Veterans

April 19, 2012

Don McLean recalls his tour of service during the Korean War

by Diane Betzler
staff writer
vet story - mclean

At age 20, Don McLean was a private first class in the U.S. Army Infantry. He was too young to vote, but old enough to be trained on how to fire a 50-caliber machine gun.

McLean was part of a half-track armored vehicle team. He served in the Korean War fighting alongside America’s allies to help prevent North Korea from imposing communist rule over the South Koreans.

Of all the battles McLean fought in, he says he’s lucky because he never actually saw the enemy, the people he was aiming his heavy artillery at.

“It was my outfit’s job to protect the airfields,” McLean said. “To do that we would call in our target and we’d receive coordinates to direct our fire with,” McLean explained. That process helped keep the battle fairly impersonal.

McLean recalls celebrating his 21st birthday while on patrol in Korea.

“Sometimes I volunteered to go out on patrols, those were pretty scary. You learn to depend on one another,” he said.

He chuckles about how officials referred to their presence in Korea as a police action.

“We use to laugh about that, it was a big joke. We were fighting a war!”

The amazing part of McLean’s tour was that while serving in Korea he came into contact with friends he’d gone to high school with.

“I lost two friends while there. That sort of thing wakes you up to reality,” he said, recalling some painful memories.

In spite of it all, McLean talks proudly about his service to his country and the contributions his family made in helping to keep their homeland safe.

“My brother served in Europe with General [George S.] Patton. My father was a POW in the Philippines,” McLean said.

“He never made it back,” McLean softly adds. He said the last postcard his mother received from his father was in 1944.

“After the war – a man who was in prison camp with dad came to visit my mom.”

McLean may not have come face to face with the enemy, but during the 12 months he served in Korea, he was involved in more battles than he bargained for. When he arrived in the battle-torn country, his first encounter with action was in a battle called Heartbreak Ridge, which was dubbed Bloody Ridge.

He fought alongside the Ethiopians in a place called Iron Triangle and said that was a spooky area. The Columbians were his allies in a place called Kum Wah.

Through it all his only injury was a bout with strep throat. “I was really sick with that and was sent to a MASH unit in Yong Dong Po,” he recalls.

After two weeks of recovery there, McLean was sent to a rest camp, where he said Americans weren’t much liked by the English. “They called us Yanks and kept telling us to go home.” He said the Australians befriended the Americans and they became good drinking buddies.

Once his military obligations were fulfilled and McLean received an honorable discharge from the Army, he moved back to Los Angeles and went back to school. There he met a special gal whose name was Monica. They married and raised a son, Alex, who today is a commercial airline pilot and lives in Hawaii.

McLean graduated from Woodbury College where he earned a degree in business management.

As years usually do, they brought many changes to the life of Don McLean. His marriage ended and his wife moved to the Philippines.

McLean moved into the William J. “Pete” Knight Veterans Home in Lancaster, Calif., a year-and-a-half ago. His sister lives in Santa Clarita so the location is ideal for him.

“I like it here, they take good care of us. We get good meals and the friendly staff offers lots of activities,” he said. McLean says he participates in most of the activities.

“Since I moved into the Pete Knight Veterans’ Home I’m been to the Getty Museum, the Calico Ghost Town and I went deep sea fishing off the coast of Oxnard. I didn’t catch anything, but it was fun. I enjoyed a field trip to the Tehachapi Mountains where we got to pick apples,” he said.

Today, at 82, McLean is looking forward to enjoying his retirement years here in the High Desert and the Knight Veterans Home.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines August 28, 2015

Business: Rafale, Mistral on agenda for Le Drian in Malaysia, India¬†– French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is due to visit Malaysia Aug. 30, with talks expected to cover the Rafale fighter jet and Mistral helicopter carrier, website La Tribune reported. U.S. Army to choose new landing craft next year¬†– In line with the Pentagon’s...
 
 

News Briefs August 28, 2015

Boeing plans to lay off some Southern California workers Boeing has announced that it plans to lay off employees at its Southern California-based satellite division. The Los Angeles Times reports that the aerospace giant said Aug. 25 that it will lay off as many as several hundred employees at the El Segundo factory. Boeing says...
 
 

Special tactics Airmen killed in hostile incident

Two special tactics airmen, who were deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, were killed near Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, Aug. 26. Capt. Matthew D. Roland, 27, and SSgt. Forrest B. Sibley, 31, were at a vehicle checkpoint when two individuals wearing Afghan National Defense and Security Forces uniforms opened fire on them. NATO service members...
 

 

Hurricane Hunters to fly Tropical Storm Erika

The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters are operating out of Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., flying their state-of-the-art WC-130J Super Hercules into Tropical Storm Erika in support of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flew four missions into the tropical storm from their deployed location at St. Croix in the...
 
 
LM-MUOS

U.S. Navy, Lockheed Martin ready to launch MUOS-4 Aug. 31

The U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin are ready to launch the fourth Mobile User Objective System secure communications satellite, MUOS-4, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Aug. 31 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V...
 
 

Pentagon probing alleged distorting of war intelligence

The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating an allegation that the military command overseeing the anti-Islamic State campaign distorted or altered intelligence assessments to exaggerate progress against the militant group, a defense official said Aug. 26. The official was not authorized to discuss the probe publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity. The investigation was...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>