Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014


The president had barely settled into his easy chair at the White House when the nation became engulfed in a crime wave capped by armed robberies of the U.S. Mail. Edwin Denby, the only former Marine ever to become Secretary of the Navy called upon 53 officers and 2200 enlisted men of the Marine Corps to keep watch on post offices, railway mail cars, and postal trucks across the country.
After the Marines reached their designated posts, mail robberies came to an abrupt halt. During the four months the Marines stood watch, not a single piece of mail was stolen. Five years later, when mail theft resumed, the Marines returned and put a sudden stop to the robberies.
"You must be brave, as you always are. You must be constantly alert. You must, when on guard duty, keep your weapons in hand and, attacked, shoot and shoot to kill. There is no compromise in this battle with the bandits." To The Men of the Mail Guard, Edwin Denby, 11 November 1921.
Annual Reports of the Navy Department: Reportof the Secretary of the Navy
of the United States. 

There are 82 officers and 2083 enlisted men of the Marine Corps on mail-guard duty. Brig. Gen. Logan Feland, United States Marine Corps, ...
Marines as Mail Guards: A Story Of the Roaring '20s
The history of the United States Marines is nothing if not colorful. From the Mexican War to the Battle of France to the Chosin Reservoir, Marines have earned respect as fighting men. At times the mere presence of Marines has been enough to bring the peace.
One of the more interesting but less well known actions Marines participated in happened in America at a time when there was no FBI and prior to the firm establishment of armed postal inspectors. During the Roaring '20s violent crime was commonplace. Among the institutions hardest hit was the post office. According to the Postmaster General, from April 9, 1920 to April 9, 1921 there were 36 major mail robberies that netted armed perpetrators no less than $6,300,000.
The first response was to arm all outside postal employees. A common arm used in this detail was the Smith and Wesson Model 1917 .45-caliber revolver. These handguns were readily available as surplus from the recent Great War. Guns and ammunition were transferred from the War Department to the post office. The 1917 revolver, a substitute standard handgun of the U.S. Army, was used not only by the U.S. Postal Service but by the United States Border Patrol. In some cases it was issued directly to bank tellers.
Despite the arming of post office employees, $300,000 dollars was stolen from April to October 1921, during which postal employees and a few robbers were slain. The Postmaster General appealed to the president. A special request was delivered to the Secretary of the Navy. Almost immediately, Marines were detailed to the post office to guard trains, trucks, main buildings and isolated transfer stations.
The Marine action was no token show. Nor was it a small scale operation. The Marines were serious, heavily armed, and in a high state of readiness. The original contingent consisted of 53 officers and 2,200 enlisted men dispatched throughout the country. Post office robberies stopped immediately. No one wished to face armed, ready Marines. The first Marine guard action ended in March 1922.
The nation was divided for this purpose into two zones, eastern and western. Dividing lines were clearly marked. Williston, N.D., Green River, Wyo., Denver, Colo., El Paso, Texas and Albuquerque, N.M., were cities considered borders of the Western Mail Guard. Eastern units came from the Expeditionary Force. This crack unit was stationed at Quantico, but two companies were seconded for the mail assignment from Parris Island. Brigadier General Logan Feland commanded the Eastern Zone, which was divided into three areas. The First Regiment covered New York, the Tenth Regiment, Chicago, and the Southern Area was headquartered in Atlanta.
Experience gained in this exercise served veteran Marines well in 1926, when events again called for serious action when a mailtruck driver was brutally murdered in Elizabeth, N.J. President Calvin Coolidge issued an executive order calling for Marines to once again ride the rails and protect the post office. General Smedley Butler, a respected combat Marine, Congressional Medal of Honor holder, and veteran of World War I and various South American guerrilla wars, commanded the Western Mail Guards. Primarily he utilized the 4th Marines, which he spread through 11 states and part of Texas. These Marines soon became familiar sights on mail trucks and trains in the West. Obviously, they were a sobering influence on the criminal element. During the tenure of the Marines as mail guards only one robbery attempt was made -- on an empty, unguarded train!
The presence of high-profile Marine guards allowed the post office to operate normally. By January 1927, Marines began to return to their home bases. While the mail guards were welcomed by the population, they had seen no action. By Feb. 18, 1927 all Marines were off guard duty. Many were soon on the way to protect American interests in China and Nicaragua.
In the years between Marine guard actions, the post office hired civilian guards, but no guards were ever as effective at dissuading robbers as the Marines. In comparison to most police agencies the Marines were exceptionally well trained. (Police agencies of the day expected peace officers to come to the job trained!) Just as important, there were no federal police agencies in those days. No one had authority to pursue felons outside of a limited jurisdiction. The Marines were another matter. Most police agencies used the .38 revolver and perhaps a shotgun. My research shows the Marines wisely relied mainly upon two of the finest short-range weapons of all time. The main weapon was the 12-gauge shotgun. These guns were short-barrel Winchester 97s, the estimable "trench guns" of World War I fame, proven in Europe and South America. The other weapon relied upon was the Colt Government Model .45 automatic, a weapon that needs little introduction. This pistol had been widely used in Mexico and Europe with excellent effect. No other pistol combined such excellent stopping power, complete reliability and excellent hit probability in trained hands.
General Logan Feland issued a circular letter on Dec. 13, 1921 that carried instructions for conduct by all Marines on guard duty. The instructions were detailed, including guidelines for passing through Canada. The official title of the detachment was, "US Marines Corps Guard Company, Washington, DC."
Tactical instructions were explicit. Railroad flares were kept for emergency signaling if the train were attacked. If attacked, all interior lights were to be put out, by gunfire if necessary. Shotguns were to be carried with a full magazine and chamber empty. The Colt .45 was to be carried properly, cocked and locked (hammer back, safety on) with a loaded chamber. The commandant ordered that the military flap holster would be worn with the flap folded back so as not to interfere with a rapid draw from the holster. If not carrying other arms, it was recommended guards keep their hand on the Colt .45 at all times.
The Marines have a long history worthy of praise. This small episode was simply business as usual for them, but it is worth a little attention. Without a shot fired, Marines brought the peace. If we need the Marines again, they are always ready...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Henry Gurke
United States Marine Corps
Received the Medal of Honor - Posthumously
Private First Class Henry Gurke (November 6, 1922 - November 9, 1943) was a United States Marine who was killed in action in 1943 in the Bougainville Campaign of World War II. For his heroic actions, he was posthumously received the Medal of Honor - the highest military honor bestowed by the United States.


Henry Gurke was born in Neche, North Dakota on November 6, 1922. Baptized in the Lutheran Church, he attended the local schools. After graduation from high school in 1940, he entered the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in July and was stationed in Larimore, North Dakota. He stayed in the CCC until October 1941 and rose to the position of Assistant Leader, then returned to Neche where he drove a two-ton truck until his enlistment in the United States Marine Corps on April 15, 1942.

Private Gurke went through recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, then went into the 2d Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion of the 22nd Marines and was in C Battery only one month before shipping overseas on the SS Lurline on July 30, 1942 - three and a half months after his enlistment in the Marines. He landed at Apia, Upolu, British Samoa, one month later. Within two weeks the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Marines, with Pvt Gurke's battery attached, went to Uvea Island of the Wallis Islands to relieve the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, which left to rejoin the 1st Marine Division then engaged in the grueling fight for Guadalcanal. In September 1942, Pvt Gurke was transferred to Company D, 3rd Raider Battalion. After four months at Wallis, the Raiders left for Pago Pago, American Samoa, stayed there about three weeks, then moved south to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides, landing there in January 1943.

The following month the Raiders went over to Guadalcanal for a few days en route to the Russell Islands. This was not to be the hoped, for and long, prepared, for combat though. Pavuvu Island in the Russells was occupied without opposition by Pvt Gurke's battalion from February 21, to March 18, 1943. The battalion returned to Espiritu Santo in March. On August 1, 1943, Gurke was promoted to private first class.

Transferred to Company M, 3rd Raider Battalion, 2nd Raider Regiment of the I Marine Amphibious Corps in June, PFC Gurke was at Nouma, New Caledonia, in October and finally met the enemy at Bougainville in November. He "celebrated" his 21st birthday on November 6, 1943 and three days later gave his life for a fellow Marine and for the country he had served well for the past nineteen months.

Private First Class Gurke was in a shallow two?man foxhole with a fellow Marine, a Browning Automatic Rifle-man (BAR man), around dawn of November 9, 1943, delivering a fierce stream of fire against the advancing Japanese in defense of a vital road block in the area near Empress Augusta Bay. Judging from the increased ferocity of the enemy grenade attack, that the enemy was determined to annihilate him and his buddy because of the fierce effective fire they were rendering, PFC Gurke roughly thrust his companion aside when a Japanese grenade landed in their foxhole and threw himself on the deadly missile. For his unswerving devotion to duty and uncommon valor in the face of the enemy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to PFC Gurke.

The medal was presented to his parents at ceremonies in the Navy Department on May 31, 1944. The Assistant Secretary of the Navy made the presentation in the name of the President.

In 1945, the destroyer USS Gurke (DD-783) was named in PFC Gurke's honor.

The body of PFC Gurke was originally buried at Bougainville, later moved to Munda, New Georgia, and then to Finschhafen, New Guinea, and was finally returned for burial in Neche Union Cemetery in Neche, North Dakota.

Medal of Honor citation

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
For extraordinary heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Third Marine Raider Battalion during action against the enemy Japanese Forces in the Solomon Islands area on November 9, 1943. While his platoon was engaged in the defense of a vital road block near Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville Island, Private First Class Gurke, in company with another Marine, was delivering a fierce stream of fire against the main vanguard of the Japanese. Concluding from the increasing ferocity of grenade barrages that the enemy was determined to annihilate their shallow, two-man foxhole, he resorted to a bold and desperate measure for holding out despite the torrential hail of shells. When a Japanese grenade dropped squarely into the foxhole, Private First Class Gurke, mindful that his companion manned an automatic weapon of superior fire power and therefore could provide more effective resistance, thrust him roughly aside and flushing his own body over the missile to smother the explosion. With unswerving devotion to duty and superb valor, Private First Class Gurke sacrificed himself in order that his comrade might live to carry on the fight. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Happy Valentine Day!
Express LOVE with cards, flowers, 
chocolates and double on LOVE!

In 1797, a British publisher issued The Young Man's Valentine Writer, which contained scores of suggested sentimental verses for the young lover unable to compose his own. Printers had already begun producing a limited number of cards with verses and sketches, called "mechanical valentines," and a reduction in postal rates in the next century ushered in the less personal but easier practice of mailing Valentines. That, in turn, made it possible for the first time to exchange cards anonymously, which is taken as the reason for the sudden appearance of racy verse in an era otherwise prudishly Victorian.

Paper Valentines became so popular in England in the early 19th century that they were assembled in factories. Fancy Valentines were made with real lace and ribbons, with paper lace introduced in the mid-19th century. In 1835, 60,000 Valentine cards were sent by post in Britain, despite postage being expensive. Laura Seddon Greeting Card Collection from the Manchester Metropolitan University gathers 450 Valentine's Day cards dating from the early nineteenth century, printed by the major publishers of the day The collection is cataloged in Laura Seddon's book Victorian Valentines (1996).

In the United States, the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced and sold shortly after 1847 by Esther Howland (1828-1904) of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father operated a large book and stationery store, but Howland took her inspiration from an English Valentine she had received from a business associate of her father. Intrigued with the idea of making similar Valentines, Howland began her business by importing paper lace and floral decorations from England. A writer in Graham's American Monthly observed in 1849, "Saint Valentine's Day ... is becoming, nay it has become, a national holyday." The English practice of sending Valentine's cards was established enough to feature as a plot device in Elizabeth Gaskell's Mr. Harrison's Confessions (1851): "I burst in with my explanations: 'The valentine I know nothing about.' 'It is in your handwriting', said he coldly." Since 2001, the Greeting Card Association has been giving an annual "Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary".
Since the 19th century, handwritten notes have given way to mass-produced greeting cards. In the UK, just under half of the population spend money on their Valentines and around 1.3 billion pounds are spent yearly on cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts, with an estimated 25 million cards being sent. The mid-19th century Valentine's Day trade was a harbinger of further commercialized holidays in the United States to follow.

In the second half of the 20th century, the practice of exchanging cards was extended to all manner of gifts. Such gifts typically include roses and chocolates packed in a red satin, heart-shaped box. In the 1980s, the diamond industry began to promote Valentine's Day as an occasion for giving jewelry.

The U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US. Half of those valentines are given to family members other than husband or wife, usually to children. When you include the valentine-exchange cards made in school activities the figure goes up to 1 billion, and teachers become the people receiving the most valentines.

The rise of Internet popularity at the turn of the millennium is creating new traditions. Millions of people use, every year, digital means of creating and sending Valentine's Day greeting messages such as e-cards, love coupons or printable greeting cards. An estimated 15 million e-valentines were sent in 2010. Valentine's Day is considered by some to be a Hallmark holiday due to its commercialization.
In the modern era, liturigically, the Anglican Church has a service for St. Valentine's Day (the Feast of St. Valentine), which includes the optional rite of the renewal of marriage vows.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

John J. McGinty III, USMC

Awarded the Medal of Honor

McGinty died from cancer on

January 17, 2014 - age 73

Captain John James McGinty III (January 21, 1940 - January 17, 2014) was a United States Marine Corps officer who received the United States militaries' highest decoration " the Medal of Honor " for heroism during July 1966 in the Vietnam War.

Early life and education

John McGinty was born on January 21, 1940 in Boston, Massachusetts. He completed grammar school in Louisville, Kentucky in 1955, and attended high school in Louisville for a year and a half prior to enlisting in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on February 19, 1957.

Military service

Upon Discharging from the Marine Corps Reserve, he enlisted in the Marine Corps as active duty on March 3, 1958.

He completed recruit training with the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. He then went to advanced infantry combat training with Company M, 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry Training Regiment, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was promoted to private first class in September 1957, and was transferred to the 7th Infantry Company, USMCR, Louisville, Kentucky, to serve as a rifleman until March 1958.

Private First Class McGinty completed the Noncommissioned Officers Leadership School, Camp Pendleton, California in May 1958. He was then ordered to Marine Barracks, U.S. Naval Station, Kodiak, Alaska until May 1959. While stationed in Alaska, he was promoted to Corporal in September 1958.

Transferred to the 1st Marine Division in June 1959, he saw duty as a rifleman leader, and later, squad leader with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. Upon his return to the United States, he served as Guard/Company Police Sergeant, H&S Battalion, FMF, Atlantic, at Norfolk, Virginia, until March 1962.

From there, he was ordered to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, and assigned duty as Drill Instructor, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion. He was promoted to Sergeant in August 1962.

From November 1964 until December 1965, Sgt McGinty saw duty as Assistant Brig Warden, Marine Barracks, U.S. Naval Base, Norfolk, Virginia.

Sergeant McGinty was ordered to the West Coast for transfer to the Far East. Joining the 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, in the Republic of Vietnam in April 1966, he served successively as a platoon sergeant and platoon commander, Company K, 3rd Battalion, as S-2 Officer and Operation Chief, H&S Company, 3rd Battalion, and as Operations Chief, with Headquarters Company, 4th Marines. It was in 1966, during Operation Hastings, that McGinty distinguished himself in the actions for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Upon his return to the United States in May 1967, he reported to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina. He served as a drill instructor until his promotion to second lieutenant on August 8, 1967. The following day, he assumed his assignment as Series Officer, 1st Recruit Battalion, at the Recruit Depot, Parris Island.

On March 12, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson presented the Medal of Honor to 2ndLt McGinty in a ceremony at the White House in which fellow Marine Robert J. Modrzejewski was also honored.

Captain McGinty retired from the Marine Corps in October 1976.

Later life

In the 1980s McGinty felt that there was a conflict between wearing his Medal of Honor (which bears the image of the Roman goddess Minerva) and his new-found Christian faith. Some news agencies reported that McGinty wanted to return his Medal of Honor.

McGinty died at his home in Beaufort, South Carolina on January 17, 2014. The cause was bone cancer.

Pistol stolen and later returned

McGinty's USMC M1911 pistol, mentioned in his Medal of Honor citation, was stolen from a display in 1978. In 2011, history buff George Berry purchased the pistol from an auction. Curious about the name engraved on the pistol, Berry contacted McGinty and subsequently returned the pistol to its rightful owner. McGinty sent back another M1911 pistol along with a Medal of Honor challenge coin in gratitude.

Awards and decorations

A complete list of his medals and decorations includes: the Medal of Honor, the Purple Heart, the Good Conduct Medal with two bronze stars, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Presidential Unit Citation, 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.

Medal of Honor citation

The official Medal of Honor citation reads
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, Second Lieutenant 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 fire power routed the enemy, who left an estimated 500 bodies on the battlefield. Second Lieutenant 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.


On May 19, 2004, the South Carolina General Assembly passed Bill 5281, a resolution "commend[ing] the extraordinary heroism of Marine Staff Sergeant John J. McGinty III, a native of Massachusetts who entered the service in South Carolina, and who was awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam Conflict for Valor."