This biography of one of World War II’s great military leaders is a “rich tribute to a staunch American naval hero” (WWII Quarterly).
John S. “Slew” McCain was an old-school sailor. Wiry, profane, a cusser, and a gambler, he reminded more than one observer of Popeye. He was also a pioneer in the hard-hitting naval tactics that brought Imperial Japan to its knees.
McCain graduated from Annapolis in 1906 and served aboard an armored cruiser in World War I. Perceiving the future of naval warfare, he earned his aviation wings in 1936, and by 1939, McCain was commander of the aircraft carrier USS Ranger. He was thus well-placed to play a leading role in America’s cut-and-thrust war with the Japanese across the broad expanses of the Pacific. In 1942, he was made commander of all land-based aircraft during the campaign for Guadalcanal. Though he took his share of blame for the disaster at Savo Island, he counterattacked with every means at his disposal, to the point of commandeering the planes of the crippled carriers Enterprise and Saratoga to reinforce US strength on Henderson Field.
By the time the US returned to the Philippines, McCain was leading a fast carrier task force under William “Bull” Halsey. When asked what he thought about his carrier commander, Halsey replied, “Not much more than my right arm.” McCain’s carrier group would destroy thousands of enemy planes and hundreds of ships with aggressive swarming tactics. Four days after Japan officially surrendered, McCain died in his bed. His name has lived on, however, through his son, who became commander of US naval forces in the Pacific, and his grandson, John S. McCain III, carrier pilot, Vietnam POW, and United States Senator.
Drawing upon a wealth of primary sources, including information provided by the McCain family, as well as an expert grasp of the titanic battles waged by the US armed forces in the Pacific, Alton Keith Gilbert has provided the fullest account of the Admiral John McCain’s life yet written.