An official website of the United States Government 
Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

.gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

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

You have accessed part of a historical collection on Some of the information contained within may be outdated and links may not function. Please contact the DOD Webmaster with any questions.

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!"

Men smile.
Tonight Show
Ed McMahon, left, and Johnny Carson on the set of the Tonight Show in New York.
Photo By: Courtesy of NBC
VIRIN: 631001-O-D0439-001M

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.

An aircraft hangs on display in a museum.
F4U Corsair Aircraft
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.
Photo By: Courtesy of the National WWII Museum
VIRIN: 050301-O-D0439-001

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.

An aircraft is parked in the snow.
OE-1 Aircraft
Marine Corps OE-1 aircraft, like the one flown by Ed McMahon during the Korean War, in the winter of 1950 or 1951.
Photo By: Marine Corps
VIRIN: 510301-O-D0439-001

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.

A man in uniform poses for a photo.
Ed McMahon
Ed McMahon in his Marine Corps uniform.
Photo By: Marine Corps
VIRIN: 450301-O-D0439-001

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

Some other interesting facts about McMahon:

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.
A man smiles.
Ed McMahon
Ed McMahon, in 2005, at Red Square, Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev.
Photo By: Courtesy of Christa Chapman
VIRIN: 051001-O-D0439-001
As 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.
He authored two memoirs, "Here's Johnny!: My Memories of Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show, and 46 Years of Friendship" and "For Laughing Out Loud."

Related Stories