Originally created 08/12/02

Featured obituary: Mr. John McLaughlin



SAVANNAH, Ga. - Congestive heart failure did what three wars, a POW camp and two cancers couldn't do to retired Marine Lt. Gen. John McLaughlin.

He died Thursday at the age of 83.

Mr. McLaughlin spent three years as a prisoner of war in North Korea. He lost 66 pounds and suffered beatings, attempted brainwashing and four months of solitary confinement. He survived and went on to retire as a lieutenant general.

"He loved the Marine Corps," said his wife, Andrea Adams McLaughlin. "Although he went through some terrible times, he always endured."

Mr. McLaughlin's funeral will be at 10 a.m. today at St. John the Baptist Cathedral. He will be buried at 2 p.m. with full military honors in Beaufort National Cemetery.

"I can't even begin to tell you how I feel about him," his wife said. " He was a wonderful individual who cared for others. He was patriotic and loyal to his family and friends."

Mr. McLaughlin was born in Charleston, S.C., on Sept. 21, 1918. His parents moved to Savannah when he was 4, so he always considered it home, his wife said.

After graduating from Emory University in 1941, Mr. McLaughlin was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marines. Within the year, he was shipped to the Pacific to fight in World War II. He went on to earn what military veterans referred to as "perfect attendance," meaning he fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

It was in Korea, though, where Mr. McLaughlin faced his greatest military challenge. On Nov. 29, 1950, he and 42 other American and British troops were captured after an all-night battle near the Chosin Reservoir.

Mr. McLaughlin reported that more than 1,700 prisoners died that year of starvation and freezing weather. He and other prisoners were forced by Chinese communists to sit through speeches, beatings and brain-washing techniques.

In 1951, Mr. McLaughlin, a leader among the POWs, was court-martialed by the Chinese and sentenced to four months in solitary confinement.

He recalled the walls being covered with an English newspaper from Shanghai and reading it over and over.

One article included the lyrics to the song Talkin' Blues, and Mr. McLaughlin wrote hundreds of new verses to keep his mind active. At times, he and other prisoners created entertainment by making baseballs out of boot heels and frayed sweaters; they used firewood as bats. Finally, in 1953, Mr. McLaughlin was released.

"It was a wonderful experience to get out of that place," Mr. McLaughlin told the Savannah Morning News in June 2000. "I damn near cried when I saw the American flag, but that was true of all of the American prisoners."

After retiring, Mr. McLaughlin returned to Savannah, but he never gave up his Marine Corps traditions. He called a room in his house "The War Room" and filled it with medals, pictures and other memorabilia from his career.

His wife and close friends affectionately called him "The General."

Mr. McLaughlin also survived two bouts of cancer before his death, said stepson John Adams.

"He kind of sailed through a lot of things that would have thrown down other folks," Mr. Adams said. "I think in the end he said: 'This is a full life. I've had enough of it."'