Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy MOH

b. 10/08/1911 Chicago, Illinois. d. 15/06/1996 Delray Beach, Florida.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 21/02/1945 Iwo Jima, Japan.

Joseph J McCarthy MOH

On February 20, 1937, McCarthy first enlisted in the Marine Corps in Chicago, and served for four years. He re-enlisted following the attack on Pearl Harbor, 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. In 1944, he was awarded the Silver Star for heroism as a rifle company commander on Saipan. 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 alongside 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. It is believed that a Seabee heavy weapons platoon provided the fire support he needed that day. (Fig. 1) On October 5, 1945, President Harry S. Truman presented the Medal of Honor to McCarthy in ceremonies at the White House.

Released from active duty following the war, he continued to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve, and was eventually promoted to the grade of lieutenant colonel.

In 1949, McCarthy drove from Maine to North Carolina in order to visit the families of twenty-six 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. After the war, McCarthy moved to the Near West Side, residing at 720 West Vernon Park Place for a time. McCarthy was the Grand Marshal of the City of Chicago’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in 1959.

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.



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 2d 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 47-mm fire during the approach to Motoyama Airfield No. 2. Quickly organizing a demolition 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 two 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-planted demolitions attack. Subsequently entering the ruins, he found a Japanese taking aim at one 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 the 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.