Coronado’s “Avenue Of The Heroes” ... Commander John Blackball McKinny, USN - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

Coronado’s “Avenue Of The Heroes” ... Commander John Blackball McKinny, USN

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Posted: Friday, August 30, 2019 4:15 pm

John Blackhall McKinny was born on Dec. 8,1922, in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 4 ½ years, living just outside Garden City, NY, he went with his father to Roosevelt Field to watch Charles Lindbergh depart on his trans-Atlantic flight to Paris. Growing up near this and other airfields, McKinny knew he ultimately wanted to fly airplanes. He graduated from Garden City High School in June of 1940. During a pick-up football game on Dec. 7, 1941, he learned that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. As soon as the U.S. Navy waived the college requirement to qualify for the aviation program, McKinny was accepted into the Civilian Pilot Training Program. After successful completion of the Navy’s pilot training at the age of 21, and upon earning his aviator wings, McKinny was assigned to a torpedo bomber squadron (VT-13) attached to the USS Franklin. He was to fly the TBF Avenger.

After having departed Norfolk, Virginia, the Franklin arrived at North Island on May 19, 1944. He later said that during that brief stopover before heading to the combat zone, he became acquainted with Coronado and knew he eventually wanted to call Coronado home. Not long after arriving in the Pacific theater, McKinny saw his first ‘action.’ July 4, 1944— his Air Group 13 conducted a pre-dawn strike on the Bonin Islands. Thereafter, McKinny flew 29 combat missions against Palau, support of the invasion of Guam, support of the invasion of the Palau Islands; the operation against Yap; the operation against Formosa as well as the Philippines, the operation against the Japanese Fleet, among others. In addition to receiving two Air Medals for meritorious actions against the enemy, He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for “heroism and extraordinary achievement while in the vicinity of the Nansei Shito Islands, in the face of extremely intense and accurate naval and shore anti-aircraft fire, he skillfully maneuvered his plane to a dangerously close range and obtained a direct hit upon a medium Japanese cargo vessel, which was later observed to have sunk.”

On Oct. 25,1944, the USS Franklin participated in what was to become the last major U.S. Naval sea battle, the Battle of Leyte Gulf. McKinny was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during this battle. The citation reads in part, “...In the face of heavy and very accurate naval anti-aircraft fire he participated in an aerial glide bombing attack against units of the enemy fleet and scored a direct hit on an enemy carrier which was later observed to have sunk.” McKinny was aboard the Franklin five days later when a Kamikaze hit the carrier causing major damage, requiring her return to Bremerton, Washington, for repairs. McKinny remained in the Navy and, while stationed in Honolulu in 1946, met Helen Williams, whom he would later marry. In 1956, they built their home in Coronado at 907 First Street where they raised their family.

McKinny retired from the Navy in 1968, having attained the rank of Commander, but continued flying in the corporate field until 1978. At that point, he found himself “going to work” three to four times per week, golfing at the Coronado Golf Course. McKinny passed away on Oct. 21, 2012, at the age of 89, the day which would have been his 62nd wedding anniversary.

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