In Memoriam: Eagle Man, Ed McGaa

Captain McGaa (USMC, Ret.) was an enrolled Oglala Sioux tribal member, OST 15287. After serving in Korea, he earned an undergraduate degree from St. Johns University, MN. He then later rejoined the Marine Corps to become a fighter pilot. Captain McGaa, returned from 110 combat missions to dance in six annual Sioux Sun Dances. A Bush Award recipient, he studied under two Sioux holy men; Chief Eagle Feather and Chief Fools Crow and the interpreter for Black Elk Speaks, Ben Black Elk. Ed held a law degree from the University of South Dakota and was the author of twelve books; three of which were published by Harper Collins. Ed’s book, Mother Earth Spirituality, was reprinted 50 times. His biography, Warrior’s Odyssey, was published by Amazon.

Captain McGaa was one of the very few to ever fly 5 combat missions in a row:

 “It was probably about a 12 hour period or less. Afternoon off, hot pad on, getting close to midnight. A small airstrip, probably for Helio Couriers was the battle area. The downed Spad and Skyhawk A-4, managed to crash land there near the downed H-46’s. Major Tom Duffy, later KIA, and I had to fight all afternoon following the 3rd mission. While I was being re-armed and fueled for the 4th mission at darkness, the Squadron C.O. pointed out that a new pilot going into those mountains bearing 37’s and 51’s would have been a death sentence. We heard that 3 missions were the limit, and you were pretty tired by then anyway. A lot of adrenaline goes into a bombing mission under fire and repeated passes. I could have said ‘No’ but the Skipper pointed out those bombs being loaded were life or death for those Marine grunts on board each H-46. I didn’t have much choice. Dark Death was out there – no question. Both the Commander flight surgeon with my Colonel saluted me when the plane captain signaled start up of my 2nd J-79 engine. That is when I yelled at my Skipper, “Colonel, can I have a drink waiting IF I get back?” They both saluted me again and nodded affirmatively.  I had no idea I would somehow be able to do a 5th attempt after finding out one chopper load was overrun. Later we found out all aboard were murdered in the High Lands – no POW list. I returned and they handed my drink up to me via the Plane Captain’s ‘cigar box’ on a pole, it had to be loaded. When we saw the Skipper and the high ranking Navy commander standing near the revetments by the loading area with what looked like a big canteen cup (My requested drink), I told my RIO (rear seater-no controls) that no way could I go back out. It had to be loaded with something. They did pass it up to me but I did not commit myself – not until about the 3rd long drink. Suddenly, miraculously I was full of energy and went back out. We saved the 2nd helo. Gun ships and two H-46’s got in. The enemy battalion was thoroughly mauled.”

Captain McGaa passed away in 2017.

Share this Page


  1. Robert J. Mendlein June 20, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Welcome aboard!
    It should be interesting to see how a non-Christian religion is dealt with by the right, but they will have a hard time downplaying your credentials. Good luck and may God (however you interpret) be with you and the rest of the team.

  2. Mary Ruth Webb November 28, 2022 at 8:58 am

    I was honored to have met Eagle Man at an Environmental Conference held at Marywood Retreat in Florida. This must have been in the mid 90’s. Let me just say that he was a PRESENCE. We ate cafeteria style and he happened to sit down next to me at a meal. He was dressed in his full ceremonial dress. I’m a woman and was in my mid 40s then, and, honestly, I nearly died. I turned into a six-year-old. He signed his book for me and drew a picture of himself with his signature. Then he drew a picture of me as an Indian and told me to put my Spirit Name on it when I received it. He also told me to keep my eye out for a Spirit Stone. I would know it when I saw it. An amazing man. A leader, a teacher, a hero, a Holy Man, a Chief.

Leave A Comment