mcginty_recent2BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D.  John McGinty III was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 21, 1940. He completed grammar school in Louisville, Kentucky in 1955, and attended high school in Louisville for a year and a half before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on February 19, 1957.

He completed recruit training with the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. He then went to advanced infantry combat training with Company M, 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry Training Regiment, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was promoted to private first class in September 1957, and was transferred to the 7th Infantry Company, USMCR, Louisville, Kentucky, to serve as a rifleman until March 1958. Private First Class McGinty completed the Noncommissioned Officers Leadership School, Camp Pendleton, California in May 1958. He was then ordered to Marine Barracks, U.S. Naval Station, Kodiak, Alaska until May 1959. While stationed in Alaska, he was promoted to Corporal in September 1958.

Transferred to the 1st Marine Division in June 1959, he saw duty as a rifleman leader, and later, squad leader with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. Upon his return to the United States, he served as Guard/Company Police Sergeant, H&S Battalion, FMF, Atlantic, at Norfolk, Virginia, until March 1962. From there, he was ordered to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, and assigned duty as Drill Instructor, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion. He was promoted to Sergeant in August 1962. From November 1964 until December 1965, Sgt McGinty saw duty as Assistant Brig Warden, Marine Barracks, U.S. Naval Base, Norfolk, Virginia.

Sergeant McGinty was ordered to the West Coast for transfer to the Far East. Joining the 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, in the Republic of Vietnam in April 1966, he served successively as a platoon sergeant and platoon commander, Company K, 3rd Battalion, as S-2 Officer and Operation Chief, H&S Company, 3rd Battalion, and as Operations Chief, with Headquarters Company, 4th Marines. It was in 1966, during Operation Hastings, that McGinty distinguished himself in the actions for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Upon his return to the United States in May 1967, he reported to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina. He served as a drill instructor until his promotion to second lieutenant on August 8, 1967. The following day, he assumed his assignment as Series Officer, 1st Recruit Battalion, at the Recruit Depot, Parris Island.

On March 12, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson presented the Medal of Honor to 2ndLt McGinty in a ceremony at the White House in which fellow Marine Robert J. Modrzejewski was also honored.

Captain McGinty retired from the Marine Corps in October 1976.

McGinty died at his home in Beaufort, South Carolina on January 17, 2014. The cause was bone cancer.

There are a couple of interesting sidebars concerning McGinty and his character  that are not well known.

The USMC M1911 pistol, mentioned in his Medal of Honor citation, was stolen from a display in 1978. In 2011, history buff George Berry purchased the pistol from an auction. Curious about the name engraved on the pistol, Berry contacted McGinty and subsequently returned the pistol to its rightful owner. McGinty sent back another M1911 pistol along with a Medal of Honor challenge coin in gratitude.

There was a rumor that in the 1980s McGinty felt that there was a conflict between wearing his Medal of Honor (which bears the image of the Roman goddess Minerva) and his new-found Christian faith. Some news agencies reported that McGinty wanted to return his Medal of Honor. The rumor was completely untrue.  McGinty greatly respected the honor.  He did say that he didn’t want to appear before the Lord when the time came with a image of the Roman goddess Minerva hanging around his neck.

McGinty didn’t want a big funeral, but fellow Marines had other ideas about that.

“If John were here, he’d probably be saying, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ ” fellow Medal of Honor (MOH) Marine and close friend Jay R. Vargas told Capt McGinty’s family, friends and fellow veterans gathered at his funeral January 23 at the Beaufort National Cemetery, Beaufort, S.C.

Vargas, a retired Marine colonel, had traveled from sunny San Diego to brisk mid-30 temperatures in Beaufort for the tribute.

“He’d say, ‘You left 80-degree weather in San Diego but I know why you came here, it’s for the bottle,’ ” Vargas said, standing near the plain, unadorned pine wood casket draped with the American flag.

Vargas then told the crowd of nearly 300 how he, along with McGinty; MOH Marine Col Robert J. Modrzejewski, USMC (Ret); and retired Brigadier General Peter J. “Pete” Rowe, had bought a bottle of Irish whiskey years ago during Happy Hour and said the last one remaining would toast the rest.

“We gave the bottle to John because he was the youngest, and we figured he’d outlast us all,” Vargas said in a phone interview after the funeral. He confided that when he got to Beaufort, he talked with locals who knew John and found out that “John and a bunch of Irishmen got together and finished off that bottle. The whiskey is gone, and John probably enjoyed every bit of it,” joked Vargas. “I can’t blame him; if I’d had the bottle, I probably would have taken a few nips myself.”

McGinty didn’t want a big funeral, but fellow Marines had other ideas about that.

Vargas then told the crowd of nearly 300 how he, along with McGinty; MOH Marine Col Robert J. Modrzejewski, USMC (Ret); and retired Brigadier General Peter J. “Pete” Rowe, had bought a bottle of Irish whiskey years ago during Happy Hour and said the last one remaining would toast the rest.

“We gave the bottle to John because he was the youngest, and we figured he’d outlast us all,” Vargas said in a phone interview after the funeral. He confided that when he got to Beaufort, he talked with locals who knew John and found out that “John and a bunch of Irishmen got together and finished off that bottle. The whiskey is gone, and John probably enjoyed every bit of it,” joked Vargas. “I can’t blame him; if I’d had the bottle, I probably would have taken a few nips myself.”

Besides his son Michael, Mr. McGinty is survived by another son, John J. McGinty IV. His wife, Elaine Elizabeth Hathaway, died in 1991.

He was buried at the Beaufort National Cemetery Beaufort, S.C. on, January 23, 2014.

 

Medal of Honor Citation

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Acting Platoon Leader, First Platoon, Company K, Third Battalion, Fourth Marines, Third Marine Division, in the Republic of Vietnam on 18 July 1966. Second Lieutenant (then Staff Sergeant) McGinty’s platoon, which was providing rear security to protect the withdrawal of the battalion from a position which had been under attack for three days, came under heavy small arms, automatic weapons and mortar fire from an estimated enemy regiment. With each successive human wave which assaulted his thirty-two-man platoon during the four- hour battle, Second Lieutenant McGinty rallied his men to beat off the enemy. In one bitter assault, two of the squads became separated from the remainder of the platoon. With complete disregard for his safety, Second Lieutenant McGinty charged through intense automatic weapons and mortar fire to their position. Finding twenty men wounded and the medical corpsmen killed, he quickly reloaded ammunition magazines and weapons for the wounded men and directed their fire upon the enemy. Although he was painfully wounded as he moved to care for the disabled men, he continued to shout encouragement to his troops and to direct their fire so effectively that the attacking hordes were beaten off. When the enemy tried to out flank his position, he killed five of them at point-blank range with his pistol. When they again seemed on the verge of overrunning the small force, he skillfully adjusted artillery and air strikes within fifty yards of his position. This destructive fire power routed the enemy, who left an estimated 500 bodies on the battlefield. Second Lieutenant McGinty’s personal heroism, indomitable leadership, selfless devotion to duty, and bold fighting spirit inspired his men to resist the repeated attacks by a fanatical enemy, reflected great credit upon himself, and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

//Lyndon B. Johnson//    President

The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.

 

If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.

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