John Putorti to lead Memorial Day parade

A lifelong resident of Whitehall and World War II veteran will lead this year’s Memorial Day procession.

John Putorti, a US Navy veteran, has been selected as this year’s grand marshal.

Putorti was born in his parents’ home on Mountain Street in Whitehall, on Feb. 18, 1925. He was the middle son of Caroline and Anthony Putorti, both immigrants from Italy. He had an older brother, Joe, and a younger brother, Fred.

Putorti left high school and went into the service World War II, entering the Navy on May 19, 1943. His two brothers also served.

He complete basic training in Samson, N.Y., and then was sent to Norfolk, Va., where he was stationed on the USS Walker as a radar operator. He served aboard the Walker throughout his naval career.

On Aug. 1, 1943, the USS Walker left Norfolk for Trinidad, where, on Aug. 12, it received word of a German submarine in the area. The Walker sunk the submarine and its crew recovered 44 German prisoners from the water.

The ship always traveled with a group of ships: one aircraft carrier, one battleship, one light cruiser, one cruiser and 12 destroyers. Putorti’s ship was the first ship of his group, to hit the mainland of Japan.

They shelled the beach and destroyed a Japanese naval base. One tour left him at sea for 90 days without ever seeing land.

Putorti and Ray Beckwith, also from Whitehall, were home on leave in January 1945 and returned to San Francisco together to rejoin their ships. Ray was stationed on the USS Franklin.

In March of 1945, the Franklin was just ahead of the USS Walker when it was hit and destroyed. Putorti knew his friend was on that ship. Ray was killed that day.

During the USS Walker’s 30 months of war operations, the destruction of four Japanese aircraft and participation in six bombardments of enemy positions, including the first bombardment of the Japanese home islands, are the high points of the ship’s record.

The destroyer participated in campaigns that won the United States control of the Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, Dutch New Guinea, Mariana Islands, Leyte Island, Okinawa, and the fleet operations that contributed to the capitulation of Japan.

Throughout this period, the Walker suffered no damage and none of its personnel were injured. Putorti was part of that history.

 

After the war

In November 1945, Putorti returned to San Pedro, Calif., where he began his discharge process. He was honorably discharged at 11 a.m. on Nov. 14, 1945, in Lido Beach and then returned home to Whitehall.

While in the Navy, he met Antoinette Cechnicki, who was from Granville, and the couple was married on Jan. 28, 1945, days after he was discharged.

The couple had their first child, Robert, in 1946, and eventually had four other sons: Jim, Francis, John and Michael.

Upon returning from the service, Putorti worked at Parker’s Garage as an apprentice. The government paid for all of his tools and he received some money to cover his salary. When the garage was moved to other end of Broadway in 1953, Putorti opened his own garage in the old Parker Garage.

In 1955, the business moved to Poultney Street and expanded to include a Sinclair Gas station. He stayed there until 1961 when he went to work at Patrician Paper Co. in Glens Falls. He returned to the auto repair business in 1970, opening Putorti’s Repair Shop, which is still open today.

Putorti remains active in the business, supervising the work and doing the paperwork. His sons, Bob and Jim, have joined him in the business, which has been open for 42 years.

Putorti is very proud of his family: five sons, 11 grandchildren and soon to be 12 great-grandchildren.

On March 21, 2001, Putorti received a GED issued by the American Legion to veterans who were unable to finish high school because of their military service.

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