RIP 08/25/18

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
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4E
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

Official pre-capture photo


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 2023.

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
to serve.

        "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.

Cuban War Crimes Against American POWs During Vietnam War
Micheal Benge
Ex-POW, 1968-1973

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
American POWs.

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
Venceremos Brigade".

Another report stated that U.S. prisoners-of-war captured in Vietnam were
reported transferred to communist prisons in Cuba during later 1965 and
throughout 1966.

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.


John McCain, War Hero, Senator, Presidential Contender, Dies at 81 ...
3 hours ago - According to a statement from his office, Mr. McCain died at 4:28 p.m.
local time. He had suffered from a malignant brain tumor, called a ...


Sen. John Kerry, then chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, listens to
Sen. John McCain, a former POW in Vietnam, during a .

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