John J McGinty III
John was born on the 21st of January, 1940, in Boston, Massachusetts, but grew up near Louisville, Kentucky. After only a year and a half of high school, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserve on the 19th of February, 1957, which he then enlisted in active duty one year later. Like many other Marines, John went to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina for recruit training and he then transferred to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for advanced infantry combat training. Now a Private First Class, John was transferred to the 7th Infantry Company, USMCR in Louisville, Kentucky, until March of 1958. He attended and completed the Noncommissioned Officers Leadership School at Camp Pendleton in California in May of 1958 and was then transferred to Kodiak, Alaska, where he was promoted to Corporal. John later became a Drill Instructor at Parris Island in 1962 and before being ordered to the West Coast in preparation of deployment, he was the Assistant Brig Warden at the Marine Barracks at the US Naval Base in Norfolk, Virginia.
John left the West Coast and joined the 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division in April of 1966 in the Republic of Vietnam. He held many positions during this deployment, including platoon sergeant of Company K, 3rd Battalion, the S-2 Officer and Operation Chief of H&S Company, 3rd Battalion, and Operations Chief of Headquarters Company, 4th Marines. It was his actions as the acting platoon leader during Operation Hastings, however, that would earn him the Medal of Honor. The citation reads:
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 mortarfire 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.
John returned to the States in May of 1967 and went back to Parris Island and served as a Drill Instructor at the Recruit Depot until he received a promotion and commission as a Second Lieutenant on the 8th of August, 1967. He immediately began his new assignment as a Series Officer with the 1stRecruit Battalion on the 9th of August. Seven months later, on the 12th of March, 1968, John received the Medal of Honor from President Johnson in a ceremony at the White House, along with Robert Modrzejewski. John continued to serve in the Marine Corps for another eight years and retired after nineteen years in October of 1976. Shortly after coming home, John had developed a deep conservative Christian faith, saying that he had not prayed in Vietnam because he had not found his faith yet. “But I thought, ‘If there is a God, please let him watch out for my children,’ ” he said. “I thought I was going to die for sure.” Because of this, John distanced himself from wearing the Medal of Honor, although many would report and write that he actually gave away his Medal. He distanced himself from it because of its depiction of the Roman goddess Minerva that is on the Medal. John told the Associated Press in 1984, “The medal is a form of idolatry because it has a false god on it.” He continued to take pride in the Medal's significance; “If it were me alone, I probably wouldn't give a damn, but I wear this thing for that platoon.”
John worked for the Department of Veteran Affairs in a few different positions and had several surgeries to try correct injuries to his left eye but eventually it had to be removed and he wore a patch from then on. There was a display where John's M1911 pistol was featured and in 1978, the pistol was stolen. The pistol was purchased at an auction in 2011 by George Berry who then contacted John in order to return it. Out of gratitude, John sent George the M1911 pistol that formerly belonged to another Medal of Honor recipient, John Finn, as well as a Medal of Honor challenge coin. John James McGinty III died from bone cancer at his home in Beaufort, South Carolina, on the 17th of January, 2014, at the age of 73. He is buried in the Beaufort National Cemetery; section D, site 703.