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Ed McMahon in his Marine Corps uniform.

TV Entertainer Ed McMahon Served in the Marine Corps During 3 Wars

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Ed McMahon, left, and Johnny Carson on the set of the Tonight Show in New York.


Ed McMahon is best known as Johnny Carson’s sidekick on TV’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” from 1962 to 1992. He always opened the show with his signature introduction: “Heeere’s Johnny!”

McMahon also hosted the popular TV show “Star Search” from 1983 to 1995.

Less known to his legion of fans is that McMahon also had a career in the military, which began during World War II, continued during the Korean War and ended during the Vietnam War.

In 1944, he was commissioned in the Marine Corps and earned his pilot’s wings. He became a Marine Corps test pilot and a flight instructor in F4U Corsair aircraft at Lee Field, in Green Cove Springs, Florida.

McMahon remained in the Marine Corps Reserve after the war and was recalled to active duty during the Korean War. He was awarded six Air Medals for flying 85 combat missions over North Korea in an OE-1 unarmed observation aircraft.

Ed McMahon in his Marine Corps uniform.

After the Korean War, McMahon remained in the Marine Corps Reserve and retired as a colonel in 1966.

In 1982, McMahon received a state commission as a brigadier general in the California Air National Guard, an honorary award to recognize his support for the National Guard and Reserve.

McMahon died June 23, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. He was 86.

Some other interesting facts about McMahon:

  1. Before “The Tonight Show,” McMahon worked with Carson as announcer and host on the ABC TV game show “Who Do You Trust,” which aired from 1957 to 1962. 

  2. Ass a teenager, McMahon spent three years in Maine as a carnival barker and then a bingo caller. A carnival barker is a person who attracts patrons to entertainment events such as a circus or fair.
F4U Corsair aircraft, like the one flown by Ed McMahon during World War II, are on display at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, La.

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