De 'Forrestal'-affaire: Investigating John McCain’s Tragedy at Sea ( Mary Hershberger in Truthdig)

..McCain has added compelling details at key points in his political career. When his stories are placed beside documented evidence from other sources, significant contradictions often emerge. One such case involves McCain’s experience in the devastating fire and explosions that killed 134 sailors on the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal during the Vietnam War three months before he was shot down over North Vietnam. McCain has made claims about this accident that differ dramatically from parts of the official Navy report and accounts of reliable eyewitnesses.

In considering the 1967 catastrophe, it is important to note that the official report concluded that no individual bore responsibility for the fire or its spread. There are a number of conflicting accounts of the Forrestal accident, but here is the story as based on the strongest sources…
br> Aside from any questions about his Forrestal actions, McCain had, in his short Navy career, crashed two planes and flown a third into power lines in Spain because of, as he put it, “daredevil clowning.”

The investigation into the Forrestal fire was in the hands of Adm. Thomas Moorer, chief of naval operations and a close friend of McCain’s father…

“I’m an old Navy pilot. I know when a crisis calls for all hands on deck,” Sen. McCain said recently in explaining why he was temporarily suspending his presidential campaign and calling for postponement of the first debate between himself and Democratic candidate Barack Obama, which eventually occurred as scheduled.
At the one time in his life when he was faced with a real crisis on deck, we now know, McCain left the crisis to others and descended to safety below. As to the question of whether the first bomb to explode on the Forrestal dropped from his plane through pilot error, it is not reassuring to hear him describe his attitude as a Navy pilot toward safety procedures. He told reporters during his 2000 presidential campaign that his motto in those days was: “Kick the tires and light the fires [jet engines]. To hell with the checklist. Anybody can be slow.”

,b>McCain has gone much further than most veterans in using his military experiences for political purposes, but he has not allowed his military records to be released, save for the list of his awards and medals, all of which were given only after he became a prisoner of war. It is appropriate that he release those records before the election. If his actions contributed to the magnitude of the Forrestal disaster and if he left the burning ship under less than honorable circumstances, that information should be available to voters as they choose their next president. At the very least, John McCain should be asked to explain his actions in the summer of 1967 and tell American voters why he has repeatedly given a false account of Robert Zwerlein’s death.

Investigating John McCain’s Tragedy at Sea (By Mary Hershberger in Truthdig)

Controversy has surrounded a series of crashes involving planes piloted by John McCain while serving in the U.S. Navy. In his autobiography, the Republican presidential candidate maintained that a couple of the accidents were caused by engine failure. But an official investigation by the Naval Aviation Safety Center makes clear that the first accident, in March 1960, was caused exclusively by pilot error…

McCain fudges his Navy record (Michael Bobbs in The Fact Checker/Washington Post)


Sometimes 3 a.m. moments occur at 10:52 in the morning.

It was July 29th, 1967, a hot, gusty morning in the Gulf of Tonkin atop the four-acre flight deck of the supercarrier USS Forrestal. Perched in the cockpit of his A-4 Skyhawk, Lt. Cmdr. John McCain ticked nervously through his preflight checklist.

Now 30 years old, McCain was trying to live up to his father’s expectations, to finally be known as something other than the fuck-up grandson of one of the Navy’s greatest admirals. That morning, preparing for his sixth bombing run over North Vietnam, the graying pilot’s dreams of combat glory were beginning to seem within his reach.

Then, in an instant, the world around McCain erupted in flames. A six-foot-long Zuni rocket, inexplicably launched by an F-4 Phantom across the flight deck, ripped through the fuel tank of McCain’s aircraft. Hundreds of gallons of fuel splashed onto the deck and came ablaze. Then: Clank. Clank. Two 1,000-pound bombs dropped from under the belly of McCain’s stubby A-4, the Navy’s "Tinkertoy Bomber," into the fire.

McCain, who knew more than most pilots about bailing out of a crippled aircraft, leapt forward out of the cockpit, swung himself down from the refueling probe protruding from the nose cone, rolled through the flames and ran to safety across the flight deck. Just then, one of his bombs "cooked off," blowing a crater in the deck and incinerating the sailors who had rushed past McCain with hoses and fire extinguishers. McCain was stung by tiny bits of shrapnel in his legs and chest, but the wounds weren’t serious; his father would later report to friends that Johnny "came through without a scratch."

The damage to the Forrestal was far more grievous: The explosion set off a chain reaction of bombs, creating a devastating inferno that would kill 134 of the carrier’s 5,000-man crew, injure 161 and threaten to sink the ship.

These are the moments that test men’s mettle. Where leaders are born. Leaders like . . . Lt. Cmdr. Herb Hope, pilot of the A-4 three planes down from McCain’s. Cornered by flames at the stern of the carrier, Hope hurled himself off the flight deck into a safety net and clambered into the hangar deck below, where the fire was spreading. According to an official Navy history of the fire, Hope then "gallantly took command of a firefighting team" that would help contain the conflagration and ultimately save the ship.

McCain displayed little of Hope’s valor. Although he would soon regale The New York Times with tales of the heroism of the brave enlisted men who "stayed to help the pilots fight the fire," McCain took no part in dousing the flames himself. After going belowdecks and briefly helping sailors who were frantically trying to unload bombs from an elevator to the flight deck, McCain retreated to the safety of the "ready room," where off-duty pilots spent their noncombat hours talking trash and playing poker. There, McCain watched the conflagration unfold on the room’s closed-circuit television — bearing distant witness to the valiant self-sacrifice of others who died trying to save the ship, pushing jets into the sea to keep their bombs from exploding on deck.

As the ship burned, McCain took a moment to mourn his misfortune; his combat career appeared to be going up in smoke. "This distressed me considerably," he recalls in Faith of My Fathers. "I feared my ambitions were among the casualties in the calamity that had claimed the Forrestal."

The fire blazed late into the night. The following morning, while oxygen-masked rescue workers toiled to recover bodies from the lower decks, McCain was making fast friends with R.W. "Johnny" Apple of The New York Times, who had arrived by helicopter to cover the deadliest Naval calamity since the Second World War. The son of admiralty surviving a near-death experience certainly made for good copy, and McCain colorfully recounted how he had saved his skin. But when Apple and other reporters left the ship, the story took an even stranger turn: McCain left with them. As the heroic crew of the Forrestal mourned its fallen brothers and the broken ship limped toward the Philippines for repairs, McCain zipped off to Saigon for what he recalls as "some welcome R&R."


Ensconced in Apple’s villa in Saigon, McCain and the Times reporter forged a relationship that would prove critical to the ambitious pilot’s career in the years ahead. Apple effectively became the charter member of McCain’s media "base," an elite corps of admiring reporters who helped create his reputation for "straight talk."..

Make-Believe Maverick [John McCain]

Opmerking Het is inderdaad hoog tijd dat er klaarheid komt over deze ‘Forrestal disaster’ affaire waarin McCain minder heldhaftig lijkt te zijn opgetreden dan dat hij in het algemeen altijd heeft doen voorkomen – integendeel zelfs.

Ongeschikt voor het presidentschap: McCain and the POW Cover-up (The Nation)


3 thoughts on “De 'Forrestal'-affaire: Investigating John McCain’s Tragedy at Sea ( Mary Hershberger in Truthdig)

  1. Kijk eens naar de National Geographic documentaire over de Forrestal-kwestie. Die geeft een heldere uiteenzetting van de oorzaak, en wie de direct betrokkenen waren. En daarin komt de naam McCain niet voor.
    Dat reduceert dit deel van het verhaal tot amorele verdachtmakerij. Hoe zit het met de rest?

  2. @Redneck:
    Het feit dat in die National Geographic documentaire zelfs de naam van McCain niet is genoemd, moet te denken geven – evenals het feit dat het officiele Navy-rapport over deze catastrofale ongeluk stelt dat de Zuni-raket alleen White’s vliegtuig trof en dat het ook diens vliegtuig was waarvan een bom op het dek viel en explodeerde.
    Zulks terwijl McCain altijd heeft beweerd dat de Zuni-raket (ook) zijn vliegtuig trof en dat daardoor twee van zijn bommen op het dek vielen.
    Van tweeen een: het Navy-rapport (en de National Geographic documentaire) verhullen McCain’s rol, of McCain praat (en schrijft) onwaarheid.
    Gezien McCain’s presidentiele aspiraties en zijn veelvuldig verwijzen naar zijn heldhaftige optredens in militaire dienst, moet dit nader worden uitgezocht.

  3. Besprekingen van dit onderwerp op andere sites:
    (1) JJW van Waning zegt:
    (NB: Deze reactie moet nog worden beoordeeld)
    donderdag 9 oktober 2008, 18:22 uur
    Gezien McCain’s veelvuldig verwijzen naar zijn ervaring en flink optreden als Marine-vlieger tijdens de Vietnam-oorlog, is het hoog tijd dat zijn rol bij (en na) de ramp op het Amerikaanse vliegkampschip USS Forrestal (in 1967), nader wordt onderzocht.
    Dit catastrofale ongeluk, die 134 bemanningsleden het leven kostte, is veroorzaakt door het abusievelijk aan dek afvuren van een raket door een vliegtuig waardoor een ander vliegtuig werd getroffen en (weer een ander vliegtuig: McCain’s?) een (of twee?) bom(men) op dek liet vallen, die explodeerde(n) in het inmiddels ontstane vuur.
    McCain beweert dat zijn vliegtuig (ook) door de raket is getroffen en dat daardoor zijn vliegtuig twee bommen los liet. Het officiele onderzoeksrapport – dat geen ’schuldige’ aanwijst – vermeldt dit echter niet. Anonieme mede-bemanningsleden impliceren dat McCain in paniek zijn bommen heeft laten vallen, maar dat lijkt me ongeloofwaardig.
    “I’m an old Navy pilot. I know when a crisis calls for all hands on deck,” zei McCain onlangs, als reden waarom hij zijn verkiezingscampagne afbrak om zich naar Washington te spoeden i.v.m. de financiele crisis. Maar zijn handelswijze tijdens en na deze ramp was heel anders.
    Ook dit wordt uit de doeken gedaan in:
    De ‘Forrestal’-affaire: ‘Investigating John McCain’s Tragedy at Sea’ ( Mary Hershberger in Truthdig)
    McCain heeft altijd geweigerd zijn officiele staat van dienst als Marine-vlieger openbaar te maken. Na dit artikel van Mary Hershberger zal hij hier niet onderuit kunnen komen, denk (en hoop) ik.
    Het ‘oprekken’ van de verkiezingsnormen kan deze instabiele en bellicose ‘maverick’ Republikein duur te staan komen: wanneer worden de A4-Skyhawk ’swiftboaters’ gelanceerd?
    (2) Bernard Aris – 09-10-2008 15:28
    Hierbij de link naar het weeblog van Van Waning: De ‘Forrestal’-affaire: Investigating John McCain’s Tragedy at Sea ( Mary Hershberger in Truthdig) Van Waning schrijft mij: "Het is inderdaad hoog tijd dat er klaarheid komt over deze ‘Forrestal disaster’ affaire waarin McCain minder heldhaftig lijkt te zijn opgetreden dan dat hij in het algemeen altijd heeft doen voorkomen – integendeel zelfs. Ben benieuwd welke Nederlandse onderzoek-journalist dit (publiekelijk) uitzoekt." Van Wanings blog over hoe McCain mede-krijgsgevanggenen in Laos in de steek liet: Deze laatste affaire werd boven tafel gehaald door de man op wiens ervaringen en boek de film "The Killing Fields" gebaseerd was: Sydney Schanberg. Van Waning geeft doorklik-opties naar Schanbergs artikelen.

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