From the S&S archives: Adm. McCain shares Yule with troops
December 26, 1970
DA NANG — The commander in chief of U.S. Forces in the Pacific went to the field Christmas Day, visiting troops in fire bases across the northern reaches of Vietnam.
Adm. John S. McCain would introduce himself, stick out his hand and offer encouragement at each of the sites he visited.
While his words were well received, it was the manner of the slightly built admiral that seemed to impress the soldiers he visited between Chu Lai and the DMZ.
"The man knows what he wants and I'm sure he knows how to get it," said Spec. 4 Tom Robertson, an Americal Div. soldier.
Bare headed, with hands jammed into pockets, McCain refused to let troops be called to attention, always preferring a firm handshake to a snappy salute. He appeared bored with his occasional briefing and seemed to prefer being with the troops.
He talked with soldiers about Vietnam, dissent at home, and the continued threat of Communist aggression.
"The United States has problems inside and out," he told a group of Americal Div. soldiers at LZ West, "and you people are the ones who are going to have to solve them."
McCain shared a traditional Christmas dinner with troops of the 1st Brigade, 5th Inf. Div. (Mech.) at Mai Loc. "I haven't seen this much food in a number of years," he said.
At Mai Loc he told a group of infantrymen just in from the field that the country would have to remain vigilant against the threat of Communist aggression.
"The Communists in Russia and China aren't playing games," he said, "although there are a lot of people back in the States who don't want to believe it. It's hard to convince them that this place is important, but I want you to look back 30 years from now and remember that Admiral McCain told you on Christmas Day that Vietnam would be the turning point in the battle against communism."
Later in the afternoon at fire support base Charlie 2 near the DMZ, McCain was telling the troops how much their efforts were appreciated when Sgt. Billy Harvey of the 1st Bn. 41st Inf. (Mech.) produced a piece of Communist propaganda containing excerpts from anti-war speeches delivered by members of Congress, and asked the admiral to comment.
McCain glanced over the leaflet and restated his opinion that everyone backed the efforts and sacrifices of the U.S. serviceman.
"This propaganda is a byproduct of a free society," he said. "We have the right to dissent, and whenever we lose that right the country will be in sad shape. You can bet your last dollar that they don't have that right where this thing came from."
McCain left Vietnam Friday for a short stay with the Seventh Fleet before returning to his headquarters in Hawaii. His eight-day stay was his third Christmas tour of Vietnam since assuming command of U.S. troops in the Pacific, although he visits Vietnam monthly.