Raw Courage

John J. McGinty III
John J. McGinty III

Born in Boston, Massachusetts on 21 January 1940, John J. McGinty III was raised in Louisville, Kentucky where he enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve in February 1957.  Following his initial training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina, McGinty received advanced infantry training at the 1st Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and subsequently served with the 7th Infantry Company in Louisville until March 1958.

PFC McGinty reenlisted into the regular Marine Corps in March 1958 and was ordered to Camp Pendleton, California where he attended the NCO Leadership Course and was subsequently ordered to duty at Marine Barracks, Kodiak, Alaska until May 1959.  While stationed in Alaska, he was promoted to corporal.

In late 1959, then Corporal McGinty transferred to the 1st Marine Division, where he served as a squad leader in Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.  McGinty was subsequently promoted to sergeant and ordered to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina where he served as a drill instructor until 1964.  Between 1964 and 1965, he served as a brig warden at Marine Barracks, Norfolk, Virginia.

In 1965, Sergeant McGinty was ordered to the West Coast for pre-deployment training and assignment to the Far East with the 3rd Marine division.  Arriving in Vietnam in April 1966, McGinty was further assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines where he served first as a platoon sergeant, and then later as a platoon commander.

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, (then) Staff Sergeant 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 firepower routed the enemy, who left an estimated 500 bodies on the battlefield.  Staff Sergeant 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.”

Following this action, McGinty was subsequently assigned to the 3rd Battalion headquarters where he served as the Operations NCO, and then later he served as the Regimental Intelligence Officer, 4th Marine Regiment.  Upon his return to the United States in 1967, Staff Sergeant McGinty served a second tour of duty at MCRD Parris Island until commissioned to Second Lieutenant on 8 August 1967.  Captain John J. McGinty retired from active duty in October 1978.  He passed away at his home in Beaufort, South Carolina on 17 January 2014.

Semper Fidelis — Esse apud Deum

A Visit to the Wall

USN F-4J 001I recall visiting with three old friends, a few years back, at a park in the nation’s capital.  It seems like only yesterday that we were all together, but actually, it has been 42 years.  There was a crowd at the park that day, and it took us a while to connect, but with the aid of a book, we made it.  I found Harry, Bruce, and Paul.  In 1970-72 we were gung-ho young fighter pilots on the USS America and USS Constellation off the coast of Vietnam, the cream of the crop of the U.S. Navy, flying F-4J Phantoms.

Now their names are on that 500-foot-long Vietnam War Memorial.  I am hesitant to visit the wall when I am in Washington DC because I do not trust myself to keep my composure.  Standing in front of that somber wall, I tried to keep it light, reminiscing about how things were back then.  We used to joke about our passionate love affair with an inanimate flying object-we flew.  We marveled at the thought that someone actually paid us to do it. We were not draftees but college graduates in Vietnam by choice, opting for the cramped confines of a jet fighter cockpit over the comfort of corporate America.  In all my life, I’ve not been so passionate about any other work.  If that sounds like an exaggeration, then you’ve never danced the wild blue with a supersonic angel.  To fight for your country is an honor.

I vividly remember leaving my family and friends in San Diego headed for Vietnam.  I wondered if I would live to see them again.  For reasons I still do not understand, I was fortunate to return while others did not.

Once in Vietnam, we passed the long, lonely hours in Alert 5, the ready room, our staterooms, or the Cubi Point O’Club.  The complaint heard most often, in the standard gallows humor of a combat squadron, was, “It’s a lousy war, but it’s the only one we have.”  There is a more ribald version of this, not suitable for mixed company.  We sang mostly raunchy songs that never seemed to end; someone was always writing new verses-and, as an antidote to loneliness, fear in the night and the sadness over dead friends, we often drank too much.

At the wall, I told the guys only about the good parts of the years since we’ve been apart.  I talked of those who went on to command squadrons.  Those who made Captain and flag rank.  I asked them if they have seen some other squadron mates who have joined them.

I did not tell them about how ostracized Vietnam vets still are.  I did not relate how the media had implied we Vietnam vets were, to quote one syndicated columnist, “either suckers or psychos, victims or monsters.”  I didn’t tell them that Hanoi Jane, who shot at us and helped torture our POWs, had married one of the richest guys in the United States.  I didn’t tell them that the secretary of defense they fought for back then has now declared that he was not a believer in the cause for which he assigned them all to their destiny.  I did not tell them that our commander-in-chief avoided serving while they were fighting and dying.

And I didn’t tell them we “lost” that lousy war.  I gave them the same line I have used for years: We were winning when I left.  I relived that final day as I stared at the black onyx wall.  After 297 combat missions, we were leaving the South China Sea…heading east.  The excitement of that day was only exceeded by coming into the break at Miramar, knowing that my wife, my two boys, my parents and other friends and family were waiting to welcome me home.

I was not the only one talking to the wall through tears.  Folks in fatigues, leather vests, motorcycle jackets, flight jackets lined the wall talking to friends.  I backed about 25 yards away from the wall and sat down on the grass under a clear blue sky and midday sun that perfectly matched the tropical weather of the war zone.  The wall, with all 58,200 names, consumed my field of vision.  I tried to wrap my mind around the violence, carnage, and ruined lives that it represented.  Then I thought of how Vietnam was only one small war in the history of the human race.  I was overwhelmed with a sense of mankind’s wickedness balanced against some men and women’s willingness to serve.

Before becoming a spectacle in the park, I got up, walked back the wall to say goodbye, and ran my fingers over the engraved names of my friends —as if I could communicate with them through some kind of spiritual touch.

I wanted them to know that God, duty, honor, and country will always remain the noblest calling.  Revisionist histories from elite draft dodgers trying to justify and rationalize their own actions will never change that.

USS Constellation, CV-64
USS Constellation, CV-64

I believe I have been a productive member of society since the day I left Vietnam.  I am honored to have served there, and I am especially proud of my friends-heroes who voluntarily, enthusiastically gave their all.  They demonstrated no greater love to a nation whose highbrow opinion makers are still trying to disavow them.  I hope to find their names also in the Book of Life.

____________

Note: a retired Navy pilot wrote this piece

Hat tip: Koji-san

All about honor

TPhoenix 001ed Kobayashi was tall for a Japanese, typically thin, gray haired, a bit stooped over, and one thing that really stood out was the fact that his English was flawless.  He worked in the Manpower Management section of the Personnel Department at Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, Japan.  I was privileged to serve as Assistant Director.

The Manpower Management section had undertaken a study of the efficiency of several of our air station support departments, and so I hardly ever saw Ted except when he was en route to, or returning from one of his assessments.  One day I asked him to tell me what he was doing, and he just looked at me with a slight smile and said, “Well, of course I am a Japanese employee of the Marine Corps Air Station, and so my primary purpose here is to make the American civil service employee—my boss, look good.  If I do that, then I can work here for one thousand years.

I laughed because I knew right away that Ted was a straight shooter.  I’ve always appreciated people who weren’t full of their own importance.  I have to say that insofar as most cultures are concerned, I only met a few Japanese who were full of self.  They are mostly down to earth people, humble, and yet —proud at the same time.

Ted helped to extract me from a problem that I created for myself.  I had been working on a report that needed to be completed and forwarded up the chain of command and my Japanese secretary was giving me fits; too many typographical errors.  So when they were corrected, she brought the report back and we discovered new errors.  This went on for a while and then, in frustration, I looked at her and said, Now Fumiko-san … if we cannot fix these errors without making new ones, I may have to order you to commit seppuku.  She bowed as low as I had ever seen her bow before the rushed out of my office.

A few minutes later, Ted came over and said, “May I sit down?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Major, the one thing you have to know about your Japanese secretary is that she is not entitled to have a sense of humor.  Your secretary is convinced that you will order her to commit seppuku if she brings in one more mistake.”

“I was only kidding, Ted.”

“Yes, I told her that … but please, no more joking because you know, she might go and do it, and then how would you feel?”

I could feel the color drain from my face.  “I would feel like shit.”

“Exactly right.  Okay problem solved.  Thank you for offering me coffee …” he was smiling when he left my office.  In one morning, I learned that the Japanese did not understand the American concept of situational humor, or joking, and also that I was a terrible host.  I never joked with Fumiko-san again, and I always made a point of asking Ted if I could get him a cup of coffee.  He never accepted, of course … it was all about being polite.

One day I caught Ted sitting in his office and so I took two cups of coffee and helped myself to a chair next to his desk.  As I set one of the cups in front of him, he smiled and said, “For me?  How nice.”

He sat next to a large window that overlooked the front of the headquarters building.  He’d worked at the Air Station for over 40 years.  He was then in his 60’s and I asked him about retirement.  Most Japanese employees retired at age 55.  He told me he had pulled strings to stay on past his normal retirement age.  He wasn’t interested in retirement.

I think Ted liked the attention I gave him.  Or maybe it was the respect.  He really was a nice man.  He was intelligent, had a dry sense of humor, even if somewhat sarcastic, and an encyclopedia of information; all one had to do to get that information was ask politely.  So when I asked him how in the world he spoke such flawless English, he looked at me for a long moment and he said, “In 40 years, you are the first officer to ask me that.  If you want to know, I’ll tell you.”

I wanted to know.

Ted was born and raised in Southern California.  When he graduated from high school in the summer of 1941, and as he was getting mentally prepared to attend university there, his parents, who had migrated to the United States in the early 1900s, decided that it would be best for Ted to travel back to Japan and pay respect to his grandparents, whom he had not seen in many years.  “I was not too happy with this request, but I had no choice but to do as my parents wanted,” he said.

Once in Japan, however, the Kempeitai would not allow him to leave.  Japan was preparing for war.  Ted was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army.  “I could have refused,” he told me.  “But it would have been a self imposed death sentence after much suffering.”

I was stunned.  He smiled at me and said, “Close your mouth, major.”

Because he was well educated, Ted was put to work in the supply corps.  “I never once fired my weapon at an American,” he said.  But they did send him to one of the Pacific islands: Guam.  That’s where he was captured and interned as a POW.

“I kept my mouth real shut during those days,” he told me.  “I never revealed that I could speak English or understood what was being said around me.  I just smiled a lot, and bowed a lot.  Eventually, I was sent back to Japan after the war was over.”

Art by Lua Sieryu
Art by Lua Sieryu

He told me, “I could not return to America —I had served in the Army that was the enemy of my countrymen.”  I noticed that his eyes were watery.  “No,” he continued, “I could not go back to America.  I have been here ever since.  I never saw my parents again.  Of course, they were interned during the war.  I never revealed my English speaking ability to any American until I was looking for work at the Air Station.  I’ve been here ever since.  And now, I have married and had children here, and grand children … and I have this excellent job working for Americans.

Ted Kobayashi’s story was one of the saddest tales I have ever heard in my life.  I could not imagine being placed in a similar predicament.  Ted was also one of the most honorable men I ever knew.  I respected him, and I enjoyed his friendship.

American Warriors, Past and Present

Greatest Generation WeissWe can thank Tom Brokaw for the term, “Greatest generation.”  It first appeared in his 1988 book of that title, accompanied by his declaration, “It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”  He is, of course, writing about Americans who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II.

I wonder, though … is this true?  What makes Mr. Brokaw the expert, to make such a determination?  He has no advanced degrees; he worked most of his life in television journalism, participating in three televised “news” programs with NBC.  He was, like Walter Cronkite, a newsreader.  Unlike Cronkite, Brokaw never buried himself in the carnage of combat journalism.  When other up and coming journalists went to cover the war in Southeast Asia, Tom Brokaw accepted a position with KNBC Los Angeles.

So once again, what makes Tom Brokaw the expert?  I am asking because it seems to me that there were other generations that we might regard as the greatest, and no one knocked on my door to ask me for my opinion.

Air Cav 001No surprise, Hollywood has picked up on Brokaw’s theme: the big money moguls such as Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks … and it was used quite liberally in the hullaballoo leading up to the film Saving Private Ryan, a fictional story written by Robert Rodat and several books written by the plagiarist and fictionalist Stephen Ambrose.  Just for the sake of argument, contrast anything written by Ambrose or Rodat with the actual account of heroism under fire written by Joe Galloway and Lieutenant General Harold G. Moore (We Were Soldiers Once … and Young).

What is my point?

Vietnam WallMy point is that Tom Brokaw and others of his ilk offer an unforgivable insult to those fine Americans who fought in America’s other wars, both before and after World War II, by claiming that another group were the greatest generation.  Brokaw in effect has informed the young soldier of today that while having lost his or her legs, it was not enough to be regarded by Brokaw as part of this country’s greatest generation; and not only to the soldiers, but also to their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, children, and sweethearts.  This pronouncement is, in my view, utterly profane and foolish.

My next question is for everyone else: why do those of us who claim to value the heroic service of our citizen warriors, both past and present, allow the likes of Tom Brokaw and Steven Spielberg —neither of whom ever served in uniform, to define the value of our veteran’s service to the United States of America?

Real Heroes Don’t Wear Capes

Navy Cross MedalWhile assigned to Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, (then) Corporal Clifford M. Wooldridge (Port Angeles, Washington) distinguished himself in the service to his country while serving in Afghanistan on 18 June 2010.  When his mounted patrol came under intense enemy fire, Corporal Wooldridge and his squad dismounted and maneuvered on the suspected enemy location.  Spotting a group of fifteen enemy fighters preparing an ambush, Wooldridge led one of his fire teams across open ground to flank the enemy, killing or wounding eight of them, and forcing the rest to scatter.

As he held security alone to cover his fire team’s withdrawal, he heard voices from behind an adjacent wall.  Boldly rushing around the corner, he came face to face with two enemy fighters at close range, killing both of them with his M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon.  As he crouched back behind the wall to reload his weapon, he saw the barrel of an enemy machine gun appear from around the wall.  Without hesitation, he dropped his empty weapon and seized the machine gun barrel.  He overwhelmed the enemy fighter in hand to hand combat, killing him with several blows to the head with the enemy’s own weapon.Navy Cross

Wooldridge’s audacious and fearless actions thwarted the enemy attack on his platoon.  By his bold and decisive leadership, undaunted courage under fire, and his total dedication to duty, (now) Sergeant Wooldridge reflected great credit upon himself, and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval service.

American Marines —beating the akbar out of the enemy with their own weapons since the days when Jefferson was president.

Tommy, by Rudyard Kipling

 A Separator 001

Kipling 001Tommy

I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,

The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”

The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,

I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:

O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;

But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,

The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,

O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,

They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;

They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,

But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;

But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,

The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,

O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep

Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;

An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit

Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”

But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,

The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,

O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,

But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;

An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,

Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;

While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,

But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,

There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,

O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:

We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.

Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face

The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”

But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;

An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;

An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!