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First Name: Joseph

Last Name: McCarthy

Birthplace: Chicago, IL, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Home of Record: Chicago, IL
Middle Name: Jeremiah

Date of Birth: 10 August 1911

Date of Death: 15 June 1996

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Years Served: 1937-1941, 1942-1971
Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy

Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War II

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy (10 August 1911 - 15 June 1996) was a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve officer who served during World War II and the Korean War. His heroic actions during World War II earned him the U.S. military's highest honor for valor, the Medal of Honor.

Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy was born on 10 August 1911 in Chicago, IL. He first enlisted in the Marine Corps on 20 February 1937 in Chicago and served for four years. Following the Japanese 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 as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. 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 21 February 1945, as a Captain, he earned the Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima while leading an assault team across exposed ground to wipe out positions holding up the advance of his company. "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."

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division.

Place and date: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 21 February 1945.

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 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, machinegun, 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 destroying 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.

President Harry S. Truman presented the Medal of Honor to McCarthy in ceremonies at the White House, held on 5 October 1945. As Truman presented the Medal, he told McCarthy, "I'd rather have one of these than be President." [Several MOH recipients reported that Truman made this same remark to them.]

At the time he was released from active duty following the war, he held the grade of Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve.

Post-Military Life

In 1985, historian Bill D. Ross wrote this about McCarthy:

"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."

In 1949, McCarthy drove from Maine to North Carolina visiting the families of 26 Marines who had been killed in action on Iwo Jima. Each one of them, he told the families, had been just as brave as he was; they were just not as lucky.

After his retirement from active duty, he became the Superintendent of Ambulances in the Chicago Fire Department. However, with respect for his wartime heroics, firefighters continued to address him by his wartime military rank of "Captain."

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 homes in Wisconsin and Delray Beach, FL. His wife, Anita, died in 1978. The couple had no children.

"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."

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Silver Star Medal
Purple Heart with 1 Gold Star (2 Awards)


McCarthy was the Grand Marshall of the City of Chicago's St. Patrick's Day Parade in 1959.

The building that houses the headquarters of 2nd Battalion 24th Marines in Chicago is named in his honor.

Death and Burial

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Jeremiah McCarthy died on 15 June 1996 at age 84. Following a funeral mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 30, Lot 1716LH, Map Grid V/W 36.5.

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


Honoree ID: 1525   Created by: MHOH




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