SEATTLE, Wash., November 11, 2023—On November 7, Lynnwood resident Michael J Kavanaugh, 92, was named VA Puget Sound Health Care System’s 2023 Wall of Heroes Honoree—the 19th Veteran to receive the recognition.
Dedicated June 29, 2009, VA Puget Sound’s Wall of Heroes display serves as a reminder to patients, visitors and staff of the sacrifice, valor, bravery and heroism of Puget Sound Veterans. Was joined by VA Puget Sound Health Care System Executive Director Dr. Thomas Bundt, Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs Director David Puente Jr., U.S. Marine Corps Recruiting Station Seattle Commanding Officer Major Edison Feisal, and family.
At 16-years-old, Michael J Kavanaugh, joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1950. Weeks after assignment with the Marine Corps 12th Infantry Battalion at Treasure Island, he deployed with 1st Marine Division, and fought at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the North Korean Mountains near Manchuria.
Kavanaugh, originally from Omaha, Nebraska, joined the United States Marine Corps 12th Infantry Battalion at age 16. With 13 combat decorations, Kavanaugh fought at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the North Korean mountains near Manchuria during the Korean War. Historians have termed Chosin the most savage battle of modern warfare. Despite incredible odds, the American-led United Nations Command forces helped lead more than 100,000 North Korean men, women and children toward freedom with a successful evacuation.
Fighting through North Korean occupied Seoul, he then joined a ship bound for Chosin Reservoir. In late November 1950, approximately 120,000 Chinese soldiers formed an offensive to destroy the approximately 30,000 United Nations Command forces around the Chosin Reservoir. In a span of just two weeks, about 4,000 U.S. troops were wounded or died in the frozen battlefield of North Korea.
The 1st Marine Division inflicted nearly 25,000 causalities on the Communist forces. Sgt. Kavanaugh and his fellow Marines made a successful fighting withdrawal across the frigid mountains to reach Hamhung and Hungnam, North Korea. There, Sgt. Kavanaugh boarded a ship headed for South Korea to a place they settled into that he and his fellow Marines called, the Bean Patch. Two weeks later, they advanced north to retake Korea.
Kavanaugh spent the next year advancing north with the Weapons and Dog Companies. In the summer of 1951, Sgt. Kavanaugh was part of the historic first helicopter assault landing that flew 14 miles north into North Korean enemy territory. He and another marine set up a landing site for a division.
After 13 months in the Korean War, he flew to Japan where he sailed back to San Francisco. After a much-deserved 30-day leave, Kavanaugh headed to Camp Pendleton where he was assigned to a Weapons Instructing Company as the office manager. While selected for a six-month school in managing Marine Corps Exchanges that would have resulted in becoming a Warrant Officer in charge of exchanges from Alaska to southern and mid America, Kavanaugh chose to leave active duty.
After a short stint in minor league baseball, he went on to attend the University of California Berkeley and then spent 33 years at Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company, where he started in sales, working his way up to become a six-state area manager.
He has been very involved in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and New Chosin Few Organizations, holding many leadership roles to include president of the local Chosin Few, president of the 1st Marine Division Association, president of the Marine Corps Support Groups, president of the Men of Chosin and commandant of Marine Corps League.
Kavanaugh raised his family on Mercer Island and is currently retired, living near his daughter, Lynn Cullom, in Lynnwood. He and his wife, Lorayn, will celebrate their 72nd anniversary on November 22, 2023.
SOURCE: United States Department of Veteran Affairs