Californians and the Military
Ed McMahon
Marine Corps Aviator
by M.L. Shettle, Jr.

Edward Peter Leo McMahon, Jr. was born in Detroit Michigan in 1923. McMahon led a somewhat unhappy and nomadic childhood. His father traveled all over the country pursuing various financial ventures including carnival jobs and bingo games. Nevertheless, McMahon had a good lineage. His great-great-great-grandfather, the Duke of Magenta, was a marshal and president of France. The Duke's favorite sauce, named Macmahonaise in his honor, was later shortened to mayonnaise. McMahon's grandmother was the cousin of Rose Fitzgerald, mother of John F. Kennedy. Many of McMahon's summers were spent at his grandparent's in Lowell Massachusetts. McMahon's ambition was to be a radio announcer and had his first announcing job at the age of 15.

When the United States began gearing up for World War II, McMahon wanted to become a Marine fighter pilot. Since the Navy's V-5 program required two years of college, he enrolled in Boston College. When the Navy relaxed the two-year requirement, McMahon dropped out of school and signed up. In early 1943, he first went to a civilian-run Wartime Training School in Texarkana where the Navy evaluated cadets' potential by checking them out in a Piper Cub. Then came the three-month Preflight School at Athens, Georgia. McMahon received primary training at Dallas and intermediate training at Pensacola. McMahon received the single engine carrier syllabus and was assigned to the Marines. After receiving his commission and wings in early 1945, McMahon was sent to the Corsair Operational Training Unit at Lee Field, Green Cove Springs, Florida. Upon completion of training, he was "plowed back" and became an instructor in the same unit. On the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, McMahon received orders to join the Marine carrier program on the West Coast. His orders were cancelled and he returned to civilian life.

After McMahon graduated from Catholic University, he got a job in television in Philadelphia. In two years, he had become Philadelphia's top TV personality. In 1952, McMahon got his big break when he was offered a job in New York with CBS; however, he was recalled into the Marine Corps due to the Korean War. After several months of training at Miami and El Toro, McMahon arrived in Korea in February 1953. He flew 85 artillery-spotting missions in the Cessna OE Bird Dog before returning home in September 1953. McMahon returned to television in Philadelphia for several years. In 1958, he was hired as the announcer for Johnny Carson's Who Do You Trust? In 1962, Johnny Carson took over as host of The Tonight Show and took McMahon along as his announcer and sidekick. Carson and McMahon became an institution and remained on The Tonight Show for 6,583 programs over a 30-year period. Since retiring from The Tonight Show, McMahon has worked on several other TV shows and served as spokesman for various companies and charities. McMahon remained active in the Marine Reserves retiring as a full colonel in 1966.
Ed McMahon passed away at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on 23 June 2009.
Copied with the permission of the author from United States Marine Corps Air Stations of World War II.
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Updated 8 February 2016