Ed McMahon – a Great Marine
A GOOD ENTERTAINER BUT A GREAT MARINE –
The Legacy of Colonel Ed McMahon
How does a son say goodbye to his father? While this is a profoundly painful question to ponder, in this instance, the answer is really very simple – by honoring my father’s request to be buried and celebrated as a great Marine.
To Ed’s millions of fans around the world, he was an entertainment icon who’s brilliant and colorful career spanned some 70 years and included work as a bingo caller in a traveling carnival – yes, that’s right, Ed spoke Carnie. Ed also worked in radio, theater, movies, and of course television. Ed was the quintessential pitchman – selling everything from the famous Morris Metric Slicer to Budweiser Beer and even some of Mr. Carson’s jokes that didn’t always work as planned. In Ed’s words: “jokesters joke, actors act, entertainers entertain”. Ed was a consummate entertainer.
Ed’s Marine Corps career began during World War II and lasted 23 years. At the end of it all, Ed was promoted to Colonel – he considered this to be one of the greatest accomplishments of his life; amazing when you consider the body of his work.
Over the years, Ed told me that he wanted to be remembered as: “a good entertainer, but a great Marine!” Considering Ed was an entertainment giant, this speaks volumes in regards to his love of the Marine Corps, with its inherent brotherhood and Corps values of respect, honor, and integrity – the defining elements of Ed’s character.
A few of the notable highlights of Ed’s service in and life-long involvement with the United States Marine Corps include:
- Eating powder eggs during Officers Candidates School – even though they were billeted on a farm with hundreds of chickens – some things in the Corps never change!
- Being commissioned as a 2nd Lt.
- Being made a flight instructor while still in flight school.
- Earning his Naval Aviator wings on 4/4/44.
- Flying the hottest fighter in WWII – the F4U-Corsair.
- Being placed in hack for conducting “training missions” over his girlfriend’s house.
- Becoming a test pilot.
- Being placed in hack for conducting “training missions” over his girlfriend’s house again.
- Teaching carrier landings.
- And yes, being placed in hack for flying “training missions” over his girlfriend’s house AGAIN.
- Telling NBC he’d love to sign a big contract to be their next star– but he had just received orders to report to Korea.
- Meeting Marilyn Monroe prior to deploying to Korea and having her impishly tell him: “Ed, I’m not wearing anything underneath”.
- Flying 85 combat missions in Korea as an artillery spotter – Ed earned six Air Medals for his tenacity and proficiency at closing with and destroying the enemy.
- Cornering the market on food and alcohol by becoming his squadron’s Officer-in-Charge of the Mess Tent and Officer’s Club.
- The 3-day long party in Tent 7 with 55 gallon drums of “truce juice” when the armistice was signed.
- Participation in creating the Toys for Tots program.
- Being promoted to Colonel.
- Promoting his son to the rank of Corporal.
- Passing a flight physical at age 70 and flying the Harrier Jump Jet.
- Working with The Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation to cement the legacy and traditions of Marine Corps Aviation.
- And being Major General Lenhert’s Guest of Honor at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Ball in 2005 – Sir, he had tremendous respect for you and was humbled to be your guest of honor.
Colonel Edward Leo McMahon – Dad – on behalf of a grateful nation, fiercely loyal United States Marine Corps, assembled friends, loving family, and me – a devoted son – it is the highest honor of my life, to fulfill your request to be buried as a Marine. I wish you Godspeed, as you pull chalks and embark on one last mission in your Corsair – destined for the final rally point– Valhalla – warrior heaven. I salute you!
Photo copyright 2009, the Associated Press