Books by politicians are not often worth reading, but John McCain's Faith of My Fathers is an astonishing exception to the rule. The Republican senator from Arizona has a remarkable story to tell--better than just about any of his peers--and he tells it well, with crisp prose and an unexpected sense for narrative pacing. The first half of the book concerns his naval forbears: his grandfather commanded an aircraft carrier in the Second World War, while his father presided over all naval forces in the Pacific during the Vietnam War. They were the first father-son admirals in American history. Young John McCain knew he had enormous shoes to fill and rebelled against many of the expectations set for him. At the Naval Academy, he was nearly expelled, graduating fifth from the bottom of his class. He never became an admiral, but achieved fame another way: as a naval aviator in 1967, he was shot down over North Vietnam and spent several years in POW camps, where he was beaten, tortured, and nearly allowed to die. McCain describes the awful details of his imprisonment and tells how he stayed mentally strong during seemingly endless months of solitary confinement and how he communicated in code with fellow captives. Faith of My Fathers concludes with McCain's release and contains no information about his subsequent political career. It is, nonetheless, a complete and compelling memoir of individual heroism--one that will interest both political and military history buffs. --John J. Miller
John McCain is one of the most admired leaders in the United States government, but his deeply felt memoir of family and war is not a political one and ends before his election to Congress. With candor and ennobling power, McCain tells a story that, in the words of Newsweek, "makes the other presidential candidates look like pygmies."
John McCain learned about life and honor from his grandfather and father, both four-star admirals in the U.S. Navy. This is a memoir about their lives, their heroism, and the ways that sons are shaped and enriched by their fathers.
John McCain's grandfather was a gaunt, hawk-faced man known as Slew by his fellow officers and, affectionately, as Popeye by the sailors who served under him. McCain Sr. played the horses, drank bourbon and water, and rolled his own cigarettes with one hand. More significant, he was one of the navy's greatest commanders, and led the strongest aircraft carrier force of the Third Fleet in key battles during World War II.
John McCain's father followed a similar path, equally distinguished by heroic service in the navy, as a submarine commander during World War II. McCain Jr. was a slightly built man, but like his father, he earned the respect and affection of his men. He, too, rose to the rank of four-star admiral, making the McCains the first family in American history to achieve that distinction. McCain Jr.'s final assignment was as commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific during the Vietnam War.
It was in the Vietnam War that John McCain III faced the most difficult challenge of his life. A naval aviator, he was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and seriously injured. When Vietnamese military officers realized he was the son of a top commander, they offered McCain early release in an effort to embarrass the United States. Acting from a sense of honor taught him by his father and the U.S. Naval Academy, McCain refused the offer. He was tortured, held in solitary confinement, and imprisoned for five and a half years.
Faith of My Fathers is about what McCain learned from his grandfather and father, and how their example enabled him to survive those hard years. It is a story of three imperfect men who faced adversity and emerged with their honor intact. Ultimately, Faith of My Fathers shows us, with great feeling and appreciation, what fathers give to their sons, and what endures.
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