McCain namesake legacy

(Editor’s note: This excerpt comes from a review on Navy Reads, a blog devoted to books, reading and critical thinking. It was first published Aug. 6 and focuses on the namesakes of USS John S. Mc-Cain (DDG 56). Tragically, USS John S. McCain was involved in a collision with a merchant vessel while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21.)

One hundred years ago, in August 1917, Lt. John S. “Slew” McCain (grandfather of Sen. John S. McCain) served aboard USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6).

The USS San Diego joined the Atlantic Fleet to perform vital escort duties, protecting American ships from German attack in the First World War.

Then, out of the ashes of World War I, nationalism and Nazism arose in Germany. Tyranny grew and spread in Imperial Japan, leading to World War II.

Sen. McCain’s grandfather, Adm. Slew McCain took a stand as Pacific Carrier Commander, alongside other heroes like Nimitz, Spruance, King, Mitscher and Halsey, to fight fundamentalism, tyranny and fanaticism nearly 75 years ago.

In Brian E. Fogarty’s “Fascism: Why Not Here?” (Potomac Books, 2009) we see how authoritarianism arose in Germany in the 1930s, during the same years that Sen. McCain’s grandfather was studying air warfare, on his way to earning his wings (at the age of 52) and becoming commander of USS Ranger (CV-4).

Fogarty defines fascism as “totalitarianism that enlists citizens against themselves.”

In the late summer of 1943, Vice Adm. Slew Mc-Cain was the new Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air), about to head back to Pearl Harbor to take command of “huge task forces, spearheaded by carrier-based aircraft” against Imperial Japan.

Fogarty spotlights the importance of objective facts and reason. He notes how in the 1930s the Nazis sponsored public book burnings, abolished the free press and dissent, and began to ostracize Jews and other non-Aryans as members of the public went along.

“More than anything else, the rise of Nazism was fueled by the negation of reason as a basis for government and for social and political discourse,” Fogarty writes.

“Without universal or at least agreed-upon standards of knowledge, the truth of a statement comes to depend on the speaker’s identity, persuasiveness or charisma.” That can lead to blindly following, as happened in Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in the early part of the last century.

“People commit evil, or acquiesce as others do it in their name, when it is sanctioned and legitimated by the community in which they belong.” He warns us to beware of a “vortex of fear that drown(s) out debate and reason.”

Germany and Japan suffered greatly after a worldwide depression. Both had a chip-on-their-shoulder nationalist attitude as victims who wanted to participate in global imperialism. That’s why most of their citizenry supported race-based fascism leading to the Second World War.

As an immigrant nation, however, the United States may not be as susceptible. Here, “racism has been more divisive than unifying,” for most Americans. Diversity may be our biggest strength in being able to resist fundamentalism, tyranny and fascism. There is a difference between nationalism and patriotism.

Adm. John S. “Slew” McCain demonstrated his patriotism fighting for his country in both World Wars, eventually standing aboard USS Missouri (BB-63) for the surrender of Imperial Japan. Militarists in Japan were purveyors of a spreading nationalism and fascist tyranny in Asia in the 1930s and 40s.

Adm. McCain’s son, Adm. John S. “Jack” McCain, also served in the United States Navy and also became a four-star admiral. Adm. Jack McCain was a submariner who fought in WWII and the Cold War. He served as Commander in Chief, Pacific Command during the Vietnam War, where Lt. Cmdr. John S. McCain III was imprisoned as a POW for five-and-half years.

The McCains’ story is one of service and sacrifice. Adm. “Slew” McCain, who saw so many naval aviators go to their deaths, died four days after Japan’s surrender.

Adm. Jack McCain had to carry out President Nixon’s orders to bomb Hanoi, where he knew his son was a POW. Sen. John McCain has been serving his country throughout his life.

The Navy commissioned guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) in 1994.

The legacy of another WWII naval hero, President John F. Kennedy, recognized Sen. McCain’s patriotism. Sen. John Mc-Cain received the JFK Profile in Courage award from the Kennedy family in 1999.

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