Victor Maghakian, a legendary World War II Marine who won more than two dozen medals for heroism while serving in the Pacific, died Wednesday [August 17, 1977] in a Fresno hospital. He was 61.
One of the most decorated Leathernecks of the war, Maghakian was wounded twice, earned the nickname “Transport” for his island hopping while fighting with Lt. Col. Evans Carlson and his Raiders and had his exploits portrayed in a major movie.
As a gunnery sergeant, he led his platoon through some of the bloodiest fighting in seven South Pacific campaigns. For his deeds, he was awarded two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts and the Navy Cross, next only to the Medal of Honor in importance.
Maghakian won the Navy Cross during the storming of Makin Island in August 1942 when he became the first Marine to be struck by a Japanese bullet. The raid was memorialized in a book and then was depicted in the film, “Gung Ho.” Maghakian’s part was played by Sam Levene.
Once during an interview, he was asked what made a man in wartime walk fearlessly toward what could be certain death.
“It seems to get you mad. Good and mad. Furious,” he said. “You make up your mind you are going to get that so and so if it costs you a slug in the belly.”
On Guadalcanal, Maghakian got so mad at a hidden sniper he revealed his own position so that his fellow Marine could spot the Japanese and shoot him. He himself was wounded in the hand by the sniper.
A native of Chicago, Maghakian moved to Fresno with his family in 1930. His military career started six years later when he joined the Marines. He was a member of the expeditionary force in Shanghai during the early part of the Sino-Japanese War.
In the interim between his first and second hitches in the Marine Corps, he was employed as a deputy with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department. He reenlisted immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Maghakian ended his military career as a captain. Following the war, he returned to Fresno and operated a service station. He later worked as a State Department security officer stationed in Morocco.
From 1954 to 1974 when he again returned to Fresno, he lived in Las Vegas where he was employed with a hotel and casino. While there, he also served on the Nevada State Game Control Board.
Maghakian belonged to a variety of military organizations, including the Disabled American Veterans, the 4th Marine Division Association and the Marines Memorial Association. He also was a life member of the Elks Lodge and belonged to the Scottish Rite-York Rite Order, the Masonic Lodge and the Shrine.
He is survived by his widow, the former Vera Karoglanian; three brothers, Harry of Fowler, Mike of San Francisco and John of Fresno, and three sisters, Mrs. Ann Purcell of Richard, Va., Mrs. Virginia Garabedian of Fresno and Mrs. Margaret Sarabian of Sanger.
Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church. Burial will be in the Ararat Cemetery.