Larry McDonald: Our JBS Hero
by Christian Gomez, CLA Intern
Yes we are at war — very definitely, we have been at war, it’s an economic war, it’s a war of subversion, it’s a war of espionage, it’s a war of ideas, and it’s a war of terrorism and it’s a war of infiltration.
—Congressman Lawrence P. McDonald, Interview from documentary No Place To Hide (1982)
Devoutly Christian, patriotic, a captain in the U.S. military, from the state of Georgia, much too young, and killed by the Communists — is a comparison many have made about both The John Birch Society’s namesake, John M. Birch, and its second leader, Congressman Lawrence P. McDonald.
History has all but forgotten Congressman Larry McDonald and the sacrifice he made in the Cold War. His omission from the history textbooks has gone on since the Soviet Union shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, in which he was a passenger, on September 1, 1983.
Larry McDonald was born on April 1, 1935 in Atlanta, Georgia. At the age of 17, he was accepted to Emory Medical School and in 1957 he graduated from Emory University with his M.D. He then joined the U.S. Navy, serving on active duty for four years as a Navy physician and flight surgeon. For the duration of his life, McDonald remained in the Naval Reserve and was eventually promoted to the rank of Captain.
In 1974, after a tough primary battle in the Democratic Party, McDonald went on to slip by his Republican challenger Quincy Collins, defeating him by a margin of 549 votes out of the more than 95,000 votes cast.
On April 29, 1975, newly elected Representative McDonald addressed the floor of the House of Representatives for the first time. McDonald criticized the gradualist “no-win war” strategy in the Vietnam War, strongly emphasizing the Communist “bloodbath” that was to come to the people of South Vietnam.
By the end of his first term in the House he earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues in Congress; “Mr. Conservative” Senator Barry Goldwater said that Larry McDonald had “contributed more to the Congress than … any other freshman who has ever come here.” Goldwater’s remark wasn’t the only conservative approval McDonald garnered.
During his tenure in office, Representative McDonald always scored a solid 100 percent in “The Conservative Index,” then published in The Review Of The News (the predecessor to The New American’s “Freedom Index.”) McDonald also scored a 100 percent rating from Americans for Conservative Action.
Larry McDonald was known for his staunch constitutional conservative principles and fervent anti-communism. He was an advocate of limited government, school prayer, Austrian economics, the reinstallation of the House Internal Security Committee, and — most dear to him — America’s mutual defense alliances with Taiwan and South Korea.
McDonald founded Western Goals Foundation, a private intelligence network, composed of former and current FBI, CIA, and military personnel, with the goal of preventing any merger of the United States and the Free World with the totalitarian world. He also served on the boards of Conservative Caucus and the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress.
Aside from his political activism, Dr. McDonald was also a noted surgeon from the McDonald Urological Clinic. He served as acting Chairman of the Georgia State Medical Board. He was a charter member of the Economic Monetary Investment Research Society and also served on the Economic Committee of the Association of America Physicians and Surgeons.
Almost three months before his fateful flight, McDonald succeeded Robert Welch as the chairman of The John Birch Society. Around the same time, Congressman McDonald was also appointed chairman of the Special Operation Forces Panel of the House Armed Services Committee.
While en route to give a speech in Seoul commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the end of the Korean War, Soviet fighter jets identified and shot down his plane over Soviet airspace, presumably killing him and the rest of the passengers.
Over 25 years after that tragic event, why do I care to write about him? To be honest, I never heard of his name until I decided to study what happened to KAL 007 as part of a paper I was writing on President Reagan. I was surprised and shocked when I read, “All 269 passengers and crew aboard were killed, including Lawrence McDonald, a sitting member of the United States Congress.”
When I clicked on McDonald’s name I read that he had been the only sitting Congressman ever to be killed by the Communists during the Cold War. “How come I never heard about this? Why have I never heard his name before?” I asked myself in astonishment.
From then on I knew that this man was a forgotten hero and the more that I read and researched him, extensively for over a year, he came to replace all other historical figures as my personal hero, role model, and inspiration. Tears ran down my face as I read about him and his possible fate.
In the same manner that the story of John Birch inspired Mr. Welch, so too the story of Larry McDonald inspires me. Let no one forget Larry McDonald and the sacrifice he made in the name of liberty, so that all of us may be free.