A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

McCain and the 1967 Forrestal Fire


There is a nasty claim making the rounds in virulently anti-McCain circles, accusing him of responsibility for the terrible 1967 disaster aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal. That claim is bunk, and we said so in our Sept. 5 Ask FactCheck item, “Did McCain crash five planes?” Now we are saying so again – even more emphatically – based on additional research.

Among the new details: We question McCain’s widely accepted story that it was his own A-4 Skyhawk that was first hit by the errant missile that touched off the disaster. We find that the exhaustive investigation that the Navy conducted afterward concluded that it was instead the A-4 immediately to McCain’s right on the carrier deck. McCain himself was not certain which plane was hit when he testified to investigators a week after the disaster. It was 32 years later that he published a memoir stating with certainty that his plane was the one struck. This is no big deal. Either way, McCain was not in any way at fault for the fire, and he barely escaped with his life. But his memory does seem to have shifted about this often-repeated detail from his past.

Read the updated “Ask FactCheck” item for the details.