Airing for four seasons on ABC from October 11, 1962, to April 12, 1966, McHale’s Army was a lighthearted sitcom that followed the exploits of a Navy PT boat crew during the Second World War. With Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale, portrayed by Ernest Borgnine, taking command, the band of misfits that manned PT-73 often broke regulations whenever it suited them while fending off enemy attacks on the Pacific Island base of Taratupa.
It’s been 57 years since McHale’s Navy went off the air, so naturally, the majority of people that worked on the series have since passed away.
Just recently one of the last cast members of the iconic series, Yoshio Yoda, died at the age of 88. Yoda was a Japanese-born American actor best known for playing Fuji Kobiashi on McHale’s Navy. He was born in Tokyo on March 31, 1934, and died in Fullerton, California, on January 13, 2023.
Following Yoda’s passing, there is only one surviving McHale’s Navy cast member. Keep watching to find out who that is. We’ll also be taking the time to pay our respects to the other McHale’s Navy actors who have died in the last six decades.
Facts Verse Presents: The Only McHale’s Navy Cast Member Still Alive After Yoshio Yoda’s Death
After graduating from high school, Yoshio studied law at Keio University in Minato, Tokyo. During this time, he met a man named Edward Ugast, who was then the general manager in East Asia of 20th Century Fox.
Ugast managed to convince Yoda to pursue an acting career. So, he ended up abandoning his studies and immigrated to the US, where he enrolled at the University of Southern California with aspirations of becoming a film producer.
Yoda ended up graduating from USC with a degree in cinema arts. In 1961, he took an opportunity to become a screen actor when MGM asked the school to connect them with someone that was bilingual in Japanese and English.
The following year, he was cast in a war film titled The Horizontal Lieutenant. This role opened the door for him to be cast as Seaman 3rd Class Fujiwara Takeo Kobiashi in Mchale’s Navy. Known as Fuji by his friends, Yoda’s character was a Japanese prisoner of war who rose through the ranks.
Yoda starred in every episode of the series and was widely considered to be one the show’s lovable stars.
After McHale’s Navy ended, Yoda found continued work as an actor and associate producer before switching gears and becoming a businessman. In Honolulu, he served as the Assistant Vice President of Toyota Hawaii. He eventually retired from that post and moved out to Fullerton, California, where he lived until his death.
Born Ermes Effron Bognino on January 24, 1917, this American actor’s career spanned over six decades. He was well-known for his gruff yet relaxed voice and his gap-toothed Cheshire Cat-like grin.
Borgnine’s film career began in 1951 when he landed a supporting role in China Corsair. He followed that up with supporting roles in films such as 1953s From Here to Eternity, 1954s Vera Cruz, 1955s Bad Day At Black Rock, and 1959s The Wild Bunch.
In 1955, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his starring role in the film Marty. Borgnine enjoyed continued success in the sitcom McHale’s Army playing the show’s lead, Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale.
Years later, he would co-star in the action series Airwolf portraying the character Dominic Santini. While little remembered today, Airwolf ran for four seasons from 1984 to 1987.
In 2009, Borgnine earned his third Primetime Emmy nomination for his work on the series finale of ER. He also was notable for voicing Mermaid Man on SpongeBob SquarePants from 1999 till his death in 2012 at the age of 95.
Conway was born in Willoughby, Ohio, on December 15, 1933. After majoring in television and radio at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, he enlisted in the US Army.
After receiving his discharge in 1958, Conway worked with radio and television personality Ernie Anderson at NBC affiliate KYW-TV in Cleveland. From 1969 to 1962, he wrote comedic material and skits that were shown during the intermission of the WJW-TV weekday morning film show Ernie’s Place.
Later, Rose Marie discovered Conway, and he ended up becoming a regular performer on The Steve Allen Plymouth Show. He didn’t earn true fame, however, until he began starring as Ensign Charles Parker on McHale’s Navy.
After that series ended, Conway appeared in several shows that were failures, including 1969s Turn-On, which embarrassingly only aired one episode.
In 1970, Conway was given his own series called The Tim Conway Show. Once again, that offering flopped after just 12 episodes.
Tim went on to star in the 1975 Disney film The Apple Dumpling Gang. After that, he made appearances in films such as 1979s The Prize Fighter and 1980s The Private Eyes.
Arguably Conway’s biggest claim to fame was performing on The Carol Burnett Show in various roles such as The Old Man and Mr. Tudball. He became a regular performer on that series in 1975.
In his later years, Conway continued in comedic roles such as Dorf while also making many more guest appearances in television shows and films.
Conway died from complications of normal pressure hydrocephalus on May 14, 2019, at the age of 85.
Robert Francis Hastings was born on the 18th of April, 1925, in Brooklyn, New York. While he was active as an actor from 1936 to 2013, he was best known for his role as Lt. Elroy Carpenter on McHale’s Navy. Years later, he voiced Commissioner James Gordon in the DC Animated Universe.
Hastings got his start in radio as a boy singer on Chicago’s National Barn Dance country music radio program. After serving in the military, he played Archie Andrews in an NBC radio series based on the Archie comics.
He soon made the jump to television, performing in early sci-fi series such as Atom Squad. Besides McHale’s Navy, Hastings also made appearances in TV shows such as Car 54, Where Are You, Dennis The Menace, Green Acres, and All in the Family.
On the big screen, Hastings enjoyed minor roles in films such as 1968s The Bamboo Saucer and 1970s The Boatniks. In 1971, he co-starred with Don Knotts in How to Frame a Figg. The following year, he landed a supporting role in The Poseidon Adventure.
Hastings spent the latter portion of his life working as a voice-over artist. Aside from his work with DC, he also voiced characters in Hanna-Barbera series such as Jeannie and Fred Flinstone and Friends.
Hastings died of prostate cancer on June 30, 2014, at 89.
Billing himself with such names as The Great Ballantine and The Amazing Ballantine, Carl Ballantine was a comedian, actor, and magician who was known for his vaudeville-style comedy routine that involved intentionally transparent stage magic tricks that were designed to flop for comedic effect.
He was born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 27, 1917, and discovered his love for magic and comedy at an early age. Ballantine quickly developed quite a following and eventually found himself performing at some of the top venues in New York City and Vegas.
In the early 60s, Carl began showing up on TV, appearing in comedies like Car 54, Where Are You? In 1962, he landed the role of crewman Lester Gruber on McHale’s Navy.
Ballantine went on to be featured in comedy films like 1968s The Shakiest Gun in the West, 1977s The World’s Greatest Lover, and 1992s Mr. Saturday Night. Aside from films, Ballantine continued to appear regularly on TV shows such as Fantasy Island, The Cosby Show, and Night Court.
In his later years, Ballantine worked prolifically as a cartoon and commercial voice-over artist.
On November 3, 2009, Carl died of natural causes at 92.
Born in El Segundo, California, on October 22, 1936, Gary Vinson was an American actor who enjoyed three significant roles in popular 1960s television series. On The Roaring 20s, he played Duke Williams, and on Pistols ‘n’ Petticoats, he played Sheriff Harold Sikes. Vinson’s best-remembered role, however, was that of Quartermaster “Christy” Christopher in McHale’s Navy.
Throughout his acting career, Vinson made numerous guest appearances on shows such as Love American Style, The Waltons, Battlestar Galactica, and Barnaby Jones. His final screen appearances were playing an air marshall in a 1982 episode of The Fall Guy, and Jake Cord in a 1983 episode of the NBC family drama Boone.
Vinson died on October 15, 1984, just a week shy of his 48th birthday. Sadly, he took his own life.
Bobby Wright is the last surviving cast member of McHale’s Army. On the program, he played radio operator Willy Moss.
Wright was born in Charleston, West Virgnia, on March 30, 1942. He is the middle child of country music singers Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright.
Growing up in Louisiana, Wright was surrounded by music constantly as his parents were regular performers on the country music TV program Louisiana Hayride.
When he was eight, Wright appeared alongside his parents on the show and went on to become part of their recordings. In 1958, Wright’s parents became headliners at the Grand Ole Opry.
Even though he was a proficient guitarist, Wright initially had little interest in pursuing a music career. Instead, he took an interest in acting.
After traveling out to Hollywood to test for TV and film director Peter Tewksbury, Wright was cast in McHale’s Navy. While that series was still in production, Wright decided to go ahead and give music a go by working with his mother on one of her albums.
After growing dissatisfied with Hollywood, Wright moved back to Nashville to instead start a full-fledged music career. He went on to record for ABC, Decca, and United Artists Records between the years of 1967 and 1979. In that time, he charted 21 singles on the Hot Country Songs charts. His highest charting release was the 1971 song “Here I Go Again” which peaked at number 13.
Since the 70s, Wright has continued to perform, and for many years he toured with his parents until they retired in 2007.
As of 2023, at 80, he remains the last surviving cast member of McHale’s Navy.
Once again we want to express our sincerest condolences to the friends, fans, and family of Yoshio Yoda. While he might not have been the most prominent McHale’s Navy cast member, the series wouldn’t have been the same without him.
Did you know that Bobby Wright is the last surviving cast member of the 1960s sitcom McHale’s Navy and that after the series ended, he wound up instead pursuing a career as country music artist? Let us know in the comments, and as always, thanks for watching.