At his death, Senator John Sidney McCain had served the US faithfully for 60 years.
Senator John McCain was honored for over 63 years of dedicated service to the nation and the U.S. Navy at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia on November 14, 2017. Photo: Getty Images
John Sidney McCain III was born on August 29, 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone. McCain's political career has always been intimately connected to his service in the Vietnam War. John McCain Jr. followed in the family business, becoming the top commander for Vietnam from 1968 to 1972.
His final mission came on October 26, 1967. As McCain was dropping bombs on his target, a power plant in central Hanoi that was typically off-limits to American planes, a surface-to-air missile the size of a telephone pole hit the right wing off his Skyhawk dive bomber.
He crashed into Truc Bach Lake and nearly drowned. With two broken arms and a broken right leg, he used his left leg to kick to the surface and inflated his life vest through his teeth.
US Navy Airforce Major John McCain being examined by a Vietnamese doctor in 1967. Photo: Getty Images
Struggling to dry land, he was captured by the North Vietnamese; his left shoulder was crushed and his stomach lanced by a bayonet. He was in dire condition by the time he arrived at the Hoa Lo Prison, known to American soldiers as the Hanoi Hilton.
Twenty years later, McCain was a US Senator and worked in collaboration with John Kerry, a fellow Vietnam vet turned politician whose wartime service and subsequent political career took a very different direction, to begin laying the groundwork for normalization of relations between the US and Vietnam.
McCain not only did legwork that was important to the Clinton administration's full normalization in 1995, his strong support for the move offered a crucial dose of political cover from a Republican, a defense hawk, and a Vietnam veteran.
Normalization has been so successful that there's been barely any controversy over it since it happened in a way that can obscure what a potentially dicey move this was at the time and it stands as perhaps McCain's clearest enduring legacy in American politics.
As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services , McCain advocated strongly for a boost of the Vietnam-US relation.
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