One Man’s Struggle To Stay Alive One Mans Struggle to Stay Alive Over the years John Sidney McCain, the white haired Senator from Arizona has survived many things. He has endured three plane crashes, a firestorm at sea, and a North Vietnamese prison camp, to emerge as a major player in the national political scene. The Vietnam War had a significant impact on Senator McCain. McCain spent five and a half years in North Vietnamese prisons, thirty-one months in solitary and was brutally tortured. Yet, almost immediately upon his release in 1973, he began putting Vietnam behind him.
This lighthearted man has rarely lost sight of what he has called the shadow of Vietnam (Timberg 12). Due to his continuing contributions to the United States, John McCain has become a true American hero and would make an excellent president for our country. . John McCain grew up in a family rich with Navy heritage. John McCains grandfather was one of the navys greatest commanders and led the strongest aircraft carrier force of the Third Fleet.
McCains father who was a submarine commander during World War II was equally distinguished by heroic service in the navy. Both McCains father and grandfather rose to the rank of four-star admiral, making the McCains the first family in American history to achieve that distinction. John McCain III followed in his grandfather and fathers footsteps when he entered the U.S. Navy Academy in 1951. McCain struggled during his four years at the academy, but in June 1954, he graduated with 899 other young men.
The Class of 58 had been whittled down by 25 percent. Of the 899 who endured the four years at the U.S. Navel Academy, John McCain was one of them, standing fifth from the bottom. The Navel Academy was very rigid for McCain, but even as a teenager, he showed presidential traits, perseverance being one of them. This feature is extremely important for John McCain if he wants to be the man to lead our country. John McCain continued to press on and in August 1958, McCain reported to flight school at Pensacola were he would begin his Navy career. Little did McCain know that his quick thinking would be tested not just once, but three times during his flying. One Saturday morning, as McCain was practicing landings, his engine quit and his plane plunged into Corpus Christi Bay.
McCain survived with minor injuries but that would be his first of many brushes with death (Norman). The fall of 1965, John McCain had his second encounter with death where again, his quick thinking would save him. He was flying solo to Philadelphia to watch the Army-Navy game when his engine died. At one thousand feet, he ejected, landing on a deserted beach moments before the plane slammed into a clump of trees. McCains perseverance and quick thinking has been tested and both times, he has shown true leadership qualities that every president needs (Norman).
Once again, John McCains skills would be tested. On July 29, 1967, he was where he wanted to be, on the flight deck of a Navy Aircraft. Before taking off to bomb Hanoi, McCain was going through his preflight checks, when a stray voltage from his plane blew apart the exterior fuel tank on McCains bomber. Two hundred gallons of highly flammable gas streamed onto the flight deck engulfing everything in its path. McCain still strapped in the cockpit of his plane was surrounded in a gulf of flames. McCain, quickly jumping out of his plane onto the flight deck, escaped just before the burning fuel set fire to his plane.
When it was all over, 134 men were dead, missing, or injured. McCain and the other pilots in his squadron lost all hope in fighting the Vietnam War. All hope was restored when another Air Carrier had been losing pilots and where looking for volunteers to fill the ranks. John McCain signed on to the new squadron (Timberg). John McCains new assignment had finally come on October 26, 1967, when he took flight to Vietnam to bomb a power plant in Hanoi.
Little did McCain know that Hanoi was now more heavily defended against air attacks than any other city in history. Just as McCain had released his bomb, a missile locked onto his aircraft. The missile took out his right wing, sending his plane into a violent downward spiral. Ejecting before his plane spun wildly out of control, he smashed his right knee into the instrument panel shattering his kneecap. He also broke both arms due to the uneven air pressure in the cockpit and atmosphere.
McCain landed in a small lake in the center of Hanoi. Before he had time to inspect his wounds, Vietnamese soldiers grabbed him and pulled McCain to shore. They then interrogated him and inflicted more wounds to his body. The uniform soldiers threw McCain in the back of a truck, headed for Hao Lo prison, North Vietnams largest Penitentiary. Once there, they bandaged his wounds and proceeded to interrogate him until he provided military information. Receiving none, the Vietnamese soldiers left McCain for dead.
Aware that he might die, McCain struggled to stay alive. Then a glimmer of hope arose when the camp official walked in. The official asked McCain, Your father is a big admiral, McCain replied, Yes, my father is an admiral. Now we take you to the hospital, said the camp official (Timberg 80). After two weeks, McCain was shifted to another part of the hospital where a doctor attempted to set his right arm with out anesthesia with no luck. Giving up, the doctor placed a plaster cast on McCain that ran from his waist to his neck. After McCain was put in the cast, he was moved to Hanoi where he would spend the next five and a half years. While in Hanoi, a French television crew interviewed him; it was later aired in America on CBS Television.
McCains health was fading fast, until he was moved from the hospital to a plantation where fellow American prison inmates nursed McCain back to health. When McCain was finally able to get around by himself, his cellmate, Bud Day was removed from the cell and McCain was left alone for the next two years. During the first month alone in his cell, the camp officer asked McCain, Do you want to go home? (Timberg 92) McCain denied the offer, realizing that there was going to be hell there on. McCain was correct, a week later fourteen guards beat him senselessly for several days until he had signed a confession. Feeling that he had dishonored his country, McCain tried to hang himself. Before he could get the rope around his neck a guard burst into his cell pulling McCain away from the window. Two decades later, McCain stated, I dont know whether I would have actually gone through with it or not I have no idea.
I kind of doubt it (Howes 14). In the thirty-one months that McCain spent in solitary confinement, he was let out only once. It was Christmas Eve 1968, and the prison guards set up a church service for t …