McCAIN, JOHN SIDNEY III
|Name: John Sidney McCain III
Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 163, USS ORISKANY (CVA-34)
Date of Birth: 29 August 1936
Home City of Record: Coco Sole, Canal Zone, Panama (family in Norfolk VA at
time of release; resides in AZ 1999)
Date of Loss: 26 October 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 210100N 1055100E (WJ876270)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
REMARKS: 730314 RELEASED BY DRV
Source: Compiled by from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S.
Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published
sources, interviews, information from John McCain III, Arlington National
Cemetery. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2018.
SYNOPSIS: John McCain graduated from Episcopal High School, Alexandria VA in
1954. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD graduating in
John S. McCain came from a Navy family. Both his father and grandfather
became Navy aviators, and John III followed in their footsteps. He graduated
from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1958, as his father had in 1931. John III was
later shipped to Vietnam, where he became the third generation of his family
"John McCain's grandfather was a gaunt, hawk-faced man known as Slew
by his fellow officers and, affectionately, as Popeye by the sailors
who served under him. McCain Sr. played the horses, drank bourbon
and water, and rolled his own cigarettes with one hand. More
significant, he was one of the navy's greatest commanders, and led
the strongest aircraft carrier force of the Third Fleet in key
battles during World War II."
"Rear Admiral John S. McCain, who, as Commander Aircraft South
Pacific Forces (COMAIRSOPAC), controlled all land-based aircraft in
the South Pacific Area, including those of the US Army Air Forces
"Born at Carroll County, Mississippi, August 9, 1884, the son of
John Sidney and Elizabeth-Ann Young McCain.
He was a student at the University of Mississippi, 1901-02 and
graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1906, from the
Navy War College in 1929, from Flight Instruction School, 1936. He
married Katherine Vaulx, August 9, 1909. Their children were: John
Sidney, James Gordon, Katherine Vaulx.
He was commissioned an Ensign, 1906, and promoted through the grades
to Rear Admiral, 1941; Vice Admiral, July 1943. He served as Chief
of the Naval Bureau of Aeronautics, September 1942-July 1943; Deputy
Chief of Naval Operations for Air, July 1943; Commander, Carrier
Task Force 38. Planes under his command took part in action over
Peleliu, Leyte Gulf, Philippine Sea, Mindoro, Luzon, Formosa,
Ruyukyus and the Japanese homeland. His planes once sank 49 Japanese
ships in a single day. Between July 10 and August 14, 1945, his
aviators located and destroyed 3,000 grounded enemy planes. He
witnessed the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo
Bay on September 2, 1945.
He died on September 6, 1945 and was buried in Section 3 (Grave
4356) of Arlington National Cemetery, among other family members,
including his brother, William Alexander McCain, Brigadier General,
U.S. Arlington National Cemetery Biography"
"John McCain's father followed a similar path, equally distinguished
by heroic service in the navy, as a submarine commander during World
War II. McCain Jr., was a slightly built man, but like his father,
he earned the respect and affection of his men. He, too, rose to the
rank of four-star admiral, making the McCains the first family in
American history to achieve that distinction. McCain Jr's final
assignment was as commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific during
the Vietnam War."
"Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., submariner, became Commander-in-Chief
of the Pacific Command (CINCPAC) in July 1968, a position he held
until 1972. As such, he directed all U.S. military operations in the
vast war theater during the Vietnam war, exercising command through
CINCPACFL (Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet) and CINCPACAF
(Commander- in-Chief of the Pacific Air Force). He exercised command
over ground and air operations in Vietnam through CONMUSMACV
(Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Military Assistance Command
Vietnam), U.S. Army General Creighton Abrams. Admiral John McCain
Jr. died March 24, 1981."
LtCdr. John S. McCain III was a pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 163
onboard the aircraft carrier USS ORISKANY (CVA-34). On October 26, 1967, he
launched in his A4E "Skyhawk" attack aircraft as the number three aircraft
in the first division of a strike group against the Hanoi Thermal Power
The flight met with considerable resistance in the form of anti-aircraft
fire and surface-to-air missiles (SAM) approaching the target. As McCain
rolled into his dive, his aircraft was observed by his wingman to take a
direct hit from anti-aircraft fire and to burst into flames. McCain was able
to eject from his crippled aircraft and made brief emergency contact before
his parachute landed in a nearby lake in Hanoi. He was captured immediately
and confined in the Hanoi prison system, as was verified by Radio Hanoi
broadcasts and later information gathered during his years of imprisonment.
McCain was severely injured, having broken both arms and his right leg, and
his strength in coping through his recouperation was inspiring to many of
his fellow POWs.
Years after the war, McCain returned to Hanoi and visited the site of the
monument erected at the lake in Hanoi which celebrated his capture.
John McCain III left the U.S. Navy and ultimately was elected to the U.S.
House of Representatives in 1982 and again in 1984. He won the Senate seat
vacated by Barry Goldwater from Arizona in 1986. During his terms in
Congress, McCain has been involved in the issue of Americans still prisoner,
missing or unaccounted for in Vietnam, although POW/MIA advocates disagree
as to his helpfulness to the issue. Supporters point to a number of bills
supported, speeches made, and initiatives begun (such as asking for the
Tighe Commission to investigate Defense Intelligence Agency, and the move
for a U.S. Special Interest Section in Vietnam), while critics of McCain
(also critics of U.S. Government policy on the issue) assert that McCain was
too close to the Reagan Administration to force progress on the ultimate
goal of bringing home American prisoners.
John McCain is one of the lucky ones who came home. He knows that the U.S.
Government has conducted "over 250,000" interviews and analyzed "millions of
documents" related to Americans still in Southeast Asia. Many authorities
believe there are hundreds of Americans still alive. Isn't it time we
brought these men home, too?
In 1973 McCain returned to school and attended the National War College in
Washington, D.C. He retired a Captain, having served in the Navy from 1958 -
1981. During his service he was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion
of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross. His 2nd marriage was
to the former Cindy Hensley and they have six children. He was elected to
Congress in 1982 and to the Senate in 1986. In 1999, as a Senator from
Arizona, he ran as a Republican candidate for the Presidention nomination.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
JOHN S. McCAIN II
Lieutenant Commander - United States Navy
Shot Down: October 26, 1967
Released: March 15, 1973
Lcdr. John N1cCain, a Navy flyer and son of the admiral who commanded the
war in the Pacific, spent 5 1/2 years in captivity. Here is part of his
On my 23rd mission, a missile the size of a telephone pole, blew the right
wing off the Skyhawk bomber which I was piloting. It went into an inverted,
almost straight down spin. I was knocked unconscious by the force of the
ejection. I did not realize it at the moment, but I had broken my right leg
at the knee, my left arm and my right arm in three places. I regained
consciousness as I parachuted into a lake right in the center of Hanoi. My
helmet and oxygen mask had been blown off. With my fifty pounds of equipment
and gear I sank to the bottom. I rose and then started sinking. I could not
understand why I could not use my right arm or leg. The third time I sank I
couldn't get back to the surface. With my teeth I was finally able to get
the toggle released thus inflating the life preserver which floated me to
Some North Vietnamese swam out and pulled me to the side of the lake. As
they stripped me of my clothes, they kicked and spit on me. I noticed my
right foot was at a 90 degree position resting next to my left knee. When I
said, "My God - my leg!" they became enraged. They slammed a rifle butt down
on my shoulder which smashed it pretty badly and another stuck a bayonet in
my foot. About this time a guy appeared who quieted the crowd. I was then
put on a stretcher and was taken to prison. Immediately the interrogations
began and when I refused to answer their questions they would knock me into
unconsciousness. Finally after four days of this I agreed to give
information if they would take me to a hospital. The doctor, after taking
my pulse said, "It's too late." They left the room. Sometime later, the
chief interrogator again returned shouting "Your father a big admiral, now
we take you to hospital." I tell you this to make a point. There were hardly
any amputees among the prisoners who came back because the North Vietnamese
would not give medical treatment to someone badly injured. The transition to
the dirt, filth and infection made it difficult for a guy to survive. In
fact, the treatment in the hospital almost killed me.
The hospital was filthy and every time it rained there would be almost an
inch of water on the floor. I almost never saw a doctor or a nurse. I was,
however, assigned a 16 year old kid right out of the rice fields. He
delighted in hitting and slapping me. Then as I could not use my arms he was
to feed me, but ate most of the food himself. I was getting from three to
four tablespoons per day.
I knew that because of my father the North Vietnamese would try to obtain
more than the usual propaganda. They worked on setting my right arm for an
hour and a half, trying to align the three broken bones - all without any
sedation. When it was over they took me into a room with a nice bed, in came
the TV cameras and I was filmed with a French Communist. They wanted me to
tell about the lenient and humane treatment I had received. As soon as the
filming was over I was put back in my room. They gave me one operation on my
leg (said I needed two but because of my bad attitude I would get one). My
left arm was to heal itself.
After six weeks in the hospital I was put in prison. My weight was down to
100 from 155 and my roommates said later that they had not expected that I
could live one week. George Day and Norris Overly kept me alive during those
days I was incapacitated. In March 19681 started two years of living in
They tried many designs to force me to embarrass my father and the United
States. I found that prayer helped. It wasn't a question of asking for
superhuman strength or for God to strike the North Vietnamese dead. It was
asking for moral and physical courage, for guidance and wisdom to do the
right thing. I asked for comfort when I was in pain and sometimes I received
relief. I was sustained in many times of trial.
When the pressure was on you seemed to go one way or the other. Either it
was easier for them to break you the next time or it was harder. In other
words, if you are going to make it, you get tougher.
The Communists left no doubt in my mind that it was not a question of South
Vietnam alone. Two North Vietnamese generals said to me at separate times,
"After we liberate South Vietnam, we're going to liberate Cambodia. And
after Cambodia we're going to liberate Laos and after we liberate Laos we're
going to liberate Thailand and after we liberate Thailand we're going to
liberate Malaysia and then Burma. We're going to liberate all of Southeast
Asia. That is what Communism is all about - armed struggle to overthrow the
I had a lot of time to think and I came to the conclusion that one of the
most important things in life - along with a man's family - is to make
some contribution to his country.
Cuban War Crimes Against American POWs During Vietnam War
Pentagon officials confirmed that POWs released during "Operation
Homecoming" in 1973, were told not to talk about "third-country
"This thing is very sensitive with all kinds of diplomatic ramifications,"
according to one Pentagon official. (Washington Star, 4/3/73)
Not only was it not discussed, the torture and murder of over 20 Americans
by Cubans, was swept under the rug by the U.S. government. The Cubans were
attached to Hanoi's Enemy Proselytizing Bureau with jurisdiction over
Air Force Colonel Donald "Digger" Odell gave his Defense Department
debriefers an eyewitness account of two American POWs, who the Hanoi
communists hadn/t released because "The Vietnamese didn't want the world to
see what they had done to them."
In spite of the Colonel's eyewitness account, and those of other returnees,
DOD (Department of Defense) continues to this date to vehemently deny that
any American POWs had been left behind.
For days in June 1968, Air Force Ace Major James Kasler was tortured by
Fidel. Fidel beat Kasler across the buttocks with a large truck fan belt
until "he tore my rear end to shreds".
For one three-day period, Kasler was beaten with the fan belt every hour
from 6:am to 10:pm, and kept awake at night. "My mouth was so bruised that I
could not open my teeth for five days."
After one beating, Kasler's buttocks, lower back and legs hung in shreds.
The skin had been entirely whipped away and the area was a bluish, purplish,
greenish mass of bloody raw meat.
According to Kasler, "at least 15 men were either killed during torture or
were not accounted for." (Time, 4/9/71)
Three POWs were beaten senseless, and of the three, two disappeared and the
other was reported to have died.
Fidel called one of the American POWs the "Faker". He was one of the three
who had been beaten senseless.
The first time Jack Bomar saw him, the man could barely walk; he shuffled
slowly, painfully. His clothes torn to shreds. He was bleeding everywhere,
terribly swollen, and a dirty, yellowish black and purple from head to toe.
The man's head was down; he made to attempt to look at anyone. He had been
through much more than the day's beatings.
His body was ripped and torn everywhere; hell cuffs appeared almost to have
severed his wrists, strap marks still wound around the arms all the way to
the shoulders, slivers of bamboo were embedded in the bloodied shins and
there were what appeared to be tread marks from the hose across the chest,
back and legs.
Fidel smashed a fist into the man's face, driving him against the wall.
Then he was brought to the center of the room and made to get down onto his
knees. Screaming in rage, Fidel took a length of black rubber hose from a
guard and lashed it as hard as he could into the man'a face. The prisoner
did not react; he did not cry out or even blink an eye. Again and again, a
dozen times, Fidel smashed the man's face with the hose.
He was never released. (Hubble, P.O.W.
The Cuban torturers were given the names "Fidel" "Chico" and "Pancho" .
They were part of a Cuban diplomatic contingent assigned to Hanoi's Enemy
Proselytizing Bureau, and were directly responsible for the murder and
torture of a considerable number of American POWs.
According to one CIA dispatch, the Cuban Program" was conducted at the Cuu
Loc PW camp from August 1967 through July 1968.
According to a DIA report, "the objective of the interrogators was to obtain
the total submission of the prisoners...." However, this report may not have
been entirely accurate.
One intelligence source, who reportedly interviewed "Fidel" and other Cuban
interrogators in Hanoi, claims they said that their real job was to act as
gate-keepers for the Soviets, and helped select highly-skilled pilots and
electronic warfare backseaters, who became "Moscow Bound".
The Cuban involvement in the interrogation of POWs did not end in 1968, for
in 1969, I was interrogated by Fidel, and it wasn't in the Cuu Loc prison.
There were two other prison camps located near Cuban facilities in North
Vietnam where American POWs were held. One, located at "Work Site 5" (Cong
Truong 5), just north of the DMZ, was adjacent to a Cuban field hospital
that Fidel Castro visited in 1972.
No returned POW was ever held at that camp, where a mixture of legitimate
POWs and some stay-behinds, were incarcerated.
The other, according to a recently returned Vietnamese 34-A commando, was
the Thanh Tri Prison, where he saw 60 American POWs in 1969. Also in the
prison were approximately 100 French and Moroccan POWs captured in the early
His report corroborates several other similar sightings.
Later they were transferred to Ba Vi Prison near another Cuban facility. No
American POW has ever returned from either of these prisons, thought to be
part of Hanoi's second-tier prison system.
In 1972, two French POWs escaped and made it to the French Embassy in
Peking. After the French government paid a ransom, the French and Moroccan
POWs were quietly repatriated.
There is no evidence that the CIA, DoD or DIA have ever interviewed these
On one occasion, a former aide to Fidel Castro approached the American
Consulate in Nassau with an offer to ransom American POWs captured in North
Vietnam, through the Castro Government.
According to the Department of State cable, "We have listened without
comment or commitment. Presume Washington has files on these types.
Propose doing nothing further unless advised."
Evidently there was no follow up.
According to the Baltimore Sun (8/15/77), CIA analysts identified two Cuban
military attaches, Eduardo Morjon Esteves and Luis Perez Jaen, who had
backgrounds which seemed to correspond with information on Fidel and Chico,
supplied by returning POWs.
A Spanish Cuban psychiatrist, Barral Fernando, interrogated Senator John
McCain for an extensive period of time, part of which was published in the
Havana newspaper "Granma". Recently declassified documents show that the CIA
has photographs as well as composite drawings of the Cuban torturers.
After my return in 1973, I identified one of the Cubans in a photograph
shown to me by a Congressional Committee.
I was told that one of the man's jobs was coordinating the American
contingent of the Venceremos Brigade (cane cutters), and he was also
responsible for funneling Soviet money to the Americans to support anti-war
According to one news report, President Clinton's transition coordinator
appointee, Johnnetta Cole, in 1976, "was active in the communist-front
Another report stated that U.S. prisoners-of-war captured in Vietnam were
reported transferred to communist prisons in Cuba during later 1965 and
One Cuban prisoner, who later escaped and fled to the U.S., was held in "Las
Maristas, a secret Cuban prison run by Castro's G-2 Intelligence service,
with American POWs captured in Vietnam".
The POWs referred to each other by rank, such as Lieutenant and Captain, and
a guard told them that these Americans were war prisoners, mostly pilots,
brought from North Vietnam.
Although he was interviewed by FBI agents upon his arrival in the U.S., they
did not seem very interested in the story of American POWs from Vietnam.
Nor was he ever debriefed by U.S. military intelligence or by the CIA.
Other Cuban witnesses have corroborated the fact that a substantial number
of American prisoners were held in several Cuban prisons.
However, only one Cuban claimed knowledge that the Americans were POWs from
There is no evidence that the FBI, DoD, DIA or the CIA canvassed the Cuban
exile community in Miami to find out if they had knowledge of American POWs
taken from Vietnam to Cuba.
The behavior of "Fidel", "Chico" and "Pancho" is beyond the pale and is
clearly in violation of the standards set at Nuremberg after World War II.
Therefore, these Cuban war criminals should be tried before an international
tribunal similar to that supported by the U.S. governemnt for the
prosecution of perpetrators of war crimes in Bosnia.
The communist regime in Hanoi can easily identify these Cubans.
Therefore, a moratorium should be placed on the appointment of an American
Ambassador to Vietnam until the time that regime is "fully cooperating" in
resolving the POW/MIA issue.
Full cooperation by the communist government in Vietnam includes the full
disclosure of the true identities and roles of these Cuban "diplomats", who
were "advisors" to the Hanoi prison systems, and were directly responsible
for the murder, torture and severe disablement of over 20 American POWs.
Michael D. Benge spent 11 years in Vietnam, over five years as a
prisoner-of-war (1968-1973), and is a diligent follower of the affairs of
the region. While serving as a civilian Foreign Service Officer, he was
captured in South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese and held in numerous camps
in South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam. He spent 27 months in
solitary confinement, one year in a "black box." For efforts in rescuing
several Americans before his capture, he received the State Department's
highest award for heroism and a second for valor.
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