Remembering our veterans: The McLain boys
Three young men in the same family “joined up” while still underage!
Maurice Story McLain, at age 15, in 1920, enlisted in the U.S. Navy He received basic training at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and was in President-elect Warren G. Harding’s inaugural parade in 1921. Soon after, Maurice was hospitalized with a severe case of the measles. Because of his illness, his dad visited at the hospital and worked to have him released from the service. Maurice went home to Kannapolis and found employment in the Cannon Mills.
Raymond McLain, at the age of 15, decided that he would rather see the world than be tied down working in a textile mill, consequently, he enlisted in the Navy in 1916. Short lived was his commitment to the Navy, as his mother got him discharged after a few months. Raymond also found employment with the Cannon Mills and worked for them for forty years.
Arnold McLain, born on July 18, 1927, residing in Kannapolis. When Arnold was 16, he was expected to begin working in Cannon Mills. But somehow, in June, 1943, a short time before Arnold’s 16th birthday, he and his 16 year old cousin, Bruce talked Bruce’s dad and Uncle Raymond into signing enlistment papers for them to enlist in the Naval Reserves. Arnold’s parents were not happy about this. But he completed boot camp with Company 4328 at Bainbridge, Maryland, and on September 4th, 1943 he was assigned to training at the Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia. He became a crew member of the USS Samuel S. Miles (DE-183) October 9, 1943. While serving on the “Miles” in central and south Pacific areas, he and his fellow crew participated with the Third and Fifth Fleets in thirteen landing operations, earning eight battle stars and two stars for the Philippines Liberation.In July of 1945, he Arnold and his shipmates docked in San Pedro, California on July 22, 1945. He was assigned shore duty at the Naval Air Station, Willow grove, Pennsylvania, from November 1945 until June 1946. He served briefly on tours at the Naval Air Station, Ottumwa, Iowa, Jacksonville, Florida, and Memphis, Tennessee. In August 1948, Arnold was assigned to the USS New Kent, and the USS Randall, USS Menard, and the USS Comstock, with a tour at NAS Jacksonville, after serving on the Randall.
Arnold earned two battle stars in the Korean War, and served in the Vietnam area during the summer of 1954. He participated in the underwater Pacific nuclear tests (Operation Wigwam) in 1955, while serving aboard the Comstock. He was also station at NAB Coronado, California from June 1956, until August 1958. He went aboard the USS San Joaquin County (LST-1122 at San Diego, California in September, 1958. The San Joaquin County was transferred to SERVFRORPAC and converted to a support and station ship at a Guam shipyard. On September 1, 1959, they sailed for Japan and was stationed at Iwakuni until May 1962. Following the service in Iwakuni, Arnold served on the USS Apache, and theUSS Molala. He was then promoted to Chief Boatswain Mate in September 1960, until his retirement from the U.S. Navy on the 1st of July, 1964, in San Diego, California, after twenty one years of service.
Upon returning home to North Carolina, Arnold was hired by the North Carolina Driver License Section in Johnston County from May, 1965, until July, 1990, and then was promoted to District Supervisor in Wayne County, until his retirement 1992.
Arnold married Lila J. Whitley of southwest Georgia, and they have two daughters and five grandchildren. He is a member of the Fleet Reserve Association, the American Legion, and has been active in the Boy Scouts of American and its Order of the Arrow program for more than thirty years. Arnold and Lila reside in Smithfield, North Carolina.