Sgt. Joe Toye, E Co 506th PIR By his son Peter Toye
Posted 15 January 2003 - 11:30 PM
ptoye - 10/15/01 8:38AM PDT
I don't really know why I am taking the time to post this as I am a private person of relatively few words but last night's episode has left me stunned and numbed. The truth be known, I am back to mourning the death of my father, Joe Toye, who died of cancer 6 years ago. I know he's up there watching me type this little ramble saying to himself, "Christ, Peter, let it go". Sorry Pop, I tried and I can't. Like many of the vets, he returned home scarred both inside and out and dealt with it all in his own strong and silent way. His life after the war was no joyride either but I think he finally found peace with his second wife, my stepmother, Aunt Betty. There was never a question of the depth of his love for his children. He'd give us the shirt off his back. He returned to the States to a culture that didn't yet go out of its way to cater to the handicapped although my father NEVER considered himself that; even though this proud and decorated warrior returned home and could find little more that janitorial work for a while because of his disabilities. Nevertheless, he'd pass on the freebies (hunting licenses, etc) that he was entitled to as a result of his wounds. In a world where folks destroy friendships and families to save a dime, such behavior made no sense to me. When I'd ask him why he wouldn't take some financial benefit he had coming, he just say, "Get the hell outta here, I don't need it!" As I got older, I knew exactly what he meant. One of my most vivid childhood memories was when he'd take my brothers and me camping and put on some trunks to dive in the lake. On his crutches, heading for the beach, I'd walk sightly behind him staring at his scar-covered body -- it seemed front to back, head to toe -- scars everywhere. Wrist from Normandy; back courtesy Holland; arm, leg, stomach a result of refusing to bend at Bastogne. I'd notice others staring at him as well because he made a formidable sight. But I never thanked him for leaving all that he left of himself in Europe so that we could take vacations like this whenever and wherever we wished. In his own hard and quiet way, he taught us all that it's never OK to stay down on the mat no matter how much we may feel beaten. You always get back up and you never quit on yourself, NEVER! I can only hope that I have instilled this same 101st Airborne attitude on my children because my old man's guts and pride courses our veins as well and there is no greater gift. I'd like to close with the eulogy that Major Dick Winters honored us with at my dad's funeral at Sacred Heart Church, West Reading, PA on Sept. 7, 1995:
EULOGY FOR SGT. JOE TOYE by Major Dick Winters September 7, 1995
Sgt. Joe Toye was one of the best soldiers we had in Company E, 506th Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne. Every man in company E would tell you that when the chips were down in combat, he would like to have Sgt. Joe Toye protecting his flank.
Dr. Stephen Ambrose in his book, "Band of Brothers", states that Company E was as good a rifle company in World War Two as there was in the world. A unit is rated as "elite" only when it consistantly accomplishes its assigned missions. Sgt. Joe Toye was one of the few men whom you could always count on to carry out his assigned job. That made it possible for Company E to earn the honor of being known as an "elite" company.
Let me share my personal memories of three key battles, in three different campaigns, in which Joe Toye accomplished, with distinction, his assigned job.
Despite a severe hand injury suffered on his parachute drop the night before, Joe Toye was with me, Lt. Compton, Bill Guarnere, and Pvt. Lorraine as we knocked out four 105mm canon that were firing on the troops landing on Utah Beach, D-Day morning. Joe Toye was a key member of that group, out in the van, in front of the entire invasion of Normandy; we got the job done.
HOLLAND- SEPT. 1944
After the 506th had captured Eindhoven, the Germans retreated and broke off contact with the regiment. On September 19th Company E was given the mission to push east and establish contact with the enemy. Three and one half miles east of Eindhoven, at a town by the name of Nuenen, Company E, consisting of 130 men, together with a squadron of tanks from the British 2nd Army, ran head on into the German 107 Panzerbrigade. They immediately pinned us down in the ditches beside the road. However, we in turn had been able to sting them and stop them from over-running and surrounding us. My hope was that we could hold on until it got dark and then we could try to withdraw back to the regiment at Eindhoven. We had accomplished part of our mission -- we had made contact with the enemy. Next, I wanted to know what unit we had contacted and how big this unit was.
Joe Toye happened to be the first man I saw when I got this idea and he got the job. "Joe, get me a LIVE prisoner!" Joe was a squad leader, but he left the squad behind and went out in no-man's land by himself and got a LIVE prisoner. He got the job done! Joe accomplished the key part of Company E's mission for that day. Singlehanded, he once again made Company E an "elite" company. Action like that in combat wins the respect for life of every man that was in the company.
On January 1st the German Air Corps made their last big bombing raid of the war. They smashed Bastogne, they bombed our front lines. Joe caught a piece of shrapnel in his right arm. This was his third Purple Heart. He was evacuated to Bastogne for first aid treatment.
By January 1st the 101st was no longer surrounded at Bastogne. Joe could have been evacuated to a rear echelon hospital. Instead, Joe preferred to return to Company E. As he was walking across a snow covered field to the left of the BN CP, I saw him with his right arm in a sling going back to the front line. I cut across the field to stop him. I said, "Joe, you don't have to go back on the line with one arm. Why don't you take it easy for a couple of days?" I'll never forget his answer: "I want to be with my buddies."
Two days later he was caught in a heavy artillery barrage and he lost his leg. That kept him from joining his buddies on the front line then, but that did not stop him in the next 50 years from joining his friends at their annual reunion.
Today, I know Joe has joined his assistant squad leader Cpl. Jim Campbell, who he lost in Holland and all the rest of his buddies who have preceded him - in Heaven.
Posted 18 February 2003 - 11:01 PM
Posted 19 February 2003 - 12:14 AM
With every post I read I am in just utter awe, for lack of a better word of these E. CO. men!!! Each one is beyond belief!!! To go behind enemy lines and single handedly bring back a prisoner!!??!! I thought only Hollywood would think up somthing so unbelievable!!!
Mr. Peter Toye, you must be so proud to have had a father that gave so much!! I am proud just knowing that I got the chance to read your post.