Joseph J. McCarthy

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Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy
Mccarthy(medal of honor).jpg      A light blue neck ribbon with a gold star shaped medallion hanging from it. The ribbon is similar in shape to a bowtie with 13 white stars in the center of the ribbon.
Joseph J. McCarthy
Born (1911-08-10)August 10, 1911
Chicago, Illinois
Died June 15, 1996(1996-06-15) (aged 84)
Palm Beach, Florida buried Arlington National Cemetery
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1937-1941, 1942-1971
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit 2nd Battalion 24th Marines
Battles/wars World War II
- Battle of Roi-Namur
- Battle of Saipan
- Battle of Tinian
- Battle of Iwo Jima
Awards Medal of Honor
Silver Star
Purple Heart (x2)
Other work Chief, Chicago Fire Department

Marine Corps Service[edit]


133rd Naval Construction Battalion Plaque from the estate of Lt.Col Joseph J. McCarthy...Fig. 1

Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy (August 10, 1911 – June 15, 1996) was a mustang officer in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, who served during World War II and the Korean War. He was also the Superintendent of Ambulances in the Chicago Fire Department,[1] however, with respect for his wartime heroics, firefighters continued to address him by his wartime military rank of "Captain."[2]

Historian Bill D. Ross would write about him in 1985:

"McCarthy was thirty three; overage for a company commander. He was Irish and he looked it: husky, red complexioned, pug nose. Superior officers sometimes found his manner abrasive, but unlike many Irishmen, he wasn't talkative. He was, in fact, laconic and tight-lipped. "I don't like malarkey or bullshit," the Chicagoan often said. But Joe McCarthy knew the uncompromising business of battle; he had the Silver Star for leading his company up a savagely contested hill on Saipan and his men called him "the best damned officer in the Marine Corps."[3]

McCarthy first enlisted in the Marine Corps on February 20, 1937 in Chicago and served for four years. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he re-enlisted and returned to active duty in February 1942. In June of that year, he was discharged with the rank of first sergeant in order to accept a commission in the Marine Corps Reserve.

McCarthy joined the 4th Marine Division shortly thereafter, and went overseas in January 1944. While deployed, he took part in the Roi-Namur, Saipan-Tinian, and Iwo Jima campaigns. He was awarded the Silver Star for heroism as a rifle company commander on Saipan in 1944. He received the Purple Heart with Gold Star for wounds received in action on Saipan and Iwo Jima.

On Iwo Jima McCarthy was the Company Commander of G Co 2nd Battalion 24th Marines. He landed on yellow beach 2 along side the 23rd Marines. On D plus 3 the 24th RCT relieved the 25th. His Battalion moved and was supported by the blue beaches. On February 21, 1945, as a Captain, he earned the Medal of Honor while leading an assault team across exposed ground to wipe out positions holding up the advance of his company at airfield No. 2. "I was scared all the time," McCarthy said later. "Any man tells you he wasn't scared was an imbecile. But you dealt with it."[4]It is believed that a Seabee heavy weapons platoon provided the fire support he needed that day. (Fig. 1)

President Harry S. Truman presented the Medal of Honor to McCarthy in ceremonies at the White House, held on October 5, 1945. As Truman presented the Medal, he told McCarthy, "I'd rather have one of these than be President."[5]

Released from active duty following the war, he continued to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve, eventually being promoted to the grade of lieutenant colonel.[6]

"I would hope and pray there never be another Medal of Honor issued," he said in a 1992 interview. "I hope and pray there's never any more wars."

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of a rifle company attached to the 2nd Battalion 24th Marines|, 4th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the seizure of Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, on 21 February 1945. Determined to break through the enemy's cross-island defenses, Capt. McCarthy acted on his own initiative when his company advance was held up by uninterrupted Japanese rifle, machine gun, and high-velocity 47mm. fire during the approach to Motoyama Airfield No. 2. Quickly organizing a demolitions and flamethrower team to accompany his picked rifle squad, he fearlessly led the way across 75 yards of fire-swept ground, charged a heavily fortified pillbox on the ridge of the front and, personally hurling hand grenades into the emplacement as he directed the combined operations of his small assault group, completely destroyed the hostile installation. Spotting 2 Japanese soldiers attempting an escape from the shattered pillbox, he boldly stood upright in full view of the enemy and dispatched both troops before advancing to a second emplacement under greatly intensified fire and then blasted the strong fortifications with a well-planned demolitions attack. Subsequently entering the ruins, he found a Japanese taking aim at 1 of our men and, with alert presence of mind, jumped the enemy, disarmed and shot him with his own weapon. Then, intent on smashing through the narrow breach, he rallied the remainder of his company and pressed a full attack with furious aggressiveness until he had neutralized all resistance and captured the ridge. An inspiring leader and indomitable fighter, Capt. McCarthy consistently disregarded all personal danger during the fierce conflict and, by his brilliant professional skill, daring tactics, and tenacious perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds, contributed materially to the success of his division's operations against this savagely defended outpost of the Japanese Empire. His cool decision and outstanding valor reflect the highest credit upon Capt. McCarthy and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.[7][8]

After the War[edit]

In 1949 McCarthy drove from Maine to North Carolina visiting the families of 26 Marines that had been killed on Iwo Jima. He told each family that their man had been just as brave as he was, just not as lucky.

McCarthy was the Grand Marshal of the City of Chicago's Saint Patrick's Day Parade in 1959.[9]

McCarthy retired from the Marine Corps Reserve in 1971 and from the Chicago Fire Department in 1973. Thereafter, he and his wife split their time between their homes in Wisconsin and Delray Beach, Florida. His wife, Anita, died in 1978. The couple had no children.

The building that houses the Headquarters of the 2nd Battalion 24th Marines in Chicago is named in his honor. Lt. Col. McCarthy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery[2] following a funeral mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.[10]

Of note[edit]

  • His military record lists his year of birth as 1911,[11] but it is inscribed as 1912 on his headstone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lieutenant Colonel Joseph J. McCarthy, USMCR, (1911-1996)". Naval History & Heritage Command, Department of the Navy. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  2. ^ a b "Joseph J. McCarthy (1911-1996)". Find A Grave Memorial. April 17, 2000. Retrieved 2016-11-06. 
  3. ^ Ross, Bill D. (1985). Iwo Jima: Legacy of Valor. New York: Vanguard Press. pp. 146–147. ISBN 0814908950. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  4. ^ "Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  5. ^ "Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  6. ^ "Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy, USMCR". Who's Who in Marine Corps History. History Division, United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2007-12-29. 
  7. ^ "Lieutenant Colonel Joseph J. McCarthy, USMCR, (1911-1996)". Naval History & Heritage Command, Department of the Navy. Archived from the original on 2007-02-10. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  8. ^ "Capt JOSEPH J. MCCARTHY, Medal of Honor, 1945, 2/24/4, Iwo Jima (Medal of Honor citation)". Marines Awarded the Medal of Honor. History Division United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on 2007-01-10. Retrieved 2016-11-06. 
  9. ^ Bailey, Stephen M. (1961). Souvenir Program: Chicago's 1961 Saint Patricks Day Parade. Chicago: Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago. p. 12. 
  10. ^ "Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps". Claim to Fame:Medal of Honor Recipients. Arlinton Naational Cemetery. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  11. ^ "Lieutenant Colonel Joseph J. McCarthy, USMCR, (1911-1996)". Naval History & Heritage Command, Department of the Navy. Archived from the original on 2007-02-10. Retrieved 2016-11-06. 


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

Further reading[edit]

  • Karen Kruse (2001). A Chicago Firehouse: Stories of Wrigleyville's Engine 78. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-1857-3.  Includes background on McCarthy's Fire Department career.