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John McCain’s military career, from his time as a Vietnam war POW to a role in the passing on defense bill

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who died on Saturday after a fight against an aggressive brain tumor, has served more than 30 years in the U.S. Senate and an ardent advocate of the armed forces.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who died on Saturday after a fight against an aggressive brain tumor, has served more than 30 years in the U.S. Senate and an ardent advocate of the armed forces.

The senator, who was tortured, during which he spent almost five and a half years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam war, was “larger than life”, Tom Callender, a naval Affairs analyst with the Heritage Foundation, a think-tank based in Washington DC, told Fox News. “While there are other [like it], there is a gap for a long time.”

“There will be a gap for a long time.”

– Tom Callender

“Someone will rise, but it will not be the same. It is difficult to fill the shoes,” he added.

Here’s a look back at McCain’s military career.

McCain to the military roots

On August 29, 1936, McCain was born in an air force base in the Panama Canal Zone, which was according to the History Channel, under American control at the time.

McCain, the son of a four-star Navy admiral, has spent most of his childhood on naval bases, together with his older sister Sandy and younger brother Joe.

After graduating in 1954 from an Episcopal boarding school in Virginia, McCain, the United States Naval Academy, attended, graduating in 1958.

McCain’s interest in the military came, of course, his father, John S. McCain Jr, was a highly decorated Navy admiral, as Sen. McCain’s paternal grandfather, John S. McCain Sr.

His grandfather and father who both served during the second world war, retired a four-star rank, Callender said.

The USS John S. McCain was named after his grandfather and father. In August 2017, the ship was involved in an accident in the vicinity of Singapore, killing 10 sailors.

“[McCain] came from a Marine-Adel,” Dr. John Sherwood, a Navy historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command, told Fox News.

McCain’s father was a submariner in the second world war, also served in the Vietnam war. At this time, said, John S. McCain Jr, who was responsible for all U.S. forces in the Pacific ocean, Callender, also leading the bombing of Hanoi while his son captive in war.

“It was always said that a chance a bomb could land, where his son was,” Callender. “But he had a job to do.”

“In command of all U.S. forces in the Pacific, and the stress to be perhaps the his son killed, it took a lot of balance. But he did so with honor,” Sherwood added.

“Daring, adventurous” youth to a “changed man”

McCain is a “rule-breaker in the case of the [naval] Academy,” Callender said, adding that McCain graduated with a low class rank.

After graduating from flight school in 1960, McCain’s carriers USS Intrepid and USS Enterprise flew with the VA-65 squadron on the aircraft.

McCain, who was at this point in his life is still a bit reckless, Callender said, had three combat-related crashes during this time — once for flying too low over a town in southern Spain, collision with power lines. But he escaped the accident relatively unscathed.

In another close call, McCain crashed his plane in Corpus Christi Bay.

“A remarkable aspect of his naval aviation career was luck,” Sherwood said.

“If he had not given to any other pilot, [the Navy] might still be a chance,” Callender said.

More than anything, Sherwood said, it is McCain’s had time to prepare in the naval Academy, helped him to a POW, but he didn’t know it at the time. Sherwood was added to the Academy a “rough place”, where the students were expected to the balance of the “rigorous academic and physical programs” in addition to the socializing, and “a name to make for yourself” among your fellow sailors.

McCain’s hasty attitude changed after he spent five and a half years as a prisoner of WAR during the Vietnam war, Callender said.

“He was a changed man,” he added.

Battle of duty and time as a prisoner of war

John McCain was tortured by the North Vietnamese for five and a half years.

(The Associated Press)

In the 1960s, McCain volunteered for combat duty during the Vietnam war, during which time he was carrier-based attack planes flew.

After surviving a massive fire aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal 134 sailors killed, McCain transferred to VA-163. During the implementation was shot down by a bomber attack on Hanoi, and later in the same year, with his plane. McCain landed in a lake in the vicinity, breaking both arms and one of his legs in the crash. He almost drowned before North Vietnamese soldiers took him prisoner, Callender said.

“Before he was shot down, he received a warning that a missile had been shot against him. He ignores the warning because he thought he could said the rocket outmaneuver,” Sherwood.

Moments after he is captured by one of the soldiers, “slammed a rifle butt down on my shoulder, and hurled him pretty bad. Another stuck a bayonet in my foot. The mob was really nervous,” McCain later recalled in an essay.

McCain was to the Hoa Lo prison, better known as “Hanoi Hilton.”

Finally, John McCain’s North Vietnamese captors discovered he was the son of a famous admiral, and offered to let him go. But McCain refused.

“He knew it to be a powerful propaganda would be to show that [the North Vietnamese] have been merciful,” Callender said, adding that McCain refused to break down in article III of the Military Code of Conduct, “accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.” Prisoners, American soldiers are instructed to give only their name, rank and serial number, to the enemy.

McCain told his captors that he would only accept freedom, the other prisoners of war, many of whom were there long before him be released, as well as, Callender said. However, his request was denied.

From there, McCain was severely tortured, do not receive the proper medical treatment for his injuries, and had said in two years of solitary confinement, Callender,.

“It was not usual to get at the time — you have to make him a good medical treatment for a long time,” Callender said, adding that McCain was not well fed and lived in miserable conditions during his time as a prisoner of WAR.

“He was by far in the worst condition out of everyone there,” Sherwood. “It is a testament to his heroism.”

In March 1973, after years of torture, McCain and other prisoners of war were released. He later received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

45 years ago today… pic.twitter.com/jXhCFY9pK2

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 14, 2018

“It changed him,” Callender said. This experience taught him: “every man has a breaking point.”

Even in the harsh conditions, McCain remained even-keeled through the whole experience, including the strengthening of the morale of his opponents prisoners-of-war, Sherwood said.

“You changed him.”

– Tom Callender, on McCain’s time as a POW

“As a historian, I have always found interesting is that he really talk about it [his time as a POW], unless, asked,” Sherwood said, what McCain, the mentality was different than that of many other former prisoners of war, which he studied. “He saw it as part of his service to the country, and did not want to do closer to the last service, but what could he, today, here and now.”

Return to duty

Apart from the psychological effects of McCain’s time as a POW left him physically changed, which means he could have been medically discharged from the Navy.

But he wanted to fly again.

After months of intense physiotherapy, McCain was selected as the commanding officer at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

There, McCain led attack squadron VA-174, an A7 aircraft, a heavy attack aircraft assigned to fly with the training of new pilots, than those that McCain flew during the Vietnam war.

When McCain arrived, the squadron was known for its poor safety standard, among others. But McCain and his good reputation to change that — and he, Callender, did, said.

“He has reassigned people, took parts from a broken plane to fix the other — it was moved along his powerful personality and force of will, with the command. It ended up being a drastic improvement.”

Under McCain’s command, the squadron is the Aviation Safety Award won for the most number of flying hours without accident, Callender said.

Callender, said McCain’s leadership during this time proved “his ability to convince people to do things.”

A new Chapter

In 1976, McCain began his “next Chapter” Callender. To be In this year, he was the Navy liaison to the U.S. Senate, a position he served appointed until 1981.

“He saw how he could help the Navy, from this angle,” Callender said, adding that McCain was a big supporter of a strong military presence from the moment he stepped up to the role.

Later, McCain was elected to the US house of representatives and the U.S. Senate. During this time in his career, McCain earned the nickname “Maverick” for his willingness to disagree with his party on critical issues. (For example, McCain famously did not agree with President Ronald Reagan, the decision to send further troops in Lebanon in 1983).

“McCain against Reagan’s decision, because he felt that the troops do not have enough tools and support to win, as in Vietnam,” Callender said. “[He was] always the rules and the limits for breaking what he felt was important.”

National Defense Authorization Act

In the year 2017, McCain, who served as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was a key player behind the National Defense Authorization Act.

President Trump signed the bill into law in Dec. 12, 2017. It was one of McCain’s recent efforts to rebuild the military, so that the legislation is so poignant, Callender said.

“If we move forward with regard to the NDAA, I am willing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to say goodbye and give our military the resources they need and deserve. We ask much of our men and women in uniform, and they let us down. We don’t have to leave us in the lurch. Your service is the best in our country, and this Congress will always honor should sacrifice you,” McCain said in the Senate in September 2017.

One of the “great naval figures of the 20th century”

McCain had said the “hard” legacies to live up to, Callender, citing his father and grandfather. But “he had always the feeling he could do more good on the policy.”

Overall, Callender thinks McCain has more in Congress for the military, as he had ever done by staying in the Navy.

“His legacy will be felt much more than his grandfather or father time,” Callender said.

McCain is “one of the great naval figures of the 20th century and someone, the Marine looks up today as a symbol of heroism and a symbol for the sailors triumph over adversity,” Sherwood added.

In the end, McCain “can’t have the impact that he has had, if it had not been for his experiences is said to have had,” Callender. “He never want to listen to the people. But whether you are with him, agreed or not, he was always fighting for what he believed and what he was thrilled.”

Madeline Farber is a Reporter for Fox News. You can follow her on Twitter @MaddieFarberUDK.

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