At a private ceremony in Washington Australian Ambassador Joe Hockey honored Dr. Edward Brian Moore-MacMahon for his lifetime of service with a statue of Leslie Charles (“Bull”) Allen — the Embassy’s highest honor.
Dr. MacMahon served in the Australian Imperial Force of the Australian Army in Papua New Guinea during WW11 and, as a physician-volunteer alongside US troops in Viet Nam in 1963 and 1968.
Appropriately, “Bull” Allen was a stretcher-bearer, credited with saving well over a dozen American soldiers while under intense fire in 1943. He was awarded the Silver Star.
MacMahon, born in Sydney in 1926, is also, by all accounts, the oldest Australian living in the United States.
World War II
Dr. MacMahon was only 13 when the war broke out in September 1939. He and his family and friends followed the news assiduously, through broadcast, papers and especially the British magazine, “The War Illustrated,”
In 1944, he enlisted “for overseas service,” an important distinction in wartime Australia, where young men could join the army committed to serve only on Australian territory. To do so at 18 required parental consent. Dr. MacMahon, like many young men, he said, asked the man behind him in the enlistment line to forge his parents’ signature.
He did his basic infantry training at Cora, New South Wales, the site of a large prisoner-of-war camp, housing both Japanese and Italian POWs.
He was at the camp on August 1944, during the Cowra Breakout, when more than 500 Japanese prisoners stormed the camp’s machine gun emplacements, while others “committed suicide or were killed by their countrymen, inside the camp.” Four Australian guards were killed. The Japanese War Cemetery there is the only such cemetery in the country.
At 19 MacMahon was summarily “volunteered” to serve as a military policeman, promoted to Corporal, and assigned to help guard a notorious war criminal, an Australian, charged with crimes against Japanese POWs. No less than two guards accompanied the prisoner everywhere with unloaded rifles and fixed bayonets.
“War,” Dr. MacMahon said, “brings out the worst in some men . . . and the best in others.”
The end of the war saved MacMahon from his next deployment, possibly the jungles of Borneo.
After the war, MacMahon attended medical school in Australia, then in the United States, at Georgetown, where he met and married his wife, Ann.
Dr. MacMahon volunteered his services as a civilian physician in Vietnam twice: in 1963 when Americans were still relatively thin on the ground there; and again in 1968, arguably a year of extreme violence that, arguably, marked the beginning of the end of the South Vietnamese Government.
“My experiences treating gunshot wounds in the ER at DC General came in handy,” MacMahon noted.
In 1971 Dr. MacMahon and Ann moved their family (Helen, Margaret, Ed Paul, John, and Steve) to Middleburg.