Resident Marine hero,3-war veteran dies
By Cpl. Thomas Perry
| | August 23, 2002
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT/EASTERN RECRUITING REGION, PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- --
A Marine veteran of three wars recently died of congestive heart failure at his Savannah, Ga., home.
Lieutenant General John McLaughlin fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam during his 36-year career in the Marine Corps.
The Depot's burial detail rendered McLaughlin full military honors at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Savannah, before he was buried at Beaufort National Cemetery Aug. 13.
"He was a Marine that we should all try to emulate," said Capt. Mike Lujan, who served as a pallbearer during the funeral. "It was an honor to be there. He was a great American... he was truly a hero."
McLaughlin, a native of Charleston, S.C., was commissioned in 1941, and his first assignment was with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, which embarked for the Pacific in May 1942. He participated in operations at Guadalcanal, New Britain and the Palau Islands. He was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry while leading an assault company from 1st Battalion ashore at Peleliu, in September 1944.
In July 1950, McLaughlin was assigned as an advisor to the Fifth Cavalry Regiment for an amphibious landing at Pohang Dong, Korea.
He was captured by the Chinese Communists at Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, and remained a prisoner for almost three years.
During his time as a POW, he lost 66 pounds and suffered beatings, attempted brainwashing and four months of solitary confinement.
Retired Marine Lt. Gen. William G. Thrash (USMC Ret.), who met McLaughlin in that Chinese prison camp in the winter of 1951, still remembers the days when he first met the "best friend I ever had."
"General McLaughlin was a tower of strength in the camp," said Thrash. "He helped me run the camp. I could not have made it without him. Great leaders are born not made. He was a humble man, but a brilliant man and one of the outstanding officers of the Corps. He leaves a wonderful legacy for all Marines to emulate."
Following his liberation in September 1953, he was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct while being held prisoner.
On Feb. 18, 1968, McLaughlin became Assistant Division Commander, First Marines, at Danang, South Vietnam, and served in this capacity until May 25, 1968. For his service in Vietnam, he earned the Distinguished Service Medal and three Vietnamese personal decorations.
Following his promotion to lieutenant general, on Sept. 1, 1974, he was assigned as the Chief of Staff, Headquarters Marine Corps. During July 1975, he received his final assignment as the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Forces, Pacific, and served in this capacity until his retirement on July 1, 1977.
McLaughlin's personal decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star Medal, the Legion of Merit gold star in lieu of second award, the Bronze Star Medal with combat "V", the Joint Service Commendation Medal, and 15 other campaign medals and foreign awards.