John Sidney McCain — Why “Sidney”?

The Boston Globe (Sept. 5 edition) printed an article with the headline:

What’s in a name? Suddenly, McCain camp using candidate’s middle initial

The article engages in all sorts of speculation, e.g. that the name lends “gravitas” to the candidate, or that the campaign wants to draw a parallel to the “maverick” President Harry S. Truman.

(As if John Sidney McCain, at age 72 and as one of Washington’s most distinguished senators needed to play word games to gain “gravitas”)

Anyway, the article overlooks the most logical reason. Senator McCain is emphasizing his family’s multi-generational continuity of national and military service. A cursory examination of his acceptance speech makes it clear that the tradition of service — as a force shaping his character — is a major element of the Senator’s presidential campaign theme.

Here are the facts:

John Sidney McCain, Sr. (August 9, 1884––September 6, 1945) was an Admiral in the United States Navy, notable as a commander of the Fast Carrier Task Force in World War II. Under Admiral McCain’s leadership the FCTF operated almost continuously in support of the great amphibious operations during 1944 and into 1945.  

John Sidney McCain, Jr. (January 17, 1911––March 22, 1981) was a four star admiral in the United States Navy. During the Vietnam War, Admiral McCain was serving as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command when his son, Navy pilot (and future U.S. senator) John S. McCain III was held in Hanoi as a prisoner of war for nearly 5 1/2 years.

The Arleigh Burke class AEGIS destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) is named for both Admirals McCain, not for Senator John Sidney McCain.

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