One hell of a great story….

(Southern Oregon Mail Tribune) — History buff George Berry, of Medford, finally located and purchased on-line the Colt Model 1911, .45-caliber, semiautomatic pistol he had wanted all his life, but he wouldn’t have to very long.   (Mail Tribune Photo by  Jamie Lusch).

In researching the pistol, he noticed that the almost 100-year-old semi-auto was stamped with the name “John McGinty”. 

What Berry didn’t know at the time was that he possessed a unique part of Marine Corps history because the sidearm was stolen more than 30 years ago from  Medal of Honor Recipient John J. McGintyIII  in 1978 while on display in South Carolina.

“I knew if I found him and it was his gun, I couldn’t keep it,” said

“I’ve always wanted to own a Colt Model 1911 .45 automatic — always wanted one,” he says. “John Wayne had one in every World War II movie I’ve ever seen him in.”

Last July, he began searching the Internet and discovered that… an auction firm in Hatfield, Pa., was offering three of the Colt .45s. In particular, lot No. 78 caught his eye:

“Colt 1911 A1 semi-automatic pistol. Cal. 45. 5″ bbl. SN 0103889. Reblued finish on all metal, plain walnut Colt grips, after-market rear sight, no magazine,” the description read.

“Faint ‘USMC’ stamped on right side of slide, partial ‘United States Property’ wording is visible,” it continued. “The name ‘John J. McGinty USMC’ stamped on left side of slide. Very good.”

Berry was hesitant because it had been “reblued” and no longer had its original sights or grips, all factors decreasing its value. He had no idea that McGinty was a war hero, let alone a recipient of the nation’s highest military medal for valor.

Still, the gun was manufactured in 1914, making it an early model. And there was the USMC stamp he coveted.

“I decided to buy it in spite of the knocks against it,” Berry said. “It was the only one I knew of with ‘USMC’ stamped on it.”

Berry paid less than $1,000 for the pistol. The two other Model 1911 Colt .45s in the auction went for roughly $4,000 and $6,000 each, he noted.

Curious about who this McGinty fellow was, he began an Internet search. Up popped numerous articles on a John J. McGinty, a retired Marine who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage in South Vietnam in 1966.

“The value of the gun just went up five-fold — that was my first thought, anyway,” Berry recalled.

As he read more about McGinty and his story, he knew he had to locate him to see if he was the same man who once owned the gun. He also wanted to find out how he parted with the pistol, and whether the former Marine wanted it back.

“His medal citation actually mentions the pistol,” Berry observed, referring to the fact the wounded McGinty used it to kill five enemy soldiers attacking his position.

However, Berry did not yet know whether it was the same McGinty associated with his newly acquired pistol. He used the Internet to track down McGinty, 71, in Beaufort, S.C. McGinty had retired from the corps as a captain in October 1976.

The retired Navy warrant officer called the retired Marine Corps officer and asked him if it was his pistol.

“He said, ‘Do you mean 0103889?’ ” Berry recalled, noting McGinty had just recited the gun’s serial number.

That’s when McGinty informed him the pistol had been stolen in 1978 when it was on display along with his uniform and sword. It was the very same pistol McGinty had used in Vietnam to repulse that final assault.

navy-marine-medal-of-honorBerry sent the pistol to Beaufort. After receiving it, McGinty called and wanted to pay Berry for all his expenses.

“I told him I didn’t want any money, that I had just wanted a Model 1911,” Berry said.

Turns out that McGinty had a completely original Colt 1911 manufactured in 1918 that had been owned by John Finn, a longtime friend and legendary Pearl Harbor Medal of Honor Recipient. Out of gratitude for having received his pistol back, he sent the Finn pistol to Berry.

“Can’t thank you enough for your kindness,” read McGinty’s note accompanying the weapon. “I have enclosed some cards and a (Medal of Honor) challenge coin. The John W. Finn card was printed on the occasion of his 100th birthday. John passed away last year. Thank you again, George.”

With his signature, McGinty, who could not be reached for comment by the Mail Tribune, added “Semper fi.”

Finn, who died in the spring of 2010 at age 100, was the last survivor of the 15 Navy sailors who received the Medal of Honor for heroism during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Wounded nine times, Finn, who acquired the pistol during the war, was the oldest living recipient of the medal.

“I am absolutely deliriously happy it turned out this way,” Berry said.

With the Finn pistol he finally acquired a Model 1911 Colt, but he will tell you that’s not the point.

“John McGinty could have just said, ‘Thanks, have a good life,’ “ Berry said. “But no matter what was going to happen, I knew I would feel good about getting that gun back to him.”

“Concern yourself with what is right and you’ll never second-guess that decision,” he concluded.

Berry and his wife, Lilliana, plan to visit McGinty later this year.

Marine John J. McGinty’s action–March 12, 1968

President Lyndon Johnson presented John J. McGinty with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on March 12, 1968. In the presentation, then Marine Staff Sgt. McGinty was cited for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” during Operation Hastings in July of 1966.

The troops had been battling toe-to-toe with a larger force of North Vietnamese army troops attempting to push south near the demilitarized zone. McGinty was commanding a 32-man platoon serving as a rear guard as the Marine battalion withdrew at the end of a three-day battle.

For four hours, his platoon was attacked by small arms, automatic weapons and mortar fire, the citation reads. At one point, two squads became separated from the main body of the platoon.

“With complete disregard for his safety, McGinty charged through intense automatic weapons and mortar fire to their position,” it read. “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.

“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,” it continued.

(Editor’s note: Berry will probably never know just his beau geste means to John and how truly appreciative he is to be reunited with the personal weapon that no doubt saved his life and numerous others… ‘course John would immediately say that his marksmanship had a lot to do with it, and he would be right. John is a great advocate for our Medal of Honor Host City Program here in Gainesville Texas and has been unfailing in his friendship and support through the years.)

He is indeed, “The Great McGinty”….

About Gary Alexander

Volunteer coordinator for veterans support network in North Texas. Now retired from his private psychotherapy practice, I specialized in the diagnosis and treatment posttraumatic stress, working with victim assistance programs, veterans and the Veterans Administration for over 20 years. After being wounded in action in Vietnam, I was medically retired from the Marine Corps and know first hand many of the readjustment difficulties and psychological stresses experienced by today's OIF and OEF veterans. I am available, at minimal cost, to speak at your functions on several subjects including veterans issues, Vietnam, the Medal of Honor, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and critical incident debriefings.
This entry was posted in Heroes, Marine Corps, Medal of Honor, Military, Veterans, War. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to One hell of a great story….

  1. Paul Wiseman says:

    I could probably saY ALOT ABOUT jOHN,AND YOU!This story struck my heart as well.Well done bro……..And from an old sailor may i say a heartfelt Semper Fi ( I know only you guys can do that ,but it is duly called for) ……can’t wait to see john. Got some stuff from Ken Stumph to share with you guys he sent… the next Mtg………Paul….two attaboys not one ahshit!!! ……

  2. Paul Wiseman says:

    And I was there when the Picture was taken !!!! haha…… cool the GREATv McGINTY…..Paul

  3. Bob Mack says:

    Great post, great pistol, Great McGinty. Thanks for sharing the story.

  4. TonyF says:

    One of your better posts GA. Then again, all yours are good. Really enjoyed this one. Thanks for finding it and sharing.

  5. Thanks guys…. do yourself a favor an come see us in April…. I can gurantee all the time you want with these heroes.

  6. Stan says:

    Thank you for doing the right thing as a retired Marine from Nam I salute you with all the pride of the Corps. Semper Fi and god Bless

  7. George Carlson. LtCol, USMC (Ret) says:

    This is just one more example of why civilians will never understand the brotherhood of arms.

  8. Ed Wingo, Jr. says:

    Wonderful story about a great weapon.

    When I joined the Marine Corps in 1962, my father, a competative pistol shooter, bought an “unservicable” .45 through the NRA. He had it rebuilt for me as a “hardball” .45 with a National Match barrel and the five pound trigger pull required for Marine Corps matches. It is still a fine pistol.

  9. Wanda Tucker says:

    I am so thankful to you for your service and unselfish bravery! Congratulations on getting your gun back. I’m wondering which Texoma you are from, as I believe there are two cities named Texoma. My family lived close to Sweetwater, OK, and I believe there was a Texoma close by. Are you way out in the boonies of Oklahoma? If so, you may know of the Cleave and Pearl Reed family. Let me know – and again, my sincere thanks for your continued service.

    One area of PTSD overlooked so often is that that the military women suffer from extreme sexual harrassment. I am a vet and still deal with it – some 30+ years later. Just a thought.

  10. Francis B. Kapper says:

    Many thanks for a great story about two fine men, and heros in their own right. Thanks also to you for your own military service, as well as to that provided to your fellow warriors. God bless! ……
    and Semper Fidelis.

    Respectively, Frank Kapper (former U.S. Marine during the Korean War).

    • John Schank says:

      Dear Frank,

      I’ve been looking for Dr. Francis B. Kapper, who served as an Assistant Secretary of Defense, serving in the cabinets of both Nixon and Reagan.
      Your Korean War experience makes me wonder if you might be the same man, since you would have “come of age” at the beginning of the Cold War.

      I recently acquired a Colt SP 1 Carbine with box addressed “Attn: Dr. Francis (Frank) Capper, Asst. Sec. of Defense” from Colt Industries to a dealer in Alexandria, VA. It has an Ordnance Marked rubber butt pad, possibly indicating it as a sample for approval.

      Respectfully, John Schank, (former U.S. Army Medic during Vietnam War)

    • Nigel says:

      Hi Frank,
      From the bits and pieces written by others and my memories of you I am pretty sure you are the real thing. Please let me know your current email address as your old one bombed. Best regards to you and P. Nigel, Cambridge, U.K.

  11. Shirley Dion says:

    OMG I have been looking for my cousin, Jack, for several years now. I am so happy to find this article. I also found tht he lives iin Medford, MA so I am going to try and get in touch with him. The last time I saw him I lived in California and he and his buddy were headed off to war. We knew about the MOH but lost touch. Thanks for the article.

  12. Shirley Dion says:

    I am not sure what other info you need or want.

    • do you mean for contact info?? If so, give me your information and I will be glad to pass it along to him through channels… I know that he’s moved recently.

      • Shirley Dion says:

        Gary –

        I live in West Des Moines, IA 515-537-1922 (h). I am semi-retired and have a part time day job. It’s been a lot of years so if Jack isn’t comfortable connecting again just tell him I wanted to say hi and it’s nice to know that his service is still being acknowledged and appreciated. I hope he is happy and enjoying good health. Let him know that my brother, Roland, passed away in April of 2009. My sister, Michelle, and I are still in the land of the living. Thank you so much.

  13. Bill Levan says:

    Very interesting bit of history that I stumbled upon while searching for the illusive 1911. I was also involved in Operation Hasting serving with C-1-9 from Mar 67 to Apr 68. Returning that weapon is something that very few can understand. SEMPER FI

  14. pgmark says:

    I hate hate hate signing up for posting things on the internet yet I do so because I am so impressed with this man. I just watched his Medal of Honor video on youtube and not only think he is one of the greatest Americans, he is extremely funny and humble to boot. Thank you for this great story and thank you all great American Veterans for your service to this country and my freedom.

    • John McGinty is a true American original… owing more to WWII than now; One year it fell to him to deliver the brief Recipient remarks at our program…

      He looked around the room and said, “They told me this was a black tie event, but I thought they said ‘black eye’ event.”

      He was wearing his eye patch.

      John is currently fighting bladder cancer…. but he’s tougher than bladder cancer, trust me.

      Stay in touch I’ll keep you up to date.

      • Paul DeCotiis former 1LTUSMCR says:

        Dear Sir, I would like to inform Capt. Mc Ginty that one of his USMC friends had a recent stoke. I think contact from John would help him considerably. If you had a an email or telephone number for John it would be appreciated.

      • Will try my best… he’s probably in Hawaii this week @ MOH annual convention.


  15. Lynne B says:

    My family lived next door to “Mac” McGinty and his family *in Imperial Beach,Ca. I often did babysitting for Mac (this was prior to his being awarded the CMH) and
    his beautiful wife, Elaine, who had two sons.. *this (before she was “called home to her Savior”) . My Dad was in the USN..Master Chief Bosn Mate E9 and assigned to the Amphib Base as a
    “Frogman” UDT 12 in Coronado,Ca. He and Mac were good friends and shared the same sense of duty and patriotism. Dad admired Mac greatly *both before and after Mac rec’d the CMH. That Mac would do such a generous
    and selfless act* such as bestowing the above mentioned gun as a thank you for one returned to him,
    does not surprise me, it sounds so like the gentleman (and hero), that our family knew and respected.
    With fond memories of a great man and American Patriot. My prayers are with you *as you
    battle with cancer Mac…may you know others care and remember you with deep respect.
    Lynne B.
    West Linn, Oregon

    • Lynne,

      He continues his fight and is doing well.

      He is indeed one of America’s great heroes… we affectionately call him “The Great McGinty.”

      Thanks for you comments and for your father’s great service to our country….

      Semper Fi,
      USMC 1968-1970

  16. Richard says:

    I had the honor to served with Capt McGinty in Okinawa I was a young Corporal in 1975 we were going thriugh cold weather training in Japan and I was supposed to see the Company Gunny early in the morning on or about 0:630 to pick up my C-rations for my squad. Suddendly Capt McGinty steps out of his CP holding a cup of coffee and say’s Marine is cold out there! I’m trembeling, freezing and now I’m intimidated speaking to the Company Commander.. He then say’s You are probably wondering why I’m in this big CP with a heater? I say no Sir!. He then says, I’ve paid my dues! i didn’t say anything, then suddendly he say’s Marine is cold out there come in and have a cup of coffee. I went in and he gave me a cup of warm coffee. When the Company Gunny finally came around he looked at me like what in the hell are you doing inside here. I have never forgotten that gesture from Capt McGinty.
    Kindly give him my very best and let him know this Marine has never forgotten that gesture..
    I will pray for him and his family.
    I would like to mail him a letter / Card I would like to have his mailing address if that is possible.
    My E-mail:
    Semper Fi

    • Richard,

      Sounds like The Great McGinty….

      He told me that he was back state-side and had been jumped to first lieutenant when he got call THE call from the White House informing him of the Medal of Honor… he assumed it was one of his enlisted friends pranking him, and hung up.

      He is by far the funniest of all the Recipients I have met.

      He’s another tidbit…. remember the famous recruiting poster of the DI screaming at a boot titled “I didn’t promise you a rose garden”? The drill instructor was one of John’s fellow DI buddies and the campaign cover he’s wearing belonged to McGinty; he had loaned it to him because he was newly-commissioned, but wanted it back in no uncertain terms…. those are very pricey Stetsons.

      After the poster became an icon… HQUSMC contacted the drill instructor (now deceased) and talked him into donating the cover to the Marine Crops Museum.

      McGinty is still pissed.

      Thanks for dropping by,

      Semper Fi,

      • Paul says:

        Dear Sir, I served in the USMC from 1972 thru 1975 and met Capt. McGinty through another lieutenant, William Collopy. Bill Collopy was a platoon leader in K/3/7 and was friendly with John McGinty. Neither Bill nor I have communicated with John for quite some time and I believe contact with John would be beneficial to Bill who is recovering from a mild stroke. If you get contact info for John please advise. Thanks..Paul DeCotiis cell 786-566-8480.

      • Will try my best…. will get back to you; as you know he’s had some health probs as well.

  17. Richard says:

    Gary. This is Richard I posted my experence with Capt McGinty and I was wondering how is he doing? Any way you can get his address would like to mail him a Christmas Card.
    Semper Fi

  18. Lynne B. says:

    Just found out that “Mac” had been “called home” in January of this year. Tho his valor and unwavering patriotism will never be forgotten! In my heart I know, he now
    “Walks With God”.
    You will be remembered Mac, with deepest respect and gratitude.

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