Tuesday, January 28, 2014

John McGinty, Vietnam War Hero and Medal of Honor Recipient

John J. McGinty III, War Hero, Dies at 73

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On March 12, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Second Lt. John J. McGinty III, left, with the Medal of Honor. Associated Press

John J. McGinty III, a retired Marine Corps officer who received the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of dozens of his men during an enemy attack in Vietnam, but later relinquished it for religious reasons, died on Friday in Beaufort, S.C. He was 73.
The cause was bone cancer, his son Michael said.
Staff Sgt. McGinty, a platoon leader, had already been severely wounded in the left eye by shrapnel during heavy fighting on July 18, 1966, when about 20 of his men became separated from the others and found themselves pinned down by enemy fire on three sides.
He received the Medal of Honor for sprinting through gunfire and mortar shell blasts to reach them and lead them to safety.
Mr. McGinty renounced the award in 1984 after becoming more ardent in his Christian faith; he came to view the medal as “a form of idolatry” because it bore an image of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and war — to him “a false god,” Michael McGinty said.
But his decision did not change his relationship with his former comrades, his son added. He kept in touch with them for the rest of his life and saw many at conventions organized by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
Mr. McGinty, who joined the service in 1958 directly after high school, was a drill instructor at the Marine boot camp in Parris Island, S.C., and a brig officer at the Norfolk, Va., naval base before volunteering for duty in Vietnam in 1966.
“I didn’t want to be earning my pay guarding a bunch of AWOL sailors,” he told Edwin F. Murphy, author of the 1987 book “Vietnam Medal of Honor Heroes.”
Mr. McGinty led one of four platoons in Company K of the Third Battalion, Third Marine Division, during a major sortie in July 1966 known as Operation Hastings. The mission was to block North Vietnamese troops from infiltrating the demilitarized zone between the Communist-led North and the American-backed South.
After three days of fighting and severe casualties, American commanders ordered a withdrawal. The four platoons of Company K, led by Capt. Robert J. Modrzejewski, were assigned to provide cover for the pullback.
Captain Modrzejewski, who would also receive a Medal of Honor for his actions during the mission, said Wednesday in a telephone interview that “Company K was covering the rear, and Sergeant McGinty’s platoon was providing cover for the rear of the rear,” when about 1,000 North Vietnamese troops attacked on July 18.
“Our whole company was about a hundred strong at that point,” said Mr. Modrzejewski, who was also wounded in the fighting.
Sergeant McGinty “was very close to his men,” he added.
“He looked at them as kids, really — 18- and 19-year-old kids — with mothers and wives and girlfriends that he promised to get back home safe. That’s how we all felt.”
Sergeant McGinty, who was 26, made his way through gunfire and jungle terrain to find two squads of his platoon cut off and almost surrounded.
“Finding 20 men wounded and the medical corpsmen killed,” his Medal of Honor citation said, Sergeant McGinty “reloaded ammunition magazines and weapons for the wounded men and directed their fire upon the enemy.”
When North Vietnamese soldiers tried to outflank their position, “he killed five of them at point-blank range with his pistol,” the citation said, and called in artillery and airstrikes to within yards of his own position.
Mr. McGinty had been promoted to second lieutenant when he and Mr. Modrzejewski, who was promoted to major, were presented with their medals by President Lyndon B. Johnson in a White House ceremony on March 12, 1968.

With both officers standing at attention at his side, Johnson used the occasion to take note of the growing debate about the war and to beseech Americans to be patient about its progress and not yield to despair. Their photograph, by The Associated Press, appeared with an article about the president’s remarks on the front page of The New York Times. Nineteen days later, Johnson, facing rising opposition to his war policies, announced that he would not seek re-election.
John James McGinty III was born in Boston on Jan. 21, 1940, to John and Eve McGinty and grew up in Louisville, Ky. His father was a diver for commercial deep-sea recovery operations.
Besides his son Michael, Mr. McGinty is survived by another son, John J. McGinty IV. His wife, Elaine Elizabeth Hathaway, died in 1991.
Mr. McGinty retired from the Marines as a captain in October 1976. He later worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs in several positions. After years of surgical efforts to repair it, Mr. McGinty lost his left eye. He wore an eye patch in public.
He was modest about his heroism and indifferent to the medal from the time he received it, Michael McGinty said: “My father used to say that he did what any Marine sergeant would have done in that situation.”


John J. McGinty III

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John James McGinty, III
McGinty JJ.jpg A light blue neck ribbon with a gold star shaped medallion hanging from it. The ribbon is similar in shape to a bowtie with 13 white stars in the center of the ribbon.
John J. McGinty, III, Medal of Honor recipient
Born(1940-01-21)January 21, 1940
Boston, Massachusetts
DiedJanuary 17, 2014(2014-01-17) (aged 73)
Beaufort, South Carolina
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Marine Corps
Years of service1957-1976
Unit3rd Battalion, 4th Marines
Battles/warsVietnam War
AwardsMedal of Honor
Purple Heart
Captain John James McGinty III (January 21, 1940 – January 17, 2014) was a United States Marine Corps officer who received the United States militaries' highest decoration — the Medal of Honor — for heroism during July 1966 in the Vietnam War.

Early life and education[edit]

John McGinty was born on January 21, 1940 in Boston, Massachusetts. He completed grammar school in Louisville, Kentucky in 1955, and attended high school in Louisville for a year and a half prior to enlisting in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on February 19, 1957.

Military service[edit]

Upon Discharging from the Marine Corps Reserve, he enlisted in the Marine Corps as active duty on March 3, 1958.[1]
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.[1]
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.[1]
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.[1]
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.[1]
From November 1964 until December 1965, Sgt McGinty saw duty as Assistant Brig Warden, Marine Barracks, U.S. Naval Base, Norfolk, Virginia.

Capt McGinty (left), along with Army Medal of Honor recipients COL Robert L. Howard and CSM Gary L. Littrell at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq on November 11, 2006.
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.[1]
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.[1]
On March 12, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson presented the Medal of Honor to 2ndLt McGinty in a ceremony[2] at the White House in which fellow Marine Robert J. Modrzejewski was also honored.
Captain McGinty retired from the Marine Corps in October 1976.[1]

Later life[edit]

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.
McGinty died at his home in Beaufort, South Carolina on January 17, 2014.[3] The cause was bone cancer.[4]

Pistol stolen and later returned[edit]

McGinty's 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.[5]

Awards and decorations[edit]

A complete list of his medals and decorations includes: the Medal of Honor, the Purple Heart, the Good Conduct Medal with two bronze stars, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Presidential Unit Citation, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze stars, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
1st RowMedal of Honor
2nd RowPurple HeartCombat Action RibbonPresidential Unit CitationMarine Corps Good Conduct Medal with two bronze stars
3rd RowNational Defense Service MedalVietnam Service Medal with two bronze starsVietnam Gallantry Cross with PalmRepublic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

The official Medal of Honor citation reads:

Congressional Medal of Honor
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.


On May 19, 2004, the South Carolina General Assembly passed Bill 5281, a resolution "commend[ing] the extraordinary heroism of Marine Staff Sergeant John J. McGinty III, a native of Massachusetts who entered the service in South Carolina, and who was awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam Conflict for Valor."[6]

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