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Admiral John S. McCain
Commander Task Force 38 - 1945

Admiral John S McCain USN, (Deceased)
Commander of Task Force 38.
Photo was taken on his flag ship, USS Shangri-La (CV-38), June 1945

I was fortunate to serve under the command of another great leader, Admiral John McCain, who had been the Commander of Task Force 38 ever since we on the USS Hancock (CV-19) joined Admiral "Bull" Halsey's Third Fleet in the Philippine Islands in June.

To me he always seemed to have a special sense for running this huge carrier force. It was made up of three task groups with 14 to 16 fast aircraft carriers with a full complement of bomber and fighter planes.

He and his staff had that special appreciation for the problems involved in handling such a large force in time of war. This was especially true during the last few weeks after the British task group joined this mighty task force. Admiral McCain seemed to have all the answers, showing that he was a true professional in commanding and operating the largest military force that the world had ever seen and would ever see again.

Admiral "Bull" Halsey had to be well pleased and was able to set back and watch from his flag ship USS New Jersey (BB-62), as this mighty carrier force functioned superbly under the command of Task force commander McCain and his staff.

During that time I never had the privilege of seeing the Admiral in person, but I sure developed a very high regard for this great Naval officer from the way he handled the task force.

One thing that happened that I and many of my squadron mates did not like very much, involved Admiral McCain when he was prematurely removed or replaced only a few hours before the end of the war. He, like everyone else, was probably weary and tired of this long war, but there was no apparent reason for him to be replaced at that time when the date for the formal capitulation and surrender was already set for 2 Sept.

Halsey had apparently decided to bring Vice Admiral Towers (McCain's senior) out and have him relieve Admiral McCain as Commander of Task force 38 on 1 Sept, only 24 hours before the surrender, which seemed to us as a real low blow!

To make matters worse, Admiral Towers, in anticipation of the take over, arrived onboard McCain's flag ship, USS Shangri-La (CV-38), several days early and had the gall to raise his flag on 22 August.

I have nothing against Admiral Towers, but his actions seemed to me, at the time, to indicate that he just couldn't wait to take the bows and honors that had been earned and were rightfully belonging to McCain.

Several of of us in the squadron who may not have had all the facts, jokingly summed up the situation by suggesting that Halsey may have had an outstanding poker debt to settle in Tower's favor, but the truth may have been that Towers might have been forced on Halsey by someone in Washington with higher rank than either of them or that this rotation may have been in accordance with rotation plans made a long time earlier.

Whatever the real reason was, it really was a shame that McCain didn't get to hold on to the control lines of the task force for at least another 24 hours.

McCain couldn't help but be bitter over his untimely relief and was ready to leave for home, but some one (probably Halsey) talked him into staying on as an observer for the formal surrender ceremony.

Unfortunately, Admiral McCain only lived for a few days more after this incident. As I recall, his home town (San Diego) newspaper blamed his untimely death on "Combat Exhaustion", as it gave his famous Task Force 38 credit for destroying "two million tons of Japanese shipping" and other inportant feats.

Sometime just after the Hancock and our air group returned to San Pedro, California, the Naval Aviation News magazine dated Oct 15, 1945 carried the following story:

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Story of John Sidney McCain, USN as it appeared in the Naval Aviation News safety magazine dated Oct 15, 1945

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Enlarged View of inset above left top
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Enlarged view of Inset above left

Enlarged Photo (inset above bottom right) taken from the Naval Aviation News showing the old garrison cap without the grommet which he used to withstand the wind while working on the open bridge of his flag ship

Several years later, much to my surprise and pleasure, a formal autographed photo of Admiral McCain was made available to me, which has been added to my collection of "Great men that I have served with". I am pleased to add a copy of that photo below.

Rear Admiral John Sidney McCain taken when he was Chief, Bureau of Aeronautics
United States Navy
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Vice Admiral John S. McCain, Chief, Bureau of Aeronautics, U.S. Navy

Hand Salute!! With greatest respect------- Two!

Hersch Pahl

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October 1, 2007