Joseph McCarthy was a quiet Irishman from Chicago, Illinois. He joined the Marine Corps in 1937, served for four years, then re-enlisted after Pearl Harbor. In 1942, he was discharged as an enlisted man and accepted a commission in the Corps Reserve. Assigned to the 4th Marine Division, McCarthy fought in the Roi-Namur and Saipan-Tinian campaigns. He was awarded the Silver Star for his heroic action as a company commander on Saipan.
As commander of G Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, McCarthy demonstrated again why his men called him “the best damned officer in the Marine Corps.” After landing on Iwo Jima, on February 21, 1945, his men were pinned down by deadly accurate machinegun fire from a series of Japanese pillboxes 75 yards away, across open ground. McCarthy grabbed a pack full of grenades, called up his flamethrower and demolition teams, and yelled “Let’s get the bastards before they get us!” as he charged forward with his three-man team. Within five minutes McCarthy silenced the deadly machine guns with the support of the flamethrower crew. Soon after, G Company advanced another hundred yards onto the island.