseph took part in the attack on Okinawa in which he drove a shuttle landing craft (a small craft) back and forth from larger boats to carry marines to the beach. There were many Japanese Kamikaze planes involved in this battle, and he saw his brother's ship hit by two Kamikaze planes - luckily, no one was killed. While serving in the Pacific, he ran into many friends from Ypsilanti as well as both of his brothers.
After the war was over, Joseph served in China keeping the peace and facilitating the transportation of Japanese soldiers and civilians - who had been occupying China - back to Japan. When he was discharged from the Navy, he returned to Ypsilanti to work in the tool and die and manufacturing business.