Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir

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About the Author

After a career in the U.S. Navy and two terms as a U.S. rspresentative (1982-86), John McCain was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986 and re-elected in 1992 and 1998. He has seven children and four grandchildren. He and his wife, cindy, reside in Phoenix.

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Faith of My Fathers

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Overview

About the Author

After a career in the U.S. Navy and two terms as a U.S. rspresentative (1982-86), John McCain was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986 and re-elected in 1992 and 1998. He has seven children and four grandchildren. He and his wife, cindy, reside in Phoenix.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Senator John McCain won't win his party's presidential nomination, or even receive the vice presidential nod, but his autobiography can't be seen as anticlimactic. In ways, the failure of his campaign allows us to peruse his relaxed and often self-critical memoir in a leisurely and nonpartisan way. His life progresses in an almost storybook way: The descendant of two four-star admirals, "silver spoon sailor" McCain bucked his reputation in Vietnam, becoming a battle-hungry naval aviator. After being shot down over Hanoi in 1967, McCain once again found himself singled out because of his family's celebrity status. Offered early release by his North Vietnamese captors, he refused, opting instead for continued imprisonment, and the systematic torture it entailed. For the right audience, gripping stuff.
Seth Lipsky
...[A] refreshing reminder that at least one of our politicians has endured hardships greater than a special prosecutor....[A] timely testament to what might be called military morality. And that is something to ponder after a moment when President Clinton's decision to go to war in the Balkans wreaked nearly as much havoc among the Republicans as among the Serbs.
Talk
William J. Bennett
Faith of My Fathers is the powerful story of a war hero. In it we learn much of what matters most. As prisoner (and later Senator) McCain instructs us: Glory is not an end in itself, but rather a reward for valor and faith. And the greatest freedom and human fulfillment comes from engaging in a noble enterprise, larger than oneself. Faith of My Fathers teaches deep truths that are valid in any age-but truths that warrant special attention in our own.
Colin L. Powell
Faith of My Fathers is a gripping story of character and courage: character passed down from generation to generation by sterling examples of family bonds and devotion to duty; courage that ultimately comes from within, as John McCain learned in the brutal prison camps of North Vietnam. This is a sobering and glorious book that you won't be able to put down.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As the 2000 presidential campaign heats up, Republican hopeful McCain, the senior senator from Arizona, weighs in with the most engrossing book to appear in a long time from a presidential candidate. Writing with Salter, his administrative assistant, McCain carefully avoids the pitfalls of self-promotion, knowing that he has a larger, more interesting story to tell than merely why he wants to be president. McCain is famous for the five years he endured as a prisoner in the Hanoi Hilton, the most notorious POW camp in Vietnam. Less well known are two other John McCains: his father and grandfather, both of whom served as admirals in the U.S. Navy. The military service of all three men forms the basis of this gripping, heartfelt reflection on war and naval culture. McCain's grandfather was a legendary old salt, a hard-drinking gambler who fought in WWII next to giants like Nimitz and Halsey. McCain's father was a submarine commander who rose to become commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific during the Vietnam War. Almost half the book is devoted to McCain's grueling tenure as a POW. When he was shot down over Hanoi in 1967, he broke both arms, one shoulder and one knee. During his imprisonment, McCain was tortured repeatedly and frequently locked in solitary confinement. The faith McCain avows is a simple one: "in God, country, and each other"--each other being his comrades at the Hanoi Hilton and, later, his fellow citizens. McCain's memoir is too good to be dismissed as simply another campaign book. It is a serious, utterly engrossing account of faith, fathers and military tradition. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This is the story of the McCains, a family with a distinguished history of naval service: John Sr. (also known as Slew or Popeye), John Jr., and John III, the author and currently the senior U.S. senator from Arizona. Senator McCain pays homage to his grandfather and father by relating tales of their significant contributions in World War II and, in the case of John Jr., Vietnam. He also relates, in very moving ways, the high moral and professional standards that these two men set for him and how he tried to emulate their lives by attending the Naval Academy and pursuing a career in the navy as a pilot. Nearly half of the book deals with the senator's five and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, captured after his plane was shot down. The reader learns in some detail the horrors inflicted on the future senator but also how he was able to remain strong during his long incarceration. As he is seriously considering a presidential run, anyone interested in learning more about John McCain would be well advised to read this book.--Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes Barre, PA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Conservative Republican presidential candidate John McCain offers a conveniently-timed biographical account of his years fighting, bonding with fellow soldiers, and suffering capture during the Vietnam War. He tirelessly credits his father and grandfather, both WWII naval officers whose stories he also tells, with his own accomplishments. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Seth Lipsky
...[A] refreshing reminder that at least one of our politicians has endured hardships greater than a special prosecutor....[A] timely testament to what might be called military morality. And that is something to ponder after a moment when President Clinton's decision to go to war in the Balkans wreaked nearly as much havoc among the Republicans as among the Serbs.
Talk
Geoffrey Norman
It is, as they say, a good read, which even registered Democrats and just about anyone on the political spectrum right of Jane Fonda would find engaging, sometimes funny, and often profoundly moving.
National Review
Kirkus Reviews
A candid, moving, and entertaining memoir by the US senator from Arizona and potential presidential candidate.
From the Publisher
"The most engrossing book to appear in a long time from a presidential candidate....McCain's memoir is too good to be dismissed as simply another campaign book. It is a serious, utterly gripping account of faith, fathers, and the military."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Faith of My Fathers may also appeal to those who flocked to Saving Private Ryan and kept Brokaw's The Greatest Generation near the top of the bestseller lists." —Library Journal

"Faith of My Fathers is the powerful story of a war hero. In it we learn much of what matters most. As prisoner (and later Senator) McCain instructs us: Glory is not an end in itself, but rather a reward for valor and faith. And the greatest freedom and human fulfillment comes from engaging in a noble enterprise larger than oneself. Faith of My Fathers teaches deep truths that are valid in any age but that warrant special attention in our own." —William J. Bennett
                
"Faith of My Fathers is a gripping story of character and courage: character passed down from generation to generation by sterling examples of family bonds and devotion to duty; courage that ultimately comes from within, as John McCain learned in the brutual prison camps of North Vietnam. This is a sobering and glorious book that you won't be able to put down." —General Colin L. Powell (retired)

"A candid, moving, and entertaining memoir...Impressive and inspiring, the story of a man touched and molded by fire, who loved and served his country in a time of great trouble, suffering, and challenge."
—Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375501913
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/1/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author

After a career in the U.S. Navy and two terms as a U.S. representative (1982-1986), John McCain was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986 and re-elected in 1992 and 1998. He has seven children and four grandchildren. He and his wife, Cindy, reside in Phoenix.

Mark Salter has worked on Senator McCain's staff for ten years. Hired as a legislative assistant in 1989, he has served as the senator's administrative assistant since 1993. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife, Diane, and their two daughters.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
In War and Victory

I have a picture I prize of my grandfather and father, John Sidney McCain Senior and Junior, taken on the bridge of a submarine tender, the USS Proteus, in Tokyo Bay a few hours after the Second World War had ended. They had just finished meeting privately in one of the ship's small staterooms and were about to depart for separate destinations. They would never see each other again.

Despite the weariness that lined their faces, you can see they were relieved to be in each other's company again. My grandfather loved his children. And my father admired my grandfather above all others. My mother, to whom my father was devoted, had once asked him if he loved his father more than he loved her. He replied simply, "Yes, I do."

On the day of their reunion, my father, a thirty-four-year-old submarine commander, and his crew had just brought a surrendered Japanese submarine into Tokyo Bay. My grandfather, whom Admiral Halsey once referred to as "not much more than my right arm," had just relinquished command of Halsey's renowned fast carrier task force, and had attended the signing of the surrender aboard the USS Missouri that morning. He can be seen in a famous photograph of the occasion standing with his head bowed in the first rank of officers observing the ceremony.

My grandfather had not wanted to attend, and had requested permission to leave for home immediately upon learning of Japan's intention to capitulate.

"I don't give a damn about seeing the surrender," my grandfather told Halsey. "I want to get the hell out of here." To which Halsey replied, "Maybe you do, but you're not going. You werecommanding this task force when the war ended, and I'm making sure that history gets it straight." In his memoir, Halsey described my grandfather "cursing and sputtering" as he returned to his flagship.

To most observers, my grandfather had been as elated to hear of Japan's decision to surrender as had the next man. Upon hearing the announcement, he ordered the doctor on his flagship to break out the medicinal brandy and passed cups around to all takers. He was a jocular man, and his humor could at times be wicked. He told a friend, as they prepared for the surrender ceremony, "If you see MacArthur's hands shaking as he reads the surrender documents it won't be emotion. It will be from too many of those mestiza girls in the Philippines."

In the days immediately following the announcement that Emperor Hirohito had agreed to surrender, a few of the emperor's pilots bad either not received or not believed the message. Occasionally, a few Japanese planes would mount attacks on the ships of my grandfather's task force. He directed his fighter pilots to shoot down any approaching enemy planes. "But do it in a friendly sort of way," he added.

Some of his closest aides sensed that there was something wrong with the old man. His operations officer, Commander John Thach, a very talented officer whom my grandfather relied on to an extraordinary extent, was concerned about his health. Thach went to m grandfather's cabin and asked him if he was ill. In an account of the exchange he gave many years later, Thach recalled my grandfather's answer: "Well, this surrender has come as kind of a shock to all of us. I feel lost. I don't know what to do. I know how to fight, but now I don't know whether I know how to relax or not. I'm in an awful letdown."

Once on board the Missouri, however, he was entirely at ease. Rushing about the deck of the battleship, hailing his friends and reveling in the moment, he was the most animated figure at the ceremony. He announced to Admiral Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific, that he had invented three new cocktails, the July, the Gill, and the Zeke, each one named for a type of Japanese plane his task force had fought during the war's last hard months. "Each time you drink one you can say 'Splash one July' or 'Splash one Zeke,' " he explained.

After the surrender, Halsey reports, my grandfather was grateful for having been ordered to join the others on the Missouri. "Thank God you made me stay, Bill. You had better sense than I did."

Immediately after father and son parted company that day, my grandfather left for his home in Coronado, California. Before he left, he issued his last dispatch to the men under his command.

I am glad and proud to have fought through my last year of active service with the renowned fast carriers. War and victory have forged a lasting bond among us. If you are as fortunate in peace as you have been victorious in war, I am now talking to 110,000 prospective millionaires. Goodbye, good luck, and may God be with you.
McCain

He arrived home four days later. My grandmother, Katherine Vaulx McCain, arranged for a homecoming party the next day attended by neighbors and the families of Navy friends who had yet to return from the war. Standing in his crowded living room, my grandfather was pressed for details of the surrender ceremony, and some of the wives present whose husbands were POWs begged him for information about when they could expect their husbands' return. He responded to their inquiries courteously, seemingly content, as always, to be the center of attention.

Some of the guests remembered having observed that my grandfather seemed something less than his normally ebullient self; a little tired from his journey, they had thought, and worn out from the rigors of the war.

In the middle of the celebration my grandfather turned to my grandmother, announced that he felt ill, and then collapsed. A physician attending the party knelt down to feel for the admiral's pulse. Finding none, he looked up at my grandmother and said, "Kate, he's dead..."

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Table of Contents

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Introduction

September 1999

In Faith of My Fathers, former presidential candidate John McCain, whose tumultuous life and successful political career were documented in the bestselling The Nightingale's Song, now tells his own story, with a focus on the men whose guidance, example, and influence have served to help make him the man he is today. Senator McCain composed the following essay exclusively for Barnes & Noble.com; in it he pays tribute to the courage and commitment exhibited by one of his fellow POW's during the Vietnam War.
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Interviews & Essays

Essay By Author

September 1999

Senator John McCain Remembers a Courageous Comrade

In his poem "The Old Men Admiring Themselves in the Water," Yeats wrote this verse:

I hear the old, old men say
All that's beautiful drifts away
Like the waters.

Although I am, thankfully, not yet stuck with the appellation "old, old man," I grow closer to that rank than to my much-enjoyed and terribly misspent youth, and I take Yeats's point. Like most people, when I reflect back on the adventures, joys, and beauty of youth, I feel a longing for what is past and cannot be restored. But though the pleasures and vanities of youth prove ephemeral, something better can endure and endure until our last moment on earth. And that is the love we give and the honor we earn when, at a moment in our lives, we sacrifice with others for a cause greater than our self-interest.

We cannot always choose the moments. Oftentimes, they arrive unbidden by us. We can choose to let the moments pass, and avoid the difficulties they entail. But the loss we would incur by that choice is much dearer than the tribute we once paid to vanity.

When I was a young man, I thought glory was the highest ambition, and that all glory was self-glory. My parents tried to teach me otherwise, as did the United States Naval Academy. But I didn't understand the lesson until later in life when, as a prisoner of war, I confronted challenges to my self-respect that I never expected to face.

In that confrontation, I discovered that I was dependent on others to a greater extent than I had everrealized, but that neither they nor the cause we served made any claims on my identity. On the contrary, they gave me a larger sense of myself than I had before. I discovered that nothing is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone. Many good men, better men than I, taught me that lesson; among them was Mike Christian.

Mike was a Navy bombardier-navigator who had been shot down and captured in Vietnam the same year I had, 1967. He had grown up near Selma, Alabama. His family was poor. He had not worn shoes until he was 13 years old. Character was their wealth, and they raised Mike to be a good, righteous man.

What few packages the Vietnamese allowed us to receive from our families often contained handkerchiefs, scarves, and other clothing items. For some time, Mike had been taking little scraps of red and white cloth, and with a needle fashioned from a splinter of bamboo, he laboriously sewed an American flag onto the inside of his blue prison shirt. Every afternoon, before we ate our soup, we would hang Mike's flag on the wall of our cell and together recite the Pledge of Allegiance. No other event of the day had as much meaning to us.

The guards discovered Mike's flag one afternoon during a routine inspection and confiscated it. They returned that evening and took Mike outside. For our instruction as much as Mike's, they beat him severely, just outside our cell, puncturing his eardrum and breaking several of his ribs. When they had finished, they dragged him bleeding and nearly senseless back into our cell, and we helped him crawl to his place on the concrete platform that served as our bed. After things quieted down, we all lay down to go to sleep. Before drifting off, I happened to look toward a corner of the room, where one of the four naked lightbulbs that were always on in our cell cast a dim light on Mike Christian. He had crawled there quietly when he thought the rest of us were sleeping. With his eyes nearly swollen shut from the beating, he had picked up his needle and thread and begun sewing a new flag.

"All that's beautiful drifts away," except love and honor. And that makes all the difference, all the difference in the world.

—Senator John McCain

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Reading Group Guide

Introduction

John McCain is one of the most admired leaders in the United States government, but his deeply-felt memoir is not a political one and ends before his election to Congress. With candor and ennobling power, McCain tells a story that, in the words of Newsweek, "makes the other presidential candidates look like pygmies."

John McCain learned about life and honor from his grandfather and father, both four-star admirals in the U.S. Navy. This is a memoir about their lives, their heroism, and the ways that sons are enriched and shaped by fathers. McCain's grandfather 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. McCain's father followed a similar path, equally distinguished by heroic service in the navy, as a submarine commander during World War II. He, too, rose to the rank of four-star general, making the McCains the first family in American history to achieve that distinction.

John McCain faced the most difficult challenge of his life in Vietnam. A naval aviator, he was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and was seriously injured. When Vietnamese military officers realized he was the son of a top commander, they offered McCain early release in an effort to embarrass the United States. Acting from a sense of honor taught to him by his father and the U.S. Naval Academy, McCain refused the offer. He was tortured, held in solitary confinement, and imprisoned for five and a half years.

Faith of My Fathers is about what McCain learned from his grandfather and father, and how their example enabled him to survive those hard years. It is a story of three imperfect men who faced adversity and emerged with their honor intact. Ultimately, Faith of My Fathers shows us, with great feeling and appreciation, what fathers give to their sons, and what endures.

Questions for Discussion

  1. John McCain and John Sidney McCain lived much of their childhoods without their fathers. However, even with this absence, their fathers became a major force and influence in their every day lives. How did this come to be?

  2. According to McCain, an officer's honor is greatly defined by his obligation to the enlisted men he commands. How did this relationship between the officers and enlisted men influence the type of military career McCain, his father, and his grandfather had?

  3. McCain writes that he "wince[s]" at the racist overtones of his grandfather's comments on the Japanese during WWII, but believes that they only stem from a need to hate your enemy. Are you able to understand or distinguish a difference between racism and war-time hatred? How have these differences in sentiment and connotation affected society during WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and now the war in Iraq?

  4. McCain describes in detail some of the hazing and rigorous structure imposed on the "plebes" at the Academy. How do you feel these practices prepared McCain for combat and later for his experiences as a POW?

  5. McCain writes, "Communicating not only affirmed our humanity. It kept us alive." The prisoners had secret ways of contacting each other and found their only real strength came from each other. What does this say about human resilience? Do you think McCain would have been able to survive the camp had he been alone?

  6. Throughout his story McCain mentions faith and its role in helping him not only survive his time as a POW but also in becoming a man his father and grandfather could be proud of. What different things did he need to have faith in to become the man he is today? When he writes, "... all I had left of my dignity was the faith or my fathers," to whom does "fathers" refer? How was he able to draw on his faith to survive his continual torture?

  7. Towards the end of his story, McCain states that the United States was afflicted with an "identity crisis" after the Vietnam War. However, he goes on to say that "America's period of self-doubt" has ended. Do you agree with this statement? How would you define America's identity now? What do you think the largest factors in creating this identity are?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 15 )
Rating Distribution

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(4)

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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2000

    A Hero to Inspire!

    This book should be a required reading for all high schoolers. McCain does try to tell all the great things he has done, he just lays out the facts. His sense of honor and duty to country would be a great influence on the youth of today. If this man were president, I could rest alot easier at night.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2002

    Three Old Salts

    Interesting Book! My favorite portions of the book were about McCain's father and grandfather. They were pretty neat guys, and I finished this book with some new insites into living a better life. You might not like McCain, and you might decide that he has always been sort of a rebel, but you can't say that he doesn't try to decide what is right and stick to the course. I think that takes guts!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2002

    great story; amazing

    This book captured everything that I had wanted to know about the gentleman from Arizona. It talks about the great military tradition of the McCain family and how one can succeed, despite difficult hardships. A tremendous novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2000

    Recommended for Vietnam War Buffs

    I had expected this book to be more about McCain and his personal journey through war and into politics. Instead, it describes the experiences of his grandfather, father and himself serving in the military. If you are a WWII or Vietnam War buff, this is for you. After reading this, I felt I had experienced being a POW myself. I also thought it was novel to read about the experiences of someone who supported American involvement in the Vietnam War. McCain shares his pride in America and I came away feeling quite patriotic myself. Overall, it was an interesting book, a quick read, descriptive, and insightful.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2000

    The best ever

    I am 18 years old and I have just completed reading his book. It is a masterpiece.I was a step away from getting an appointment to Annapolis, but it did not fall through.I am inspired so much that I have enlisted in the U.S.Navy for both my father and grandfather were in the navy although they were not admirals. McCain's book told me that glory is not self-seeking.It is something you get by serving a cause greater than yourself and I think every teenager should be exposed to patriotism and leadership of this magnitude whether in school or at home.John has inspired me and I hope everyone else is inspired by this real life hero.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2000

    A true American Hero

    My father was 1hr away from going to Vietnam himself. Although it turned out he didn't go, to this day if Vietnam is even mentioned, my Dad's eyes have tears. I never could fully understand it. Hearing Sen. McCain's story, I feel the young people of this country get a better picture of the hell our fathers went through. John McCain is a true American Hero, who has a great sense of humor. It's a terrible shame that America let him down in his bid for the Presidency.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2000

    A very timely and interesting book

    Senator McCain has written a book every American should read, it is moving, insightful, and conveys in an eloquent manner the ideals that made this republic great.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 1999

    American voters, a must-read!

    This is an inspiring book which really made me think about what Americans have sacrificed and how proud I am to be a citizen of our great country. John McCain is a man of the highest character who I greatly respect. The chapters which describe his 5 1/2 years as a POW are incredibly moving and saddening. My eyes filled with tears as I read his account of the dreadful cruelty he experienced in Vietnam.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2002

    Lame lame lame

    Ok, the book starts out interestingly enough for about 10 pages. Then it slips into how he got to be the liberal he is today. Much whining and sermonizing. Ive read more boring books but I cant remember when.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2000

    Former sailor finds an error in the book.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and have shared it with some of my colleagues. I bought it not only because I have admired the Senator ever since I heard of the tragic fire aboard the FORRESTAL during the Vietnam war and his subsequent imprisonment in North Vietnam but primarily because I served aboard the U.S.S. ST PAUL (CA-73) under his father, John S. McCain, Jr. I was GREATLY DISAPPOINTED in the book when I read Senator McCain's words about his father: 'During the Korean War, as a captain, he served as second in comand on the destroyer USS St. Paul.' (p. 93) I served aboard the USS SAINT PAUL (CA-73)1949-51 and made two Korean cruises aboard her. John S. McCain, Jr. was the Executive Officer (2nd in command) and his rank was COMMANDER (not captain). Further, the SAINT PAUL IS NOT A DESTROYER. It is a Baltimore Class HEAVY CRUISER, which, unfortunately has been scrapped and made into razor blades. As a former sailor, the Senator should not have permitted such errors to creep into and remain in his book. At present, there are about 2500 veterans who are members of the U.S.S. SAINT PAUL (CA-73) ASSOCIATION, many of whom had the same privilege of serving under then CDR. John S. McCain, Jr. It was my honor to have been personally appointed to the ship's Master at Arms Force by Commander McCain. He was indeed an officer who genuinely cared for the welfare of the enlisted men that served under his command and whom the 'white hats' deeply respected! The Senator owes a sincere apology to all the enlisted men and officers who served under his father who, at the time was CDR. JOHN S. MCCAIN, JR.! We share the Senator's pride in his father's subsequent achievement of four-star admiral and CINCPAC!

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    Posted February 17, 2013

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    Posted August 17, 2010

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    Posted June 8, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2011

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