February 1, 2008

McCain's five lost planes -- only two his fault

A reader writes:

It's quite true that McCain lost five jets in military service. However, that doesn't prove he did anything wrong. However, a close reading of how he lost five planes tells a quite interesting story. For reasons that will become clear, the story is best told in reverse order.

5. On Oct. 26, 1967 John McCain was shot down over Vietnam and ended up as a POW in North Vietnam. It was his 23rd mission over North Vietnam.

[It's hard to remember these days, when we lose so very few jets in combat (because we developed around 1980 the technology to blind the enemy by knocking out his ground radar while we control the aerial battlefield from Airborne Warning and Control System jets almost over the horizon) that we lost 3,322 fixed-win aircraft in the Vietnam war, perhaps the majority due to enemy fire.]

4. On July 29, 1967 his plane was destroyed by a missile accidentally fired by another plane waiting to take off. He barely survived. 134 sailors died that day. There is no evidence that McCain did anything wrong. The videos of the fires and explosions are astonishing. The first fire crew was wiped out by a bomb explosion and was replaced by volunteers in seconds. Subsequent explosions wiped out the replacement firemen. Tragically, the volunteers didn’t know how to fight a carrier fire and made the situation worse.

3. In 1965, he lost a plane flying home from the Army-Navy game due to mechanical failure. This was very common at the time. I once met a Vietnam pilot who lost a Phantom due to oil pressure failure. I asked what the consequences were. He said that his commanding officer was upset for 10 minutes and he had to fill out a form.

2. He lost a plane after hitting power line over the Iberian Peninsula. Presumably pilot era.

1. As a student pilot he lost a plane in Corpus Christi bay while trying to land.

The last 3 losses do not reflect adversely on John McCain. How about the first two? I would question whether any aviator whose name wasn’t McCain would have survived losing a plane as a student and then hitting power lines.

See http://www.vietnamveteransagainstjohnmccain.com/cin_mccain_lost_five_u.htm

For some details. There are also a few books about McCain out there. See http://www.amazon.com/Nightingales-Song-Robert-Timberg/dp/0684826739

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Rosamund said...

Bad, Steve, bad! I felt bad for you, thinking you felt bad, the other day when a ruckus was created over your first McCain comment and I see now you were just getting warmed up! I guess I was being such a woman to see it that way...

Hairspray review was hilarious while I'm thinking of brassy things... Tip: I clicked on a link that a commenter provided in that post and it showed, well... I should have known better, but please watch out for that. GNXP got so bad for that, and with the conversations becoming porn-addled, that I quit visiting.

Anonymous said...

How do the last three lost planes not reflect poorly on McCain?

Did pilots of this era typically lose 3 planes most likely due to their own arrogance or incompetence given the clear pattern here and his well documented arrogance?

Did the Navy not care that McCain repeatedly lost tens of millions of dollars in planes? Was it typical for pilots to be given 3 such mulligans with nothing but 10mins of paperwork?

How was it that someone so poorly disciplined, insubordinate and academically dismal at the academy even become a pilot in the first place?

28 medals for 20hr of combat flying? 1.5 Medals per hour of flight mission sounds as dubious as the entire McCain hero storyline.

Anonymous said...

I didn't even read this. Who cares? The less we talk about McCain "The pilot" the better. Let's talk about McCain the lunatic illegal-enthusiast.

beowulf said...

You know, one of the arguments for affirmative action is that some groups have been denied the same opportunities that more privileged groups (i.e. white males) have been given.

Generally, I think that is BS, but certainly in Ivy League university admissions, a legacy applicant gets a bigger leg up than any affirmative action applicant.

Likewise here, I'm dubious a naval aviator who wasn't the son and grandson of admirals could destroy so much government property without career consequence.

A naval officer is held responsible for his misfortunes, bad luck isn't an excuse. In a different context (I forget just who he was throwing under the bus that time), McCain noted that when the battleship Missouri ran aground, the Captain was immediately relieved of command even though it wasn't his fault, he was asleep in his cabin at the time.

As for McCain, he and we would be in a better world if he'd been grounded before he was ever sent to Vietnam (and surely his family pull could have it done for health reasons). He could have run out the clock till retirement as a staff officer and gone on to a second career as a sales guy for a defense contractor.

amir said...

If I understand correctly, Bush used his family connections to stay out of combat while McCain used it to get into combat.

gcochran said...

The _average_ affirmative action applicant gets a far bigger boost than the average legacy applicant.

In terms of SAT numbers.

James said...

First anonymous: If McCain's plane happened to be destroyed in a series of explosions caused by someone else that killed 134 people, I don't see how that can be McCain's fault, let alone due to his "arrogance or incompetence." In fact, can we really say McCain lost the plane? If you get hit by a car and are not at fault, but your car is badly damaged and needs to be traded in, can you be said to have lost the car? I understand the precedent mentioned by Beowulf, but I don't think it applies in this case.

I don't know enought about military planes to comment on the other losses.

James Kabala said...

I wrote that last one.

Henry Canaday said...

Well Steve, be careful what you wish for. Six months ago, Steve Sailer was urging that Republicans be not too eager to anoint a consensus candidate early in the nominating process, and take a close look at the alternatives, because, you felt, the consensus for George W. Bush had not worked out too well. The 1999 gathering of Republican governors and funders around Bush had been largely prompted by a desire to block an early rampage by Pat Buchanan in the primaries. With that danger averted in 2008, governors and money men were in no hurry to draft another likeable consensus nominee, so the race was left wide open, for Republican primary voters to work their will. And, so far, at least, the results do not look pretty. We are probably going to nominate another ex-fighter pilot, with all the cockiness and stubbornness that are the common traits of pilots, but with perhaps less competence than Bush had.

And there is another fact shaping the 2008 election that few are talking about yet. The Arabs know there is an American presidential election this year too, and have known it for quite a while. Which party do you think the Arabs would like to see win this election? And, uh, let’s see, do the Arabs have any means of influencing the election? An economy softened a bit by a burst housing bubble, a bubble which has been exaggerated by the media in its real effects, has been further slowed by a $40 increase in oil prices. Is this an entire coincidence? We have not had a recession in a quarter century that did not at least coincide with an upheaval in the Middle East. Neither the 1990-91 recession, nor the 2001 recession were inevitable until oil prices rose in late 1990 and the travel sector collapsed after September 11.

Just a little nudge from oil prices is a much more effective, because less overt, hint to the American electorate than crude threats coming out of caves in Pakistan.

So isn’t it nice to know that after all the tens of billions of dollars in expenditure, time and attention devoted to electing presidents, the identity of the next American president will be largely determined by 1) Arab interests and oil power, and 2) the balance of female versus minority identity politics in the Democratic Party?

SKT said...

I'm not historically a McCain fan, but in the past week or so I feel like I've been forced to become one, just because of the sheer nuttiness of about half the people on the right. Ann Coulter has been on TV telling people that McCain is more liberal than Hillary Clinton on the Iraq War, and she's promised to campaign for her. And online folks are trying to use his flying record to smear him.

David Davenport said...

I don’t plan to vote for Mr. Golden Years Temper Tantrum in the upcoming Tennessee primary, but the July 1967 incident on the flight deck of the USS Forrestal wasn’t McCain’s fault, not at all:

Boats ( I’m not “Boats” – DD )
Senior Member Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 3,461


Here's a piece I just pulled down from an interview - where he was asked that question.

Cove: Can you tell me about the fire aboard the Forestall?

McCain: We were preparing for an Alpha Strike ( jargon for a bombing attack using all available warplanes on the aircraft carrier--DD) , and there was a large number of airplanes and I was in mine, had started the engine and was going through the engine checks. Across the flight deck from me was an F4 Phantom, and on the Phantom wings were Zuni rockets, which are long, 6' long rockets. And the procedure that is required, onboard safety procedures, is that there is what we call a pigtail which is an electrical connection that goes to the rear-end of the rocket, and the way that the rocket is fired is an electrical impulse fires the... goes through that and fires the rocket. Well, that pigtail as it is called is not supposed to be inserted until the airplane is on the catapult facing the water. Those rules were violated unfortunately that day and the pigtail was inserted in the Zuni rocket, and as the pilot went from external power which is what is used to start the engine of the airplane, much like a commercial airliner, to internal power which means that you use the power from... you are not dependent on the outside source of electricity anymore. A very large charge of stray electricity went through the pigtail and fired the Zuni rocket across the flight deck, punched through the fuel tank, the 200 gallon fuel tank that was underneath my A4 Skyhawk, and continued on. The fuel spilled out naturally, and the fuel was on fire. And in a very short period of time, there was a huge conflagration on the Forestall, which ended up taking the lives of 135 young sailors, and took about 12 to 18 hours, depending on how you look at it, to put the fire out. I shut down the engine of my... I felt the shock, saw the fire, and jumped out by going out on the refueling probe, ( The pic here with the caption “VA-81 A4D-2 on the USS Forrestal in 1962” shows the refueling probe on an A-4 aircraft. – DD: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A-4_Skyhawk ). and all this is on film, by the way, because it was... we had constant filming of the flight deck, and rolled through the fire, and went across the other side of the flight deck, saw people running around, saw a number of things including people with a fire hose, and I saw the pilot of the plane next to mine jump out of his airplane, only he didn't jump as far and when he rolled out he was on fire. And I started towards him. Just as I did, the first bomb blew off and knocked me back. And then other bombs started going off, and that is when the conflagration started. I would say there couldn't have been more than about 2 minutes between the time that my airplane was hit by the Zuni rocket until the time that the first bomb went off, which then complicated the disaster dramatically, of course.



Here’s a sample of some junk and falsehood on the Internet:

At the time of the Forrestal disaster, Admiral McCain was Commander-in-Chief of US Naval Forces Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR) and was busy covering up the details of the deadly and pre-meditated Israeli attack on the NSA spy ship, the USS Liberty, on June 8, 1967. The fact that both McCains were involved in two incidents just weeks apart that resulted in a total death count of 168 on the Forrestal and the Liberty, with an additional injury count of 234 on both ships (with a number of them later dying from their wounds) with an accompanying classified paper trail inside the Pentagon, may be all that was needed to hold a Sword of Damocles over the head of the "family honor"-oriented (McCain's persona is supported by his book about his father and grandfather, both Navy admirals, titled "Faith of My Fathers") and the "straight talking" McCain. …


dearieme said...

Next you'll tell us that JFK was a reckless and incompetent twit in the Navy.

Anonymous said...

I think we should talk about McCain the pilot. With a few exceptions, pilots make bad managers, almost as bad as Doctors. They rely on themselves and a wingman too much, are bad organizers, and have no training for leadership of large organizations.

Which entails relentless consumption of trivial data, to see what's really happening, and lots of "walking around" to see how people are interacting, who's slacking, who's working, what personnel or structural bottlenecks exist.

McCain is a bad choice based on being a pilot.

Anonymous said...

James - I was giving McCain a pass on 2 of his 5 destroyed planes: the accident you mentioned and the one he was shot down in.

Losing 5 planes over a career that involved only 20 hours of combat missions is a big red flag.

His legendary temper, arrogance and insuborination at the Academy (and throughout his life) as the son and grandson of Admirals are tell tale clues as to the most likely explaination behind McCain's exceptionally poor record at keeping planes in flight.

A 70+yo man like McCain's shouting down and swearing at fellow Senators, journalists and individuals betrays a life of unchecked arrogance, conceit and immaturity.

McCain is going to make Bush II look like a shrinking daisy when it comes to craming his bad policies like amnesty for illegal immigrants down the nation's throat.

If McCains wins the nomination Republicans would be better off voting for Hillary of Obama. Although the Dems are marginally worse policy-wise compared to McCain, they are won't trample the Consitution and ignore established law to force their ill-conceived will on a weak-kneed Congress, uncritical MSM and largely clueless public like Bush II has done (and McCain will do even more of).

Anonymous said...

Has anybody suggested that John McCain's actions during the USS Forrestal fire were less than admirable? If John McCain has a reputation for being incompetent, then that incident needs to be looked at.

James Kabala said...

Anonymous: My apologies; I though you meant "the last three" chronologically, rather than in Steve's reverse-chronology list order, and were adding them to the two that Steve and his correspondent acknowledged were McCain's fault, rather than including those two in your three.

William said...

If I understand correctly, Bush used his family connections to stay out of combat while McCain used it to get into combat. - amir

But that assumes that their goals were the same, or that McCain's goals then were his goals now.

Bush seems to have had no particular goal in his youth, except for to milk the family name for all its worth (which he has done thoroughly, to the detriment of Family Bush) and to use as many narcotics as possible.

But McCain's goal then was not to become president but to become an admiral, like daddy and grandaddy before him. That pretty much required combat duty, especially since a guy with his temperament and lack of booksmarts wasn't going to climb in the ranks like a George Marshall, through sheer management genius.

FWIW, if McCain becomes the GOP nominee, which seems increasingly likely, I will not be voting for him, but for some entirely nonviable (I am certain) third party candidate. If he loses I want the GOP to know why he lost. And if he wins it would be another devastating blow for the GOP. The next four years are going to be economically devastating for the US, I feel, with the trade deficits, budget deficits, declining quality of life and increasing class stratification all coming home to roost for America. It's best to let the Dems take the blame for their failure to fix it, because there is no (currently) politically palatable plan to fix it now.

The long decline is now a sure thing.

Anonymous said...

So McCain survived five plane crashes (whether his fault or not). Isn't that a world record?

Ralph Phelan said...

If I understand correctly, Bush used his family connections to stay out of combat while McCain used it to get into combat.

I'm not sure if the first is true - he Bush's plane didn't get pulled from combat until after he was done training on it, so when he started training it sure would have looked like he was headed into combat.

But if your assumption is true, then from the nation's perspective both decisions were bad ones - we should have sent the guy who didn't a plane drive into power lines into combat.