John S. McCain III: US Senator, US Naval Aviator, and Vietnam Prisoner of War dies at 81

 

 

John S. McCain III, senior Republican Senator from Arizona, passed away today from brain cancer. He was 81 years old.

Just yesterday, his family and he announced he had decided to cease taking his medications for the cancer. He must have known then that the end was near.

Senator McCain came from a line of distinguished naval officers. His father and his grandfather were both Admirals in the US Navy. Senator McCain also served in the Navy, flying A-1 Skyraiders on the aircraft carriers USS INTREPID (CV 11) and USS ENTERPRISE (CV 6). Later, he requested a combat assignment and flew A-4 Skyhawks aboard the USS FORRESTAL (CV 59) and USS ORISKANY (CV 34). It was while serving in FORRESTAL that his aircraft was involved in a shipboard fire that resulted in 134 Sailors dying in the fire. He was transferred to ORISKANY soon afterward. It was on October 26, 1967, while flying combat missions as a Lieutenant Commander from ORISKANY that he was shot down over Vietnam, captured, and held as a Prisoner of War. He was ultimately released from imprisonment in North Vietnam after five and a half years on March 14, 1973. He retired from the United States Navy on April 1, 1981, at the rank of Captain after 22 years of service.

Senator McCain was elected to Congress as a Republican US Representative from Arizona in 1983. Senator McCain advanced to serving in the US Senate in January, 1987, after his election in November, 1986. He frequently referred to himself as a “maverick Republican” during his time in the Senate.

He published his memoir, Faith of My Fathers, in August, 1999. He ran against Texas Governor George W. Bush in the Republican primaries, losing to Governor Bush who would go on to win the presidency in 2000. Senator McCain ran again in 2008, as the Republican standard bearer, but lost the presidency to President Barack Obama.

Senator McCain served six terms as the Republican Senator from Arizona. He last cast a vote in the US Senate in December, 2017, after which, he returned to Arizona to continue treatment for brain cancer.

He and his family announced yesterday that he would no longer undergo cancer treatment. He died today, August 25, 2018, at 4:28 p.m. local time, surrounded by his wife, Cindy (Hensley) McCain, and his family.

Rest In Peace, Shipmate. We have the Watch.

 

 

 

Another Momentous Day in the US Navy

 

Today is a momentous day in the US Navy.   It was on this day, August 3, 1945, that the last of the survivors of the sinking of the USS INDIANAPOLIS (CA 35), were pulled from the waters of the Pacific Ocean.  They had floated there since the sinking of their ship, four days before on July 30, 1945, by a Japanese submarine.

The INDIANAPOLIS had been on a secret mission to deliver the parts for Little Boy, the first atomic bomb, to Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean.  The bomb would be dropped on August 6, 1945, on Hiroshima, Japan, leading to the unconditional surrender of the Japanese and the end of World War II.

After delivering the bomb parts, the ship departed for Guam and then on to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, but was sunk en route.  Of the 1,200 Sailors aboard the INDIANAPOLIS, about 900 survived the initial torpedoes and went into the water.  Of those 900 men only 316 Sailors would survive the next four days, floating in the shark-infested waters of the Pacific before being rescued.

Here is Texas historian and author Tara Ross’ account of the rescue of these brave men as the last survivors are pulled from the water at dusk on August 3, 1945.  May they all Rest In Peace.

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By Tara Ross (c)

On this day in 1945, the last survivors of the USS Indianapolis are pulled from the Pacific Ocean. They’d been there since a Japanese submarine had torpedoed and sunk Indianapolis on July 30.

They had just finished delivering parts for the Little Boy atomic bomb to American bombers! Now, because of communication gaffes, their ship was missing, but no one knew it. (See July 29 history post.)

Survivors were waiting for a rescue that was not coming.

The men were floating in small groups, strewn out across the last miles of Indianapolis’s journey. Survivors were covered in oil. Some were wounded. The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Haynes, tried to care for his boys as best he could, but he knew some would not make it. Some hadn’t even survived the initial disaster.

As dead men were found in the water, Haynes later reported, “[w]e would then laboriously take off their life jacket and give it to men who didn’t have jackets. In the beginning I took off their dogtags, said The Lord’s Prayer, and let them go. Eventually, I got such an armful of dogtags I couldn’t hold them any longer. Even today, when I try to say The Lord’s Prayer or hear it, I simply lose it.”

Shark attacks were another problem. “They were continually there, mostly feeding off the dead bodies,” survivor Loel Cox later reported. But then the sharks began attacking men who were still alive. “We were losing three or four each night and day,” Cox said. “You were constantly in fear because you’d see ‘em all the time. Every few minutes you’d see their fins—a dozen to two dozen fins in the water.”

As the days wore on, the men became dehydrated. Some of them began to hallucinate. “[T]hey were goin bezerk,” survivor Woody Eugene James later testified. “They’d tell you big stories about the Indianapolis is not sunk, its’ just right there under the surface. I was just down there and had a drink of water . . . .” At other times, the hallucinations caused hysteria and fighting. Haynes spoke of men who would think “[t]here’s a Jap here and he’s trying to kill me.’ And then everybody started to fight. They were totally out of their minds.”

When help finally arrived, it was completely by chance.

Lt. Chuck Gwinn happened to be patrolling the area from the air, looking for Japanese submarines. He saw an oil slick! He thought perhaps it was a disabled Japanese submarine, so he prepared for a bombing run. As he got closer, he realized that there were people in the water. They needed help.

He still didn’t know if these people were friend or foe, but he began dropping life vests out of his plane. He radioed a message back to his base. It was then 11:25 a.m. on August 2.

The ordeal was far from over. Official rescue efforts were beginning, but it was a slow process.

Fortunately, a quick-thinking pilot with access to an amphibious plane heard one of Gwinn’s radio messages. Acting on his own initiative, Lt. Adrian Marks took off for Gwinn’s location. When he and his crew arrived hours later, he could see sharks circling in the water. The crew watched as multiple men were attacked, right in front of their eyes. They had to act!

Marks decided to act against standing orders. He would attempt a dangerous open sea landing. He knew that his plane could capsize, but he had to try.

Thankfully, he made it, and his crew began pulling survivors out of the water. They even tied survivors to the plane’s wings so they could get more people aboard! By nightfall, Marks had rescued 56 men from the water.

The first rescue ship arrived hours later, just before midnight.

The last men wouldn’t be found and pulled from the water until dusk on August 3. These men had been in the water for 112 hours, and they’d drifted more than 120 miles from Indianapolis’s original location.

The Little Boy bomb would be dropped on Hiroshima only 3 days later. Most of the heroes aboard Indianapolis would never know that they helped bring an end to World War II.

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If you enjoy these history posts, please know that it is important to LIKE, SHARE & COMMENT. This site’s algorithm will weed these posts out of your newsfeed if you do not interact with them. (I don’t make the rules! Just following them.) 😉

Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2018 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the Facebook “share” feature instead of cutting/pasting.

Permalink: http://www.taraross.com/2018/08/tdih-uss-indianapolis-rescue

#TDIH #OTD #AmericanHistory #USHistory #liberty #freedom#ShareTheHistory

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Editor’s Note:  I was privileged to know one of these survivors: the late LT (Junior Grade) Charles McKissick.  Mr. McKissick was a retired optician, living in McKinney, Texas, when I met him there in 1991.  Every year, he would travel to Indianapolis, IN, to attend the USS Indianapolis Survivors Reunion there.  He was a fascinating man who collected USS Indianapolis memorabilia and talked of that tragedy as if it was yesterday.  May he and his other Shipmates Rest In Peace.  

 

 

Always Remember, that Day in December!

December 7, 1941 photo

Today, December 7, 2015, is the 74th anniversary of that “…day that will live forever in infamy” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt described it.  The below was written by my good friend, Jeff Morley.  He has described that day and its remembrances far better than I could.  His essay is published here with his permission.

By Jeff Morley, Guest Contributor

Today some 74 years ago in history, the USA was dragged kicking and screaming into war. Before then, we told the Axis powers to leave us alone and Churchill told us he needed our help. If the Axis Powers had paid attention to what we’d told them, England, France, and practically all of Western Europe with a good portion of Eastern Europe along with Africa would have had a drastically different history, a much darker history at that for most of those places. But the Axis Powers paid us no heed. We said don’t mess with us and they delivered one hell of a sucker punch to us in Hawaii on a sleepy Sunday morning. They should not have done that. They should have left this peace loving nation alone.

The world should never forget December 7th of 1941…unfortunately, most of the world has, to their peril. The United States should not either…unfortunately too many of our people have, to our peril.

I thank the US Navy for their sacrifice that day and I honor the sacrifice of our service men and women today in remembrance of that day “that will live forever in infamy”

Remember Pearl Harbor, remember the sacrifice of those brave sailors while you say a prayer for our men and women making the same sacrifices today, but most of all, teach this next generation about our past and the wounds of our predecessors.

God bless the warriors that guard our seas today, God bless the memory of those that guarded our seas yesterday.

Memorial Day, 2015

Remembering Their Sacrifice

Today is Memorial Day, 2015. Many people forget that this is a day to remember the fallen, those who gave their last full measure of sacrifice for our Nation and for their comrades-in-arms. The following essay was written and posted by my good friend, US Navy Retired Chief Petty Officer Robert N. (Bob) Jenkins. I thought it said it all, in a MUCH better way than I ever could and so I am borrowing his essay and re-posting it here. Today, when you are tempted to “thank a vet” for Memorial Day, I hope you will remember Bob’s words here. Thank you, Shipmate Bob Jenkins.

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Pardon me for getting on a soapbox for a minute, but I want to draw a distinction between Memorial Day and other patriotic holidays. Many earnest and sincere well wishes are sent out to all members, past and present, of our nation’s armed forces on Memorial Day. Most of these wishes should be sent on Armed Forces and/or Veterans Day. Memorial Day is meant for paying homage to those who have given their life in service to our nation and the freedom we enjoy.

The origin of Memorial Day dates back to the Civil War. There are many stories from those first years’ observances that illustrate the true purpose of this important day to honor those who died in service to this nation. Civil War deaths account for nearly half of the 1.2 million American Soldiers who died in our nation’s wars. It’s no surprise that a tradition known as Decoration Day was borne out of the tragic loss following the Civil War.

According to historians, on April 1865 former slaves helped recover 257 Union Soldiers from a mass grave in a Charleston, S.C. racetrack, a site that had served as a Confederate prison. After the Soldiers were properly buried and the area fenced in, Charleston’s residents gathered, sang hymns and laid roses on the graves.

In 1866, in Columbus, Miss., a group of women decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle, noticed the barren graves of Union soldiers and the women placed flowers on those graves, as well. The practice was repeated at multiple gravesites during the period.

After World War I, the observance was expanded to honor those who died in all American wars, and volunteers began placing small American flags on each grave at cemeteries across the nation.

From its origin to the evolution of Memorial Day observances today, one key premise remains. It is a moment in time that we all should stop, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to this country.

Today, the American flags marking each grave at cemeteries across the nation represent an intangible devotion. Words can never express our gratitude for the service and sacrifice of our armed forces—and that of our Gold Star Families. We are forever indebted to them. We honor them by upholding the standards for which they fought so valiantly.

I urge everyone to remember the special significance of Memorial Day and what makes it so special and different from other patriotic holidays. What our fallen have paid, is a debt we cannot repay ourselves except in the honor and respect we show them.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13 (KJV)

Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, Jr. on Chief Petty Officers

Admiral Bull Halsey

Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, Jr., US Navy

At the end of WWII, all the towns and cities across the country were looking for a “Hero” to celebrate America’s victory with, Los Angeles chose Admiral Halsey and had a ceremony on the steps of the LA County courthouse to honor America’s hero and at the end of it when Admiral Halsey was leaving, they had a line of sideboys.


The sideboys were active duty and retired Chief Petty Officers that
had been brought in from all over the country who had served with
Admiral Halsey at one point in their careers.


Admiral Halsey approached one of the retired Chiefs, and they winked
at each other.


Later on that evening at a reception for Admiral Halsey, one of the civilian guests at the event asked the Admiral about the wink he shared with the Chief. Admiral Halsey explained, “That man was my Chief when I was an Ensign, and no one before or after taught me as much about ships or men as he did.


You civilians don’t understand. You go down to Long Beach and you see those battleships sitting there, and you think that they float on water, don’t you?”


The guest replied, “Yes, sir, I guess I do.”


To which Admiral Halsey stated, “You are wrong. They are carried to sea on the backs of those Chief Petty Officers.”

— ADMIRAL WILLIAM F. “BULL” HALSEY, JR.

Wounded Warrior Project

From a shipmate:

Wounded Warrior Project

Surface Navy Association

GreaterWashington Chapter

For the past two years, the Greater Washington Chapter of the Surface Navy Association has conducted a campaign to assist our wounded shipmates recovering at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.  We collected more than 800 DVDs for the Sailors and Marines to enjoy during their recuperation.  The following year we collected funds and donated 155 portable DVD players.

This year we want to do something very meaningful for those of our shipmates limited in their ability to get out and around the Washington area during their convalescence.  We have determined that Operation Second Chance provides many valuable services to military men and women, and would greatly benefit from a conversion van equipped to transport wheelchair patients in and around the D.C. area to attend sporting events, concerts, and otherwise get out and about.

This is an expensive proposition, but very important for those men and women who are virtually stuck in the hospital.  We have carefully looked at Operation Second Chance and are very impressed with the organization and the services it provides.

Therefore, SNA GWC is seeking to help OSC raise $30,000 to purchase a conversion van modified by Adaptive Mobility Systems, Inc. (AMS Vans).  If interested in making a donation, please commence your contribution at the SNA website:

https://www.navysna.org/Events/OperationSecondChance.asp

After completing the SNA form, you will be directed to the OSC website fundraising page for donations.  (When prompted “How did your hear about OSC?” click on Surface Navy Association.)  Your donation will be made directly to OSC, but we want to track our progress so we can follow our progress to attaining our $30,000 goal.

Our goal is to help OSC raise the $30,000 by December 15th.  If we exceed the $30,000, the additional funds will be available to OSC for insurance, registration, maintenance and operating costs for the van.

Please share this appeal with others who share our concern for those shipmates who had made a very great sacrifice in service to their nation and security and freedom everywhere.

For information about SNA, visit  www.navysna.org

For information about OSC, visit http://www.operationsecondchance.org/About.htm

Navy Shoots Down Ballistic Missile in Test Off Hawaii

HONOLULU (AP–From FoxNews) — The U.S. military intercepted a ballistic missile Thursday in the first such sea-based test since a Navy cruiser shot down an errant satellite earlier this year.

The military fired the target, a Scud-like missile with a range of a few hundred miles, from a decommissioned amphibious assault ship near Hawaii’s island of Kauai.

The USS Lake Erie, based at Pearl Harbor, fired two interceptor missiles that shot down the target in its final seconds of flight about 12 miles above the Pacific Ocean.

Read Full Story Here>>

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