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First Name: Wesley

Last Name: McDonald

Birthplace: Washington, DC, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: L.

Date of Birth: 06 July 1924

Date of Death: 08 February 2009

Rank or Rate: Admiral

Years Served: 1946 - 1985
Wesley L. McDonald

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1946

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)
•  Operation Urgent Fury - Granada (1983)


Wesley L. McDonald

Admiral, U.S. Navy

Wesley L. McDonald was born on 6 July 1924 in Washington, DC.

McDonald graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1946 and married his high school sweetheart, Norma Joy. He began his career as a naval aviator in 1950, serving in several carrier fighter and attack squadrons. In 1964, McDonald was the skipper of Attack Squadron VA-56 flying A-4 Skyhawks aboard the USS Ticonderoga. On 5 August 1964, he served as a flight leader for Operation Pierce Arrow, the first retaliatory strike against North Vietnam following the Gulf of Tonkin incident. McDonald led his Skyhawk strike force against oil tanks at Vinh, destroying 90% of the facility.

McDonald's career led him to the highest levels of the U.S. Navy's command structure. He attended the National Defense University's National War College, graduating with the class of 1969. From 1970-71, he commanded the USS Coral Sea. In 1972, as a Rear Admiral, McDonald was assigned as the carrier group Commander. He later served as Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel in Washington, DC, in 1975. In 1978, as Commander, U.S. Second Fleet, he embarked on the USS Arthur W. Radford on the way to NATO exercises in the North Atlantic.

On 1 October 1982, McDonald was promoted to the four-star rank of Admiral and appointed Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT), one of two supreme commanders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. At the same time, he assumed command of the U.S. Atlantic Command (CINCLANT) and U.S. Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT). In 1983, McDonald, in his role as CINCLANT, was placed in overall command of Operation Urgent Fury-the invasion of Grenada to rescue U.S. nationals. He later summed up the success of the operation in an address before the House Armed Services Committee.

"History should reflect that the operation was a complete success. All phases of the assigned mission were accomplished. U.S. citizens were protected and evacuated. The opposing forces were neutralized. The situation stabilized with no additional Cuban intervention. U.S. students have returned to resume their studies at the medical school and tourism is steadily increasing. And, most importantly, a lawful, democratic government has been restored."

McDonald was the last U.S. Navy Admiral to command all three organizations (Allied Atlantic Command, U.S. Atlantic Command, and U.S. Atlantic Fleet) at the same time. He relinquished command of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet to Admiral Carlisle A.H. Trost, USN, on 4 October 1985, and command of the U.S. Atlantic Command and Allied Atlantic Command to Admiral Lee Baggett Jr. in November 1985.

Medals and Awards

Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal


Naval Aviator Badge

He also received medals and awards from several European and South American nations.


In 1990, McDonald was elected Grand Paramount Carabao, leader of the Military Order of the Carabao.

In 2004, McDonald was presented with the National Aeronautic Association's Cliff Henderson award for his 56 years of support to American aviation.

In 2007, the National Aeronautic Association renamed its Elder Statesman of Aviation Award in honor of McDonald, who was a past chairman of the organization.

The Admiral Wesley L. McDonald Leadership Award, jointly sponsored by Strike Fighter Wing Pacific, the San Joaquin Valley Squadron of the Association of Naval Aviation (ANA) and the Greater Kings County Navy League.

The Wesley L. McDonald Elder Statesman of Aviation Award, sponsored by the National Aeronautic Association.

In Retirement

After his retirement from the Navy, McDonald played an active role in the aviation community in his leadership positions with the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) and the National Aviation Club (NAC). He helped orchestrate a merger of interests between NAA and NAC bringing benefits to both organizations. McDonald has also served on the boards of the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation, the U.S. Naval Aviation Museum and the Armed Services YMCA.

McDonald was a Senior Fellow of the National Defense University.


His first wife, Norma Joy, who he married in 1946, died in 1989. McDonald later remarried and lived in Arlington, VA, with his wife, Helen, until his death. He has one son and three daughters.

Death and Burial

Admiral Wesley L. McDonald died 8 February 2009. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 596   Created by: MHOH




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