John was born in St. Clairsville, Ohio, on February 23,
1911. His parents emigrated from Hungary and arrived in America at Ellis Island.
His father came to the United States in 1907 and his mother and two older
sisters came in 1909. He had two brothers and 4 sisters. After he graduated from
high school, he became a coal miner.
The story goes that in 1935, a friend of John’s convinced him to
join the Marines with him. They both signed up, but his friend failed the
physical, and John was off to Parris Island by himself. He reached PI in June,
1935. During boot camp, John got the name Pappy because of his advanced age (24)
and his thinning hair.
After boot camp, John joined the 10th Marines (Artillery) at
Marine Corps Base, San Diego from Oct, 1935 to May, 1939. In 1938, he was sent
to Shanghai, China, via the USS Henderson. He went from San Diego to Shanghai
via Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines.
John was stationed in Shanghai with the 4th Marines from June,
1939 to July, 1941. After China, he was sent to Quantico, Virginia from August,
1941 to July, 1942 with the Guard Company.
Before World War II, President Roosevelt made an agreement with
England, called the” Lend-Lease” program, to exchange 50 World War I US Navy
destroyers for U.S. access to English bases in the Atlantic. Most people knew
that war was coming and these bases would be used to help protect the United
States against the Germans, especially their U-boats. One of the bases was
located on the northeastern part of South America in a British Colony called
British Guiana (now called Guyana).
John was assigned to Naval Air Station, British Guiana from
July, 1942 to April, 1944 as a Marine guard duty Gunnery Sergeant. Navy
seaplanes patrolled the southern Caribbean looking for German U-boats.
John was transferred to Quantico, Virginia, to attend Ordinance
School from May, 1944 to January, 1945. Following that, John was sent to the
South Pacific and participated in the battle of Okinawa as part of the 3rd BN,
11th Marines (artillery). He was there from Febuary, 1945 to November, 1945.
After the war, Marines were sent back to the United States based on their total
points accumulated overseas. John returned early because of his points total
from South America and the South Pacific.
After the war, he was assigned to a Research and Development
Group associated with the Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory
in Maryland. The project he was assigned to was named “Operation Bumblebee”
where the Marine Corps and Navy developed their first guided missiles. The
missiles were tested off of Topsail Island in North Carolina, the same location
where the U.S. space program started. Because of the shipping traffic off the
North Carolina coast, the space program was eventually moved to Cape Canaveral,
Florida, and the Marine Corps program was relocated to the Naval Ordinance Test
Station in China Lake, California.
From September, 1952 to April, 1954, John was assigned to the
Ordinance Section, HQ Bn, 1st AAA AW Bn FMF.
From May, 1954 to June 1955, John was sent to Korea with the
First Tank Battalion, First Marine Division. After returning from Korea, John
served in the 1st MAAM until his Marine Corps retirement in January, 1957, at
Twenty-nine Palms, California.
As a civilian, John worked in the aerospace industry until his
retirement in 1976. He worked for various companies depending on their
government contracts, including General Dynamics, Solar, Hughes, and the Ryan
Aeronautical Company. During his time at General Dynamics, he worked on the
Atlas missile that sent the first man into space.
John passed away on April 12, 1994, at the age of 83.
* BE SURE AND VIEW JOHN LUKO's WEBSITE (
click here )