He’s been called strong and loyal. Babe Heffron said he was “as tough as a cob”. Frank Perconte said he was a “tough sonuvabitch, but he didn’t have to prove it.” Major Richard Winters described him as “an American hero of the first order”. But to Peter and Beatrice, he was a son.
Joe was born in Hughestown, Luzerne County. His father was a Pennsylvania coal miner. He grew up in the Depression. He was the 9th child and the youngest. The death of his father, when he was 13, meant that he dropped out of school and took himself off to work. His lack of education always bothered him. The fact that he couldn’t read and write well, a sticking point for him. He always felt he should have done better.
Following the atrocities of Pearl Harbour, Joe enlisted. That date was Dec 11, 1941. Basic training and an eagerness did a bigger salary, encouraged Joe to the paratroopers. Easy Company at Camp Toccoa became home.
Joseph Toye joined Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, to fight in World War II. His first combat jump was made as part of the Allied invasion of France. Toye explained he was glad he was going to Europe, because if he could kill Hitler, “President Roosevelt would rename Thanksgiving Joe Toye Day, and pay him ten grand a year for the rest of his life”.
Joe had several wounds through the war, earning four Purple Hearts. Stephen E. Ambrose credited this as Easy Companies biggest total. Joe did what many other Easy Company soldiers did.he would go straight back to the line. Even if he was wounded, Joe`s loyalty to his friends, Easy Company and his country took precedence.
However, of all the wounds, it was the one he received on January 3, 1945, that took him out of action. While in Bastogne, he lost his right leg. William Guarnere, also suffered the same while trying to get Joe to safety. This is portrayed in the Band of Brothers episode entitled “The Breaking Point”.
Bill Guarnere quoted Joe as saying “Jesus Christ, what do I have to do to die?”. Apart from his previous injuries, there had been a few near misses for Joe too.
In later years, after being discharged from a nine month hospital stay, life could continue for Joe. Marcus Brotherton, in his book “A Company of Heroes – Personal Memories about the real Band of Brothers and the legacy they left us”, tells us that part of his hospital stay, saw him paired up with Guarnere for about a year. They flew around in their wheelchairs, raising hell all over the boardwalks and bars.
During his life he was married twice. He was husband, Dad, stepdad and grandad.
Marcus Brotherton`s book shed some more light on who the real Joe Toye was. Through an interview with Steve Toye, Joes son, we come to learn that he was known as a gruff, tough guy but one with a big heart. It’s been said too, that you would need to spend time with him to get through that outer layer, but once you did, you’d see the real man underneath. Steve remembered in the interview, that his dad suffered from nightmares too, something consistent with many that returned after the war. He was a patriot, someone who believed in his country and standing for it.
William Guarnere once said “Joe Toye would try and lighten things up at night by singing ‘I’ll Be Seeing You.’ He’d sing a line of that song and before you know it, the guy next to him starts singing, and the guys next to him, and soon everybody’s singing. Even I’m singing and thinking, ‘What the hell, we’re all nuts.”
George Vogel said “Joe was a great man and will be greatly missed. I was only 5 years old when he married my mom. Joe never treated me or my sisters, any differently than his own children.
We were a family going on vacations and we all went together. As any one of us would tell you, he never talked about the war. All I knew, was he lost his leg during the Battle of the Bulge. He never complained in life. We went fishing, camping, and he coached baseball. He was my hero growing up and now more people know about him because of Steven Ambrose and Tom Hanks. A big thank you to Dick Winters and Bill, Don and Babe who have left a lasting memory of my father for me”
Joseph Toye died of cancer in 1995 in Reading, Pennsylvania. Toye is buried in Gethsemane Cemetery in Laureldale, near Reading, PA alongside his wife. Major Richard Winters delivered joes eulogy and said “Joe was one of the best soldiers he ever had. “
Thank you for your service Sir.
May your family treasure your memory forever.