John MacGregor, from West Ballina, stands in front of the War Memorial in Ballina. He is protesting that he deserves a medal fo
John MacGregor, from West Ballina, stands in front of the War Memorial in Ballina. He is protesting that he deserves a medal fo

Veteran vows to march and risk arrest

By Patrizia Reimer IF THEY won't give him the real thing John MacGregor says he'll go and get a fake medal and wear it despite the consequences.

The Ballina man hoped the Department of Defence would recognise his service to the World War II effort and give him a medal in time for Anzac Day but it does not look like it will happen.

"I want a Pacific Star and I know I'm entitled to it," said the inventor and retired engineer.

"I can go down the street and buy one for $15 and I can wear it and I'm quite happy to go to jail. "While I've got a breath in my body I'm going to fight for what I believe."

Mr MacGregor, who turns 87 tomorrow, led a top secret operation laying cable between New Guinea and Australia in 1942 and 1943 under orders from US General Douglas MacArthur. Working for the Postmaster-General, he led a team of other Australians who worked on the project for a year, facing threats from the Japanese enemy as well as countless technical problems.

Normally those who served in the Pacific during WWII would receive the campaign medal called the Pacific Star.

"The Defence Department is saying that, a) we never went there, and b) that we went up there as civilians," said Mr MacGregor. "I think I've gotten the runaround."

Mr MacGregor said he joined the army in 1938 and the Defence Department claim he was discharged in 1940 despite never receiving discharge papers.

He also said two of the 15 men on this mission had received their medal by approaching the British Government.

The Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, Bruce Billson, recently issued a statement warning against people wearing unofficial medals and reiterating his tough stance on the improper use of service decorations.

The Northern Star will feature comprehensive Anzac Day guides and stories every day, starting tomorrow.



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