In 1942 Jack McGavern was a 34-year-old father of two girls, ages 10 and 5, when he told his wife he wanted to join the Marines. He had a good job and a good life living in the Mt. Washington neighborhood of Pittsburgh. But he felt called to serve and didn’t want to sit out the war in the sidelines. Jack’s daughter, Patricia Evey, can only imagine what her mother, Ruth, thought of her dad’s decision. There was no changing Jack’s mind.
Jack was the “Old Man” in the 3rd Marine Division, a private first class who saw some of the roughest duty imaginable in Bougainville in the Soloman Islands, as well as on Guam and Iwo Jima. He carried a flamethrower, and used it with deadly effectiveness against the Japanese.
On November 1, 1943, on Bougainville, while under heavy fire, he destroyed three enemy machine gun pillboxes, killing 14 Japanese soldiers and recovering enemy documents. He returned the materials to his command post, also under fire. He was later wounded badly enough that a doctor ordered his evacuation. But he wouldn’t leave. He returned to action until a second wound knocked him out for good.
He returned home in 1945. Pat says the family had to get reacquainted after such a long separation, and her dad kept up a strict Marine-like regimen at home. Also, her dad had contracted malaria and spinal meningitis in the war, and his health was never good after that. He died at age 55 on May 10, 1963.