- Early life and military career of John McCain
The early life and military career of John Sidney McCain III spans forty-five years (1936–1981). McCain's father and grandfather were admirals in the
United States Navy. McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, and attended many schools growing up as his family moved among naval facilities. McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academyin 1958. He married the former Carol Shepp in 1965; he adopted two children from her previous marriage and they had another child together.
As a naval aviator, McCain flew
attack aircraftfrom carriers. During the Vietnam Warin 1967, he narrowly escaped death in the "Forrestal" fire. On his twenty-third bombing mission over North Vietnamlater in 1967, he was shot down and badly injured. He subsequently endured five and a half years as a prisoner of war, including periods of torture. In 1968, he refused a North Vietnamese offer of early release, because it would have meant leaving before other prisoners who had been held longer. He was finally released in 1973 after the Paris Peace Accords.
Upon his return, McCain studied at the
National War College, commanded a large training squadron in the U.S., and was appointed the Navy liaison to the U.S. Senate. He divorced his wife Carol in 1980 and married the former Cindy Hensley shortly thereafter. He retired from the Navy in 1981 as a captain.
Early years and education
John Sidney McCain III was born on August 29, 1936,cite web|url=http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=m000303 |title=McCain, John Sidney, III, (1936 - ) |accessdate=2007-07-17 |work=
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress|publisher= United States Congress] at a United States NavyhospitalAlexander, "Man of the People", p. 12.] at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in Panama Canal Zone, Panama, to Navy officer John S. "Jack" McCain, Jr. (1911–1981) and Roberta (Wright) McCain (1912– ). McCain is of Scots-Irish and English ancestry.cite web | author=Roberts, Gary Boyd | url=http://www.newenglandancestors.org/research/services/56_ancestry_john_mccain.asp | title=On the Ancestry, Royal Descent, and English and American Notable Kin of Senator John Sidney McCain IV | publisher= New England Historic Genealogical Society| accessdate=2008-05-19]
John McCain's grandparents were natives of
Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas, and much of his ancestry was Southern on both his mother's side and father's side. The McCain family's patrilineal ancestral home is in Mississippi's Carroll County;cite news | url=http://archive.salon.com/politics2000/feature/2000/02/15/mccain/ | title=McCain's ancestors ... | author=Parker, Suzi and Tapper, Jake | publisher="Salon" | date=2000-02-15 | accessdate=2008-04-05] [cite news | url=http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/03/31/mccain.tour/ | title=McCain tells his story to voters | publisher= CNN| date=2008-03-31 | accessdate=2008-04-05] they owned and ran a convert|2000|acre|km2|adj=on plantation in Teoc from 1848 until 1952.McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 21. Used to supply details about the Teoc plantation, which was formally named Waverly.] The plantation had slaves before the American Civil Warand sharecroppers afterward; influential blues guitarist Mississippi John Hurtwas born on the plantation to one of the latter.
The McCain family tree has a long heritage of American military service, with ancestors fighting as soldiers in the
Indian Wars, American Revolutionary War,cite news | url=http://www.azcentral.com/news/specials/mccain/articles/mccaintrivia-CR.html | title=McCain trivia | publisher=" The Arizona Republic" | date=2007-03-02 | accessdate=2008-04-05] War of 1812, [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 20. Used to support ancestor in War of 1812, not given by any other source.] for the Confederate States of Americain the American Civil War, and in World War I. The tree also includes roguish behavior and economic success. John McCain's maternal grandfather, Archibald Wright (1875–1971),cite news | url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/21/AR2008072102653.html | title=McCain's Maverick Side: Grandpa Would Be Proud | author=Weisman, Jonathan | publisher=" The Washington Post" | date=2008-07-22 | accessdate=2008-07-22] was a Mississippi native who migrated to Muskogee, Oklahomain his twenties, ran afoul of the law with several gambling and bootlegging charges, then became a strong-willed wildcatterwho prospered on land deals during the early statehood years and struck oil in the Southwest. Rich by age forty, he never worked again and became a stay-at-home father.Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 11] Raising a family in Oklahomaand Southern California, he instilled in Roberta and her twin sister Rowena a lifelong habit of travel and adventure.cite news | url=http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/12/14/travel/escapes/14sisters.html | title=The Road Trip of 2 Lifetimes, and Still Going | author=Orth, Maureen | publisher=" The New York Times" | date=2007-12-14 | accessdate=2008-07-01] There is also independent-minded behavior in the family tree: Jack McCain and Roberta Wright eloped and married in a bar in Tijuana, Mexico, when Archibald Wright's wife Myrtle objected to Roberta's association with a sailor.
McCain's father and paternal grandfather eventually became Navy admirals, and were the first father-son pair to achieve four-star admiral rank. His grandfather, Admiral John S. "Slew" McCain, Sr. (1884–1945), was a pioneer of aircraft carrier operationsTimberg, "An American Odyssey", [http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/t/timberg-mccain.html pp. 17–34.] ] who in 1942 commanded all land-based air operations in support of the
Guadalcanal campaign, and who ultimately in 1944–1945 aggressively led the Fast Carrier Task Force, in the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II. His operations off the Philippines and Okinawa, and air strikes against Formosa and the Japanese home islands, caused tremendous destruction of Japanese naval and air forces in the closing period of the war. His death four days after the Japanese surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay was front page news. Jack McCain was a submarine commander in several theaters of operation in World War II and was decorated with both the Silver Starand Bronze Star.Alexander, "Man of the People", pp. 13–14.]
For his first ten years, "Johnny" McCain (the family nickname he was given) was frequently uprooted as his family, including older sister Sandy (born 1934) and younger brother Joe (born 1942), followed his father to
New London, Connecticut, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and other stations in the Pacific Ocean. Summer vacations were sometimes spent at the family's Teoc plantation, but McCain always felt his heritage was military, not Southern. McCain attended whatever naval base school was available,Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 19.] often to the detriment of his education, as schools were sometimes substandard and their curricula often erratic. After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, his father was absent for long stretches. His formal education was supplemented by the efforts of his mother, who took advantage of the family's many long-distance travels to expose him to historical and cultural sites.McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 101–103. Used to give role of mother in upbringing not fully detailed by any other source, and for direct quotation.] He later wrote, "She taught me to find so much pleasure in life that misfortune could not rob me of the joy of living." A Republican, she also made sure that he followed current events, although his parents avoided outward partisan affiliations due to his father's military career.cite news | title=Out of the Fire, Politics Calls; Ex-POW Turns Washington Insider | author=Romano, Lois | publisher=" The Washington Post" | date=2000-03-02]
After World War II ended, his father stayed in the Navy, sometimes working political liaison posts. The family settled in
Northern Virginia, and McCain attended the educationally stronger St. Stephen's School in Alexandria, from 1946 to 1949.Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 20.] To his family, McCain had long been quiet, dependable, and courteous, while at St. Stephen's he began to develop an unruly, defiant streak.cite news | url=http://www.alextimes.com/article.asp?article=7851&paper=1&cat=141 | title=Episcopal fetes a favorite son | author= Arundel, John | work= Alexandria Times| date=2007-12-06 | accessdate=2007-12-07] Another two years were then spent following his father to naval stations; [Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 21.] altogether he attended about twenty schools during his youth. He was frequently disciplined in school for fighting.McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 100. "Many of the base schools I attended were substandard institutions. Sometimes the school building was nothing more than a converted aircraft hangar. The classes mixed children of varying ages. We might have one teacher on Monday and a different one on Tuesday. On other days, we lacked the services of any teacher at all. My first purpose during my brief stay in these schools was to impress upon my classmates that I was not a person to suffer slights lightly. My second purpose was to prove myself as an athlete. When I was disciplined by my teachers, which happened regularly, it was often for fighting."] He later wrote, "The repeated farewells to friends rank among the saddest regrets of a childhood constantly disrupted by the demands of my father's career.... At each new school I arrived eager to make, by means of my insolent attitude, new friends to compensate for the loss of others. At each new school I grew more determined to assert my crude individualism. At each new school I became a more unrepentant pain in the neck." [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 107–108. Used for direct quotation.]
In 1951, McCain enrolled at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, an academically superior, all-male private boarding school with a rigorous
honor codeand spartan living environment. [Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 22–24.] Most of the children there were sons of wealthy Southerners, from whom McCain got a glimpse of life and career aspirations outside the Navy culture.McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 108–110. Used to support McCain view of others at school. Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 23–24, illustrates the well-to-do Southerners part by sampling their names.] Nicknamed "Punk" and "McNasty" due to his combative, fiery disposition, McCain enjoyed and cultivated that tough guy image; he also made a few friends.cite news | url=http://www.vanityfair.com./politics/features/2007/02/mccain200702 | title=Prisoner of Conscience | author=Purdum, Todd S | publisher="Vanity Fair" | date=February 2007 | accessdate=2008-01-19] Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 28.] McCain earned two varsity letters in wrestling, excelling in the lighter weight classes. [Alexander, "Man of the People", pp. 25, 26.] He also played on the junior varsityfootball team and the tennis team, and participated in the student newspaper, yearbook, and drama club. [Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 26.] English teacher William Bee Ravenel III, who was also his football coach, became a great influence towards his sense of learning, honor, and self-image. [cite news | url=http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Vote2008/Story?id=4565619 | title=McCain the 'Punk' Goes Back to School | author=Ed O'Keefe | publisher= ABC News| date=2008-04-01 | accessdate=2008-04-02 Ravenel was the only person outside McCain's family whom he sought out to talk with upon his return from being a POW in Vietnam, but Ravenel had died two years earlier.] With what he later termed an "undistinguished, but acceptable" academic record, [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 116. Used to support brief quotation of McCain self-assessment.] McCain graduated from high school in 1954.
Having done well on its entrance exams, McCain entered the
United States Naval Academyin June 1954, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.Timberg, "The Nightingale's Song", [http://www.amazon.com/Nightingales-Song-Robert-Timberg/dp/product-description/0684826739 pp. 31–35.] ] He had neither been ordered to go there by his parents nor discussed alternatives; as he later wrote, "I remember simply recognizing my eventual enrollment at the Academy as an immutable fact of life, and accepting it without comment." [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 110–111. Used to support McCain state of mind and direct quotation. Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 34, gives a similar formulation: "And so, ... John McCain journeyed to Annapolis, raised his right hand, and marched joylessly into his future."]
Ambivalent about his presence there, McCain chose not to conform to the Academy's rules and some of its traditions.McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 120–124. "In this well-ordered and timeless world, with its lofty aspirations and grim determination to make leaders and gentlemen of schoolboys, plebes who possessed minor eccentricities might be tolerated somewhat, but arrogant nonconformists encountered open hostility. Recognized as belonging in the latter category, I soon found myself in conflict with the Academy's authorities and traditions. Instead of beginning a crash course in self-improvement so that I could find a respectable place in the ranks, I reverted to form and embarked on a four-year course of insubordination and rebellion."] Each year he was given over a hundred demerits – earning him membership in the "Century Club"cite news |url=http://www.azcentral.com/news/specials/mccain/articles/0301mccainbio-chapter2.html |title=John McCain Report: At the Naval Academy |author=Nowicki, Dan & Muller, Bill |work=
The Arizona Republic|date=2007-03-01 |accessdate=2007-11-10 Part of multi-chapter biographical profile of John McCain. Originally published by "The Arizona Republic" as "McCain: The life story of Arizona's maverick senator", written by reporter Bill Muller, 1999-10-03. Reporter Dan Nowicki updated and revised the biography with additional material in January 2007. See [http://www.azcentral.com/news/specials/mccain/articles/0301mccainbio-postscript.html "How the biography was put together"] for background and bibliographic sources.] – for offenses such as shoes not being shined, formation faults, room in disorder, and talking out of place. He hated "plebe year", the trial by ordeal and hazing of entering midshipmen that would eventually weed out one quarter of the class. [Timberg, "The Nightingale's Song", pp. 24–29.] He did not take well to those of higher rank arbitrarily wielding power over him – "It was bullshit, and I resented the hell out of it" – and occasionally intervened when he saw it being done to others. At 5-foot 7 inches and 127 pounds (1.70 m and 58 kg), he competed as a lightweight boxerfor three years, where he lacked skills but was fearless and "didn't have a reverse gear".cite news |url=http://www.newsweek.com/id/34694 |title=John McCain: 'I Learned How to Take Hard Blows' |author= Bailey, Holly|publisher=" Newsweek" |date=2007-05-14 |accessdate=2007-12-19] In his final year, he managed the battalion boxing team to a brigade championship. [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 141. Used to support accomplishment not supplied by any other source.]
Possessed of a strong intelligence, [cite news | url=http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,992860,00.html | title=The Diagnosis: "Stable" | author= Carney, James | publisher="Time" | date=1999-12-13 | accessdate=2008-09-25 His
IQis given as 133, based on a test taken in 1984. See also Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 207: McCain took IQ tests twice his life, getting 128 the first time and 133 the second.] McCain did well in a few subjects that interested him, such as English literature, history, and government. There was a fixed Bachelor of Sciencecurriculum taken by all midshipmen; [cite web | url=http://www.usna.edu/VirtualTour/150years/ | title=A Brief History of the United States Naval Academy | publisher= United States Naval Academy| accessdate=2008-04-05] [cite journal |first=Lieutenant Colonel Joseph J. |last=Blum |year=1977 |month=May–June |title=Changing Educational Goals at the United States Naval Academy |journal= Air University Review|volume=28 |issue=4 |pages=72–82 |url=http://www.airpower.au.af.mil/airchronicles/aureview/1977/may-jun/blum.html] [cite news | url=http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/magazine/21WWLN-McCain-t.html | title=What a Naval Officer Now Knows | author=Traub, James | publisher=" The New York Times Magazine" | date=2008-09-19 | accessdate=2008-09-21] McCain's classmates were impressed by his cramming abilities on mathematics, science, and engineering coursesTimberg, "The Nightingale's Song", pp. 41–42.] and thought his low grades were by inclination and not ability, while McCain would later acknowledge that those courses were a struggle for him. [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 134. Used to supply McCain's own assessment of his aptitude in those subjects.] His class rank was further lowered by poor grades for conduct and leadership, which reflected his sloppy appearance, rebellious attitude, and poor relations with his company officer. [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 130–131, 141–142. ] Despite his low standing, he was popular and a leader among his fellow midshipmen, in what biographer Robert Timberg called a "manic, intuitive, highly idiosyncratic way". Good at attracting women, he was famed for organizing off-Yard activities; one classmate said that "being on liberty with John McCain was like being in a train wreck." A June 1957 training cruise aboard the destroyer USS "Hunt" [cite web | url=http://history.navy.mil/danfs/h9/hunt-ii.htm | title=Hunt | publisher=" Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships" | date=2005-04-18 | accessdate=2008-04-05] found McCain showing good skills at the conn, [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 135–138. Used to supply McCain self-assessment of cruise, not found in any other source.] and the destination stop in Rio de Janeiroled to a dream-like romance with Brazilian fashion model and ballerina Maria Gracinda that persisted through a Christmastime reunion. [Timberg, "The Nightingale's Song", pp. 44–46. Timberg writes: "Even though he lived it, or something like it, McCain recounts his romance with Elena [not her real name, which was not publicly known until 2008] these days as if it were a dream. In some ways it was. But it wasn't just his dream. With minor variations, it was the dream of all but the most inert midshipmen. Duty, honor, country, sure, those things were important ... [but] the chance of someday being swept away and ravished by a beautiful woman in some exotic locale has always been an unspoken part of the deal.... McCain's fling with Elena, though rare, was not all that rare. Things like that happened often enough to keep that goofy dream alive."] [cite news | url=http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2008/09/20/2008-09-20_brazilian_beauty_recalls_hot_rio_affair_.html | title=Brazilian beauty recalls hot Rio affair with young John McCain | author=Emert, Harold and Sullivan, Patrick | publisher=" New York Daily News" | date=2008-09-21 | accessdate=2008-09-22 In 2008, Maria Gracinda Teixeira de Jesus would remember the 50-year-old affair fondly and said that she never forgot McCain.]
McCain graduated from the Naval Academy in June 1958; he was fifth from the bottom in
class rank, 894th out of 899. Despite his difficulties, McCain later wrote that he never defamed the more compelling traditions of the Academy – courage, resilience, honor, and sacrifice for one's country – and he never wavered in his desire to show his father and family that he was of the same mettle as his naval forebears.McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 151–152. Used to support McCain overall perspectives and direct quotations on Naval Academy experience and value it gave him.] Indeed, Slew and Jack McCain had not had sterling records at the Academy themselves, finishing in the bottom third and bottom twentieth respectively. [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 18, 28.] McCain realized later that the Academy had taught him that in order "to sustain my self-respect for a lifetime it would be necessary for me to have the honor of serving something greater than my self-interest", a lesson that he would need to carry him through a "desperate and uncertain" time a decade later.
Infobox Military Person
name=John Sidney McCain III
born= birth date and age|mf=yes|1936|8|29
allegiance= United States of America
United States Navy(Naval aviation)
USS Intrepid (CV-11)VA-65 USS Enterprise (CVN-65)VA-65 USS Forrestal (CV-59)VA-46 USS Oriskany (CV-34)VA-163 Office of Legislative Affairs
Vietnam War* Operation Rolling Thunder
Silver Star Legion of MeritDistinguished Flying Cross Bronze Star Purple Heartothers
United States Senatorfrom ArizonaU.S. presidential candidate
Naval training, early assignments, first marriage, and children
McCain was commissioned an ensign.cite web | url=http://www.npc.navy.mil/NR/rdonlyres/330F85C7-5982-4B09-A46A-373964430AFB/0/Document.pdf | title=John McCain's Navy Records: Biographical Data | publisher=
United States Navy| accessdate=2008-05-23 As indicated by cite news | url=http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/05/07/navy_releases_mccains_military_record/ | title=Navy releases McCain's military record | author=Kuhnhenn, Jim | publisher= Associated Pressfor " The Boston Globe" | date=2008-05-07 | accessdate=2008-05-23] He spent two years as a naval aviator in training, first at Naval Air Station Pensacolain Floridathrough September 1959, and then at Naval Air Station Corpus Christiin Texas, during which time he was promoted to lieutenant, junior grade. He earned a reputation as a party man, as he drove a Corvette, dated an exotic dancer named "Marie the Flame of Florida", spent all his free time on the beach or in a Bachelor Officer Quarters room turned bar and friendly gambling den, and, as he later said, "generally misused my good health and youth".cite news |url=http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/2007-11-03-998821539_x.htm |title=McCain's WMD Is A Mouth That Won't Quit |publisher= Associated Pressfor " USA Today" |date=2007-11-04 |access=2007-11-10] He began as a sub-par flier: he had limited patience for studying aviation manuals, and spent study time reading history books instead.Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 66–68.] During a March 1960 practice run in Texas, he lost track of his altitude and speed, and his single-seat, single-pistoned-engine AD-6 Skyraidercrashed into Corpus Christi Bayand sank to the bottom.cite news | url=http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-aviator6-2008oct06,0,876358,full.story | title=Mishaps mark John McCain's record as naval aviator | author=Vartabedian, Ralph and Serrano, Richard A. | publisher=" Los Angeles Times" | date=2008-10-06 | accessdate=2008-10-06] Although momentarily knocked unconscious by the impact, he squeezed out of the cockpit and swam ten feet to the surface, escaping without major injuries. Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 32.] He graduated from flight school at Corpus Christi in May 1960, and became a pilot of attack aircraft. He joined squadron VA-42at Naval Air Station Oceanain Virginia for five months of further training on the Skyraider.
Starting in November 1960, McCain flew Skyraiders with the VA-65 "World Famous Fighting Tigers" squadronMcCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 156. Used to supply aircraft type he was flying and his home base, not given by any other source.] on the aircraft carriers USS "Intrepid" and USS "Enterprise". The carriers were based at
Naval Station Norfolkand cruised in the Caribbean Seaand in several deployments to the Mediterranean Sea. His aviation skills improved, but he had another close call around December 1961 when he collided with power lines while recklessly flying too low over southern Spain. The area suffered a blackout, but McCain was able to return his damaged Skyraider to "Intrepid".
Onboard for "Enterprise"'s maiden voyage in January 1962, McCain gained visibility with the captain and shipboard publicity that fellow sailors and aviators attributed to his famous last name. McCain was made a
lieutenantin June 1962, and was on alert duty on "Enterprise" when it helped enforce the naval quarantine of Cuba during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. In November 1963, he was rotated back to shore duty, serving nine months on the staff of the Naval Air Basic Training Command at Pensacola. In September 1964, he became a flight instructorwith the VT-7training squadron at Naval Air Station Meridianin Mississippi, Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 33.] where McCain Field had been named for his grandfather. [cite web | url=https://www.cnic.navy.mil/meridian/AboutCNIC/GeneralInformation/index.htm | title=About Naval Air Station Meridian - Part of Commander Navy Region Southeast | publisher= United States Navy| accessdate=2008-04-06]
During the 1964 stint at Pensacola, McCain began a relationship with Carol Shepp, a successful swimwear and runway modelcite news |first=Sharon |last=Churcher |title=The wife U.S. Republican John McCain callously left behind |url=http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1024927/The-wife-John-McCain-callously-left-behind.html |publisher="
The Mail on Sunday" |date=2008-06-08 |accessdate=2008-06-09 ] cite news | url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/05/AR2008100502589.html | title=The Separate Peace of John And Carol | author=Farhi, Paul | publisher=" The Washington Post" | date=2008-10-06 | accessdate=2008-10-06] originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They had known each other at the Naval Academy and she had married and then divorced one of his classmates.cite book |last=Feinberg |first=Barbara Silberdick |title=John McCain: Serving His Country |publisher= Millbrook Press|year=2000 |isbn=0-7613-1974-3 pp. 16, 18.] McCain told her he wanted to do something important with his life, so he would be recorded in history. On July 3, 1965, McCain married Shepp in Philadelphia.cite web |url=http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=caucus&template=detail&candidate=mccain |title=John McCain |work=Iowa Caucuses '08 |publisher=" Des Moines Register" |accessdate=2007-11-08] She already had two children, Douglas and Andrew, born in 1959 and 1962 respectively;cite web |url=http://www.mccain2000.com/story/timeline.html |title= The John McCain Story: Timeline|archivedate=2001-03-01 |archiveurl=http://web.archive.org/web/20000301120903/www.mccain2000.com/story/timeline.html|publisher=McCain 2000, Inc Used to supply years of birth of two adopted sons.] he adopted them in 1966. [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 70.] Carol and he then had a daughter named Sidney in September 1966.cite news |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/27/us/politics/27mccainkids.html |title=Bridging 4 Decades, a Large, Close-Knit Brood |author=Steinhauer, Jennifer |publisher=" The New York Times" |date=2007-12-27 |accessdate=2007-12-27]
In July 1965, McCain appeared as a contestant on the quiz show "
Jeopardy!", winning one game and losing the next. [ cite news | last=Fouhy | first=Beth | title=Political Play: McCain recalls loss on "Jeopardy" | url=http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/2008-06-30-2937395846_x.htm | publisher= Associated Pressfor " USA Today" | date=2008-06-30 | accessdate=2008-09-26 | quote=Riding aboard his Straight Talk Express campaign bus, McCain, well-read and a trivia buff, recalled his two-day appearance on the popular program in 1965. He won the game the first day, and lost the next day in the final round. ] [ cite web | url=http://boards.sonypictures.com/boards/showthread.php?t=37250 | title=John McCain—Jeopardy! champion (Update) | publisher=boards.sonypictures.com | accessdate=2008-09-26 | quote= [McCain] defeated 1-time champion Peggy Fisher in Fleming #355, taped in Studio 6A 1965-07-20, aired Friday, 1965-08-06. In his next game, Fleming #356, taped in Studio 6A 1965-07-20, aired Monday, 1965-08-09, he was defeated by challenger Bob Bovard. ]
In November 1965, he had his third close call when apparent engine failure in his
T-2 Buckeyetrainer jet over the Eastern Shore of Virginialed to his ejecting safely before his plane crashed. While at Meridian, McCain requested a combat assignment. In October 1966, he was slated for upcoming Vietnam Warduty, and so reported to the VA-44 Replacement Air Groupsquadron at Naval Air Station Cecil Fieldin Florida for training on the A-4 Skyhawk, a single-seat, single-jet-engine attack aircraft.Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 70–71.] [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 172–173. Used to supply training detail not given by other sources.] There McCain was seen as a good pilot, albeit one who tended to "push the envelope" in his flying. Promoted to lieutenant commander in January 1967, McCain joined the aircraft carrier USS "Forrestal" by May 1967, flying Skyhawks with the VA-46 "Clansmen" squadron. [cite web | url=http://www.skyhawk.org/3e/va46/va46p.htm | title=VA-46 Photograph Album | publisher=The Skyhawk Association | accessdate=2008-02-09 See [http://www.skyhawk.org/3e/va46/va46greenieweb1.htm "Greenie Board" image] for chronology.] "Forrestal" conducted training exercises in the Atlantic throughout the spring, then set sail for the Pacific in June. By this time, Jack McCain had risen in the ranks, making rear admiral in 1958 and vice admiral in 1963; [Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 34.] in May 1967, he was promoted to four-star admiral, and became Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe, stationed in London.
On July 25, 1967, "Forrestal" reached
Yankee Stationin the Gulf of Tonkinand joined Operation Rolling Thunder, the 1965–1968 air interdictionand strategic bombingcampaign against North Vietnam.McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 185–186.] The alpha strikes flown from "Forrestal" were against specific, pre-selected targets such as arms depots, factories, and bridges.cite book |last=Karaagac |first=John |title=John McCain: An Essay in Military and Political History |publisher= Lexington Books|year=2000 |isbn=0-7391-0171-4 pp. 81–82.] They were quite dangerous, due to the strength of the North Vietnamese air defenses, which used Soviet-designed and -supplied surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, and MiGjet interceptors. McCain's first five attack missions over North Vietnam went without incident, [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 177.] and while still unconcerned with minor Navy regulations, McCain had garnered the reputation of a serious aviator.cite book |last=Freeman |first=Gregory A. |title=Sailors to the End: The Deadly Fire on the USS Forrestal and the Heroes Who Fought It |publisher= HarperCollins|year=2002 |isbn=0-06-093690-8 p. 25.] McCain and his fellow pilots were frustrated by the micromanagement of Rolling Thunder from Washington; he later wrote that, "The target list was so restricted that we had to go back and hit the same targets over and over again.... Most of our pilots flying the missions believed that our targets were virtually worthless. In all candor, we thought our civilian commanders were complete idiots who didn't have the least notion of what it took to win the war."
McCain was almost killed on board "Forrestal" on July 29, 1967. While the air wing was preparing to launch attacks, a Zuni rocket from an F-4 Phantom accidentally fired across the carrier's deck. The rocket struck either McCain's
A-4E Skyhawkor one near it.cite web | url=http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/f3/forrestal.htm | title=USS Forrestal (CV-59) | publisher=" Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships" | date=2007-08-02 | accessdate=2008-04-05 Regarding use (c), states either Aircraft No. 405 piloted by LCDR Fred D. White or No. 416 piloted by LCDR John McCain was struck by the Zuni.] cite book | last=Stewart | first=Henry P | title=The Impact of the USS Forrestal's 1967 Fire on United States Navy Shipboard Damage Control | publisher= Army Command and General Staff College| location= Fort LeavenworthStates that Aircraft No. 405 piloted by LCDR Fred D. White was hit and does not mention McCain.] The impact ruptured the Skyhawk's fuel tank, which ignited the fuel and knocked two bombs loose.McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 177–179.] McCain later said, "I thought my aircraft exploded. Flames were everywhere." McCain escaped from his jet by climbing out the cockpit, working himself to the nose of the jet, and jumping off its refueling probe onto the burning deck.Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 72–74.] His flight suit caught on fire as he rolled through the flames, but he was able to put it out. He went to help another pilot trying to escape the fire when the first bomb exploded; McCain was thrown backwards ten feet (three meters)cite news | url=http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/flash/politics/20080203_MCCAIN_TIMELINE/content/pdf/19670731b.pdf |format=PDF | title=Start of Tragedy: Pilot Hears a Blast As He Checks Plane | author=Weinraub, Bernard | publisher=" The New York Times" | date= 1967-07-31] and suffered minor wounds when struck in the legs and chest by fragments. The ensuing fire on board killed 134 sailors, injured scores of others, destroyed at least 20 aircraft, and took 24 hours to control. [A film of the "Forrestal" fire called "Learn or Burn", incorporating the flight deck video of the fire, was used in United States Navy damage control classes for many years; see "Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships - Forrestal". A portion of the video has been made available by McCain's presidential campaign; see cite video |url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzgV5QM5fi8 | title=Forrestal |publisher= YouTube|date2=2007-02-24 |accessdate=2008-02-28] In Saigona day after the conflagration, McCain praised the heroism of enlisted men who gave their lives trying to save the pilots on deck, and told " New York Times" reporter R. W. Apple, Jr.that, "It's a difficult thing to say. But now that I've seen what the bombs and the napalm did to the people on our ship, I'm not so sure that I want to drop any more of that stuff on North Vietnam." But such a change of course was unlikely; as McCain said, "I always wanted to be in the Navy. I was born into it and I never really considered another profession. But I always had trouble with the regimentation."
As "Forrestal" headed to port for repairs, McCain volunteered to join the undermanned VA-163 "Saints" squadron on board the carrier USS "Oriskany". [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 75.] This ship had earlier endured its own deck fire disaster [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 181.] and its squadrons had suffered some of the heaviest losses during Rolling Thunder. The Saints had a reputation for aggressive, daring attacks, but paid the price: in 1967, one-third of their pilots were killed or captured, and all of their original fifteen A-4s had been destroyed. After taking some leave in Europe and back home in
Orange Park, Florida, [Timberg, "The Nightingale's Song", pp. 99–100.] McCain joined "Oriskany" on September 30, 1967,McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 182.] for a tour he expected would finish early the next summer. [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 76–77.] He volunteered to fly the squadron's most dangerous missions right away, rather than work his way up to them. [cite news | url=http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20080210/NEWS/703947542 | author=DeWitt, Robert | title=Support forged in battle | publisher=" The Tuscaloosa News" | date=2008-02-10 | accessdate=2008-02-17] During October 1967, the pilots operated in constant twelve-hour on, twelve-hour off shifts. [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 184.] McCain would be awarded a Navy Commendation Medalfor leading his air section through heavy enemy fire during an October 18 raid on the Lac Trai shipyard in Haiphong.cite web | url=http://www.npc.navy.mil/NR/rdonlyres/330F85C7-5982-4B09-A46A-373964430AFB/0/Document.pdf | title=John McCain's Navy Records: Citations | publisher= United States Navy| accessdate=2008-05-23 As indicated by cite news | url=http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/05/07/navy_releases_mccains_military_record/ | title=Navy releases McCain's military record | author=Kuhnhenn, Jim | publisher= Associated Pressfor " The Boston Globe" | date=2008-05-07 | accessdate=2008-05-23] On October 25, McCain successfully attacked the Phuc Yenairfield north of Hanoithrough a barrage of anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missile fire, which would garner him the Bronze Star. Air defenses around Hanoi were then the strongest they would be during the entire war.cite journal |first=Merle L. |last=Pribbenow II |year=2003 |month=January |title=The -Ology War: Technology and Ideology in the Vietnamese Defense of Hanoi, 1967 |journal= The Journal of Military History|volume=67 |issue=1 |pages=175–200 |url=http://muse.jhu.edu/demo/journal_of_military_history/v067/67.1pribbenow.pdf]
Prisoner of war
A-4E Skyhawklike this one (from a different "Oriskany" squadron) in 1967, when he was shot down.] On October 26, 1967, McCain was flying his twenty-third mission, part of a twenty-plane strike force against the Yen Phu thermal power plant in central Hanoicite news |url=http://www.azcentral.com/news/specials/mccain/articles/0301mccainbio-chapter3.html |title=John McCain Report: Prisoner of War|author=Nowicki, Dan & Muller, Bill |publisher=" The Arizona Republic" |date=2007-03-01 |accessdate=2007-11-10] [cite web | url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/06/asia_pac_vietnam_visit/html/4.stm | title=In pictures, Vietnam visit, McCain memorial | publisher= BBC News| accessdate=2008-05-31] that previously had almost always been off-limits to U.S. raids due to the possibility of collateral damage. Arriving just before noon, McCain dove from 9,000 to 4,000 feet on his approach;cite news | url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/04/AR2008100402351_pf.html | title=In Ordeal as Captive, Character Was Shaped | author=Dobbs, Michael | publisher=" The Washington Post" | date=2008-10-05 | accessdate=2008-10-11] as he neared the target, warning systems in McCain's A-4E Skyhawkalerted him that he was being tracked by enemy fire-control radar.Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 78.] Like other U.S. pilots, he would not consider breaking off a bombing run, and he held his dive until he released his bombs at about 3,500 feet (1,000 meters). [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 188. Used to give bombing altitude. While a few members of the squadron were armed with an early smart bomb, the AGM-62 Walleye, McCain dropped conventional bombs. See cite news | url=http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20080210/NEWS/703947542 | title=Support forged in battle | publisher=" The Tuscaloosa News" | date=2008-02-10] As he started to pull up, the Skyhawk's wing was blown off by a Soviet-made SA-2 anti-aircraft missile fired by the North Vietnamese Air Defense Command's 61st Battalion, commanded by Captain Nguyen Lan. (McCain was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for this day. The raid was a failure, as the power plant was not damaged and three of the Navy planes were shot down.)
McCain's plane went into a vertical inverted spin. Bailing out upside down at high speed, the force of the ejection fractured McCain's right arm in three places, his left arm, and his right leg, and knocked him unconscious.Rochester and Kiley, "Honor Bound", p. 360.] McCain nearly drowned after making a parachute landing in
Trúc Bạch Lakein Hanoi; the weight of his equipment was pulling him down, and as he regained consciousness, he could not use his arms. Eventually, he was able to inflate his life vest using his teeth. Several Vietnamese, possibly led by Department of Industry clerk Mai Van On, pulled him ashore. [A number of Vietnamese have claimed to have led the McCain rescue effort in Trúc Bạch Lake, but the one most often credited, including by the Vietnamese government in the 1990s, was Mai Van On. He and McCain met in Hanoi in 1996, but McCain did not mention him in his 1999 memoir and it is unclear whether McCain believed On's account. On's story also does not completely coincide with the well-known photograph showing a number of Vietnamese pulling McCain ashore. See cite news | url=http://quest.cjonline.com/stories/022400/gen_rescuer.shtml | title= McCain's Vietnam rescuer talks | publisher= Associated Press| date=2000-02-24 | accessdate=2008-06-28; Alexander, "Man of the People", pp. 47–49; and cite news | url=http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/world-news/wartime-rescuer-of-john-mccain-dies-a-forgotten-hero_10064998.html | title=Wartime rescuer of John McCain dies a forgotten hero | author=Parry, Simon | publisher= Deutsche Presse-Agenturfor " Thaindian News" | date=2008-06-27 | accessdate=2008-06-28 See also the October 5, 2008 Dobbs "Washington Post" story, which credits paper factory worker Tran Lua.] A mob gathered around, spat on him, kicked him, and stripped him of his clothes; his left shoulder was crushed with the butt of a rifle and he was bayoneted in his left foot and abdominal area. He was then transported to Hanoi's main Hoa Lo Prison, nicknamed the "Hanoi Hilton" by American POWs.
McCain reached Hoa Lo in as bad a physical condition as any prisoner during the war.Hubbell, "P.O.W.", p. 363.] His captors refused to give him medical care unless he gave them military information; they beat and interrogated him, but McCain only offered his name, rank, serial number, and date of birthHubbell, "P.O.W.", p. 364.] Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 79.] (the only information he was required to provide under the Geneva Conventions and permitted to give under the U.S. Code of Conduct). Soon thinking he was near death, McCain said he would give them more information if taken to the hospital, hoping he could then put his interrogators off once he was treated. [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 80.] A prison doctor came and said it was too late, as McCain was about to die anyway. Only when the North Vietnamese discovered that his father was a top admiral did they give him medical care, calling him "the crown prince". Two days after McCain's plane went down, that event and his status as a POW made the front pages of "
The New York Times"cite news |url=http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/flash/politics/20080203_MCCAIN_TIMELINE/content/pdf/19671028.pdf |format=PDF |title=Adm. McCain's son, Forrestal Survivor, Is Missing in Raid |author=Apple Jr., R. W. |publisher=" The New York Times" |date= 1967-10-28] and " The Washington Post". [cite news | title=Admiral's Son Captured in Hanoi Raid | publisher= Associated Pressfor " The Washington Post" | date= 1967-10-28] Interrogation and beatings resumed in the hospital; McCain gave the North Vietnamese his ship's name, squadron's name, and the attack's intended target.McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 193–194.] This information, along with personal details of McCain's life and purported statements by McCain about the war's progress, would appear over the next two weeks in the North Vietnamese official newspaper " Nhân Dân" as well as in dispatches from outlets such as the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina. [cite web | url=http://www.foia.cia.gov/search.asp?pageNumber=1&freqReqRecord=undefined&refinedText=undefined&freqSearchText=undefined&txtSearch=mccain&exactPhrase=undefined&allWords=undefined&anyWords=undefined&withoutWords=undefined&documentNumber=undefined&startCreatedMonth=&startCreatedDay=&startCreatedYear=&endCreatedMonth=&endCreatedDay=&endCreatedYear=0&startReleasedMonth=&startReleasedDay=&startReleasedYear=&endReleasedMonth=&endReleasedDay=&endReleasedYear=0&sortOrder=ASC | title=Freedom of Information Act: Search Results (McCain) | publisher= Central Intelligence Agency| accessdate=2008-10-11 Various documents captured by the Foreign Broadcast Information Servicethat describe North Vietnamese or allied dispatches concerning McCain's captivity. Later released by the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act.] Disclosing the military information was in violation of the Code of Conduct, which McCain later wrote he regretted, although he saw the information as being of no practical use to the North Vietnamese. [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 198. Used to express McCain's retrospective view on his early statements.] Further coerced to give future targets, he named cities that had already been bombed, and responding to demands for the names of his squadron's members, he supplied instead the names of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line.
McCain spent six weeks in the hospital, receiving marginal care in a dirty, wet environment. [Hubbell, "P.O.W.", pp. 364–365.] A prolonged attempt to set the fractures on his right arm, done without anesthetic, was unsuccessful; [Hubbell, "P.O.W.", p. 365.] he received an operation on his broken leg but no treatment for his broken left arm. [Hubbell, "P.O.W.", p. 367.] He was temporarily taken to a clean room and interviewed by a French television reporter, Francois Chalais, whose report was carried months later on
CBS. [Hubbell, "P.O.W.", pp. 365–366.] McCain was observed by a variety of North Vietnamese, including renowned Vietnamese writer Nguyễn Tuânand Defense Minister and Army commander-in-chief General Vo Nguyen Giap.Rochester and Kiley, "Honor Bound", p. 361.] Many of the North Vietnamese observers assumed that McCain must be part of America's political-military-economic elite. [Hubbell, "P.O.W.", pp. 368–369.] Now having lost fifty pounds (twenty-three kilograms), in a chest cast, covered in grime and eyes full of fever, and with his hair turned white, in early December 1967 McCain was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp on the outskirts of Hanoi nicknamed "the Plantation". [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 83. "The Plantation" was a Potemkin village-style camp run by the North Vietnamese as a propaganda showplace for foreign visitors to see and as a preparation camp for prisoners about to be released. Brute physical mistreatment of prisoners was rarer than in other camps, but did occur to some Plantation prisoners; McCain received probably the worst of any. See Rochester and Kiley, "Honor Bound", pp. 340, 363, 364, 487.] He was placed in a cell with George "Bud" Day, a badly injured and tortured Air Force pilot (later awarded the Medal of Honor) and Norris Overly, another Air Force pilot; they did not expect McCain to live another week. [Alexander, "Man of the People", pp. 53–54.] cite book | last=Coram | first=Robert | title=American Patriot: The Life and Wars Of Colonel Bud Day | publisher= Little, Brown and Company| year=2007 | isbn=0-316-75847-7 pp. 186–189.] Overly, and subsequently Day, nursed McCain and kept him alive; Day later remembered that McCain had "a fantastic will to live".Rochester and Kiley, "Honor Bound", p. 363.]
In March 1968, McCain was put into
solitary confinement, where he remained for two years. [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 89.] Unknown to the POWs, in April 1968, Jack McCain was named Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command (CINCPAC) effective in July, stationed in Honoluluand commander of all U.S. forces in the Vietnam theater. [cite news | url=http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F50F16F73E541B7B93C3A8178FD85F4C8685F9 | title=Gen. Abrams Gets Top Vietnam Post; Deputy Is Named | author=Frankel, Max | publisher=" The New York Times" | date= 1968-04-11| format=PDF] In mid-June, Major Bai, commander of the North Vietnamese prison camp system, [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 91. Bai was called "Cat" by the POWs, who assigned often derogatory nicknames to all of the prison officials and guards.] offered McCain a chance to return home early. The North Vietnamese wanted to score a worldwide propaganda coup by appearing merciful, [Rochester and Kiley, "Honor Bound", p. 363.] and also wanted to show other POWs that members of the elite like McCain were willing to be treated preferentially.Hubbell, "P.O.W.", pp. 450–451.] McCain turned down the offer of release, due to the POWs' "first in, first out" interpretation of the U.S. Code of Conduct: [The Code of Conduct itself only forbade prisoners from accepting parole or special favors from the enemy. The POWs decided this meant that they could only accept release in the order they had been captured. They made an exception for those seriously sick or badly injured. One fellow prisoner told McCain he qualified under that exception, but after deliberation McCain refused nonetheless. See Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 92.] he would only accept the offer if every man captured before him was released as well.Hubbell, "P.O.W.", p. 452.] McCain's refusal to be released was remarked upon by North Vietnamese senior negotiator Le Duc Thoto U.S. envoy Averell Harriman, during the ongoing Paris Peace Talks. [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 209. Harriman's September 13, 1968 cable said: "At tea break Le Duc Tho mentioned that DRV had intended to release Admiral McCain's son as one of the three pilots freed recently, but he had refused."] Enraged by his declining of the offer, Bai and his assistant told McCain that things would get very bad for him.
In late August 1968, a program of vigorous torture methods began on McCain.Hubbell, "P.O.W.", pp. 452–454.] The North Vietnamese used rope bindings to put him into prolonged, painful positions and severely beat him every two hours, all while he was suffering from dysentery. His right leg was reinjured, his ribs were cracked, some teeth were broken at the gumline, and his left arm was re-fractured. Lying in his own waste, his spirit was broken; the beginnings of a suicide attempt were stopped by guards. After four days of this, McCain signed and taped [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", p. 244. Used to indicate "confession" was recorded in addition to being written, not made clear by other sources.] an anti-American propaganda "confession" that said, in part, "I am a black criminal and I have performed the deeds of an air pirate. I almost died, and the Vietnamese people saved my life, thanks to the doctors." He used stilted Communist jargon and ungrammatical language to signal that the statement was forced.cite news |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/15/politics/15mccain.html |title=McCain Pays a Tribute at Funeral of Ex-P.O.W. |author=Shane, Scott |publisher="
The New York Times" |date=2005-12-15 |accessdate=2007-12-19] McCain was haunted then and since with the belief that he had dishonored his country, his family, his comrades and himself by his statement, [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 95, 118.] but as he later wrote, "I had learned what we all learned over there: Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine."cite news | url=http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/world/2008/01/28/john-mccain-prisoner-of-war-a-first-person-account.html |title=How the POW's Fought Back |author=Lieut. Commander John S. McCain III, United States Navy |publisher=" U.S. News & World Report" |date= 1973-05-14(reposted under title "John McCain, Prisoner of War: A First-Person Account", 2008-01-28) Reprinted in cite book | last=Library of America staff | title="Reporting Vietnam, Part Two: American Journalism 1969–1975" | publisher= The Library of America| year=1998 | isbn=1-883011-59-0 pp. 434–463. Used to support direct quotes from McCain, or to fill in details not given by other sources.] His injuries left him incapable of raising his arms above his head to this day. Two weeks later his captors tried to force him to sign a second statement; his will to resist restored, he refused. He sometimes received two to three beatings per week because of his continued resistance; [Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 60.] the sustained mistreatment went on for over a year. His refusals to cooperate, laced with loud obscenities directed towards his guards, were often heard by other POWs. His boxing experience from his Naval Academy days helped him withstand the battering, and the North Vietnamese did not break him again.
Other American POWs were similarly tortured and maltreated in order to extract "confessions" and propaganda statements.cite news | url=http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/1989/February%201989/0289valor.aspx | title=Valor en Masse | author=Frisbee, John L. | publisher="
Air Force Magazine" | date=February 1989 | accessdate=2008-05-17] cite news |url=http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MzkyZmM4ZjAxMzk4OTJiMWNiMDgxM2ExNWVlYjIwODI= | title=A Trip Downtown | author=Cronin, Michael | coauthors =Day, Bud; Gaither, Ralph; Galanti, Paul; Schierman, Wesley; Swindle, Orson |publisher= National Review Online|date=2007-10-26 |accessdate=2007-11-10] Many, especially among those who had been captured earlier and imprisoned longer, endured even worse treatment than McCain. [Hubbell, "P.O.W.", pp. 288–306.] Under extreme duress, virtually all the POWs eventually yielded something to their captors. There were momentary exceptions: on one occasion, a guard surreptitiously loosened McCain's painful rope bindings for a night; when, months later, the guard later saw McCain on Christmas Day, he stood next to McCain and silently drew a cross in the dirt with his foot. [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 227–228. It is not clear from McCain's account in which year the cross episode took place. Fellow POW Orson Swindlevaguely recalls McCain telling it to him in 1971. See cite news | url=http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=OGZiOGI3OTQ3YWMxYzFhM2UyYTk3NzJiYTM4MGNiY2U= | title=Fellow POW: I Remember McCain Telling the "Cross in the Dirt" Story | author=York, Byron | publisher= National Review Online| date=2008-08-18 | accessdate=2008-08-18 Decades later, McCain related this Good Samaritanstory during his presidential campaigns, as a testament to faith and humanity. See cite news |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9904EFDE1239F93AA15751C0A9669C8B63 |title=Excerpt From McCain's Speech on Religious Conservatives |publisher=" The New York Times" |date=2000-02-29 |accessdate=2007-12-26 and cite web |url=http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/News/PressReleases/fb03c61c-89ab-4ef3-9cea-1329f07b923a.htm |title= New TV Ad: 'My Christmas Story' |publisher=John McCain 2008 |date=2007-12-20 |accessdate=2007-12-26] In October 1968, McCain's isolation was partly relieved when Ernest C. Bracewas placed in the cell next to him; [cite book | last=Brace | first=Ernest C. | authorlink=Ernest C. Brace | title=A Code to Keep: The true story of America's longest held civilian prisoner of war in Vietnam | publisher= St. Martin's Press| location=New York | year=1988 | isbn=0-709-03560-8 pp. ix–x, 170.] he taught Brace the tap codethe prisoners used to communicate. [Brace, "A Code to Keep", pp. 170–171.] On Christmas Eve 1968, a church service for the POWs was staged for photographers and film cameras; McCain defied North Vietnamese instructions to be quiet, speaking out details of his treatment then shouting "Fu-u-u-u-ck you, you son of a bitch!" and giving the fingerwhenever a camera was pointed at him. [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 98–99.] McCain refused to meet with various anti-Vietnam War peace groups coming to Hanoi, [Brace, "A Code to Keep", pp. 175, 179.] such as those led by David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, and Rennie Davis, not wanting to give either them or the North Vietnamese a propaganda victory based on his connection to his father. McCain was still badly hobbled by his injuries, earning the nickname "Crip" among the other POWs, [Rochester and Kiley, "Honor Bound", p. 371.] [Brace, "A Code to Keep", p. 183.] but despite his physical condition, continued beatings and isolation, he was one of the key players in the Plantation's resistance efforts. [Rochester and Kiley, "Honor Bound", pp. 363–364, 371, 487.]
In May 1969,
U.S. Secretary of Defense Melvin Lairdbegan publicly questioning North Vietnamese treatment of U.S. prisoners.cite news | title=U.S. Fliers Well Treated, Hanoi Says | publisher= United Press Internationalfor " The Washington Post" | date= 1969-06-06McCain's statement, as broadcast by Radio Hanoi and reported by UPI, was: "I have bombed the cities, towns and villages and caused injuries and even death for the people of North Vietnam. After I was captured, I was taken to a hospital in Hanoi where I received very good medical treatment. I was given an operation on my leg which enabled me to walk again and a cast on my right arm, which was badly broken in three places. The doctors are very good and they knew a great deal about medicine."] On June 5, 1969, a United Press Internationalreport described a Radio Hanoibroadcast that denied any such mistreatment. The broadcast used excerpts from McCain's forced "confession" of a year before, including a statement where he said he had bombed "cities, towns and villages" and had received "very good medical treatment" as a prisoner. [McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 285–286. Used to confirm that this was McCain's August 1968 "confession", heavily edited; a U.S. military voice analysis verified that it was McCain's voice.] In late 1969, treatment of McCain and the other POWs suddenly improved.Hubbell, "P.O.W.", p. 519.] [Rochester and Kiley, "Honor Bound", pp. 489–491.] North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minhhad died the previous month, causing a possible change in policy towards POWs. Also, a badly beaten and weakened POW who had been released that summer disclosed to the world press the conditions to which they were being subjected, and the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, which included McCain's brother Joe, heightened awareness of the POWs' plight.McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 290–291. Used to illustrate McCain family role while he was a POW.] In December 1969, McCain was transferred back to the Hoa Lo "Hanoi Hilton"; [Brace, "A Code to Keep", pp. 187–188.] his solitary confinement ended in March 1970. [Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 64.] When the prisoners talked about what they wanted to do once they got out, McCain said he wanted to become President. McCain consented to a January 1970 interview outside Hoa Lo with Spanish-born, Cuban psychologist Fernando Barral, that was published in the official Cuban newspaper "Granma".cite news | url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/10/AR2008031003141_pf.html | title=In Havana, A Page From McCain's Past | author=Roig-Franzia, Manuel | publisher=" The Washington Post" | date=2008-03-11 | accessdate=2008-06-08] In it, McCain talked about his life and expressed no remorse for his actions in bombing North Vietnam, and Barral proclaimed him "an insensitive individual without human depth."cite news | url=http://www.sptimes.com/2008/03/08/Life/A_revolutionary_meets.shtml | title=A revolutionary meets the foe: John McCain | author=Adams, David | publisher=" St. Petersburg Times" | date=2008-03-08 | accessdate=2008-06-09] The POWs issued an edict forbidding any further such interviews, and despite pressure from his captors, McCain subsequently refused to see any anti-war groups or journalists sympathetic to the North Vietnamese regime.
McCain and other prisoners were moved around to different camps at times, but conditions over the next several years were generally more tolerable than they had been before. Unbeknownst to them, each year that Jack McCain was CINCPAC, he paid a Christmastime visit to the American troops in
South Vietnamserving closest to the DMZ; he would stand alone and look north, to be as close to his son as he could get.McCain, "Faith of My Fathers", pp. 287–288. McCain states that he has received dozens of reports over the years of his father doing this.] By 1971, some 30–50 percent of the POWs had become disillusioned about the war, both because of the apparent lack of military progress and what they heard of the growing anti-war movement in the U.S., and some of them were less reluctant to make propaganda statements for the North Vietnamese.Hubbell, "P.O.W.", pp. 548–549.] McCain was not among them: he participated in a defiant church service [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 104.] and led an effort to write letters home that only portrayed the camp in a negative light, [Rochester and Kiley, "Honor Bound", p. 537.] and as a result spent much of the year in a camp reserved for "bad attitude" cases. Back at the "Hanoi Hilton" from November 1971 onward, [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 105.] McCain and the other POWs cheered the resumed bombing of the north starting in April 1972, whose targets included the Hanoi area and whose daily orders were issued by Jack McCain, knowing his son was in the vicinity.Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 106–107.] Jack McCain's tour as CINCPAC ended in September 1972, [cite book | last=Frankum | first=Ronald Bruce | title=Like Rolling Thunder: The Air War In Vietnam 1964-1975 | publisher= Rowman & Littlefield| year=2005 | isbn=0-7425-4302-1 p. 161.] despite his desire to have it extended so he could see the war to its conclusion. The old-time POWs cheered even more during the intense "Christmas Bombing" campaign of December 1972,cite news | url=http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F10A1EF93D591A7A93C6A91788D85F478785F9 | title=Unshakable Will to Survive Sustained P. O. W.'s Over the Years | author=Roberts, Steven V. | publisher=" The New York Times" | date=1973-03-04] when Hanoi was subjected for the first time to repeated B-52 Stratofortressraids. Although its explosions lit the night sky and shook the walls of the camp, and scared some of the newer POWs, most saw it as a forceful measure to compel North Vietnam to finally come to terms.
Altogether, McCain was held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and a half years. The
Paris Peace Accordswere signed on January 27, 1973, ending direct U.S. involvement in the war, but the Operation Homecomingarrangements for the 591 American POWs took longer. [cite web | url=http://www.bolling.af.mil/news/story.asp?storyID=123039255 | title=Operation Homecoming marks end of Vietnam War | author=Stephens, Andy | publisher= United States Air Force| date=2007-02-12 | accessdate=2008-05-18] McCain was finally released from captivity on March 14, 1973, being taken by bus to Gia Lam Airport, transferred to U.S. custody, and then flown by C-141 to Clark Air Basein the Philippines.cite news | url=http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/flash/politics/20080203_MCCAIN_TIMELINE/content/pdf/19730315.pdf |format=PDF | title=P.O.W. Commander Among 108 Freed | author=Sterba, James P. | publisher=" The New York Times" | date= 1973-03-15] [cite news | url=http://svt.se/svt/jsp/Crosslink.jsp?d=22584&a=1243689&lid=puff_1243756&lpos=rubrik | title=Unik McCain-film i SVT:s arkiv | publisher= Sveriges Television| date=2008-09-11 | accessdate=2008-09-11 | language=Swedish] He had been a POW for almost an extra five years due to his refusal to accept the out-of-sequence repatriation offer. For his actions as a POW, McCain was awarded the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, three more instances of the Bronze Star, another instance of the Navy Commendation Medal, and the Purple Heart. He also gained an appreciation, from experiencing the mutual help and organized resistance of the POWs, that his earlier individualism needed to be tempered by a belief in causes greater than self-interest.cite news | url=http://graphics.boston.com/news/politics/campaign2000/news/A_refining_experience.shtml | title='A refining experience' | author=Farrell, John Aloysius | publisher=" The Boston Globe" | date=2000-01-23 |accessdate=2008-06-22]
Return to United States
Upon his return to the United States, McCain was reunited with his wife Carol. She had suffered her own crippling, near-death ordeal during his captivity, due to an automobile accident in December 1969 that left her hospitalized for six months and facing twenty-three operations and ongoing physical therapy. [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 100–101.] Businessman and POW advocate
Ross Perothad paid for her medical care. By the time McCain saw her, she was four inches (ten centimeters) shorter, on crutches, and substantially heavier. As a returned POW, McCain became a celebrity of sorts: " The New York Times" ran a story and front-page photo of him getting off the plane at Clark Air Basein the Philippines; [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 111.] he authored a thirteen-page cover story describing his ordeal and his support for the Nixon administration's handling of the war in " U.S. News & World Report"; he participated in parades in Orange Park and elsewhere and made personal appearances before groups, where he showed strong speaking skills;cite news | url=http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/national/article708671.ece | title=John McCain: From Orange Park to White House? | author=Leary, Alex | publisher=" St. Petersburg Times" | date=2008-07-20 | accessdate=2008-07-21] and a photograph of him on crutches shaking the hand of President Richard Nixonat a White House reception for returning POWs became iconic.cite news |url=http://www.azcentral.com/news/specials/mccain/articles/0301mccainbio-chapter4.html |title=John McCain Report: Back in the USA |author=Nowicki, Dan and Muller, Bill |publisher=" The Arizona Republic" |date=2007-03-01 |accessdate=2007-11-10] Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 113.] The McCains became frequent guests of honor at dinners hosted by Governor of California Ronald Reaganand his wife Nancy Reagan. [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 119–122.] McCain had admired Ronald Reagan while in captivity and afterwards, believing him a man who saw honor in Vietnam service and a potential leader would not lead the nation into a war it was unwilling to win. [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 12, 88, 121–122.]
McCain underwent three operations and other treatment for his injuries, [Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 80.] spending three months at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida. [Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 114.] Psychological tests, given to all the returning POWs, showed that McCain had "adjusted exceptionally well to repatriation" and had "an ambitious, striving, successful pattern of adjustment". [cite news | url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=980DEFD7133EF935A35751C1A96F958260 | title= Release of McCain's Medical Records Provides Unusually Broad Psychological Profile | last=Altman | first=Lawrence K. | publisher="
The New York Times" | date=1999-12-06] McCain told examiners that he withstood his ordeal by having "Faith in country, United States Navy, family, and God". [Alexander, "Man of the People", pp. 207–208.] Unlike many veterans, McCain did not experience flashbacks or nightmares of his Vietnam experience,cite book | last=Philpott | first=Tom | title=Glory Denied: The Saga of Jim Thompson, America's Longest-held Prisoner | publisher= W. W. Norton| year=2001 | isbn=0-393-02012-6 pp. 322–323.] although due to the association with prison guards, the sound of keys rattling would cause him to "tense up". [cite news | url=http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1779596-2,00.html | title=How Healthy Is John McCain? | author=Scherer, Michael; Park, Alice | publisher="Time" | date=2008-05-14 | accessdate=2008-07-02]
McCain was promoted to commander effective July 1973 and attended the
National War Collegein Fort McNairin Washington, D.C. during the 1973–1974 academic year. [Alexander, "Man of the People", p. 81.] [Former POWs were given latitude in choosing their next assignment. Navy officials objected to McCain's choice of the National War College, as he was not yet a commander, the minimum rank needed to qualify. McCain had earned the rank but it had not yet become official. McCain appealed to Secretary of the Navy John Warner, a friend of his father's, and gained admission. See cite news |url=http://www.azcentral.com/news/specials/mccain/articles/0301mccainbio-chapter4.html |title=John McCain Report: Back in the USA |author=Nowicki, Dan and Muller, Bill |publisher=" The Arizona Republic" |date=2007-03-01] There he intensively studied the history of Vietnam and the French and American wars there, and wrote " The Code of Conduct and the Vietnam Prisoners of War", a long paper on the Vietnam POW experience as a test of the U.S. Code of Conduct. [cite news | url=http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/us/politics/15pows.html| title=In ’74 Thesis, the Seeds of McCain's War Views | author=Kirkpatrick, David D. | publisher=" The New York Times" | date=2008-06-15 | accessdate=2008-06-15] By the time he graduated,cite web | url=http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/john_mccain/index.html | title=John McCain | publisher=" The New York Times" | accessdate=2008-03-28] he concluded that mistakes by American political and military leaders had doomed the war effort. He accepted the right of the anti-war movement in the U.S. to have exercised their freedom to protest, and he adopted a live-and-let-live attitude towards those who had evaded the draft.Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 116–118.] Nor did the vast changes in American social mores that had taken place during his absence bother him, as it did many other former POWs. McCain returned to Saigonin November 1974; he and a couple of other former POWs received the National Order of Vietnam, that country's highest honor. He also spoke at the South Vietnamese war college, five months before Saigon fell.Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 122–123.] McCain resolved not to become a "professional POW" but to move forward and rebuild his life. Few thought McCain could fly again, but he was determined to try, and during this time he engaged in nine months of grueling, painful physical therapy, especially to get his knees to bend again.
McCain recuperated just enough to pass his flight physical and have his flight status reinstated. In August 1974, he was assigned to the
Replacement Air GroupVA-174 "Hellrazors". This was an A-7 Corsair IItraining squadron located at Naval Air Station Cecil Fieldin Jacksonvillecite paper
title = Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons — Volume 1
Naval Historical Center
url = http://www.history.navy.mil/download/va154174.pdf
accessdate =2008-03-01 pp. 248–251.] and the largest aviation squadron in the Navy.cite news | url=http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/14/nation/na-mccainsquadron14 | title=McCain has long relied on his grit | author=Vartabedian, Ralph | publisher="
Los Angeles Times" | date=2008-04-14 | accessdate=2008-05-24] He became its executive officer in 1975, and on July 1, 1976, he was made VA-174's commanding officer.Alexander, "Man of the People", pp. 84–86.] This last assignment was controversial, as he did not have the required experience of having commanded a smaller squadron first (something that he now had too high a rank to do). [McCain, "Worth the Fighting For", p. 12. Used to give McCain confirmation about assignment, and explanation for why a lesser assignment was not possible.] While some senior officers resented McCain's presence as favoritism due to his father, junior officers rallied to him and helped him qualify for A-7 carrier landings.
As commanding officer, McCain relied upon a relatively unorthodox leadership style based upon the force of his personality.cite news | url=http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2008/articles/2008/08/31/taking_command___the_mccain_way/?page=full | title=Taking command – The McCain way | author=Helman, Scott | publisher="
The Boston Globe" | date=2008-08-31 | accessdate=2008-09-02] He removed personnel he thought ineffective, and sought to improve morale and productivity by establishing an informal rapport with enlisted men. Dealing with limited post-Vietnam defense budgets and parts shortages, He was forceful in demanding that respect be given the female officers just beginning to arrive into the unit. McCain's leadership abilities were credited with improving the unit's aircraft readiness; for the first time, all fifty of its aircraft were able to fly. Although some operational metrics declined during the period, the pilot safety metrics improved to the point of having zero accidents. The squadron was awarded its first-ever Meritorious Unit Commendation, while McCain received a Meritorious Service Medal. McCain later stated that being commanding officer of VA-174 was the most rewarding assignment of his naval career. [McCain, "Worth the Fighting For", p. 13. Used to support McCain assessment of this part of his career.] When his stint ended in July 1977, the change of command ceremony was attended by his father and the rest of his family, as well as some of his fellow POWs; speaker Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, Jr.said that John had joined Jack and Slew McCain in a place of honor in Navy tradition, a tribute that deeply moved McCain.
During their time in Jacksonville, the McCains' marriage began to falter.Timberg, "The Nightingale's Song", p. 239.] McCain had extramarital affairs; he was seen with other women in social settings and developed a reputation among his colleagues for womanizing. [One VA-174 legal officer and her colleague approached the base chaplain about McCain's behavior. See "Taking command – The McCain way". There were also widespread rumors at the time that some of the affairs were with women who were subordinates under his command, which McCain later flatly denied. See "The Nightingale's Song", p. 239.] Some of McCain's activity with other women occurred when he was off-duty after routine flights to
Marine Corps Air Station Yumaand Naval Air Facility El Centro. McCain later said, "My marriage's collapse was attributable to my own selfishness and immaturity more than it was to Vietnam, and I cannot escape blame by pointing a finger at the war. The blame was entirely mine."cite news |url=http://www.azcentral.com/news/specials/mccain/articles/0301mccainbio-chapter5.html |title=John McCain Report: Arizona, the early years |author=Nowicki, Dan and Muller, Bill |publisher=" The Arizona Republic" |date=2007-03-01 |accessdate=2007-11-21] His wife Carol later stated that the failure was not due to her accident or Vietnam and that "I attribute [the breakup of our marriage] more to John turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again than I do to anything else."Timberg, "The Nightingale's Song", p. 240. Timberg also observed that, "McCain was no different from most veterans of the war. As he went through life, Vietnam kept scrambling onstage and chewing up the scenery no matter how often he thought he had written it out of the script."] John McCain's biographer, Robert Timberg, believes that "Vietnam did play a part, perhaps not the major part, but more than a walk-on." According to John McCain, "I had changed, she had changed. People who have been apart that much change."
enate liaison, divorce, and second marriage
McCain had thought about entering politics since his return from Vietnam, although 1964 had been the only time in his life he had ever voted. In 1976, he briefly thought of running for the
U.S. House of Representativesfrom Florida; he had the support of some local figures in Jacksonville, but he decided he did not have sufficient political experience or funding to defeat longtime Democratic incumbent Charles E. Bennett. He did work so hard for Ronald Reagan's 1976 Republican primary campaign that his base commander reprimanded him for being too politically active for his naval position.
As his tenure with VA-174 was ending, McCain was assigned to a low-profile desk job within the
Naval Air Systems Command. Chief of Naval OperationsAdmiral James L. Holloway IIIthought this assignment a waste of McCain's talents,Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 126–128.] and instead in July 1977 McCain was appointed to the Senate Liaison Office within the Navy's Office of Legislative Affairs (an assignment Jack McCain had once held).cite news | author=Frantz, Douglas | url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9404E5DD1430F932A15751C0A9669C8B63 | title=The Arizona Ties: A Beer Baron and a Powerful Publisher Put McCain on a Political Path | publisher=" The New York Times" | date=2000-02-21 | accessdate=2006-11-29] The office's role mostly consisted of providing constituent serviceand acting as a facilitator among legislators, the Department of Defense, and lobbyists. McCain later said the liaison job represented " [my] real entry into the world of politics and the beginning of my second career as a public servant". McCain's lively personality and knowledge of military matters made his post in the Russell Senate Office Buildinga popular gathering spot for senators and staff. He also frequently escorted congressional delegations on overseas trips, where he arranged entertaining side escapades. McCain was influenced by senators of both parties, and formed an especially strong bond with John Towerof Texas, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. During 1978 and 1979, McCain played a key behind-the-scenes role in gaining congressional funding for a new supercarrieragainst the wishes of the Carter administrationand Navy Secretary W. Graham Claytor Jr.[Timberg, "An American Odyssey", pp. 132–134.] In August 1979, McCain was promoted to captain, and became Director of the Senate Liaison Office. During McCain's time there, the Senate Liaison Office enjoyed one of its few periods of high influence.cite news | url=http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=0fd7470d-a41f-4d9e-9328-fd079b476a0a | title=Made Man | author=Scheiber, Noam | publisher=" The New Republic" | date=2008-08-20 | accessdate=2008-08-22]
McCain and his wife Carol had been briefly separated soon after returning to Washington, but then reunited and remained married.cite news
title= P.O.W. to Power Broker, A Chapter Most Telling
The New York Times"
accessdate=2007-04-22] In April 1979, while attending a military reception for senators in Hawaii, McCain met Cindy Lou Hensley, eighteen years his junior,cite news | url=http://www.harpersbazaar.com/magazine/feature-articles/cindy-mccain-0707 | title=Cindy McCain: Myth vs. Reality | author=Collins, Nancy | publisher="
Harpers Bazaar" | date=July 2007 | accessdate=2008-01-11] a teacher from Phoenix, Arizonawho was the daughter of James Willis Hensley, a wealthy Anheuser-Buschbeer distributor, and Marguerite "Smitty" Hensley. They began dating, travelling between Arizona and Washington to see each other,cite news | url=http://www.newsweek.com/id/142650/ | title=In Search of Cindy McCain | author=Bailey, Holly | publisher=" Newsweek" | date=2008-06-30 | accessdate=2008-06-23] and John McCain urged his wife Carol to accept a divorce. The McCains stopped cohabiting in January 1980,cite news | url=http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-divorce11-2008jul11,0,6546861.story | title=McCain's broken marriage and fractured Reagan friendship | author=Serrano, Richard A.; Vartabedian, Ralph | publisher=" Los Angeles Times" | date=2008-07-11 | accessdate=2008-07-11] and John McCain filed for divorce in February 1980, which Carol McCain accepted at that time. After she did not respond to court summonses, the uncontested divorce became official in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, on April 2, 1980. He gave her a settlement that included full custody of their children, alimony, child support including college tuition, houses in Virginia and Florida, and lifelong financial support for her ongoing medical treatments resulting from the 1969 automobile accident; they would remain on good terms. McCain and Hensley were married on May 17, 1980 in Phoenix, with Senators William Cohenand Gary Hartas best man and groomsman. McCain's children were upset with him and did not attend the wedding, but after several years they reconciled with him and Cindy. Carol McCain became a personal assistant to Nancy Reaganand later Director of the White House Visitors Office. [cite news | url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=travel&res=9E04EFDE133BF933A0575BC0A967948260 | title=White House Tour Leader Courted and Criticized | author=Gamarekian, Barbara | publisher=" The New York Times" | date=1981-08-30] The Reagans were stunned by the divorce; Nancy Reagan's relationship with John McCain turned cold for a while following it, but eventually the two renewed their friendship. [McCain, "Worth the Fighting For", pp. 85–86. [After describing social friendship with Reagans following POW return] "My divorce from Carol, whom the Reagans loved, caused a change in our relationship. Nancy, for whom Carol now worked in the White House, was particularly upset with me and treated me on the few occasions we encountered each other after I came to Congress with a cool correctness that made her displeasure clear.... [Ronald Reagan was more friendly to him] Nevertheless, we weren't social friends any longer.... I had, of course, deserved the change in our relationship, and I knew it.... From her kindness and my good luck, Nancy and I recovered our friendship long ago and remain friends to this day  ." No detailed account of Nancy Reagan's side of this is known, although she stated in March of 2008: "John McCain has been a good friend for over thirty years." See [http://www.reaganlibrary.com/pressrelease.asp?press_id=133 "Statement by Mrs. Ronald Reagan Endorsing Senator John McCain for President of the United States"] ( 2008-03-25).] The same happened with most of McCain's other friends, who were eventually won over by the force of his personality and his frequent expressions of guilt over what had happened.
Around the end of 1980, McCain decided to retire from the Navy."Worth the Fighting For", pp. 9–10. Used to give chronology point not supplied by any other source.] He had not been given a major sea command,Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 135.] and his physical condition had deteriorated, causing him to fail the
flight physicalrequired for any carrier command position. [cite news | url=http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071231/FRONTPAGE/712310303 | title=After war, a personal renewal | author=Sanger-Katz, Margot | publisher=" Concord Monitor" | date=2007-12-31 | accessdate=2008-06-10] McCain thought he might make rear admiral, but probably not vice admiral, and never become a four-star admiral as his grandfather and father had been. McCain later wrote that he did not anguish over his decision; he was excited by the idea of being a member of Congress himself and was soon recruiting a campaign manager that Cohen knew, for a planned run at a House seat from Arizona. In early 1981, Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehmantold McCain that he would be selected for one-star rear admiral, but McCain declined, telling Lehman that he could "do more good" in Congress.cite web |author= Kirkpatrick, David D. |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/29/us/politics/29mccain.html | title=Senate’s Power and Allure Drew McCain From Military | publisher=" The New York Times" | date=2008-05-29 | accessdate=2008-05-29]
McCain retired with an effective date of April 1, 1981, the rank of captain, and a disability pension due to his wartime injuries. [cite news | url=http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/22/nation/na-pension22 | title=John McCain gets tax-free disability pension | author=Vartabedian, Ralph | publisher="
Los Angeles Times" | date=2008-04-22 | accessdate=2008-04-24] For his service in the Senate liaison office, McCain was awarded a second instance of the Legion of Merit. Jack McCain died on March 22, 1981.Timberg, "An American Odyssey", p. 138.] On March 27, 1981, McCain attended his father's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, wearing his uniform for the last time before signing his discharge papers, and later that day flew to Phoenix with his wife Cindy to begin his new life.cite news | url=http://www.newsweek.com/id/156488 | title=Hidden Depths | author=Meacham, Jon | publisher=" Newsweek" | date=2008-08-30 | accessdate=2008-09-04]
Awards and decorations
*cite book |title = Man of the People: The Life of John McCain |first = Paul |last = Alexander |authorlink=Paul Alexander |isbn = 0-471-22829-X |year = 2002 |publisher =
John Wiley & Sons|location=Hoboken, New Jersey
* [http://www.simonsays.com/content/book.cfm?pid=407204&agid=2 Chapter 1] available online.
* [http://www.simonsays.com/content/book.cfm?pid=410787&agid=2 Chapter 1] available online.
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