Brookline War Memorial
Joseph F. Loy

Joseph F. Loy - Marine Corps Raider
(1943-1945)

The following story was submitted by Lucy Santella in February 2014 and edited slightly.

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Today’s modern military is highlighted by various Special Forces. Each branch of the service has its own elite units, uniquely trained to take on the most arduous and dangerous assignments. In the 1940s, during the early years of the War in the Pacific, the Army had Merrill’s Marauders and the Marine Corps had the Raider Battalions. These specialized light infantry formations were involved in some of the bitterest jungle fighting of the Far Eastern campaign, and forged a reputation as some of America’s most skilled and deadly soldiers.

One of those elite fighting men was Brookline’s own Joseph F. Loy, a long-time resident of Merrick Avenue, who passed away peacefully on May 2, 2011 at the age of eighty-six. Joe Loy was a quiet and unassuming man, a dedicated husband and father who enjoyed spending his time mowing the grass, breeding tropical fish and tinkering with model trains.

During World War II, however, Joe was anything but quiet and unassuming. He was a decorated veteran of the Third Battalion of the United States Marine Corps Raiders, and a survivor of the Battles of Bougainville, Guam and Okinawa.

Joseph Loy - 1943.
Joseph Loy - 1943

From the end of the war until the day of his passing, Joe Loy was a member of the Marine Corps League, South Hills Pittsburgh Detachment 726. In April 2011, an article was written about Joe that was scheduled to be published in Semper Fi magazine. The finished article was printed and presented to Joe only days before his death. Unfortunately, the story never made it to the print room. Thanks to Joe's daughter Lucy, it is recalled here:

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RAIDER TREASURE
by Shawn Kane (enhanced by Clint Burton)

As you travel along Merrick Avenue, there is nothing to make these nondescript houses stand out in this small suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One thing that may catch your eye as you scan the rows of red brick houses is the American and Marine flags proudly flying out in front of one. Inside this house is Joe Loy, a proud man who is anything but nondescript.

Joe is a member of our Marine Corps League, South Hills Pittsburgh Detachment 726. He is a World War II veteran and one of the few who became a Marine Raider. I would like to share my experiences with him and tell the story of this Raider treasure.

Joe is now eighty-six years old. He has poor eyesight, is hard of hearing and has trouble with his mobility. For these reasons he is not able to attend our Marine Corps League meetings or participate in any of our activities.

In March of last year, fellow Marine Corps Leaguer Bob Daley asked me to accompany him on a visit to see Joe. It can be difficult at times to carry on a conversation because of Joe’s disabilities. When Bob and I had a question for him, I would write it down on paper in large block letters, give it to him and await his response.

While we were there, we noticed that his American flag was pretty beat up and the Marine Corps flag he usually flew was no longer there. We promised him that we would get him new American and Marine Corps flags. As we were leaving, Bob and I saluted him. Joe sat up straight in his chair and snapped off a return salute.

His daughters, who are regular attendees of our annual Marine Corps League birthday celebration, told Bob later of how thrilled Joe was to see us. We had really lifted his spirits. In truth, Joe had lifted our spirits. It was truly a fulfilling experience to meet Joe and I was excited to visit him again. We brought him the American and Marine Corps flags and put them up just before last Memorial Day. Joe was overjoyed upon seeing those flags.

Joe Loy (center) with Marine Corps friend
Robert Daley and author Shawn Kane.
Joe Loy (center) with Marine Corps friend Robert Daley and author Shawn Kane.

On one of our visits we asked Joe if he would like to tell of his Raider experiences. A local professor/historian/author Todd DePastino runs a WWII veteran breakfast and takes down the stories of veteran’s experiences. Joe said he would love to talk about it. At the appointed date, Bob, Todd and I went to see Joe for an enlightening afternoon.

Joe grew up on the South Side of Pittsburgh. In the early part of the 20th century, it was a tough, working class and immigrant neighborhood. He joined the Marine Corps on February 1, 1943. At the time he joined, Parris Island was under quarantine. In one of those unusual quirks of the Marine Corps, he was a kid coming from east of the Mississippi who went to boot camp at MCRD San Diego.

Joe joined the Raiders on New Caledonia. They were told that if they joined there would be an extra $50 per month more in their paychecks. However, Joe said he never saw that extra money. That sounds just like the government! He was assigned to I Company, Third Raider Battalion. His first action took place during the Solomon Islands campaign.

For the Bougainville operation, Third Raider Battalion went into battle as part of the 2nd Raider Regiment. Joe is modest in the telling of this and says they did not see a lot of action there. However, accounts of the landing state that both K and I Companies encountered heavy enemy resistance.

On the first of November, the Third Raider Battalion (less Company M) assaulted Puruata Island off Cape Torokina. Japanese defenses in the landing area consisted of a single company supported by a 75mm gun. One platoon occupied Puruata and a squad held Torokina Island, while the rest of the Japanese infantry and the gun were dug in on the cape itself.

The Island of Puruata was the first
objective of Third Battalion at Bougainville.
Puruata Island was the first objective of Third Battalion at Bougainville.

The small Japanese force gave a good account of itself. The 75mm gun enfiladed the eastern landing beaches, destroying four landing craft and damaging ten others before being silenced. Machine guns on the two small islands and the cape placed the approaches to this area in a cross-fire. The result was havoc among the initial right flank assault waves, which landed in considerable disorder.

The Third Raiders silenced the machine guns on Puruata Island on the first day of the invasion, and destroyed the last defenders on that island by late afternoon on November 2. Total raider casualties to this point were three killed and fifteen wounded.

After moving over to the main island at Cape Torokina, the Marines slowly extended their perimeter. There were occasional engagements with small enemy patrols, but the greatest resistance during this period came from the terrain itself. The island consisted largely of swampland and dense jungle beyond the beachhead. The thing most Marines remember about Bougainville was be the deep, sucking mud that seemed to cover everything not already underwater.

On the morning of November 5, while Companies I and M were busy covering a vital roadblock along the main causeway that led to the American beachhead, an attack was underway to clear a major enemy strongpoint further down the line. Japanese resistance was stubborn and Company I joined in the battle. Shortly after noon the enemy retired from the scene.

Third Battalion Marine Raiders near
a captured Japanese dugout on Cape Torokina.
Third Battalion Marine Raiders near a captured Japanese dugout on Cape Torokina.

The Raider Regiment celebrated the Marine Corps' birthday on November 10 by moving off the front lines and into reserve. Other than occasional patrols and short stints on the line, the next two weeks were relatively quiet for the Raiders.

For the next month the Raider Regiment served as Corps Reserve. With the Army assuming the bulk of the combat duties, these highly trained assault troops spent most of their time on working parties at the beachhead airstrip or carrying supplies to the front lines.

On December 21 the Raiders moved back to the front, but by now the operation had progressed to the mopping-up phase. The Regiment remained on the island of Bougainville until January 12, 1944, when they boarded transports and sailed to Guadalcanal.

It was after the Solomon Island campaign that the short life of the Marine Raiders came to an end. Third Raider Battalion was disbanded and renamed the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines of the 1st Provisional Brigade.

The four Raider Battalions replaced the famed China Marine Regiment that fell at Corregidor, Philippines. Joe had been a member of the Raiders for less than one year before the unit reclassification. As part of the 4th Marines, he was once again assigned to I Company.

The next operation that Joe participated in was Guam. The 1st Provisional Brigade, a component unit of Major General Roy S. Geiger's III Amphibious Corps, was assigned the southern beaches in the Agat-Bangi Point area.

The landing was made successfully on the morning of July 21, 1944. The 1st and 2nd Battalions were the main assault force, with the 3rd Battalion held in reserve. Once the beachhead was secured, the Regiment moved rapidly inland and encountered light enemy resistance.

By noon the two assault battalions had reached their initial objective, advancing over 1,000 yards. Just before midnight the right flank of the Brigade line was the target of a flurry of mortar shells. Japanese infantry attacked under the light of flares and there was a brisk bayonet and fire fight before they were driven off.

Men of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines
advance off the beach at Guam.
Men of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines advance off the beach at Guam.

The 1st Brigade was relieved of its perimeter positions on July 23 and brought to the rear to regroup. Their next assignment was to attack enemy defenders on the Orote Peninsula. They moved back into the line on July 25 and repulsed a Japanese counterattack that same evening. The next morning the Marines moved slowly forward against a formidable maze of defensive positions.

On July 27, with Companies I and L in the lead, and accompanied by a platoon of tanks, the Third Battalion broke through the enemy's defensive line after heavy and costly fighting. During the afternoon, a hotly contested advance was made through a grove of coconut palms, with Company L alone suffering seventy casualties.

Two days later the Marines were in position to seize the Orote airfield. The immediate resistance was light and the assault went smoothly. Later, Third Battalion was able to overcome a fiercely defended enemy strongpoint located near the ruins of the airfield control tower.

After the battle for Orote was over, the 1st Provisional Brigade patrolled Southern Guam as the main advance rolled northward. On August 7, the Brigade was recommitted to the front lines and seized the northern tip of the island. The end of organized resistance on Guam was declared August 10, 1944.

During the Battle of Guam, Joe was a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) man. He chokes up as he tells us of the time on patrol when he ran straight into a Japanese soldier. The enemy had just come out of a foxhole. Neither of them fired and both jumped back.

Luckily, Joe was the first one to come to his senses. He pumped all twenty rounds of his BAR into the still stunned enemy. He quickly changed magazines and killed the rest of the Japanese soldiers in the foxhole who were trying to crawl away.

After Guam was secured, the 4th Marines returned to Guadalcanal at the end of August for rest and reorganization. The next operation planned was the Invasion of Okinawa.

The 4th Marine Regiment became a part of the 6th Marine Division and landed on Okinawa April 1, 1945. The Division's first objective was to clear the northern part of the island. They headed up the Ishikawa Isthmus and by April 7 had sealed off the Motobu Peninsula.

Men of the 3rd Battalion,
4th Marines land on Okinawa.
Men of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines land on Okinawa.

Clearing the peninsula of the enemy, where the terrain was mountainous and wooded, was a difficult task. Japanese defenses were concentrated in a twisted mass of rocky ridges and ravines. There was heavy fighting before the Marines finally cleared the remaining Japanese defenders on April 18.

At the end of April, the Division moved south to join in the battles that were raging around the main enemy defensive position, the Shuri Line, near the Okinawan capital of Naha.

Joe tells us about his BAR man, Joe Haverman, on Okinawa. Haverman was shot in the neck and lay in a ravine exposed to enemy fire. Joe tried to round up some Marines to rescue Haverman. One man said, “Joe, I’ll help” and that was the last thing he said. He was shot in the back, dead.

A number of other men were wounded while getting Joe Haverman out of danger and back to the aid station. Joe never knew what happened to Haverman, whether he lived or died. Later on, Haverman’s sister wrote to Joe and told him that he had saved her brother’s life.

Joe was wounded twice on Okinawa. The first time happened on May 21 during the Battle for the Shuri Line. On that date a bullet creased his head and Joe had to be evacuated. The round had actually shattered his helmet, and a piece of the helmet went into his buddy’s foot. That Marine's name was Dennis Hines from New York. Dennis went on to be awarded the Silver Star.

When Joe was examined at the aid station, he found out how lucky he had been. The doctor told him that he was within an inch of being killed. Joe left the field hospital before he was supposed to. He wanted to get back to his unit.

He rejoined them on June 4 and participated in the amphibious assault on the last Japanese defensive position on the Kiyan Peninsula. Joe was wounded for a second time just two days later. Shrapnel from a mortar round pierced his right shoulder. After being transported to the rear, Joe Loy's front line combat days came to an end.

Joe was evacuated to an Army hospital on Saipan. He spent a week recuperating there and eventually returned to his unit. He reunited with the Third Battalion after they had moved on to Guam following the conclusion of the Okinawan campaign. The Marines were now preparing for the planned invasion of mainland Japan.

After the peace treaty was signed Joe went on occupation duty in Japan. On August 20, the 4th Marines landed at Yokusuka, near Tokop. Third Battalion came ashore and quickly secured the large Naval Base without resistance.

The 4th Marines were present for the
liberation of POW camps in Yokohama.
The 4th Marines were present for the liberation of Allied POW camps in Yokohama, Japan.

A memorable scene took place a few days later when 120 Marines of the old Fourth, the China Marines who had been captured at Corregidor, and held for over three years, were brought down from their former prison at Yokohama to review a parade of the new Fourth, the old Marine Raiders who kept the storied tradition and esprit de corps of the Regiment alive in their honor.

When his time in Japan was over, Joe left the Far East and arrived back in San Diego on December 3, 1945. He was honorably discharged from the service on December 27, and returned by train to his home in Pittsburgh.

It was just a couple months shy of three years since Joe had joined the Marine Corps. In that time he had experienced quite an odyssey. From Raider to 4th Marine, from Bougainville to Guam and Okinawa, and a lot of fighting in between. His war time travels ended upon the shores of Japan, standing tall among the few and the proud.

Joe's efforts during some of the epic battles of the Pacific Theatre helped to shape the grand fighting history of the United States Marine Corps. He is a treasure to all of us here at the South Hills Detachment, and his service record epitomizes the dedication and sacrifice that our Marines of yesteryear made and handed down to us.

Joseph F. Loy is a model for all to emulate and we are privileged to have him as a member of our Detachment.

Marine Raiders Insignia       4th Marine Regiment Insignia
Insignia of the Marine Corps Raiders and the 4th Marines.

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After returning from the war, Joe settled on the South Side and started his own business, Joseph F. Loy Tire Service, located at 1657 Saw Mill Run Boulevard near Brookline. He and his wife Bernice were married on May 3, 1948. They went on to have eight children, Ken, Marianne, Timothy, Nancy, Jeanne, Claudia, Gerard and Lucy.

The Loy family moved to Brookline and settled on Merrick Avenue in 1958. Joe continued with his work retreading tires for the next sixteen years, then retired in 1975 after the business was severely damaged in a fire. He sold his interest to a friend, Ronnie Menzel, who renamed the shop Ronnie's Tire Service. The business still exists today.

Joe and Bernice Loy - 1938.
Joe and Bernice Loy in 1948.

During his retirement years, Joe indulged in some of his favorite hobbies. He began breeding tropical fish, and at one point had nearly thirty tanks full of exotic species. He won several trophies and ribbons for his prized fish. Another pasttime was model trains. Over several years, he constructed a magnificent model train layout in the game room of his Brookline home. Joe was also fond of working outside. This led to his starting "Joes Lawn Service," cutting grass for neighbors and family members for a nominal charge.

When Joseph F. Loy, the decorated Marine Corps Raider veteran and dedicated family man, passed away on May 2, 2011, he was survived by seven children (Joe's son Gerard passed away in 1984 at age twenty), thirteen grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Family and friends say that behind Joe's sometimes gruff Marine Corps persona, he was actually a real teddy bear when it came to his grandchildren, especially when they were babies.

His youngest daughter, Lucy, remembers sitting with her father the night before he passed:

I sat with him, holding his hand, almost questioning his quiet demeanor that evening in particular.

I told him "Good Night," and called him a King.

"King?" he asked.

Then I explained.

"Yes, King of this house and King of your family."

He smiled.

What a legacy my father has left behind. His is a true reflection of honor, love and bravery.

We couldn't agree with you more. God Bless Joseph F. Loy, a true American hero, a loving father and grandfather, and the community of Brookline's Raider Treasure.

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Editor's Note: As a child growing up in Brookline, I had heard from my father that Joe Loy was a prestigious Marine Raider. My dad also served in the Marine Corps and was his friend. My memories of Mr. Loy are vague, but I do vividly remember seeing his flags flying every time I passed his home along Merrick Avenue.

One couldn't help feeling a brief surge of patriotism seeing the Stars and Stripes and the Marine Corps Emblem flying proudly from the home of such an esteemed World War II veteran.

What I remember most about the Loy family is their seventh child, Gerard, born in 1963. When I was eleven years old, Gerard joined my baseball team, B.Y.M.C., which was coached by Joe Power and my father, Jerry Burton. We weren't very good in 1973, but came on strong the following year by winning the 1974 Little League championship.

As the years passed I sort of lost touch with Gerard. We moved in our separate directions, but I always considered him a friend. I recall being deeply shocked when I learned of his passing in 1984 as the result of a tragic car accident. So many of my friends felt the same way. To this day, when reminiscing on our glory days, we speak of G-Man fondly.

In 2011, when my father told me of Mr. Loy's passing, I couldn't help being pulled back into my memories of both he and his son Gerard. My father lost a friend, as myself and my friends had so many years ago.

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