Ed McMahon prepares to mark 50th anniversary of Korean truce

WASHINGTON -- He is best known for his trademark "Heeeeeeere's Johnny," but long before he became famous as Johnny Carson's sidekick, Ed McMahon was a decorated fighter pilot during the Korean War.

This weekend, the television announcer, host, actor and pitchman will join thousands of other veterans in Washington marking the 50th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the fighting.

"They called it the forgotten war," McMahon said in an interview Wednesday. "My principle thrust will be to have it be the remembered war, to never be forgotten."

McMahon was sent to Korea in 1953. He flew 85 combat missions as a Marine Corps pilot and was awarded the Air Medal for his service. McMahon said there were a couple of times when he came close to being shot down.

One of the toughest missions, he said, came when he was monitoring the front lines and had to remain flying long beyond the usual two hours.

But there were brighter moments, too. He said the high point was when he was sitting in his plane, waiting to take off on his 86th mission. The tower told him, "'Captain McMahon your war is over.' So I said 'Yippee!"' McMahon recalled.

McMahon went back to his tent and "we had the greatest party. It lasted three days," he said.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended with the armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Koreas divided and technically in a state of war. More than 36,000 Americans were killed in the war.

Events organized by the Defense Department start Friday and end Sunday, the anniversary of the signing of the truce. There will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday morning.