John McCain’s Military History – UPDATE

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On May 29th, the New York Times had a front page article in which Secretary of the Navy John F. Lehman told Capt. John S. McCain III that he was going to be promoted to Admiral. John McCain claims that he chose a career in politics instead and retired from the Navy. This story is highly unlikely. It cannot be proved and as a matter of fact, it is more likely to be proven false.

From the Huffington Post – you can read the complete article here or the summary below.

John Lehman doesn’t figure in any accounts of McCain’s naval career, probably because Lehman was appointed Secretary of the Navy less than two months before McCain retired. The New York Times didn’t note this, or the pertinent fact that John Lehman is currently serving as National Security Adviser to McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. Two admirals in the Times story confirmed Lehman’s claim, but for unknown reasons the Times, in violation of its own guidelines, accorded them off-the-record status that makes it impossible to assess their motives and credibility.

The New York Times’ front-page story about McCain declining promotion to admiral lacks credibility for other reasons as well. For example, McCain had been promoted to captain on August 1, 1979, so he wouldn’t have been due for another promotion by March of 1981.

Exactly what would we find in an official transcript of McCain’s military history?

All he needs to do is sign Standard Form 180, which authorizes the Navy to send an undeleted copy of McCain’s naval file to news organizations. A long paper trail about McCain’s pending promotion to admiral would be prominent in his file. To date, McCain’s advisers have released snippets from his file, but under constrained viewing circumstances. There’s no reason McCain’s full file shouldn’t be released immediately. In June 2005, seven months after he lost his bid for president, Senator John Kerry signed the 180 waiver, authorizing the release of his complete military service record to the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the Associated Press. ** Unlike Kerry, McCain shouldn’t wait until after the election to do so. The Navy may claim that it already released McCain’s record to the Associated Press on May 7, 2008 in response to the AP’s Freedom of Information Act request. But the McCain file the Navy released contained 19 pages — a two-page overview and 17 pages detailing Awards and Decorations. Each of these 17 pages is stamped with a number. These numbers range from 0069 to 0636. When arranged in ascending order, they precisely track the chronology of McCain’s career. It seems reasonable to ask the Navy whether there are at least 636 pages in McCain’s file, of which 617 weren’t released to the Associated Press.

So what happened to all those 617 pages that were not released? What information might these pages contain? McCain graduated in the bottom 1% of his class at Annapolis. That would put him in the same category as George W Bush and we have all experienced the incompetency of those who didn’t do so well in school and then take on leadership responsibilities. Not so good, at least for the average American and the rest of the world.

Now here’s some frightening information:

From day one in the Navy, McCain screwed-up again and again, only to be forgiven because his father and grandfather were four-star admirals. McCain’s sense of entitlement to privileged treatment bears an eerie resemblance to George W. Bush’s.

Despite his dismal performance, John McCain became a carrier pilot, the most highly competitive position among accomplished midshipmen.

After four abysmal academic years at Annapolis distinguished only by his misdeeds and malfeasance, no one with a record resembling McCain’s would have been offered such a prized career path. The justification for this and subsequent plum assignments should be documented in McCain’s naval file.

Robert Timberg wrote in his book titled McCain.

Excerpt:

“[A]fter a European fling with the tobacco heiress, John McCain reported to flight school at Pensacola in August 1958…. [H]is performance was below par, at best good enough to get by. He liked flying, but didn’t love it. What he loved was the kick-the-tire, start-the-fire, scarf-in-the-wind life of a naval aviator. …One Saturday morning, as McCain was practicing landings, his engine quit and his plane plunged into Corpus Christi. Knocked unconscious by the impact, he came to as the plane settled to the bottom….McCain was an adequate pilot, but he had no patience for studying dry aviation manuals…. His professional growth, though reasonably steady, had its troubled moments. Flying too low over the Iberian Peninsula, he took out some power lines, which led to a spate of newspaper stories in which he was predictably identified as the son of an admiral…. [In 1965] he flew a trainer solo to Philadelphia for the Army-Navy game. Flying by way of Norfolk, he had just begun his descent over unpopulated tidal terrain when the engine died. ‘I’ve got a flameout,’ he radioed. He went through the standard relight procedures three times. At one thousand feet he ejected, landing on the deserted beach moments before the plane slammed into a clump of trees.”

John Karaagac, in his book title McCain had this to say:

Excerpt:

“In his memoir, everything becomes a kind of game of adolescent brinksmanship, how much can one press the limits of the acceptable and elude the powers that be….The [fighter jocks’] ethos of exaggerated, almost aggressive sociability becomes an end in itself and an excuse for license. There is a tendency for people, not simply to believe their own mythology but, indeed, to exaggerate it…. Fighter jocks, like politicians around their campaign contributions, often press the limits of the acceptable. It is a type of mild corruption that takes place in a highly privileged atmosphere, where restraints are loosened and excuses made….McCain gives some hint in his memoirs about where he stood in the hierarchy among carrier flyers. Instead of the sleek and newer Phantoms and Crusaders, McCain flew the dependable Douglas A-4 Skyhawk in an attack, not a fighter squadron. He was thus on the lower end of the flying totem pole.”

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It seems to me that John McCain has a history of recklessness just like George W Bush. As much as John McCain tries to distance himself from Bush, he really can’t get away from him. They are two peas in a pod with the exception that George W Bush didn’t drop his wife Laura for a “prettier” and “richer” model like John McCain did. I’ll post something about “until death do us part” at a later date.

UPDATE:  To read more about McCain’s political and military career, read this article in Rolling Stone.

Excerpt from the Rolling Stone article:

Sometimes 3 a.m. moments occur at 10:52 in the morning.

It was July 29th, 1967, a hot, gusty morning in the Gulf of Tonkin atop the four-acre flight deck of the supercarrier USS Forrestal. Perched in the cockpit of his A-4 Skyhawk, Lt. Cmdr. John McCain ticked nervously through his preflight checklist.

Now 30 years old, McCain was trying to live up to his father’s expectations, to finally be known as something other than the fuck-up grandson of one of the Navy’s greatest admirals. That morning, preparing for his sixth bombing run over North Vietnam, the graying pilot’s dreams of combat glory were beginning to seem within his reach.

Then, in an instant, the world around McCain erupted in flames. A six-foot-long Zuni rocket, inexplicably launched by an F-4 Phantom across the flight deck, ripped through the fuel tank of McCain’s aircraft. Hundreds of gallons of fuel splashed onto the deck and came ablaze. Then: Clank. Clank. Two 1,000-pound bombs dropped from under the belly of McCain’s stubby A-4, the Navy’s “Tinkertoy Bomber,” into the fire.

McCain, who knew more than most pilots about bailing out of a crippled aircraft, leapt forward out of the cockpit, swung himself down from the refueling probe protruding from the nose cone, rolled through the flames and ran to safety across the flight deck. Just then, one of his bombs “cooked off,” blowing a crater in the deck and incinerating the sailors who had rushed past McCain with hoses and fire extinguishers. McCain was stung by tiny bits of shrapnel in his legs and chest, but the wounds weren’t serious; his father would later report to friends that Johnny “came through without a scratch.”

The damage to the Forrestal was far more grievous: The explosion set off a chain reaction of bombs, creating a devastating inferno that would kill 134 of the carrier’s 5,000-man crew, injure 161 and threaten to sink the ship.

These are the moments that test men’s mettle. Where leaders are born. Leaders like . . . Lt. Cmdr. Herb Hope, pilot of the A-4 three planes down from McCain’s. Cornered by flames at the stern of the carrier, Hope hurled himself off the flight deck into a safety net and clambered into the hangar deck below, where the fire was spreading. According to an official Navy history of the fire, Hope then “gallantly took command of a firefighting team” that would help contain the conflagration and ultimately save the ship.

McCain displayed little of Hope’s valor. Although he would soon regale The New York Times with tales of the heroism of the brave enlisted men who “stayed to help the pilots fight the fire,” McCain took no part in dousing the flames himself. After going belowdecks and briefly helping sailors who were frantically trying to unload bombs from an elevator to the flight deck, McCain retreated to the safety of the “ready room,” where off-duty pilots spent their noncombat hours talking trash and playing poker. There, McCain watched the conflagration unfold on the room’s closed-circuit television — bearing distant witness to the valiant self-sacrifice of others who died trying to save the ship, pushing jets into the sea to keep their bombs from exploding on deck.

As the ship burned, McCain took a moment to mourn his misfortune; his combat career appeared to be going up in smoke. “This distressed me considerably,” he recalls in Faith of My Fathers. “I feared my ambitions were among the casualties in the calamity that had claimed the Forrestal.”

The fire blazed late into the night. The following morning, while oxygen-masked rescue workers toiled to recover bodies from the lower decks, McCain was making fast friends with R.W. “Johnny” Apple of The New York Times, who had arrived by helicopter to cover the deadliest Naval calamity since the Second World War. The son of admiralty surviving a near-death experience certainly made for good copy, and McCain colorfully recounted how he had saved his skin. But when Apple and other reporters left the ship, the story took an even stranger turn: McCain left with them. As the heroic crew of the Forrestal mourned its fallen brothers and the broken ship limped toward the Philippines for repairs, McCain zipped off to Saigon for what he recalls as “some welcome R&R.”

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6 thoughts on “John McCain’s Military History – UPDATE”

  1. You say McCain flew an A 4 “Scooter” in lieu of a Phantom or crusader; Could that possibly be becuase McCain was trained as an “attack” pilot (A 4 = Attack), and the Phantom was a Fighter as was the Crusader,, known as the “Last of the gunfighters ” as it was the last front line plane that carried guns as opposed to thte new missle only policy?

  2. “Attack means “ground attack” – or fighter bomber – the role of strafing and bombing ground targes. I believe that the Skyhawk was relegated to this role because it was older and slower than the best and newest jets which were assigned to air to air combat roles.

    It seems that the best pilots would have been assigned to the best planes in anticipation of air to air combat.

    After graduating 5th from the bottom of his class at Annapolis I’m surprised McCain got to fly jets at all – I thought the Navy was choosier about pilots than this. Do you think that his dad being an Admiral had anything to do with it?

    Perhaps there are some military buffs out there that can be more accurate on this.

  3. Tony – thanks for commenting and welcome to PA 4 Change.

    You make a good point about the quality of the pilots for these planes. McCain downed 5 planes with the last one putting him in a prison in Vietnam.

  4. Enjoyed studying this, very good stuff, regards . A man may learn wisdom even from a foe. by Aristophanes. afkcddacefbf

  5. Great article. This is really an interesting post to read.. BTW, if anyone needs to fill out a standard form 180, I found a blank form here http://goo.gl/ALP9tZ. This site PDFfiller also has some tutorials on how to fill it out and a few related forms that you might find useful.

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