John McCain By: Jacqueline Jacobs Period 3 An American Maverick
John McCain was born into a family of war heroes and he continues to follow in their footsteps. John McCain has devoted his life to the United States of America, and continues to do so to this day.
Family History “ My grandfather and my father were my first heroes, and earning their respect has been the most lasting ambition of my life.”-John McCain ( Faith of My Fathers).
John Sidney McCain Sr.
U.S. Navy Admiral
Commanded land-based air operations for the Guadalcanal Campaign
Served for 40 years
Died four days after the Japanese officially surrender
John Sidney McCain Jr.
U.S. Navy Admiral
Fought in WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War
Commander in Chief of the Pacific Command during Vietnam War while his son, John McCain III was Prisoner of War
Served for 40 years
Education: Life at Annapolis 1954-1958 John McCain III
Entered into the Naval Academy in Maryland when he was 17
Excelled in sports, especially in boxing
Earned a reputation as a rowdy party animal and a slob whose room was constantly in gross disorder
“ By the end of his sophomore year, he had marched enough extra duty to go from Annapolis to Baltimore and back 17 times”- Los Angeles Times
“ He was there because it was the family business. He felt he didn’t have a choice. He was very proud of his father and grandfather… but at the same time his lack of choosing his own way bothered him.” -Frank Gamboa, a Naval Academy roommate
Received a Bachelor of Science degree
Graduated 5th from bottom of the 894 graduating seniors
Dubbed as one of the Navy’s most colorful characters
A Navy Flyer 1958
Naval Aviator in Training
August 1958: Trained as a naval aviator in Florida for two and a half years
While practicing landings, an engine quit. McCain was knocked out and when he came to, he was inside his plane at the bottom of the bay. He escaped the plane and the crash with no serious injuries.
When flying back from Philadelphia, his engine failed and he had to eject at 1,000 ft.
“ For the second time, he had survived a plane crash that had occurred through no fault of his own. He had to wonder how many more times he could crash a plane and survive.”- Paul Alexander, author of Man of the People
Transferred to Jacksonville where he joined a squadron headed for Vietnam
Corpus Christi Bay: Site of First Plane Crash
Vietnam 1967 A much longer tour than he could have expected
Served on the USS Forrestal , but when a fire broke out, the ship was destroyed and he transferred to Oriskany
The Saints, the nickname of McCain’s squadron, had suffered highest casualty rate, but had destroyed all of their target bridges.
Of the Saints, McCain said, “We had a reputation of aggressiveness, and for success” ( Faith of My Fathers).
The pilots were on duty for twelve hours a day, and then rested for twelve hours
President Johnson had limited the bombing targets, and the soldiers felt that their attacks were worthless and boosted the Vietnamese’s confidence that they could withstand full measure of American airpower
Prisoner of War
McCain flew toward Hanoi in an A-4
He dove on a target, and as he released his bombs, he was hit by a missile.
His plane spiraled toward the ground at 550 mph and McCain ejected, landing in Truc Bach Lake
He broke his left arm, his right arm in three places and his right knee
“ In this predicament, a pilot’s training takes over. I didn’t feel any more fear or excitement than I had already experienced during the run. I didn’t think, ‘Gee, I’m hit-what now?’”- John McCain
He was pulled ashore by angry Vietnamese, who broke his shoulder and proceeded to stick a bayonet in his ankle and groin.
He was then transported by the Hanoi police to the prison
“ As the massive steel doors loudly clanked shut behind me, I felt a deeper dread than I have ever felt since”- John McCain
McCain was interrogated and offered medical treatment in return for information.
McCain was only taken to the hospital after the Vietnamese learned of his father’s high status in the Navy
The doctor put a cast on his left arm. However, it didn’t have cotton lining so, over time, the rough plaster wore two holes in the back of his arm, down to the bone.
During an operation on his leg, the doctors severed several ligaments, which have never fully recovered.
McCain was transferred to the prison camp known as “the Plantation”.
Life in the Camps
There were “purges” where several prisoners would leave and not come back.
In order to stay sane, the prisoners played cards, had church services and taught each other things they knew. McCain was in charge of the “history course”.
McCain refused to sign a statement telling pilots to stop bombing Vietnam. Because of this, his knee was crushed.
Prisoners were allowed to go to church for Christmas, but in reality, it was a propaganda attempt by the Vietnamese to show that the prisoners were being treated fairly. To ruin the attempt, McCain yelled obscenities at the guards throughout the entire production.
Prisoners were always resisting, from singing the Star-Spangled Banner to yelling uncontrollably.
“ He wasn’t going to give anybody anything. As a result, I don’t think anyone got beaten up as much as John McCain.”- Admiral James Stockdale
Several times, McCain was caught communicating.
His punishments varied. Often it was a beating. Once he had to stand facing the wall for two days and two nights. Becoming exhausted on the second night, he sat down. The guard then crushed his leg.
McCain often told the guards they treated him like an animal, so then he was ordered to eat his soup with his hands.
When told not to talk, McCain screamed and shouted at the guards.
POW Camps in Vietnam
McCain was repeatedly beaten to confess
When this tactic failed to work, he was put in solitary confinement.
The guards began to torture him again. Every 2 hours he was subjected to rope bindings and repeated beatings.
On the 4th day, he made an anti-American confession saying that the Vietnamese had given him an operation he didn’t deserve.
After this, McCain refused to give into anymore Vietnamese demands, including their offer to let him go home.
“ I was ashamed. I felt faithless, and couldn’t control my despair… All my pride was lost.”-John McCain
“ John was the toughest of the tough. He was offered a way out and he told them to go pound the sand.”-Paul Gilanti, an American POW
Roommates and Inspirations
George “Bud” Day
Air Force pilot who had been shot down
Attempted escape, and when caught, a rope was looped around his shoulders and tightened until his shoulders were touching.
He was hung from the rafters and his shoulders were torn apart
He never acceded to the Vietnamese’s demands
“ I sensed very quickly I was dealing with a remarkably brilliant guy”-Bud Day on John McCain
Sewed an American flag onto the inside of his shirt with scraps of cloth and a needle made of bamboo
The guards discovered the flag and beat Mike severely in front of the other POWs.
His eardrum was punctured and several ribs broken
That night, with his eyes almost swollen shut from the beating, “he had quietly picked up his needle and thread and had begun sewing a new flag” (McCain, Faith of My Fathers ).
Prisoners knew war was almost over when bombs began to fall heavily on Hanoi.
“ We cheered the assault on and watched the show. Once in a while a guard would come by and yell at us to shut up, to which we responded by cheering louder.”- John McCain
When their release was announced, the prisoners were instructed to not show emotion because the Vietnamese were intending to record the event for propaganda value.
“ It was impossible for us not to feel pride and relief as we watched people who had badly mistreated us recognize, at long last, how powerful an enemy we represented.”- John McCain
The prisoners were flown into Hickham Air Force base in Hawaii, where thousands came to welcome them home.
“ We were a good country before Vietnam and we are a good country after Vietnam”- John McCain
After the War
McCain underwent 3 operations to cure his injured leg.
He attended National War College in Washington.
He reported back to the Navy and was promoted to commanding officer of an attack squadron.
The Navy had him performing several different jobs, such as representing the Navy in negotiations with the Senate.
In 1979, McCain and his wife,
whom he had married before
He was promoted to captain in1979.
McCain met Cindy Hensley in 1980, and they married shortly after.
McCain retired from the navy after his injuries prevented him from being able to command an aircraft carrier.
From the Navy to the Senate
“ I spent three years in solitary confinement. During that time I lost a sense of personal ambition and gained a desire to spend my life serving my country.” -John McCain
1983: McCain beats William Hegarty in the Arizona elections with more than double the votes
Supported almost all of President Reagan’s views
1986: Becomes Arizona’s Senator
McCain becomes difficult to categorize politically because he repeatedly challenged the Republican party’s views
He runs for the Republican Presidential Candidate in 2000 against Texas Senator George W. Bush, but loses.
After his fourth term in the Senate, McCain again tries to run for President. This time he succeeds in becoming the Republican candidate but loses in the 2008 elections to Barack Obama.
Continuing the Legacy
John Sidney IV- enrolled in the Naval Academy
James- served with the Marines in Iraq
Doug- flew jets in the navy
McCain also has four more kids, Meghan, Sidney, Andrew and Bridget
While McCain has battled with both Democrats and Republicans, his critics can’t question the fact that this man loves his country.
“ I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in God and the United States of America”- Code of Conduct for American Prisoners of War
Alexander, Paul. Man of the People: The Life of John McCain . New Jersey: Wiley, 2003.
KirkPatrick, David D. "John McCain, Flexible Aggression." The New York Times 26 Oct. 2008.
Klein, Joe. "John McCain and the Lying Game." Time 17 Sept. 2008.
McCain, John, and Mark Salter. Worth the Fighting For . New York: Random House, 2002.
McCain, John. Faith of my fathers . New York: Random House, 1999.
McCain, John. "John McCain, Prisoner of War: A First-Person Account." U.S. News and World Report 28 Apr. 2009.