Herbert “Junior” Joy had no idea Saturday when he pulled into the family compound in Casco that he was the guest of honor. Scores of family members were waiting and American flags hung from the building. Joy was under the impression he was simply attending his cousin’s birthday party.
“Oh, everybody’s here,” Joy said, somewhat disoriented, as he walked up to greet the many folks beginning to swarm him. Some had made the trip all the way from California.
In the 1950s, at 17, Joy joined the Army and went off to fight as a machine gunner in Korea. His heroic actions saved lives. He was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery. As part of a recent state program to once again honor Maine’s wartime heroes, Joy was recognized once more for his service.
“Some of the family doesn’t know anything about what he did — his deeds,” said Jim Marshall, Joy’s cousin and organizer of the rededication ceremony.
In 1952, Joy was with the Army’s Company C. Their mission was to take “Hill 404” in North Korea.
It was pouring rain the night before; U.S. artillery pounded the hill in preparation for the rush forward. In the morning, the foot soldiers began to ascend. Soon a Korean machine gun nest let loose on them. The men hit the dirt; mortars landed all around. Joy positioned his machine gun and started spraying the enemy. However, his weapon malfunctioned, firing only one shot at a time. A buddy to his left was hit by a mortar and killed. Joy took shrapnel; his wrist was badly bleeding.
Then, by his own initiative, Joy grabbed some hand grenades and ran straight for the enemy’s machine gun nest. When the dust settled, five out of 50 Koreans surrendered. Joy killed 45 in the assault, saving many in his platoon.
On Saturday, those actions were remembered and celebrated once again. Army Lt. Col. Dwayne Drummond and Maine Bureau of Veteran Services Director Peter Ogden presented Joy with another metal and certificate.
“The Korean War is not forgotten,” said Ogden, standing on the outdoor deck and addressing Joy’s extended family seated on the lawn. “Today there are 14,977 Korean War veterans living in Maine; 157 were killed in action and 46 are missing in action.”
Ogden continued, “The state of Maine Silver Star honorable service medal is presented to Pfc. Herbert L. Joy Jr. in recognition of his honorable service in the armed forces of our country and for his award of the Purple Heart for wounds received on July 4, 1952, during the Korean War. We the citizens of the state of Maine express our sincere appreciation for his courage and his willingness to serve our state and nation. We are proud of him and grateful for his commitment to freedom.”
An account of Joy’s heroic deed was celebrated in an issue of a 1953 Heroic Comics issue. Before the days of widespread television, gallant actions of war were retold in graphic comic book-like monthly publications. “Jolting Joy” Herbert L. Joy, Portland, Maine, a heroic true life story” graced the first page.
“It was really an honor to be put in this funny book,” said Marshall. “The family hasn’t talked about this for years. With him being 78 years old, it’s wonderful that he can be recognized and praised.”
A native of Portland, Joy now resides in Old Orchard Beach, and VFW Post 7997 Cmdr. Richard P. Giroux also attended Saturday’s ceremony. Giroux was stationed in Korea in 1968 and knows the landscape where Joy fought. “What they call a ‘hill,’ you have no idea,” he said. “It’s more like a mountain. It was a mountain, wasn’t it, Junior?” Giroux asked.
“It was three mountains on top of each other,” Joy replied.
“Sacrificing himself out in the open was unbelievable for him to do,” Giroux said. “But he knew what he had to do to help his buddies.”
Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at: [email protected]