John S. 'Slew' McCain was an old-school sailor. Wiry, profane, a cusser and a gambler, he reminded more than one observer of 'Popeye.' He was also a pioneer in the hard-hitting naval tactics that brought Imperial Japan to its knees.McCain graduated from Annapolis in 1906 and served aboard an armoured cruiser in World War I. Espying the future of naval warfare, he earned his aviation wings in 1936 and by 1939 was commander of the aircraft carrier Ranger. He was thus well placed to provide a leading role in America's cut and thrust war with the Japanese across the broad expanses of the Pacific. In 1942 he was made commander of all land-based aricraft during the campaign for Guadalcanal. Though he took his share of blame for the disaster at Savo Island, he counter-attacked with every means at his disposal, to the point of commandeering the planes of the crippled carriers Enterprise and Saratoga to reinforce US strength on Henderson Field.Throughout the war, McCain prioritized fighters and single-seat dive-bombers as the best weapons to directly attack the enemy. By the time the US returned to the Philippines, McCain was leading a fast carrier task force under William 'Bull' Halsey. When asked what he thought about his carrier commander, Halsey replied, 'Not much more than my right arm'.At the Philippines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and finally up to the very coastline of Japan, McCain's carrier group destroyed thousands of enemy planes and hundreds of ships with aggressive, swarming tactics. When the Empire formally surrendered on the battleship Missouri, McCain was in the first row of US officers looking on. After Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945, McCain flew back to his home in the US, and died in his bed the next day-perhaps from heart failure but more probably from exhaustion. Drawing upon a wealth of primary sources, including information provided by the McCain family, as well as an expert grasp of the titanic battles waged by the US Navy in the Pacific, Alton K. Gilbert has provided the fullest account of the first Admiral John McCain's life yet written. An unconventional leader, Slew McCain's career was marked by courage and innovation, as he emerged from World War II as one of America's greatest combat leaders.

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