McMahon, Other Vets to Mark Korean War
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
WASHINGTON - He is best known for his trademark "Heeeeeeere's Johnny," but long before he became famous as Johnny Carson's sidekick, Ed McMahon was a decorated fighter pilot during the Korean War.
This weekend, the television announcer, host, actor and pitchman will join thousands of other veterans in Washington marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the fighting.
"They called it the forgotten war," McMahon said in an interview Wednesday. "My principle thrust will be to have it be the remembered war, to never be forgotten."
McMahon was sent to Korea in 1953. He flew 85 combat missions as a Marine Corps pilot and was awarded the Air Medal for his service. McMahon said there were a couple of times when he came close to being shot down.
One of the toughest missions, he said, came when he was monitoring the front lines and had to remain flying long beyond the usual two hours.
But there were brighter moments, too. He said the high point was when he was sitting in his plane, waiting to take off on his 86th mission. The tower told him, "Captain McMahon your war is over. "So I said `Yippee!'" McMahon recalled.
McMahon went back to his tent and "we had the greatest party. It lasted three days," he said.
The 1950-53 Korean War ended with the armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Koreas divided and technically in a state of war. More than 36,000 Americans were killed in the war.
Events organized by the Defense Department start Friday and end Sunday, the anniversary of the signing of the truce. There will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday morning, followed by a salute to Korean War veterans that afternoon at Washington's MCI Center.
McMahon will serve as the master of ceremonies. He will be joined by country singer Randy Travis and actor-author James McEachin, an Army veteran awarded a Purple Heart for his service in Korea.
McEachin, who appeared in television shows such as "Matlock" and "Columbo" and movies including "True Grit," said his message will be that "we must pay tribute to our soldiers and we must, at all costs, place our hero worship in this country in the proper arena."
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Retired Marine General Raymond G. Davis, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service during the 1950-53 war, helped Cheney place the wreath at the tomb as hundreds of veterans and their loved ones watched in silence. Cheney did not speak.
Veterans later gathered nearby at the cemetery's amphitheater for a memorial ceremony honoring the war dead and missing.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi lauded members of the military, both past and present, for their sacrifices.
And for those who fought in Korea, Principi said, "The Korean war stands out as a lesson in endurance, bravery and devotion."
The war ended with the armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Koreas divided and technically in a state of war. It was signed on July 27, 1953.
than 36,000 Americans were killed in the war.
Vice President Dick Cheney enters a wreath laying ceremony accompanied by retired
Marine Corps General Raymond Davis, left, and Major General. Galen B. Jackman, right,
Commander of the Military District of Washington, and Korean Ambassador Sung Joo Han,
far right, at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Saturday, July 26, 2003.
The commemoration ceremony marked the 50th anniversary of the Korean War's end.
The armistice ending the war was signed 50 years ago Sunday.
Vice President Dick Cheney lays a wreath with retired Marine Corps General
Raymond Davis, foreground, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington
National Cemetery,Saturday, July 26, 2003. Soldier at right is unidentified
Posted: Saturday, 26 July 2003