Admiral Wesley L. McDonald, USN (Ret.) passed away peacefully on 8 February after a long illness. He is survived by his wife Helen, and children, Tom, Kathy, Joy and Toni, 8 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. McDonald graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1946. He began his Navy career as a naval aviator in 1950, serving in several carrier fighter and attack squadrons. In 1964, he took command of Attack Squadron VA-56 flying A-4 Skyhawks aboard USS Ticonderoga. On August 5, 1964 he served at flight leader for Operation Pierce Arrow, the first retaliatory strike against North Vietnam following the Gulf of Tonkin incident. McDonald's career led him to the highest levels of the United States Navy. He attended the National Defense University graduating in 1969. From 1970-1971 he commanded the aircraft carrier, USS Coral Sea. In 1972, he was promoted to Rear Admiral, serving as the carrier group commander. He later served as deputy chief of Naval Personnel in Washington, DC and after promotion to Vice Admiral served as Commander U.S. Second Fleet. In 1982, he was promoted to Admiral and was appointed Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic, one of two senior commanders in NATO. At the same time, he assumed command of the U.S. Atlantic Command and U.S. Atlantic Fleet. In 1983 McDonald, in his role as Commander in Chief of the Atlantic, 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."
Since his retirement from the Navy in 1985, McDonald played an active role in the aviation community in his leadership positions with the National Aeronautic Association and National Aviation Club. McDonald also served on the boards of the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation, the U.S. Naval Aviation Museum and the Armed Services YMCA. His first wife, Norma, died in 1989. McDonald later remarried and lived in Arlington, Virginia with his wife Helen. McDonald's awards included the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and awards from several European and South American nations. A visitation will be held at Cunningham Funeral Home, 811 Cameron Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314 on Thursday, 12 February from 3:00 to 8:00 PM. A funeral service will be held at 1:30 PM at Christ Church, 118 N Washington Street, Alexandria, Virginia on Friday, February 13, 2009. Admiral McDonald will be interred at Arlington Cemetery on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 with a service at Ft. Myer Post Chapel at 1PM.