BIG JOHN MALNAR, USMC-KIA 1968


Dedicated to the Malnar and Spudich family's and honors all men and women lost to war.

On May 2, 1991, exactly twenty-three years after he died a hero's death helping to repel an enemy counterattack, a brand new multi million dollar, state of the art, training facility at Camp Lejeune - Camp Geiger, North Carolina NC was named in honor of Sergeant Major John M. Malnar.

Malnar was killed in action during the battle of Daido on May 2, 1968. "Big John", who earned his second Silver Star at Daido, played a key role during the bloody three day battle in which under-strength Battalion Landing Team, Second Battalion, 4th Marines soundly defeated major elements of the crack 320th NVA division. Malnar earned his first Silver Star as a squad leaded in Korea in 1950. During his 25 years in the Corps which spanned World War 2, Korea, and Vietnam "Big John" also earned two Bronze Stars and four Purple Hearts.

Officiating at the ceremony was Lieutenant General Carl E. Mundy, Jr., presently Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic. General Mundy who was recently nominated to become Commandant of the Marine Corps, commanded the Second Battalion, 4th Marines during the early 1970’s. Also attending were a number of former Marines and Sailors who served with Malnar throughout his career, including retired Brigadier General William Weise, Malnar’s commanding officer at the time he was killed. General Weise spoke of Malnar’s outstanding leadership and how he inspired everyone in the Battalion.

Honored guests at the ceremony included Malnar’s bother, Melvin, twelve other family members of his family, and forty friends who traveled from his home town area of Sawyerville, Illinois. Sergeant major Malnar’s family has sacrificed more than most to defend our great nation. His immigrant father, George, was wounded in France during World War 1. His Marine brother, Eugene. was killed fighting on Okinawa in World War 2. His uncle John Spudich, 11, US Army, was killed fighting on Luzon in World War 11. His cousin John Spudich, 111, also a Marine, was killed in Korea.

The School of Infantry provides advanced combat training to all Boot Camp graduates, specialized training to infantry Marines, and a rigorous for infantry platoon sergeants.



These remarks were made by Brigadier General William Weise, USMC (Retired), at the dedication of the Sergeant Major John M. Malnar training facility, Camp Lejeune - Camp Geiger on May 2, 1991.

BIG JOHN MALNAR SERGEANT MAJOR OF MARINES

Who was John Malnar? He was one helluva Marine, a tiger in combat. Two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars and four Purple Hearts testify to that. Barely 17 when he enlisted in 1943 at the height of World War 11, he couldn’t wait to see action. He saw plenty at Tinian and Okinawa. He followed a tradition that was common to his family and the small town of Sawyerville, Illinois where he was raised.

His father, an immigrant from Yugoslavia, fought for his adopted country in World War 1 and was wounded. On the day he turned 17, October 18, 1943, John hitchhiked from Sawyerville to Carlinville, Illinois to have his name changed from Marion John Malnar to John Marion Malnar. He felt the name Marion was too feminine a name for a Marine. Then he took a trolley to St. Louis to enlist in the Corps. He found that he needed his parents ‘ consent because he was only 17, even though he passed the physical with flying colors. After convincing his parents to sign their approval he returned to Saint-Louis where he was finally sworn in on November 15, 1943. His older bother, Eugene, was already a Marine and had seen action in the Pacific. Eugene was killed in action in Naha City during the Battle of Okinawa. His uncle, John Spudich 11, a soldier, would be killed fighting in the Philippines on Luzon. Later, his cousin, John Spudich 111, another Marine would be killed in the Battle of Seoul. September 1950. As a teenager, John participated in the invasions of Tinian and Okinawa.

It’s not surprising then that John Malnar would distinguish himself as a combat leader and pay the ultimate price to help his brother Marines. Sergeant Major “Big John” Malnar was killed during the Battle of Dai Do 2 May 1968. He played a key role in the defeat of the 320th North Vietnamese Army Division by the under strengthened Battalion Landing Team 2/4. (See MCG, September 1987.) I was privileged to be his battalion commander. My last recollection of him, just prior to me being wounded, was seeing him firing his shotgun and hurling grenades to help stop an enemy counterattack against our forward position. He had also helped a number of wounded Marines and directed their evacuation to the rear. He could of easily saved himself (I ordered him the rear.) But he chose to stay in the forward exposed position to cover the withdrawal of the wounded.

But Daido was merely the culmination of many heroic acts. Eighteen years earlier as a squad leader with George Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, then Sergeant Malnar landed at Inchon. The day of the landing, September 15, 1950, his platoon found itself trapped in a ravine, subjected to heavy enemy fire.

The only exit was through a heavy barbed wire obstacle at the crest of the ravine. Malnar and another Marine volunteered to move forward and cut a path through the wire, fully exposed to enemy fire. His buddy was killed but Sergeant Malnar succeeded in cutting a breech through which his platoon could move forward. This action resulted in Malnar’s first Bronze Star.

A few days later his squad, part of a tank-infantry team came under machine gun, small arms, and antitank fire from a small well concealed an enemy company entrenched on the surrounding high ground. The sudden fire forced Malnar’s squad and the other attacking units to take cove. Sergeant Malnar could not contact the tank crew because the infantry telephone had been cut away. Without hesitation, Malnar leaped to the top of the tank, fully exposed to enemy fire. As bullets struck the tank all around, he coolly loaded the tanks external .50 caliber and began to fire on enemy positions with devastating accuracy, destroying an enemy machine gun and it’s crew. Remaining fully exposed, he encouraged his squad and other elements to move forward in a successful assault against the dug-in enemy. Malnar was awarded the Silver Star for this action.

On September 25, 1950 Malnar led a patrol of eighteen marines ahead of his company into the outskirts of Seoul. Passing under a railroad trestle, the patrol was hit by enemy small arms fire, wounding seven. Malnar grabbed an automatic rifle from one of the wounded marines and returned fire. He ordered his able bodied patrol members to pull the wounded to safety while he drew enemy fire to himself and continued to blast away with the BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle). He continued to fire even after he was hit five times in the leg. He was the last one dragged to safety. Malnar received his second Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a year in the hospital for this final action.

In just 10 days of combat, Malnar received a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart. Incidentally, as soon as he returned to duty in 1951, Malnar wrote a letter requesting reassignment to the First Marine Division in Korea. His request was denied as was another the following year.

As remarkable as his individual feats of heroism were, his leadership accomplishments –peace and war—are an even richer heritage. Wounds suffered in Korea left one leg shorted than the other by two inches, requiring a thick elevator sole on one of Malnar’s boots. I’m certain that his injured leg hurt frequently, especially on the long marches with heavy loads during combat operations in Vietnam. But Sergeant Malnar never complained.

He was a big man –over six feet tall and more than 200 pounds—hence his nickname, “Big John”. He was very strong and could easily lift a Marine off his feet by his lapels. But he wasn’t the type to use his size and strength to intimidate people. Although strong and forceful, he was also compassionate, a good listener, and took care of his troops before he cared for himself.

He was a professional. He knew his job well and was an excellent teacher. He always gave his mission top priority and expected everyone else to do the same.

He never stopped learning. He had a healthy curiosity about new equipment, techniques, tactics, and ideas.

He kept informed. He knew what was going on: on the battlefield; at the command post; at sickbay; in the com-shack; at supply; in the trenches. He also tapped into that unique network of senior non-commissioned leaders that provided information about regiment, division, and III MAF.

He got to know the battalion staff and me very well. He knew how I thought and seemed to sense my decisions before I spoke them. I liked to use him as a sounding board before I issued orders. He always seemed to have some common sense, solid suggestion to contribute.

He suffered no fools and could be very forceful when needed. He exacted the highest personal standards of proficiency and conduct of himself and others. But he could listen to subordinates and help them solve their problems. When necessary, he’d bring a problem to my attention, but he always had a suggested solution.

Most of all, he seemed to know the right thing to do. Whenever we halted in the field he immediately positioned individual members of the CP group tactically. He knew exactly how to tie in with security elements of one of the forward rifle companies so that our CP group did not require a special “body guard”. Every member of the CP was always ready to fight and this paid off handsomely at DaiDo.

When I was busy fighting a battle he could talk to the regiment commander or operations officer and tell them what was going on. He trained our CP radio operators to do the same.

He led by example. He never would order someone to do something that he wouldn’t do himself. He inspired others to stretch themselves beyond the limits of their capabilities.

Most of all he loved being a Marine and he loved the Marines and Sailors in his outfit. He loved them so much that he was willing to die for them. There is no greater love than that.

So, Big John Malnar, those of us who knew you, love you with a love that only those who have fought and bled together can share. We know that your spirit lives on, not only in this beautiful new training facility which bears your name, but in the lives of those you have inspired and who in turn inspire others to carry on in the Marine Corps tradition.

I would also like to pay tribute to Big John’s brother, Melvin, and the other members of his family here today, and to all his friends who traveled so many miles to be here to honor this great Marine and outstanding American. I especially thank Ms. Helen Richards who worked so hard to plan and organize the trip from Benld and Sawyerville. We know that you, helped mold Sergeant Major Malnar into what he was. We know that you, your sons and daughters, and your ancestors have always been willing to fight for and serve our great nation – that Big John Malnar is but one example of the many from your community who have died for our nation. Thank you. We can never repay our debt to you. We can only give thanks that you are Americans.

Brig General William Weise, USMC, Retired


Rest now Babe,
Your family.


Big John Links

Memories of Dai Do by Brig General William Weise, USMC, Retired, explains in detail the battle that John was killed fighting in.

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The Magnificent Bastards 2/4 U. S. MARINE Association

Amgrunt's Favorite Links

Our Battalion Sgt. Major, “Big John” Malnar

Macoupin County ILGenWeb Project


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