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‘Fair winds and following seas, sailor.’

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The following is a guest blog post by Owen Rogers, a Liaison Specialist for the Veterans History Project (VHP).

 In Memoriam: The Honorable John S. McCain III

We mourn the loss of the Honorable John S. McCain III, whose service in U.S. military and Congress yielded particularly meaningful contributions to the Library of Congress. As a naval aviator, Vietnam War veteran, and former prisoner of war, he helped us better understand the weight of military service; as a legislator, he gave that opportunity to others.

Black and white image of four men and a jet.  All men are in flight gear as two stand outside the jet and two are inside the jet.
John McCain, (front, right) with his squadron. John S. McCain, III Collection, Veterans History Project, AFC2001/001/07736.

Following his endorsement of Public Law 106-380, the foundational “Veterans’ Oral History Project Act,” Senator McCain participated in a 2003 oral history recording conducted by Michele Kelly of the Battleship Massachusetts Oral History Program, materials that were subsequently donated to the Library of Congress.

Long piece of parchment (toilet paper) with names, type of aircraft and dates listed on them.
Names of 113 POWs, with type of aircraft and date shot down, written on POW camp toilet paper.”No-show” means the person did not survive being shot down. The notation “puke” indicates a man who cooperated with the enemy. [highlight added here for emphasis]. John Edward Stavast Collection, Veterans History Project, Library of Congress, AFC2001/001/101797.

Within the collections of the Veterans History Project, however, Senator McCain demonstrates a uniquely cyclical significance. The naval aviator features in the collection of Air Force veteran and former prisoner of war John E. Stavast. Cached from North Vietnamese jailors, Stavast’s 1967 “Hanoi Hilton” internment roster meticulously recorded incoming airmen, including John McCain’s October 26, 1967 arrival.

Through cascading layers of representation, Senator McCain confirmed the value of collecting, preserving, and sharing veterans’ narratives.

“Fair winds and following seas, sailor.”

The mission of the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center is to collect, preserve and make accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. Learn more at Share your exciting VHP initiatives, programs, events and news stories with VHP to be considered for a future RSS. Email [email protected] and place “My VHP RSS Story” in the subject line.

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