With waves of deadly assaults threatening to wash over his platoon, SSgt. John James McGinty III charged through enemy fire to direct an attack that would bring many of his Marines home.
The time was July 18, 1966.
The place was Vietnam.
McGinty survived to return home to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. He was stationed there only a matter of months before he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1968.
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At the presentation ceremony in March of that year, President Lyndon B. Johnson said McGinty and his commanding officer - also a medal recipient - joined the ranks of heroes who embody the country’s pride and strength.
“I look at these two gallant Marines and I see America,” Johnson said. “I see in their countenance the answer to aggression. I see in their face the certainty of freedom and I see in their presence the hope and the promise of peace.”
McGinty demonstrated heroism, indomitable leadership and selfless devotion to duty that day, Johnson said.
“[He] 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,” Johnson said.
McGinty, 73, died Friday at his Beaufort residence.
“He wouldn’t give up’
On that deadly day in 1966, McGinty’s platoon was providing security to protect a battalion's withdrawal from a three-day long attack.
His 32 men battled for four hours to beat back an advancing enemy.
In one assault, two squads became separated from the rest.
McGinty sprinted through automatic weapons and mortar fire to reach them. He found one man dead and 20 wounded. He armed as many of the wounded as possible and rallied his men to fight.
Badly wounded himself, McGinty tended to his Marines and directed his other squads — and close-in air strikes — in a steady attack that turned back the enemy.
With his position was nearly overrun, McGinty shot and killed five enemy soldiers at point-blank range with a .45 caliber pistol.
“There were 5,000 guys running at him with machine guns and he wouldn’t give up,” his son, Mike, said Saturday. “And he wouldn’t let his guys give up, and they never did and they came out on top.”
‘Do the right thing’
After returning from Vietnam, McGinty served as a drill instructor at Parris Island, where he had completed his recruit training years earlier.
Among his other medals were the Purple Heart, the 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 retired from the Corps in October 1976 and remained in Beaufort, where he lived with his son and their six dogs.
Humble about his accomplishments, he had to be talked into a funeral with military honors, Mike McGinty, 47, said Saturday.
He did, however, live by the lessons he learned in the Corps, his son said.
“If you do the right thing, then you can’t go wrong,” his son recalled him saying. “You obey your last order first and just doing that will get you far.”
A funeral will be held 1 p.m. Thursday at Beaufort National Cemetery.
Contributions may be addressed to his family through the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, 40 Patriots Point Road, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464.