Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Senator John McCain - Faith of My Fathers

As I’ve mentioned before I am an avid “reader” of audio books. My most recent book was Faith of my Fathers by US Senator John McCain and Mark Salter. I must say I learned a great deal about the men that shaped the life of one of my favorite politicians.

Senator McCain’s Grandfather
  • Annapolis graduate
  • A US Navy officer who rose to at least 3-star Admiral but I think he made it to, reporting directly to Admiral Halsy. He might have been a 4-star.
  • Involved in numerous naval battles in WWII as commander of squandron of fast carriers.
  • Was present at the Japanese surrender ceromony in Tokyo Bay.
  • Had one major incident of adversity. He was relieved of his command near the end of WWII not for failure with the enemy but for damage to ships and for men washed overboard and lost at sea during a typhoon.
  • Died just a few days after returning home after WWII.
Senator McCain’s Father
  • Annapolis graduate, graduating in the bottom 25%
  • Commanded submarines during WWII
  • Eventually rose to 4-star admiral.
  • Was appointed to the US Navy’s second highest position, Commander in Chief Pacific (CINCPAC) during the Vietnam War.
  • Henry Kissinger told future Senator McCain after the war that whenever he felt President Nixon was losing his resolve to fight the North Vietmanese, he would arrange for Senator McCain’s father to brief President Nixon on the war and miliary options.
  • Died like his father, shortly after fighting his nation’s war.
Senator McCain
  • Annapolis graduate, graduating near the bottom.
  • Naval aviator.
  • Volunteered for combat assignment off Vietnam.
  • Asked to be part of a particularly dangerous mission over Hanoi.
  • Shot down over Hanoi.
  • Injured in the shootdown, denied medical treatement for a long time until the Vietmanese realized his father was CINCPAC.
  • Could not move his arms or walk for months.
  • Beaten and tortured in prison.
  • Was once beaten so severly he signed a war crime “confession” and made an audio recording which was played over the loud speaker at the prison camp, humiliating him.
  • Offered early release from POW camp in Vietmanese attempt to embarase his father was a “big admiral” but he refused to leave before others who had been imprisoned longer.
  • When released from POW camp, he could barely walk without crutches due to untreated injuries. After some surgery and physical therapy, he eventually got flight status back but was eventually dischardged.
Other interesting stories include:
  • At the beginning of the war, the US was so afraid of China or the Soviet Union joining the conflict that Washington refused Navy recommendations to mine North Vietnamese harbors for fear of damaging Chinese and Soviet ships.
  • McCain flew over Soviet ships with surface to air missles being offloaded from the deck, but was under orders not to bomb the Soviet ships.
  • The US also resisted the idea of bombing Hanoi
  • How POW’s would communicate with each other via tapping on walls and talking thru drinking cups.
  • Stories of deep friendships formed between isolated men who might not see each other much, simply from being willing to risk the beatings to communicate with them.
  • How POW’s would celebrate date such as birthdays and anniversary of joining their military service as a group whenever possible.
  • How the POW’s once waged a hunger strike to get the privilege of weekly religious services.
  • How the POW morale improved greatly when they heard B-52 raids over Hanoi. They took this as a sign that the US was finally showing the resolve to fight hard enough to bring the war to a close and get them home. They cheered as their guards saught shelter from the raids. One one occasion, shrapnel sprayed his POW camp but they clapped and cheered anyway.
  • How two US officers in one of the POW camps capitulated to the enemy and helped the North Vietmanese identify prisoners who were communicating with each other, one time turning in McCain. McCain received a beating as a result.
  • Once McCain was bound tightly, beaten, and left tied up tighly for the night. A camp guard he had not had much interaction with came in and quietly loosened the ropes that bound him that evening. The same guard returned early in the morning and tightened the ropes again. A couple of days later, the guard came along side him and without speaking made a Christian cross in the dirt with his foot. Niether spoke. The man then erased the cross with his foot and walked away, never speaking to McCain.

I highly recommend this book as a story about adversity and how much adversity people can withstand. Its also worth it as a reminder about the sacrifice that some members of our Armed Forces have willingly made for our freedom.


Anonymous said...

Phil, buddy... As a Hopkins grad school alum, it's hard to credit that you went through that august institution without learning how to use the English language any better than that. I mean, a simple edit would do wonders (Vietmanese????) but some of it won't be fixed so easily. Jeez...

phils_folderol said...


Heavy sigh... Please pardon my mistakes. I try to do the best I can within the very limited free time I have for blogging and sometimes things slip by me. Sometimes if I had to wait until I had it right it would never be posted. Hopefully the content presented is still worth something.