(Two Navy destroyers have been named McCain, for the senator’s father and grandfather, the primary father-and-son full admirals in American naval historical past.)
Whipsawed by household relocations, younger John attended some 20 colleges earlier than lastly settling into Episcopal High School, an all-white, all-boys boarding faculty in Alexandria, Va., within the fall of 1951 for his final three years of secondary training. The faculty, with an all-male school and enrollments drawn principally from upper-crust households of the Old South, required jackets and ties for lessons.
But the scion of one of many Navy’s most illustrious households was defiant and unruly. He mocked the costume code by carrying soiled bluejeans. His footwear have been held along with tape, and his coat regarded like a reject from the Salvation Army. He was cocky and combative, simply provoked and able to struggle anybody. Classmates referred to as him McNasty. Most gave him a large berth.
“He cultivated the image,” Robert Timberg wrote in a biography, “John McCain: An American Odyssey” (1995). “The Episcopal yearbook pictures him in a trench coat, collar up, cigarette dangling Bogey-style from his lips. That pose, if hardly the impression Episcopal sought to project, at least had a fashionable world-weary style to it.”
John and some buddies usually sneaked off campus at night time to patronize bars and burlesque homes in Washington. He joined the wrestling crew — a 127-pound dynamo, he as soon as pinned an opponent in 37 seconds, a faculty report — and the junior varsity soccer crew, as a linebacker and offensive guard. His grades have been abysmal, except in literature and history, his favorite subjects. He graduated in 1954.
That summer season, he adopted his father and grandfather into the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. He resisted the self-discipline. His grades have been poor. He stood as much as upperclassmen, broke guidelines and piled up demerits, although by no means sufficient to warrant expulsion. But he turned a ferocious boxer, a magnet for engaging younger ladies and one of the crucial standard midshipmen in his class.
In the Cockpit
Mr. McCain possessed the rugged independence of a pure chief. It got here out at events and in carousing with buddies. Caught by the Shore Patrol at an off-limits bar, he led a carload of ingesting buddies in a daring escape. “Being on liberty with John McCain was like being in a train wreck,” one recalled. In 1958, he graduated 894th in his class, fifth from the underside.