Joel Healy of Manasota Key served in 1st Marine Division and fought in Korean War

Joel Healy of Manasota Key was a member of Charley Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division when he was shipped to the front lines in Korea in 1951. He was an ammo carrier for a 60 mm. mortar squad.

His battalion was a replacement unit for other Marines in the 1st. Division dubbed “The Chosin Few” who had just fought their way back from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. His fellow Marines who marched to Chosin had been over-run by hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops who joined the fight on the side of the North Koreans. As the Marines retreated from the reservoir area Chinese soldiers attacked the 1st Division every step of the way on its escape to the sea coast 75 miles away.

On their way south hundreds of these Marines also died from the bitter cold. At some points along their escape route the temperature dropped to more than -30 degrees.

Healy joined the battle just after the “Chosin Few” Marines arrived in Masan, South Korea. This is where his unit, Charley Company, hooked up with the Marines from the Reservoir. Shortly after Charley Company connected it was sent out on patrol.

“We were on the line 60 straight days. Charley Company was the first to cross the 38th Parallel into North Korea at the time.” Healy said. “We were the 1st Marine Division’s lead company to fight its way across the border into North Korea.

“On April 22, 1951 we set up on a ridge line arriving late in the evening. We were tied in to the ROK (Republic of Korea) forces also up on that ridge-line with our company to the left of our position. Little did we know that that the Chinese counter offensive of 1951 was to start that evening and their initial target was us.

“The 6th ROK Army, to our left, collapsed and bugged out during the night. This exposed our company to a vicious enemy attack and we suffered heavy casualties. It was during this attack Pvt. 1st Class Herbert A. Littleton received the ‘Medal of Honor.’ He’s the one I’d like to talk about. I didn’t know what happened to him and knew nothing of the honor he received until years later. I found out at a 1st Marine Division Reunion.

“Littleton was our company’s radio operator,” Healy said. “An enemy grenade came in and he leaped on it before it exploded. He saved a lot of lives by taking the grenade’s impact.

“When the Chinese troops attacked us on the ridge-line at midnight they blew whistles and yelled as they scrambled over rocks an ran toward our front lines,” Healy explained. “The Chinese troops broke through our lines when they attacked the part of the line where the ROK soldiers bugged out.

“We hunkered down and shot what we could shoot from our foxholes. Eventually we regained control of our company.

“We were praying for daylight. We were praying for an air strike. A Navy Corsair flew in like a miracle. He managed to stop the Chinese by unloading his rockets on them. That gave us a little breathing time.”

“Just before we were overwhelmed by the Chinese we received a huge shipment of C-Rations and ammunition. This is just about the time we pulled back and we left the ammunition right where it was.

“We pulled back and went down into the valley. By dusk we were set up on another ridge-line. All we had was our mortar, no ammunition. Another fellow and I volunteered to go get our ammunition we left behind. We ran down a little trail to where our ammunition was and got it.

“During the second night on the ridge-line we heard these rounds come in. The Chinese killed our squad leader and wounded Tripp, a buddy. We were so traumatized we pulled back to the regimental headquarters and another unit replaced us on the line.

Joel Healy holds the “Purple Heart” he was awarded for the wounds his received fighting as a member of the 1st Marine Division in Korea in 1951. Sun photo by Don Moore

“While talking to the Morse Code operator at headquarters I happened to mention I could send Morse Code,” Healy said. “Their company was desperate for a Morse Code operator and they took me as their replacement.

“In March I got wounded by shrapnel in the hand and knee while on patrol. I spent 2 weeks in the hospital recovering.

His mother received a telegram from the military telling her he had been wounded, but little else. It read in part:

“Regret to to inform you that your son Pvt. 1st Class Joel Waters Healy USMCR has been wounded in action on 16 March 1951 in the Korean area in the performance of his duty and service to his country. I realize your great anxiety but nature of wounds not reported and delay in receipt of details must be expected.

“C B. Cates, General USMC Commandant of the Marine Corps.”

“While in the hospital a colonel and a lieutenant from our company came in and held a little bed-side ceremony and pinned a Purple Heart on me. At the time the lieutenant was down in the dumps because his girlfriend the movie star Janet Leigh had just gotten married.

“Next to my bed Eddie Le Baron was recuperating. He had been a star quarterback for the Washington Redskins. The colonel made a big to-do over him when he got his Purple Heart pinned on.

“On Nov. 27, 1951 we boarded a ship in Tokyo for the trip back to the States I was discharged 3 months later, “Healy recalled.

“When I first got out of the Marines I got a job as a life guard at Daytona Beach. The same time I attended Stetson College and received a degree in business. Then I went to work for the Aetna Life Insurance Co. I worked for them for 34 years and retired.

Healy and his wife, Deborah, moved to Manasota Key from Tampa in 1989. She is the owner of “Debi Healy Real Estate on the Key. The couple has four children: Edward, Kimberly, Mandy and Robert.


The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Private First Class Herbert A Littleton (MCSN: 1084704), United States Marine Corps Reserve, For service set forth in the following citation: for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 22 April 1951, while serving as a radio operator with an artillery forward observation team of Company C, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, FIRST Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces near Chungchon, Korea. Standing watch when a well-concealed and numerically superior enemy force launched a violent night attack from nearby positions against his company, Private First Class Littleton quickly alerted the forward observation team and immediately moved into an advantageous position to assist in calling down artillery fire on the hostile force.

When an enemy hand grenade was thrown into his vantage point shortly after the arrival of the remainder of the team, he unhesitatingly hurled himself on the deadly missile, absorbing its full, shattering impact in his body. By his prompt action and heroic spirit of self-sacrifice, he saved the other members of his team from serious injury or death and enabled them to carry on the vital mission which culminated in the repulse of the hostile attack. His indomitable valor in the face of almost certain death reflects the highest credit upon Private First Class Littleton and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.


Name: Joel W. Healy
D.O.B: 11 July 1930
Hometown: Kansas City, Mo.
Currently: Manasota Key, Fla.
Entered Service: 1950
Discharged: 1952
Rank: Corporal
Unit: Charley Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, 1st Marine Division
Commendations: Purple Heart
Battles/Campaigns: Korean War

This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 and is republished with permission.

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