Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Two Old Veterans, a Stolen Colt 1911, and Two Men of Remarkable Honor

A heart warming story of two old Veterans, two Colt Model 1911 .45s, the Medal of Honor, and being a man of honor.

The two men are George Berry, 71, a retired Navy Warrant Officer, and John J. McGinty, also 71, and a retired Marine. Oh, and a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Vietnam in 1966.

Mr. Berry always wanted to own a classic Colt Model 1911 hand gun. When he finally won an auction for one last year, it had the name “John J. McGinty” stamped on it. So he decided to find out who McGinty was. Which is when he discovered that McGinty was a war hero. The Medal of Honor citation (full citation here) even references the very 1911 .45 Mr. Berry now held in his hands — McGinty, wounded, had used it to kill 5 enemy soldiers who were attacking his position.

Berry wanted to know more about his prized pistol; he wanted to learn the circumstances behind how and why McGinty parted with it. When Berry finally found and contacted McGinty, he learned that the pistol had been stolen from the former Marine more than 30 years ago:

    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.

    Berry 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.

While Mr. McGinty earned the Medal of Honor, Mr. Berry is truly a man of honor for selflessly returning the gun to its rightful owner. But Mr. McGinty showed that he, too is still a man of remarkable honor:

    Turns out that McGinty had a completely original Colt 1911 manufactured in 1918 that had been owned by John Finn, a longtime friend. Out of gratitude for having received his pistol back, he sent the Finn pistol to Medford for Berry to pick up last week.

    “Can’t thank you enough for your kindness,” read a July 24 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.

That Finn pistol had to mean a lot to Mr. McGinty, and it is itself a remarkable piece of history. To let it go tells you a lot about the kind of man that Mr. McGinty obviously is.

Anyhow, this story was one of the best things I’ve read in a while, and wanted to share it with ya’ll. I know many of you will get a smile out of it, too. 

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