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The passing of Rear Admiral Malcolm “Mal” MacKinnon III, U.S. Navy (retired,) on 24 June 2019
Created by mredmon@navalengineers.org on 6/27/2019 10:45:42 AM

It is deep regret that I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral Malcolm “Mal” MacKinnon III, U.S. Navy (retired,) on 24 June 2019.   Mal entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1951 and served most of his career as an Engineering Duty Officer until his retirement on 1 July 1990, as Vice Commander/Chief Engineer of the Navy, Naval Sea Systems Command.  Mal had a significant role in the conceptual design efforts for the Trident and SSN 688 classes of nuclear submarines among many other of the Navy’s most important shipbuilding and repair projects.


Mal graduated from the Naval Academy in June 1955, where the Luck Bag says he “breezed through his classes in starring fashion,” with an engineering career already in mind.  Ensign MacKinnon then reported to the destroyer USS BENHAM (DD 796) as Engineering Officer.  Shortly after completion of a modernization overhaul, she began preparations for a possible emergency deployment, and then with one day’s notice deployed from Norfolk to the Eastern Mediterranean in reaction to the 1956 Suez Crisis and Middle East War.    In June 1958, Lieutenant Junior Grade MacKinnon commenced studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) earning a Master’s Degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in 1961.  After six months at Naval Submarine School, Groton,  Lieutenant MacKinnon reported to the USS GROUPER (AGSS-214) as Engineering Officer and Executive Officer.  GROUPER served as a floating laboratory for the Naval Research and Underwater Sound Laboratories, mostly for the study of sound propagation in water.  In July 1963 he reported to the San Francisco Naval Shipyard as Ship Superintendent/Type Desk Sub Project Officer) and earned his first (of three) Navy Unit Commendations for his involvement with design and construction of the SEALAB II Experimental Unit (Underwater Habitat.)  From March 1966, Lieutenant Commander MacKinnon served on the staff of Commander Task Force 65 in charge of Mediterranean destroyers, where he received his second Navy Unit Commendation.  In May 1966, he reported to Naval Ship Engineer Center as a Project Director.  Promoted to commander in 1969, he attended the Naval War College in 1970-1971.


In August 1971, Commander MacKinnon assumed duties as the Quality Assurance Officer for Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, at Groton.  Beginning in June 1974, he assumed duty as Officer-in-Charge of the Engineering Duty Officer School at Mare Island (He founded the school.)  Beginning in July 1976, Captain MacKinnon served as the Production Officer at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, followed in June 1979 with service as Assistant Chief of Staff for Material, Commander Submarine Forces, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.  Beginning in June 1981, he commenced six years as the Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair at Newport News, where he was frocked to Rear Admiral (Lower Half) in February 1983 and promoted on 1 December 1984, and received a third Navy Unit Commendation.  In 1985, he was designated a Materiel Professional.   Promoted to Rear Admiral in April 1987, in August 1987, he assumed duty at Naval Sea Systems Command as Deputy Commander for Ship Design and Engineering, and then in August 1988 as Vice Commander/Chief Engineer of the Navy until he retired in 1990.


Mal’s awards included three Legion of Merit Medals, two Meritorious Service Medals, and the Navy Commendation Medal.


After his retirement, Mal became the president and owner of a maritime consulting firm (MacKinnon-Searle Consortium LLC.)   He was an enthusiastic supporter of the USNA Foundation and the Naval Academy, and was active in the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers and the American Society of Naval Engineers, as well as a member of the National Academy of Engineering.  He was also outspoken on the issue of gun violence in the United States.


A memorial Service will be held at 1600 29 June 2019 at the National Presbyterian Church, 4101 Nebraska Avenue with burial at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.


Mal was a brilliant intellect, with the ability to transform “big thoughts” into practical engineering solutions.  He is one of the unsung heroes who developed, built, converted and fixed the ships of the United States Navy so that they could accomplish their mission during the Cold War, and many of those ships are still serving  superbly today years later.  Three Navy Unit Comendations is a pretty good haul, indicating that what he did truly mattered, whether at sea or in a shipyard.  Our Navy would not be what it is today without the hard work and genius of Mal MacKinnon, for which our nation should be grateful.


Rest in Peace Admiral MacKinnon.

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