Navy veteran John McGuigan marks 100th birthday
Tualatin resident John McGuigan had a major close call during World War II when he yelled to close compartments aboard the USS North Carolina, a battleship that was struck by an enemy torpedo. His heroics resulted in keeping the vessel from sinking and losing the large crew in the South Pacific.
But on Dec. 8, McGuigan received another distinction, celebrating his 100th birthday (which actually fell on Dec. 9) with a party held at the Tualatin VFW's Matthew Lembke Hall.
"Dad's birthday was very special and a lot of fun," his son, Phil McGuigan, said Monday. "The VFW hall was all decorated when dad arrived Saturday and was greeted with over 50 family and friends attending. All five of his children, eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren were there to help celebrate from all parts of the country."
At the event, John McGuigan was awarded a World War II Welcome Home Coin, compliments of the Tualatin VFW, for his 31 years in the U.S. Navy and also as a tribute to his 100th birthday."John really enjoyed seeing all of his family and friends and all the attention he received," said Phil McGuigan.
After spending almost a decade at Avamere at Sherwood, McGuigan is now a resident of Sofia's Home located in Tualatin. He is the father of Phil McGuigan, who for several decades served as president of the Robin Hood Festival.
Several years ago, while speaking as part of Pamplin Media Group's annual special tribute, Salute to Veterans, John McGuigan recalled that fateful day of Sept. 15, 1942, when his battleship was hit.
"Off the east coast of the Solomon Islands, McGuigan had been below deck but went topside just in time to see the aircraft carrier USS Wasp ablaze, the result of being hit by two torpedoes fired by a Japanese submarine. Moments later, a torpedo struck the USS North Carolina as well, ripping a large hole in its side.
McGuigan remembers a large splash. "When the torpedo hit, I could see the water," McGuigan said. "I was drenched."
The event resulted in four men being killed, having been drown while testing spaces for water integrity, McGuigan recalled.
According to the article:
"In April 1942, McGuigan vividly recalls pulling into Pearl Harbor with the entire crew of the USS North Carolina dressed in uniform topside. Having been the first major battleship to reach Pearl Harbor since the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing they received a warm welcome.
"… Although the Japanese later returned in search of the USS North Carolina, they were unable to find the ship. "'Tokyo Rose,' the Japanese radio propagandist, reported the ship had been sunk and its crew lost with it, and McGuigan's parents believing for a short time that their son had perished during the attack.
"McGuigan would go on and have a career in the Navy for a total of 30 years, a career he said he was pleased with. In addition to serving on a battleship, at various points in his career he served on an icebreaker, a helicopter ship (and) the hospital ship HOPE."
By the time the war was over, the USS North Carolina would hold the distinction of having hit or destroyed more Japanese aircraft than any other battleship in World War II.
And before McGuigan's long and storied Navy career in the military ended, he would work at the Pentagon, assigned to the staff of Admiral Chester Nimitz, where he served in the admiral's Hawaii office. The noted supercarrier, the USS Nimitz, would be named after the World War II Pacific fleet commander.
While at the Pentagon, McGuigan was once told he was to escort a high-ranking individual to a Joint Chief of Staff meeting.
"The man I was to meet was Gen. Dwight Eisenhower," McGuigan recalled in 2016.
Over the years, McGuigan has received several awards including a 2010 Congressional recognition for his service award. In addition, the Champoeg Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution awarded him a "Patriotic Service to Our Country" certificate in 2013.