George Morgan Chinn was born in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, in 1902, and attended Braxton “Tech,” a one room schoolhouse. He forewent high school and enrolled at Millersburg Military Institute, outside of Lexington. He graduated at the age of 19 in 1920. During his time there, he was commissioned to France and was supposed to leave in December of 1918, but World War I ended in November. Nonetheless, upon graduating he was gifted a victory medal.
Following this, he attended Centre College and played football. He was a lineman on the 1921 Centre Praying Colonels that defeated Harvard in the national championship. Due to many severe injuries, he served as an assistant coach the following season. He also coached at three other universities. After these athletic endeavors, Chinn and Tunnel Smith (a service man known for “blowing out” caves) to build The Cave House, a restaurant in a cave. The Cave House also had a slot machine and a liquor business; Chinn was arrested for these activities, which were illegal at the time. He was acquitted. Without employment, Chinn reached out to Governor Happy Chandler. Chandler helped him secure a job as a tour guide in Frankfort, Kentucky. He was also the Sergeant at Arms for the Kentucky State Legislature during this time. This experience landed him the job as the Weapons Consultant for the Army in 1939.
With the start of World War II, Chinn was inspired to join the Marine Corps. Despite being ten years over the age limit and 118 pounds over the weight expectancy, Chinn was accepted into the Marine Corps in 1943 with the help of Governor Chandler, as he had served as his bodyguard. He received his basic training in Quantico, Virginia, and was stationed at Fort Knox and Cherry Point. During his time as an active Marine, Chinn became an automatic weapons expert. In 1945, Chinn travelled to inspect the capabilities of the Marine Corps positioned in the Pacific Theatre. Following this, he worked on a five volume written history of the machine gun, The Machine Gun, until 1956. During this period, he was also stationed in Seoul and Tokyo to service the MK 19 grenade launchers used in the Korean War.
Upon his return home, Chinn joined the Kentucky Historical Society and served as the secretary-treasurer through 1959. As he prepared for retirement from the Marine Corps, Chinn became the director of the Historical Society and remained in that role until 1973. He retired as a colonel in 1961. He then served as deputy director for KHS from 1974 to 1980. In September of 1987, at the age of 85, Colonel Chinn passed away. He was buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Mercer County.
Marker #2044 was dedicated in 2000 by the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Department of Highways. It reads: Colonel George Morgan Chinn, USMC. This Mercer County native was one of nation's leading authorities on automatic weapons. He attended Millersburg Military Institute and Centre College. A Marine veteran of WW II and the Korean War, Chinn observed combat use of weapons and served as trouble shooter. His findings led to Navy-sponsored The Machine Gun, five volumes on evolution of automatic weapons.
(Reverse) Weapons Expert. As consultant during Vietnam War, Chinn (1902-1987) helped develop grenade launchers and related air and ground weapons which were also used in Persian Gulf War. He was awarded several weapons patents. In 1960 he became director of the Kentucky Historical Society and wrote works on Mercer County and pioneer Kentucky. Presented by Marine Corps League of Kentucky.