10 Things You Didn't Know About John McCain

Interesting facts about Arizona Sen. John McCain

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1. John Sidney McCain III was born in the Panama Canal Zone on Aug. 29, 1936.

2. The McCains are a prominent military family. His father and grandfather were the first father-son admiral pair in U.S. naval history. John McCain Jr. commanded Pacific forces during the Vietnam War, while John McCain Sr. was commander of aircraft carriers during World War II. The guided missile destroyer John S. McCain is named in their honor. Today, two of McCain's sons are continuing the tradition—his youngest son, Jimmy, is a marine, while another son, Jack, is a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy.

3. In high school, he was a wrestler. His nickname was "McNasty." Later in life, he was nicknamed "the white tornado" because of his prematurely white hair.

4. After high school, McCain was accepted to the United States Naval Academy, though he was not a strong student. He was often disciplined for misbehavior and ultimately graduated near the bottom–790th out of 795–of the class of 1958. In 2005, he returned to the school to speak to a political science class, saying he was pleased to be back at the "old school where [I] did so well."

5. In 1967, McCain volunteered to serve in Vietnam as a naval aviator. On his 23rd bombing mission, he ejected from his plane after it was hit by a missile. He was captured by the North Vietnamese, who would not treat his injuries until they learned who his father was. Later, the North Vietnamese offered to release him early as a strategic measure, but McCain declined since there were others due to be released first. McCain was tortured for this refusal and ultimately was held as a POW for 5 1/2 years.

6. His 1999 autobiography, Faith of My Fathers, tells about his early life and capture in Vietnam. The book was made into a television movie in 2005. Actor Shawn Hatosy played the young McCain, though the senator once joked that Danny DeVito should have been cast instead.

7. As a senator, McCain is a well-known foe of pork-barrel spending. To deter his colleagues from trying to add such government spending to bills, McCain once had a staff member, Mark "the Ferret" Buse, whose full-time job was to monitor any such attempts.

8. He hosted NBC's Saturday Night Live in 2002, poking fun at politics by appearing on a mock edition of Meet the Press and impersonating John Ashcroft.

9. McCain frequently has toys in his office–including a figure of Theodore Roosevelt holding a teddy bear. Roosevelt is one of his heroes for combining conservative politics with reform.

10. His favorite book is For Whom the Bell Tolls. He also enjoys chocolate ice cream and pizza with pepperoni and onions.


  • Contemporary Authors Online
  • Encyclopedia of World Biography
  • Fresno Bee
  • Newsmakers
  • U.S.News & World Report
  • Washington Post
  • www.mccain.navy.mil