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May 25, 2009

MEMORIAL DAY THOUGHTS

I want to pay tribute on this Memorial Day to all my friends and family who have served their country in the military. Their service in the past gave us the freedom we have today, and those serving today ensure that we can enjoy our lives as we see fit. Only a tiny fraction of the people on this planet have this gift of freedom.

Any comments I could make would pale in comparison to the sacrifices of all service members. So here instead are the service histories of some of my immediate family. Compare what they went through in their early twenties to what you and I did.

I also want to salute my father in law, Ed White, who served as a SeaBee in the Philippines in the Korean War, but I don't have all the particulars of his service dates.

All stories below are from "The McMahon and Harrington Family Histories" one of my mother's scholarly genealogical publications.

My Dad: Robert Francis McMahon (b. 4/30/1921, Flatbush, Brooklyn, NYC, NY, d. 11/4/1988 ) "(Robert) entered the Army in 1943. He was assigned to the Army Air Force and attended radio schools in Kansas and Florida. After some time in Desert Center, CA he was sent to the South Pacific. He served as a radioman and his unit followed battles from one island to another. His primary stations were at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea and Tacloban, Leyte, in the Philippine Islands. Although he did not engage in combat himself, there was lots of action in the skies overhead (and radio facilities and crews were always prime targets -JM). Many hazards complicated the rugged living conditions - heat, rain, bugs, fungus, etc. He was stung by scorpions and hospitalized for hepatitis. He returned to the US in 1946."

My Mother: Deidre Irene Dunn McMahon (b. 4/10/24 Los Angeles, CA) "On her 20th birthday she enlisted in the Marine Corps Women's Reserve and was called to duty July 1944. After boot camp at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, she worked at Headquarters Marine Corps, Navy Annex, Arlington, Virginia, in the Rehabilitation Division until her discharge in April 1946. The military was a very positive experience for Deirdre. Not only was there a feeling of satisfaction in contributing to the war effort, but it was an opportunity to make lifelong freinds, travel, and see history in the making. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies in April, 1945, she was the right guide for the Women Marine contingent that marched in the funeral procession down Pennsylvania Avenue from union Station to the White House.
[...]
It was during her two years of military service that Deirdre also developed an interest in her extended family and its history.
[...]
After her discharge she took her first airplane flight - Washington , DC to Burbank, CA on a DC-3 - about 12 hours, much of it through heavy rain, thunder and lightning, with about six stops along the way."

My Uncle Bernie. Bernard James McMahon, Jr. (b. 8/9/19, Brooklyn, NYC, NY. d. 8/12/98 ). "Bernard was accepted by Harvard University, majored in Economics and earned his bachelor's degree in 1942. The bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 changed his plans for the remainder of his senior year. He had been accepted into a special Industrial Administration Program at the Harvard Business School designed to train management leaders to support the war effort.
[...]
He was expected to apply for a commission in the Navy, which he did, but later declined the commission and enlisted in the Army Air Corps [... ] on 29 January 1943 and was assigned to Flight Training Class 44C, where he served as editor for Flying Lines, the training center's newspaper.  He trained in Corsicana, Texas, and Columbia, South Carolina, before going overseas in the summer of 1944. He was assigned to a B25 Bomber Group based in Corsica, off the italian coast, and was a pilot with the 12th Air Force, 57th Bomb Wing, 321st Group, 445th Squadron. Their mission was to bomb the German supply lines to Italy, specifically the Brenner Pass.
By April 1945 Bernard had flown 63 combat missions. In may of that year, when he was a 1st Lieutenant, hew was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. This is one of the highest awards available to any person serving in the US military. In the letter to his mother which accompanied the citation and medal, Brigadier General Charles T. Myeres commended him for superior leadership and high personal integrity. In addition, he was credited with a specific instance over Italy when he held his damaged plane steady while his bombardier destroyed a vital enemy position."

My Uncle Curtis. James Curtis McMahon (b. 7/30/23 Brooklyn, NYC, NY, d. 4/7/84 Santa Ana, CA). James enlisted in the Army in October 1943 and was overseas in the European Theater of Operations from October 1944 to April 1946. He served in England, France and Germany and participated in the Central European Rhineland Campaign. His duties as a mess sergeant included ordering supplies and making up menus. He supervised 165 men, one civilian mess and three military kitchens, He received a certificate of merit from the 114th Engineers Combat Group in August 1945. He was discharged from the 253rd Engineer Combat Battalion as a Technician 4th Grade at Fort Dix, New Jersey on 3 May 1946.

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