The Battle of Midway Roundtable
A Pawn on Midway’s Chessboard
L. D. “Don” McDougal on Midway Atoll
by Ronald Russell
(The following originally appeared in Veterans Biographies, distributed during the annual Battle of Midway commemoration in San Francisco, June 2006)
Don McDougal grew up in Hollywood during the Depression years, a time when nearly every household in American had to get by on very little. In order to bring in a little extra money, his mother rented out a spare room to the wife of a Marine who was deployed overseas. Young Don was easily influenced by the impressive Marine when he came home on leave, and quickly decided that his future was in the Corps. He joined the reserve on his 17th birthday and was called up for active duty in July 1941.
He was posted to Company G., 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and readied for combat in the Pacific. His destiny changed dramatically, though, when a portion of the regiment was picked for duty with the new Marine defense battalions (MDB). McDougal was one of only a few from Company G who were randomly selected. His new command was the 22nd Provisional Infantry Company, slated to augment the 6th MDB on Midway. As it eventually turned out, Co. G of the 2/2 Marines was nearly wiped out in the brutal invasion of Tarawa.
McDougal arrived on Midway in January 1942, and spent the next five months working vigorously to build up the atoll’s defenses, occasionally pausing to dodge shelling from Japanese submarines. He was also an accomplished singer, and performed before the showing of evening movies and during the chaplain’s Sunday services.
During the enemy air raid that opened the Battle of Midway on 4 June 1942, McDougal was in his foxhole on Sand Island, facing the southern beach. He and his comrades were to deny the beach to Japanese seaborne infantry, who were expected to come ashore after a naval bombardment. If the reef, mines, and barbed wire didn’t stop them, McDougal knew the fight would get very personal. He was very glad that that it didn’t come to that, thanks to the U.S. triumph in the air-sea battle. As for his contribution to the victory, he likes to say that he “was a mere pawn on the mighty chessboard of the Battle of Midway, but when the game is over, both the king and the pawn go back into the same box!”
McDougal was subsequently posted to the 1st MDB on Palmyra Atoll, then stateside for bomb disposal training and finally a lengthy tour with the garrison in the Canal Zone. He left the Corps at the end of his enlistment in November 1945 to begin a civilian career at first with the performing arts in Hollywood, then later in construction and real estate development.
Return to top