McCain lost five U.S. Navy aircraft.
Navy pilot John Sidney McCain III should have never been allowed to graduate from the U.S. Navy flight school. He was a below average student and a lousy pilot. Had his father and grandfather not been famous four star U.S. Navy admirals, McCain III would have never been allowed in the cockpit of a military aircraft.
His father John S. “Junior” McCain was commander of U.S. forces in Europe later becoming commander of American forces in Vietnam while McCain III was being held prisoner of war. McCain III’s grandfather John S. McCain, Sr. commanded naval aviation at the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
During his relative short stunt on flight status, McCain III lost five U.S. Navy aircraft, four in accidents and one in combat.
Robert Timberg, author of The Nightingale’s Song, a book about Annapolis graduates and their tours in Vietnam, wrote that McCain “learned to fly at Pensacola, though his performance was below par, at best good enough to get by. He liked flying, but didn’t love it.”
McCain III lost jet number one in 1958 when he plunged into Corpus Christi Bay while practicing landings. He was knocked unconscious by the impact coming to as the plane settled to the bottom.
McCain’s second crash occurred while he was deployed in the Mediterranean. “Flying too low over the Iberian Peninsula,” Timberg wrote, “he took out some power lines [reminiscent of the 1998 incident in which a Marine Corps jet sliced through the cables of a gondola at an Italian ski resort, killing 20] which led to a spate of newspaper stories in which he was predictably identified as the son of an admiral.”
McCain’s third crash three occurred when he was returning from flying a Navy trainer solo to Philadelphia for an Army-Navy football game.
Timberg reported that McCain radioed, “I’ve got a flameout” and went through standard relight procedures three times before ejecting at one thousand feet. McCain landed on a deserted beach moments before the plane slammed into a clump of trees.
McCain’s fourth aircraft loss occurred July 29, 1967, soon after he was assigned to the USS Forrestal as an A-4 Skyhawk pilot. While seated in the cockpit of his aircraft waiting his turn for takeoff, an accidently fired rocket slammed into McCain’s plane. He escaped from the burning aircraft, but the explosions that followed killed 134 sailors, destroyed at least 20 aircraft, and threatened to sink the ship.
McCain’s fifth loss happened during his 23rd mission over North Vietnam on Oct. 26, 1967, when McCain’s A-4 Skyhawk was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. McCain ejected from the plane breaking both arms and a leg in the process and subsequently parachuted into Truc Bach Lake near Hanoi.
After being drug from the lake, a mob gathered around McCain, spit on him, kicked him and stripped him of his clothing. He was bayoneted in his left foot and his shoulder crushed by a rifle butt. He was then transported to the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton.
After being periodically slapped around for “three or four days” by his captors who wanted military information, McCain called for an officer on his fourth day of captivity. He told the officer, “O.K., I’ll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital.” -U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain.
“Demands for military information were accompanied by threats to terminate my medical treatment if I [McCain] did not cooperate. Eventually, I gave them my ship’s name and squadron number, and confirmed that my target had been the power plant.” Page 193-194, Faith of My Fathers by John McCain.
When the communist learned that McCain’s father was Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., the soon-to-be commander of all U.S. Forces in the Pacific, he was rushed to Gai Lam military hospital (U.S. government documents), a medical facility normally unavailable for U.S. POWs.
The communist Vietnamese figured, because POW McCain’s father was of such high military rank, that he was of royalty or the governing circle. Thereafter the communist bragged that they had captured “the crown prince.”
For 23 combat missions (an estimated 20 hours over enemy territory), the U.S. Navy awarded McCain a Silver Star, a Legion of Merit for Valor, a Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars, two Commendation medals plus two Purple Hearts and a dozen service medals.
“McCain had roughly 20 hours in combat,” explains Bill Bell, a veteran of Vietnam and former chief of the U.S. Office for POW/MIA Affairs — the first official U.S. representative in Vietnam since the 1973 fall of Saigon. “Since McCain got 28 medals,” Bell continues, “that equals out to about a medal-and-a-half for each hour he spent in combat. There were infantry guys — grunts on the ground — who had more than 7,000 hours in combat and I can tell you that there were times and situations where I’m sure a prison cell would have looked pretty good to them by comparison. The question really is how many guys got that number of medals for not being shot down.”
For years, McCain has been an unchecked master at manipulating an overly friendly and biased news media. The former POW turned Congressman, turned U.S. Senator, has managed to gloss over his failures as a pilot and collaborations with the enemy by exaggerating his military service and lying about his feats of heroism.
McCain has sprouted a halo and wings to become America’s POW-hero presidential candidate.