Joseph Edward Wood III (Grandpa Joe) was born in Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie, Iowa, to his parents, Joseph Edward Wood II and Gladys Wood (Griffith), in 1937. He was born into a farming family and calls himself a “farm boy from Iowa.”
In 1940, Grandpa Joe’s father worked as a cab driver and was struck by lightning as he helped a disabled woman and her son out of the cab. He died soon after from complications and pneumonia; he was about 25 years old and left his young widow and two young boys to be raised by his parents. The life-changing event was something Grandpa Joe says he remembers through stories told by his family.
“My father was remembered as a hard-working, compassionate man that had a clever wit, my life may have been so different if he didn’t die when I was such a young boy.”
Grandpa Joe went to work on the railroad when he was ten years old and earned his wages by sweat and hard work. ” I pounded spikes, gandy dancing, and I was making more money than most men, I did that all the way into my high school years.”
In 1954, Grandpa Joe earned a football scholarship with the Chicago Bears, coached by George Halas, and he passed it up because he wanted to play football for the Navy. Grandpa Joe enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1955, at 18 years of age.
He was sent to serve on the USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31). Grandpa Joe always dreamed of flying, and working on a Naval carrier with flyers was a dream come true.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower was in office, and the “Cold War” was in full swing during the years that Grandpa Joe served. Under the Eisenhower Doctrine, a country could request American economic assistance and/or aid from U.S. military forces if it was being threatened by armed aggression from another state.
Upon his enlistment into the U.S. Navy, Grandpa Joe and his service mates found that he had a unique talent for fixing radios and aviation mechanics.
Grandpa Joe fixed a specialized radio in record time and got it to work when no one else could. An ARC-27 UHF Aircraft Transceiver radio was sitting in a cage and he was challenged to fix it by his Chief.
“I fixed that radio and the Admiral said I’m the first person to fix that radio.”
Aliens were a topic of conversation, and he said, “The people that talk about the aliens get in trouble and disappear, they’ve let me live this long, and I’m 86 years old, so here we go.”
“My whole military career was dealing with aliens and things like that, but all I wanted to do was fly.”
“I have never told my story until now and I want people to know that aliens and spaceships do exist, I have seen them.”
“When I was at a Naval bar, this airman came up to our table and asked if he could drink with us; he was scared to death. I said, what’s wrong with you? And he told me there was a wreck down in Roswell, New Mexico, and he picked up three bodies out of the spaceship, and they took the bodies and the spaceship in a trailer and sent them to Ohio-Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and then they shipped them off the Area 51. The airman that loaded the bodies into the trailer wasn’t at muster the next day; I never saw him again.”
“In those days, if you told someone you saw a spaceship or aliens, they said, “You better cut out the drinking.”
“When I was in Hong Cong, I served on the USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) and flew off the carrier daily over the South China Sea. I sat in the rear seat of the FJ-3; when I looked out my window, I saw a spaceship, and it was flying with us. I told the captain we got a tail on us, look out your window; the captain said, I’m going to draw my pistol, I said, leave your pistol there. I told them to call “big boy” and see if they hold a bogey off our port quarter. We called them, and 5 minutes passed; we called them again and asked if there was a bogey on our port quarter; the radio operator said, we don’t hold a flying saucer on your port quarter. The spaceship dove into the sea.”
When Grandpa Joe clocked the spaceship on his radar, he said, “They could fly faster than the speed of sound.”
Grandpa Joe explained, the spaceship he watched out his port side was a large flying saucer and it looked similar to what’s shown on the movies.
“Most of our flights were 2-4 hours, and I spent time on the deck because it was cool and a welcome rest from the heat. A man approached me and said, “Lots of guys are saying they’re seeing spaceships, and some have seen faces and bodies of aliens.”
“Those boys saw them, and many of us know what we saw.”
According to Grandpa Joe, the aliens described by the airman and some of the pictures he saw show the aliens to have round faces, grey bodies, and are small in stature.
“They had us in a room in the hanger bay, men in all black uniforms were there, and we had to sign a paper that we didn’t see anything; I said I was not signing it, and the people said we wouldn’t get any liberty if we didn’t. I ended up signing the paper, and I’m sure it’s expired by now.”
Grandpa Joe left the Navy and worked as a logger on the Apache–Sitgreaves National Forests with Walker Brothers Contracting.
“I cut some big trees, did some framing, and enjoyed the outdoors.”
Grandpa Joe met his sweetheart Shirley at the XA Salon in Springville, Arizona; She was a widow with five children. They were inseparable from the time they met; it was love at first sight. They married in 1984 and raised five children together.
They were married for 37 years until his sweetheart, “Grandma Shirley,” passed away in 2021.
Grandpa Joe calls the town of Springerville his home. He lives in his RV on his grandchildren’s (Nephi and Sarah Hightower’s) property, and can’t see himself living elsewhere.
“It’s where my wife died; it’s my home, I have a purpose here; I’m 86 years old.”
Grandpa Joe enjoys his freedom in the RV and spends his days working in the garden, cutting firewood, tending to the chickens and dogs, and watching his great-grandchildren grow up.
“He is cutting fire wood at age 86 and loves to be here with us. We couldn’t imagine life without him. We will take care of him for the rest of his life,” said Nephi and Sarah Hightower.
You may find Grandpa Joe at the local Bashes if you want to chat with him, he might tell you a story that is incredible. He is hard of hearing so when you have that conversation, be patient.
Molly K Ottman Executive Editor/Journalist for Mountain Daily Star-Made in America Series.
The Made in America Series will feature incredible stories told by local Veterans once a month. If you, or someone you know is a Vet, and has an incredible story-email us firstname.lastname@example.org