Hughestown Council is adding a plaque to the veterans memorial monument that will honor local World War II hero Joseph Toye.
Councilman Steve Golya is spearheading the effort to add a plaque memorializing the war hero after learning of Toye’s story. Golya said he received a call from his friend, Mike Dessoye, asking if he’d seen “Band of Brothers.” Toye’s story was part of the HBO miniseries, and they learned he was born in Hughestown.
“When my friend called me, I was amazed. With Bucky Harris having roots in Hughestown, I couldn’t believe I didn’t know this story,” Golya said, recalling Baseball Hall of Famer and Hughestown’s most famous native.
Toye, born in Hughestown in 1919 to Peter and Beatrice McTighue Toye, dropped out of high school during his junior year and enlisted in the Army in 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He built his career in the Army quickly. After completing basic combat training, Toye was stationed in Washington, D.C., and then soon volunteered to be a paratrooper.
As a paratrooper, he was stationed in Camp Toccoa, Georgia, and was assigned to Easy Company in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. After training, Toye’s elite military company moved to England to join the war effort.
On the day before D-Day, Toye made his first combat jump when the 101st parachuted into Normandy. There, he joined a group of men to take out a German patrol wagon on their way into town as part of the Allied invasion of France. He then was chosen to join the attack on Brecourt Manor, where a grenade landed between his legs. Toye suffered no major injuries.
He quickly earned the reputation of “toughest of the tough” and was wounded several times throughout the war. He would often return to the battle lines after being wounded to help the war efforts and his fellow soldiers, according to local historian William Kashatus in a 2011 article in The Citizens’ Voice.
“When you read about what he went through, it’s amazing,” commented Goyla, adding that he wanted Toye’s service and sacrifice to be understood by Hughestown residents.
“Whatever we can do to make people aware of what we had in town,” Golya said of his reasoning behind the plaque.
Toye was wounded by artillery in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. He earned the last three of his four Purple Hearts there. During the battle, Toye lost his right leg. The scene was played out in “Band of Brothers,” which originally aired on HBO in 2001. Actor Kirk Acevedo, best known for roles in the films “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “The Thin Red Line” and “Invincible,” portrayed Toye in the war drama.
During his time with the Army, Toye received a Silver Star, Bronze Star and a Good Conduct Medal, in addition to his four Purple Hearts.
Throughout World War II, Toye served with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, and 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment in addition to his service with the 101st Airborne Division.
He was discharged from the Army in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1946 and retired from Bethlehem Steel in Reading as a drill bit grinder at Grace Mines.
Once completed, the plaque for Toye will be located at the veterans memorial monument next to the Hughestown Borough Building.
“About three years ago we did the veterans memorial and revamped the park and memorial,” Golya said of the borough’s efforts to honor its veterans. “I like doing these things that are good for the community.”