Saturday, August 20, 2011

Marine, Medal of Honor Recipient, Reunited with Stolen Weapon

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Here's a story to warm the cockles of your heart...

A historic Colt .45-caliber, semi-automatic pistol stolen more than 30 years ago from a Medal of Honor winner recipient in South Carolina has been returned to its rightful owner.

The gun and owner were reunited after a history buff in Medford, who bought the old handgun in an online auction last month, tracked down the retired Marine whose name is engraved on it.

Pretty cool, huh? I'd guess there'd be some people who would see a weapon like that, engraved with the name of a Medal of Honor recipient and see dollar signs. This guy just saw the right thing to do.

"I knew if I found him and it was his gun, I couldn't keep it," said George Berry, 71, who knew little about the history of the gun when he purchased it from an auction house in Pennsylvania.

The story begins when Berry, a retired Navy warrant officer who also served in the Marine Corps, decided this summer to fulfill a lifelong dream of owning one of the historic handguns.

"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."

Early in July, he began searching the Internet and discovered that Alderfer Auction, a well-known auction firm in Hatfield, Pa., would be offering three of the Colt .45s in a July 12 auction.

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."

You can read John McGinty's MoH citation here.

The pistol had been reblued, was missing its original sights or grips. It sold for a lot less at the auction than two other .45s. The new owner started searching the Internet to see what he could find out about this fellow whose name was on the pistol. Turns out, John McGinty had been awarded the Medal of Honor, and that very pistol was mentioned in his citation for the Medal.

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.

So, John McGinty was reunited with the pistol that saved his life and George Berry, the man who returned it to him refused to take any money for it. It was just the right thing to do.
Read the rest here.

H/T Support Your Local Gunfighter


  1. I saw this the other day at SYLG - really nice story.

  2. Yeah. I thought about just including it in the next Medal of Honor post on McGinty, but that was still 2-3 months away. (I do them in alphabetical order, by war) I thought this story was more timely.


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