Veterans History Project: John McLane

by Cougar News Staff 435 views0

The United States of America would not be the country it is today without the contributions and service of its war veterans. Describing war veterans can become repetitive, monotonous, or even cliché. Commonly used words such as strong, grizzled, steel-eyed, experienced, or proven can be used to describe these individuals. While all these words can be used to describe Korean War Veteran John McLane, there are many more that can describe the man that is John McLane.

John McLane was born February 12, 1937 and after attending Pasadena City College, joined the Air Force on December 6, 1957. After completing Tech School where he was ranked a top five cadet in his class, he tested for Aviation Cadet Pilot Training and achieved one of his dreams by becoming a pilot.

“I was once asked by a higher ranking Sergeant why I joined the Air Force, and I told him, ‘I’ll play your little games as long as I get to fly your airplanes,’” said McLane.

He served in Korea for nearly five years until completing his service December 5, 1963 and even though he was never a part of combat missions, his pilot and mechanical skills were utilized in other ways.

After returning from Korea McLane worked many years as a consultant, designer and even artist for several different design and manufacturing companies such as General Electric, Filco Ford, and Bendix.

Most exclusively in the late 70’s he worked with a company called Scantland where he was the head of the Illustration Department where his main focus was designing touch screens for ATM machines for all of South America. The most impressive part of this career was that he did this all without ever attaining any degree or certificate higher than his high school diploma.

When talking about how he achieved all that he did with out any higher education, McLane said “(I relied on) 90% experience, the rest was my ability to ace tests.”

McLane worked more than 20 years as an engineer or self proclaimed “handyman,” and of course flew airplanes in the military, but this all fell short to his true love.

The love of his life came in the form of competitive cycling. In reminiscing about stories of competitions, 100-mile races and training for 6 hours a day, people around him could truly see the light and passion come out in his face. At one point he was one of the top five sprinters in the sport and competed against several word champions.

McLane answered all questions that were asked of him about his time in Korea, but was not over zealous in sharing stories. However, when asked about a cycling, it was hard to get him to stop talking. “Someone could sit around on an airplane getting relatively fat…competition cycling, on the road, is considered to be the toughest sport in the world. There is nothing quite as aerobic as racing a bicycle,” said McLane.

The truly inspiring aspect of his passion for cycling was how in a nonchalant way he mentioned how in 1975 on a skiing trip he was paralyzed from the neck down. He rehabbed for 8 months and the first thing he did after completing his rehabilitation was ride his bicycle.

“I had the other members of my team ride right next to me on all sides so I stayed vertical,” said McLane.

Cycling was the activity that McLane was most passionate about and enjoyed to do; however in his later years, he has returned to his first career.

In the last few years, McLane has become more involved in his military life holding many retired positions. He has been the Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, District 7 from 2007-2009, and Sr. Vice Commander of Post 3552 in Palmdale as well as Commander of Acton post 10606. These posts deal with mainly the political side of the military and in his own words, he was responsible for “putting out a lot of fires.”

John McLane is a war veteran, but he is not limited to that title. He is a man who all can learn from. He showed how if you follow your passions in life and are dedicated, you could achieve far more than you ever expected.