Famous Veteran: Ed McMahon

Ed McMahon served in the Marine Corps and Marine Reserve before embarking on an entertainment career. (Courtesy photo)

"Honesty is the single-most important factor having a direct bearing on the final success of an individual, corporation or product."

Ed McMahon was born in Detroit, but he was raised in Lowell, Massachusetts. As he grew up, his booming, resonant voice became the centerpiece of his career as an entertainer and would serve him as a Marine. When he graduated high school, his dream was to become a pilot for the Marine Corps. In the early 1940s, would-be pilots were required to attend at least two years of college, so McMahon enrolled with Boston College.

Soon after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, the college requirement for pilots was dropped. McMahon immediately enlisted and entered flight training in Dallas. Afterward, he completed fighter training in Pensacola and obtained his carrier landing qualification.

While he was still in flight school, McMahon became an instructor, a role in which his ability to project came in handy. His flight instructor status lasted for two years until he was given orders to report to the Pacific Fleet. However, before he entered combat, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which ended the war, and facilitated the cancellation of his orders.

Although the war ended, McMahon continued his service in the Marine Reserve as an officer. Once the Korean War began, McMahon's active duty status was reinstated. His primary role during that war was to fly Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs as a spotter for batteries and Navy and Marine fighter bombers. He flew 85 combat missions and earned six air medals. He retired in 1966 with the rank of colonel.

McMahon took on odd jobs before breaking into the entertainment industry, but when his career as an entertainer began, it brought almost immediate success. One of his first roles was as a host and announcer on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. McMahon became famous for introducing Carson with a loud "Heeeeere's Johnny!" every night, and his extroverted nature meshed well with Carson's subtle persona.

Aside from "The Tonight Show," McMahon took on other hosting and emcee roles for productions such as "Monitor," "Alf's hit Talk Show," and "Missing Links." He wrote two memoirs titled "Here's Johnny!" and "For Laughing Out Loud."

McMahon died in 2009 at age 86.

Want to Know More About the Military?

Be sure to get the latest news about the U.S. military, as well as critical info about how to join and all the benefits of service. Subscribe to Military.com and receive customized updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Story Continues