“We’d Hunt Them Or They’d Hunt Us”: Service In Vietnam And The Persian Gulf

John McDonald


John McDonald was born in 1948 in York, Pennsylvania. His father was a mechanic, and John learned to fix cars in his shop. In high school, he liked to wrestle. In 1968, he entered the Army, volunteering for jump school and Special Forces training. He learned Morse Code and became his Team’s Commo Non-Commissioned Officer. In November 1969, he deployed to Vietnam, landing at Cam Ranh Bay. During his tour in Vietnam, he spent time operating on Hon Tre Island, east of Nha Trang. Later, he moved south to the Mekong Delta and operated on patrol boats on waterways leading into Cambodia. Returning home after his tour, he joined the York City Police force, and was awarded the Medal of Valor for responding to “shots fired” on one occasion. Simultaneously, he remained in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, eventually serving in Desert Shield / Desert Storm. In this interview he talks about his childhood and his service during both the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. He describes his experiences as a Police Officer, and relates the story of his Medal of Valor. He demonstrates a “speed key” he used to transmit Morse Code during the Vietnam War. He recalls the unit’s first casualty in Vietnam, who died from a Cobra bite. Finally, he reflects on his life and on his service, recalling that his proudest moment was being a “good American.” John McDonald passed away from cancer on October 25, 2019.


conflicts Vietnam War Persian Gulf War
topics Leadership Teamwork Camaraderie Military Techniques Life After Military Morale
interviewer David Siry
date 24 September 2019


name John McDonald
service Infantry / Special Forces
unit 5th Special Forces Group; Det 1, 131st Trans Company
specialty York City Police, Pennsylvania
service dates 1968 2003