McCain, John Sidney

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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Senator John McCain spent 22 years in the U.S. Navy before becoming a Republican congressman, and then a senator, from Arizona. He did not have a typical military career, however. McCain endured five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He, nevertheless, prefers to be known for what he has accomplished as an elected official. In 1998, he won credit as an anti-tobacco crusader. McCain's name became synonymous with a drive to sharply decrease smoking in America by raising taxes and halting tobacco companies' ability to shield themselves from lawsuits. That bill eventually lost support, and the senator redirected his energy into other issues, such as campaign-finance reform and TELECOMMUNICATIONS legislation.

John Sidney McCain was born on August 29, 1936, in the Panama Canal Zone, to John Sidney McCain Jr. and Roberta (Wright) McCain. He grew up on naval bases in the United States and overseas. The elder McCain was an admiral who served as commander of American forces in the Pacific during the VIETNAM WAR. In fact, the family has a long lineage in the U.S. military. McCain's paternal grandfather, John S. McCain Sr. was also an admiral, as well as commander of all aircraft carriers in the Pacific during WORLD WAR II. He and McCain's father were the first father-and-son admirals in the history of the U.S. Navy.

McCain graduated from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1954 and then attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he took courses in electrical engineering. There, he was known as a rowdy and insubordinate student, whose demerits for his antics detracted from his otherwise respectable grades. He graduated in 1958, toward the bottom of his class (790 out of 795), but nevertheless was accepted to train as a naval aviator.

On October 26, 1967, the lieutenant commander lifted off from the carrier Oriskany in an A-4E Skyhawk on a mission over the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. Above the city, an anti-aircraft missile sliced off the plane's right wing, forcing McCain to eject. With both arms broken, a shattered knee, and a broken shoulder, he landed in a lake where a Vietnamese man extracted him. Subsequently, a crowd beat him, stabbed him with a bayonet, and took him into custody. He did not receive care for his wounds for nine days. When officials learned of his father's high rank, they admitted him to a hospital and later placed him with an American cell-mate, who helped to nurse him back to health...

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