JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, New Jersey, Aug. 8, 2019 – On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea starting the three-year Korean War. When China began supporting North Korea, the United Nations stepped in with the United States providing approximately 90 percent of military personnel out of the 21 countries who supported South Korea.
Among the U.S. military personnel was, then, 18-year-old John “Jack” McCarthy, now retired U.S. Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, who, now in his 80s, visited the EOD unit of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, Aug. 7.
“Touring the EOD unit, I remembered my training manual: GM9.1900, I couldn’t believe it,” said McCarthy. “The tour was great and it’s thanks to J.J., she took good care of me.”
On a New Jersey Honor Flight trip to Washington D.C., June 2019, McCarthy met J.J. Eastman, a Masonic Home registered nurse, who was his guardian on the trip. Eastman, spouse to U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Brian Eastman, 305th Air Mobility Wing command chief, decided she wanted to reconnect McCarthy with the military.
“I wanted to set him up with our EOD here on base not only for heritage exchange stories but also so he could still feel connected to the military,” said Eastman.
On the tour, Eastman brought McCarthy to the EOD unit where he was shown the processes and tools they use and some of the ordnance they have found throughout New Jersey over the years. The unit also set up a controlled detonation on the Joint Base MDL EOD proficiency range where McCarthy was able to “pull the trigger” with the guidance of current EOD military members.
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst community members pose in front of a controlled explosion on Joint Base MDL, New Jersey, Aug. 7, 2019. The 87th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal team provided a tour of the unit and conducted a controlled explosion on Joint Base MDL, New Jersey, Aug. 7, 2019. The 87th Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal team provided a tour of the unit and conducted a controlled detonation on the EOD proficiency range to John “Jack” McCarthy, retired U.S. Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, (middle). (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ariel Owings)
“It reminded me of when I was down range and repairing bombs and setting them off,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy said it was like a “blast from the past” to be able to be on the installation and see the demonstrations. Throughout his tour, he told stories of his past and compared the differences and similarities of today’s technology and capabilities.
“It really stood out to me how thankful and appreciative he [was] to of had this opportunity,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Michael T. Overton, 87th EOD flight chief. “I think it’s important to reconnect retirees with their military past because [EOD] is not just a job, it is so much more than that. We are really a family and to give that sensation back is important.”
McCarthy said the aircraft the U.S. had at the time could not keep up with what seemed like an endless line of Chinese military. It wasn’t until North American Aviation came in with the F-86 Sabre, a transonic jet fighter aircraft with speeds topping at 650 mph and a wingspan of 37 ft., the odds turned in favor for South Korea.
“We were getting knocked out of the sky until the F-86 Sabre came in,” said McCarthy. “It changed the whole complexion of the war. We had a 10-to-1 kill ratio. I think that’s what drove the North Koreans to talk peace.”
After the war ended in July 1953, the Philadelphia native married his wife Claire and went on to have four children. They now reside in Burlington, New Jersey where they consistently keep in contact with Jack’s friend from his military days of blowing up explosives and protecting the nation.