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January 23, 2014

Medal of Honor recipient remembered by Gainesville residents

Gainesville — BEAUFORT, S.C. —Retired Marine Capt. John James McGinty III who received the nation’s highest award for valor died Monday in Beaufort, S.C. He was 73.

McGinty earned the Medal of Honor for actions during the Vietnam War in a July 18, 1966, battle which resulted in nearly 500 enemy dead.

McGinty’s passing has saddened many Gainesville residents who knew McGinty from his visits during the city’s Medal of Honor Host City activities each April.

“I think he’s been here at least four times,” Host City program founder Don Pettigrew said.

Pettigrew said he’ll remember McGinty for his keen sense of humor and his humility.

“Like all the rest of the guys, he downplayed what he had done,” Pettigrew said. “He would say, ‘That’s what we were there to do and that’s what we did.’”

He said McGinty would likely prefer to be remembered as “just another Marine.”

Pettigrew said McGinty enjoyed his visits to Gainesville.

“He loved it here,” he said. “He thought we were very laid back. He didn’t like what he called the black tie ‘uppity stuff.’”

Pettigrew said in addition to McGinty’s passing, the Medal of Honor Host City program is also mourning the loss of another good friend — Sandy Taylor, wife of Medal of Honor recipient James Taylor.

“Jim and his wife had been here (for Medal of Honor Host City week) six or seven times,” Pettigrew said. “Sandy was going through treatment last year and insisted they come to Gainesville. She was a great lady.”

McGinty’s Medal of Honor citation

Then-Sgt. McGinty’s platoon came under heavy small-arms, automatic weapons and mortar fire while pulling rear security for 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, which was withdrawing after being besieged for three days, according to his citation.

McGinty responded by rallying his platoon’s men to defend multiple waves of enemy attacks over a four-hour period.

During a particularly brutal assault, two of his unit’s squads were separated from the rest of the platoon. McGinty responded by charging across fire-swept terrain, braving both machine guns and mortars, to reach the stranded squads.

“Finding 20 men wounded and the medical corpsman killed, he quickly reloaded ammunition magazines and weapons for the wounded men and directed their fire upon the enemy,” his citation reads.

Despite sustaining his own wounds, he continued shouting encouragement to fellow Marines and directing their fire “so effectively that the attacking horde were beaten off.”

When a determined enemy attempted to outflank his position, he personally killed five with his .45-caliber 1911 pistol. On the verge of being overrun, he redirected artillery fire to within 50 yards of his position.

“The destructive firepower routed the enemy, who left an estimated 500 bodies on the battlefield”  his citation reads.

After returning to the United States, McGinty served as a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C. until his promotion to second lieutenant in August of 1967, according to the United States Marine Corps History Division.

McGinty who first enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1957, before entering active duty the following year, went on to serve through retirement in 1976.

In addition to the MOH, his decorations include the Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal with two bronze stars, 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.

He will be buried at the Beaufort National Cemetery at 1 p.m. today, reports the Island Packet.

 

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