John Beadle McKay – Captain, Untied States Army

World War II hero McKay dies

To paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur, another old soldier just faded away last week, although he was entitled to rolling drums and blaring bugles. He was Jack McKay, 85, one of Iowa’s most decorated World War II heroes.

McKay wanted, and received, a mere one-paragraph obituary. But his son, Circuit Court Judge John McKay of Green Bay, Wisconsin, provided a more complete picture of his father’s glories.

As a Des Moines teenager, McKay was one of the toughest kids in Roosevelt High School. He hung around Milt Harmon’s barber shop in the Roosevelt shopping center, disdaining team sports but always ready for a fight. He did, however, love golf, and was a 70s shooter.

When World War II broke out, McKay quickly joined the Army. He rose from Private to Lieutenant by the time his outfit reached England. An an infantry officer, he led his men onto the Normandy beaches in June 1945, winning his first Bronze Star.

Over the next several months, McKay won a second Bronze Star, two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Service Cross, five Campaign Stars, the French Croix de Guerre and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

McKay also received five Purple Hearts, which meant he was wounded five times. On one occasion, he led a patrol into enemy territory and was credited by his superiors as being the first American soldier to set foot on German soil. He eventually became a Captain.

McKay left the Army after the war, but was unable to adapt to civilian life. He returned to the Army intending to make a career of it, but he was caught in military cuts and was released from the military in 1963.

He tried selling aluminum siding. He tried selling securities. He tended bar. He went through two divorces. Nothing worked. His son urged him to apply for post traumatic stress benefits, but he refused. McKay died alone, of a heart ailment, and his body was cremated, with the urn to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery sometime soon.

DATE OF BIRTH: 06/23/1920
DATE OF DEATH: 02/12/2006

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