S/Sgt. John McKinney

S/Sgt. John McKinney

  • Branch: : U.S. Marine Corps (ret.)
  • Korean War:: October 1950 – May 1952
  • Fact: To go here...

Written by Sue Tone

The Korean War began June 25, 1950, when North Korea, supported by China and the Soviet Union, invaded South Korea, supported by the United States and 20 allied countries. It lasted three years. In comparison to World War II, the Korean War received little news coverage. It was, however, among the most destructive wars in modern history with an immense civilian death toll.

When John McKinney saw he was going to be drafted, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. Six months after he boarded ship, he was wounded one night during a mortar attack. The men were marching single file along a narrow mountain ridge.

“People were getting killed in the middle of the night. No one could see them, but they knew we were there. A mortar shell came in just on my heels,” he said. A few inches more, he would have been killed.

“I felt the blast on my back. Oh, my God, I hurt. It felt like everybody in the outfit had a cigarette on my back and some mean ones with a cigar. I looked back and could see my back was on fire.”

A corpsman helped him walk back to the first aid station. “I was confident that I was going to make it, but actually it was kind of touch and go. Fifty percent would definitely have been fatal; 40 percent was touch and go at that time,” he said.

Fortunately, the Haven, a U.S. Navy hospital ship, was in port, and the doctors sent him home to heal. McKinney became emotional when describing the trip home. “We got back to the States the first of November. The first time I got out of bed was just as we were going under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a really welcome sight.”

“I’ve felt lucky ever since I survived it,” McKinney, 93, said. “I’ve enjoyed life, and now that I’m getting up in years, I’m appreciating it even more.”

John McKinney
John McKinney, photographed by Bruce Roscoe