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Victor Maghakian
Native name Վիգդոր Մաղաքեան
Nickname Transport
Born (1915-12-30)December 30, 1915
Died August 17, 1977(1977-08-17) (aged 61)
Place of birth Chicago, Illinois
Place of death Fresno, California
Buried at Armenian Ararat Cemetery (36°44′44″N 119°50′04″W / 36.74559°N 119.834365°W / 36.74559; -119.834365Coordinates: 36°44′44″N 119°50′04″W / 36.74559°N 119.834365°W / 36.74559; -119.834365)
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1936–1939
Rank Captain
Service number 251055
Unit Second Marine Raider Battalion

Sino-Japanese War
World War II:

Awards Navy Cross ribbon Navy Cross
Silver Star ribbon Silver Star (2)
Bronze Star ribbon Bronze Star (2)
Purple Heart BAR Purple Heart (2)
US Navy Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon Presidential Unit Citation (3)
Navy Unit Commendation ribbon Navy Unit Commendation
Marine Corps Good Conduct ribbon Good Conduct Medal
American Defense Service ribbon American Defense
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon Asiatic-Pacific Campaign (7)
Other work Hotel executive, security consultant and member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board

Victor Maghakian, also known as Captain Victor "Transport" Maghakian (Armenian language: Վիգդոր Մաղաքեան ) (December 30, 1915 – August 17, 1977), was an Armenian American member of the United States Marine Corps during World War II.[1][2][3] Having been awarded over two dozen medals, he is considered one of the most decorated American soldiers of the war.[2][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]


Victor Maghakian was born in December 30, 1915 in Chicago, Illinois to an Armenian family and was the oldest of four brothers and three sisters.[12] Maghakian's great-grandfather was a caravan driver in the Middle-East and was respected for his military prowess.[12] It is noted that his great-grandfather killed 112 enemy Turkish soldiers in his lifetime.[12] Maghakian's father worked in the steel mill.[12] Victor took up much of the responsibility of raising his younger siblings. It was noted by his sister in 2008 that "he was a quiet and dedicated man and was always very calm, except for war. He was such a giving man."[12] In 1930 the Maghakian family moved to San Diego, California where he originally decided to join the United States Navy. However on the way to see the recruiter, Maghakian stopped by to watch Pride of the Marines (1936) starring Charles Bickford. After gaining inspiration from the movie, Maghakian decided not to join the Navy and instead enlist in the Marines.[12] Having lived in San Diego for nine years, the Maghakian family moved to Fresno, California where they lived next to the family of famed writer William Saroyan on the corner of M Street and Monterrey Avenue in Old Armenia Town.[2][13][14]

In 1936, after Maghakian was enlisted in the Marine Corps, he was sent to Asia. He was stationed in the Philippines and China for four years.[13] During the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) he was a member of the expedition force in Shanghai.[5] After being sent to many countries, Maghakian's understanding of foreign bases and societies earned him the nickname "Transport".[13] Other sources say however that he was nicknamed as such because he handled transportation vehicles well.[12] In 1939 Maghakian returned to Fresno where he became a Fresno County deputy sheriff and was assigned to safeguard power installations and dams of the California Edison Company near the Sierra Nevada.[4][13] Upon hearing news of the Pearl Harbor attack and America's subsequent participation in the war effort, Maghakian reenlisted in the Marine Corps on January 3, 1942.[4][13] His brothers Harry and Michael also enlisted.[5] During his service with the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions and the Raiders, Maghakian fought in seven major battles and was wounded three times.[11]

After his participation in World War II, Maghakian became 60 percent disabled. He was a patient of the U.S. Naval hospital in Quantico, Virginia in October 1945.[4] He then went for more treatment at the Naval hospital in Philadelphia.[4] In 1946 he was subsequently discharged from military duty as a Captain.[4][8][13] He returned to Fresno and later moved to Las Vegas where he became a hotel executive and a security consultant from 1954 to 1974.[8][10][13] He was also a member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.[8]

In 1974 Maghakian returned to Fresno and died in August 17, 1977 at the age of 61. He is buried in the Armenian Ararat Cemetery in Fresno.[15]

World War IIEdit

During the war in 1942, Victor Maghakian immediately applied to join the Second Marine Raider Battalion under the command of Colonel Evans Carlson.[7] Maghakian was already acquainted with Carlson during his previous service as a Marine.[14] The Battalion was known for its tough stance on accepting only the best Marines wherein out of 15,000 applications, 900 were accepted which included Maghakian.[13] The Battalion conducted harsh training exercises which included mountain climbing, beach landings, martial arts and 30–50 mile daily hikes.[13]

Makin Island raidEdit

The first mission of the Battalion was to deceive the Japanese enemy soldiers in believing that a large number of American troops were going to invade Makin Island of the Gilbert Islands.[13] This event would soon be known as the Makin Island raid. Out of 900 members of the Battalion, Maghakian was selected as one of the 222.[13] The raid was launched on August 17, 1942 as Maghakian led the charge onto the beachhead with a landing force but was the first casualty in this operation suffering from a forearm wound when wave his hand for instructions.[12][13][16] As the battle continued, Maghakian wrapped up his forearm wounds and was struggling to remain conscious. Nevertheless, he managed to repulse an enemy attack with a grenade and bayoneted Japanese soldiers.[13] After receiving first aid and defying orders, he returned to the front fifteen minutes later and remained there while leading his men until directed by the Medical Officer to return to the rear.[12][17] Due to his efforts during the raid, he was awarded with the Navy Cross by the United States Navy, the second highest military decoration for valor and extraordinary heroism in combat.[18]

Guadalcanal CampaignEdit

After the raid was over, Maghakian along with other marines received treatment at Pearl Harbor.[14] His name was put on a list of soldiers that were to be returned home. When Maghakian overheard about the plans for the campaign of Guadalcanal, Maghakian immediately contacted Evans Carlson and expressed his desire to join the campaign. Within an hour, Maghakian was taken off the return list. Although his arm was still in a cast as a result of his forearm injury, he was shipped to Guadalcanal two weeks later.[14] During the campaign, Maghakian and other Raiders were ambushed under hostile sniper and machine gun fire by Japanese troops. One of the machine gunners managed to mortally wound his companion Jack Miller. In order to seek vengeance, Maghakian stood up and made himself look visible so that the enemy soldiers would come out of their hiding spots.[19] As soon as the enemy soldiers appeared, they were immediately killed by the Raiders.[13] Due to an ambush, Maghakian was eventually wounded in the wrist and the watch he was wearing became imbedded in his skin and bone.[13][14] After the campaign, Maghakian returned to the United States mainland and spent two months in a Navy Hospital in Oakland, California.[14] During this time, Maghakian married his wife Vera Karaoglanian (June 29, 1916 - March 20, 1984).[14]

Battle of KwajaleinEdit

On January 1944 Maghakian volunteered to participate in another assault mission. The assault would be on Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands in what would be known as the Battle of Kwajalein. On January 31 the Marine Corps landed on the island and within an hour managed to kill 18 Japanese soldiers and take two prisoners. It was Maghakian who killed the last five enemy soldiers who were encamped in a trench in the northernmost point of the islet.[14] In regards to the campaign, Maghakian was quoted as saying, "It was an easy job, like shooting fish in a barrel. I simply fired 30 rounds with my carbine and threw a grenade, and that was all. Not very interesting."[14]

Battle of EniwetokEdit


Sgt. Victor Maghakian in July 1944 with Japanese soldier's family found hiding in a cave and urged to come out by Chamorro guides with Marine units in Saipan.

After the success of the Battle of Kwajalein, Maghakian and the Marine scouts landed on the Eniwetok Atoll, an island 350 miles north of Kwajalein in February 1944.[12][14] As the scouts were hopping from island to island on the Atoll and managed to take control of six islands.[14] Orders soon arrived to secure more islands in the south. As the scouts were patrolling the islets at 0800 hours, the company smelled smoke that was distinguishable from Navy shelling. When following the footprints that were spotted on the beach shore, it led the platoon to a pile of palm fronds under a coconut tree.[14] The platoon was ambushed by Japanese machine gun fire. Maghakian managed to gun down the ambushers with his carbine.[14] As the battle ensued, Maghakian killed the last four Japanese soldiers on Mellu island. During the battle, Maghakian saved the life of Lee Marvin, a soldier who would be later known as a famous American actor.[13] During the night, numerous Japanese soldiers attempted to attack the Marine encampment. However, these efforts ended in failure with seventeen Japanese soldiers dead.[14] Maghakian managed to kill twelve Japanese soldiers by the end of the campaign.[14]

Battle of TinianEdit

When orders were received to seize the island of Tinian of the Mariana Islands, the task was given to the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions.[20] The seizure which would become known as the Battle of Tinian from 24 July 1944 to 1 August 1944 and would take ten days for the island to be secured.[4] It was Maghakian who raised the American flag on Tinian Island after the Allied victory.[13]

Battle of SaipanEdit

Maghakian was either in the third or fourth wave of Marines to land on the beaches of Saipan. Landing while under heavy enemy artillery and motar fire, the Marines dug in and fought throughout the day and night.[4] The Marines managed to capture a Japanese aircraft field at the southern tip of the island.[4] It took a total of twenty-six days to secure the island. He was sent to the United States for treatment.[4]

Awards and decorationsEdit

Navy Cross ribbon.svg Navy Cross
Gold star
Silver Star ribbon.svg
Silver Star Medal with gold 5/16 inch star (two awards)
Gold star
Bronze Star ribbon.svg
Bronze Star Medal with gold 5/16 inch star (two awards)
Gold star
Purple Heart BAR.svg
Purple Heart with gold 5/16 inch star (two awards)
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
Gold star
Gold star
US Navy Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.png
Presidential Unit Citation with two gold 5/16 inch stars (three awards)
China Service Medal ribbon.svg China Service Medal
Navy Unit Commendation ribbon.svg Navy Unit Commendation
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
Marine Corps Good Conduct ribbon.svg Good Conduct Medal
American Defense Service ribbon.svg American Defense Service Medal
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign with one silver and two bronze 3/16 inch campaign stars (seven campaigns)[5][11][14][21]


In 1981 the outpatient clinic of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Fresno, California was named after him.[11][22] The opening ceremony of the clinic was attended by Lee Marvin who during a speech stated, "most of us stayed alive due to his excellent training. He was truly a sergeant who cared for his men."[12]

The 1943 film Gung Ho was based on the Makin Island raid led by Lieutenant Colonel Evans Carlson's 2nd Marine Raider Battalion which Victor Maghakian participated in.[7][8] Maghakian's role was played by famed actor Sam Levene.[11] Maghakian was also the technical advisor to the movie.[11][12]

On September 17, 1996 during the 2nd Session of the 104th Congress, House of Representative George Radanovich paid tribute to Victor Maghakian's dedication and service to the United States Military during World War II.[13]


  1. Demirjian, Richard N. (1996). Triumph and glory : Armenian World War II heroes. Moraga, Calif.: Ararat Heritage Publ.. p. 145. ISBN 9780962294518. Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Bulbulian, Berge (2000). The Fresno Armenians: History of a Diaspora Community. Fresno: California State University Press. p. 193. ISBN 0912201355. Retrieved 14 March 2013. "He was one of the most decorated military men in World War II having won the Navy Cross, Silver Star with Gold Star, Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and many other medals." 
  3. Avakyan, Knarik (May 8, 2010). "ЛИЧНЫЙ ГЕРОИЗМ И БЕСПРИМЕРНАЯ ХРАБРОСТЬ" (in Russian). Yerevan. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 Tashjian, James H. (1952). "'Transport' Maghakian". p. 43. Retrieved 14 March 2013. "He fought from the Makin Raid through Tinian in the Pacific, came out of it all, on the testimony of the Department of the Navy, "one of the highest decorated" Marines of World War II." 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Rehart, Catherine Morison (1996). The Valley's Legends & Legacies. 1. Quill Driver Books. p. 140. ISBN 9781884995125. Retrieved 14 March 2013. "Although many believed that one of these young men was the most decorated U.S. Marine in World War II, it could be said with certainty that he was Fresno's most decorated military hero." 
  6. Radanovich, George P. (May 1, 1997). "Tribute To Victor "Transport" Maghakian". United States Government. p. E815. Retrieved 14 March 2013. "A legend of World War II, Maghakian was one of the most decorated and well-respected soldiers of the war." 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Hero Of Makin Island Credited With Rescuing Unit In Eniwetok Action" (Volume III, No. 22). 3 June 1944. Retrieved 15 March 2013. "Maghakian, one of this war's most decorated fighting men, already holds the Navy Cross, the Purple Heart, a Gold Star in lieu of another Purple Heart, and his first Silver Star. He was awarded the second Silver Star for his part in the Marshall Islands campaign." 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 "Victor Maghakian". ArmeniaFest. Retrieved 14 March 2013. "Maghakian, who died in 1977, was one of the most decorated soldiers in World War II, receiving over two dozen medals for heroism including two Silver Stars, the Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts." 
  9. "Richard Demirjian Introduces New Book on Armenian Military Heroes to Fresno Community". August 14, 2004. "Maghakian, a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, was one of the most decorated marines in World War II. Nicknamed "Transport," he was awarded the Navy Cross Medal, the Silver Star, a Purple Heart a Bronze Star and a Presidential Unit citation." 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Marine Corps Hero from Fresno Dies". August 19, 1977. Retrieved 28 March 2013. "Maghakian, one of the most decorated Marines In the war, died at a local hospital Wednesday at the age of 61" 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 Mooradian, Moorad (November 30, 1991). "Military: Arms and the Man". Glendale, CA. ISSN 1050-3471. 
  12. 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 12.11 Wukovits, John (2009). American commando Evans Carlson, his WWII Marine raiders, and America's first Special Forces mission. New York: NAL Caliber. ISBN 9781101057452. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 13.11 13.12 13.13 13.14 13.15 13.16 13.17 Radanovich, George P. (September 17, 1996). "Tribute to Victor Maghakian". United States Government. Congressional Record. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  14. 14.00 14.01 14.02 14.03 14.04 14.05 14.06 14.07 14.08 14.09 14.10 14.11 14.12 14.13 14.14 14.15 Miller, Merle (April 28, 1944). "Transport Maghakian's Revenge". pp. 8–9. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  15. Secrest, Secrest, William B, Jr (May 25, 1996). "`Transport' Maghakian served his country well as a Marine". p. B.5. "Capt. Maghakian now sleeps at Ararat Cemetery" 
  16. Le Francois, W. S. (December 4, 1943). "We Mopped Up Makin Island". p. 4. ISSN 0048-9239. 
  17. Sterner, C. Douglas, ed (2006). Navy Cross Awards To U.S. Marines: Part 2 – Last Names M — Z. Home of Heroes. p. 1. Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  18. "Marine Hero Given Medal: Fresno Marine Sergeant Wounded While Leading Men on Makin Island". January 25, 1943. "The skill and determination with which Sergt. Victor Maghakian, 27, of Fresno led his platoon of marines in the Makin Island raid last August won him the Navy Cross. Maj. Gen. William P. Upshur, commanding general, Department of the Pacific, U.S.M.C., pinned the cross on Maghakian's tunic." 
  19. "Two Marines Decorated for Heroism". May 7, 1943. 
  20. Harwood, Richard (1994). "The Landing Force: Who, Where, When". A Close Encounter: The Marine Landing on Tinian. Marines in World War II commemorative series. U.S. Marine Corps. p. 3. ISBN 978-1481987677. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  21. Tashjian, James H. (1952). The Armenian American in World War II. Hairenik Association. p. 34. 
  22. Blum, Deborah (May 20, 1981). "Outpatient Center at VA Hospital Honors War Hero Victor Maghakian". pp. Dl, D4. 

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