Richard Nixon photo

Remarks at a Ceremony Marking the Retirement of Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., as Commander in Chief, Pacific.

September 01, 1972

Mr. Secretary of State, Governor Burns, Senator Fong, Congressman Matsunaga, Admiral Moorer, Admiral McCain, Admiral Gayler, all of the distinguished guests, and all of you who are here on this memorable occasion:

It is for me a very great honor to be here, to be here in my capacity as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, but also representing all of the American people, to pay respects to one of the great families of a proud Navy tradition, the McCains: John McCain, Commander of the Second Carrier Task Force and Task Force 38; Admiral McCain, Jr., who has just received his second Distinguished Service Citation and has completed 4 years of outstanding service as Commander in Chief of our Pacific Forces, one who has served in World War II, in Korea, and in Vietnam; and his son, John McCaln III, a splendid Naval aviator who has been a prisoner of war in Vietnam for the past 5 years.

In the story of the McCalns we see the greatness of America. We see service to this country. We see men who have devoted their lives to this country to keep it strong so that America could be free and so that America could play its role of being the guardian of peace in the world.

When we think of America's role in this century, the wars in which we have fought, it is a record which no American need be ashamed of, and which every American ought to be proud of: World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. We have not asked for anything in the way of conquest. We have gone to defend freedom, not to destroy it. We have tried to keep the peace rather than to break it. And when the war is concluded, we have been generous to those who have been our enemies.

We had a striking example of this in the meetings that have just been concluded-Japan, an enemy of the United States 26 years ago, now our ally and friend. And the United States has returned to Japan Okinawa. We stand with Japan today, helping Japan economically, first to get on its feet and then to become one of our major competitors, and also helping to maintain the strength without which Japan could not be an independent, free country in the world.

The same can be said of every one of these conflicts in which we have been engaged, including the war in Vietnam. Here, whatever differences of opinion that may exist, we can be proud of the fact that our goal is not conquest; it is defense of the right of people to be independent of foreign domination.

We seek an end to a war, but it must be an honorable end. We have offered the most generous terms for peace, but there are some things we cannot and will not offer. We will never abandon our prisoners of war. We will never impose on the 17 million people of South Vietnam a Communist government against their will. And we will not stain the honor of the United States of America.

We take this position because the United States is respected in the world because we stand by our friends, and once the United States departs from that great policy which has characterized us from the beginning of our period as a nation, then we will lose respect and the friends who count on us, and allies around the world would lose confidence in their ability to remain free.

Honoring the McCains also gives us an opportunity to point up the necessity for the United States to remain strong, to remain strong because we know that we will always use our strength in the interest of preserving peace, in the interest of defending freedom--and power in the hands of the United States is in the interest of peace and freedom in the world.

We must also remember that around the world there are other nations, large and small, who depend on the United States for their freedom, their independence, and the peace that they enjoy. Once the United States does not have the strength, the power to defend those areas of the world according to our treaty and other commitments, then those nations would be in deadly jeopardy.

That is why, on such an occasion as this, when .we honor this great Navy family, we commit ourselves to this proposition: We shall never take steps that will make the United States the second strongest nation in the world. We must always have a strength second to none in the world. And to maintain that strength we need, of course, the weapons of war--guns and ships, all the other instruments that we are quite aware of but above all, we need men and women, men and women like this magnificent group that we see before us here in Hawaii.

All of you know that we are moving toward an all-volunteer force, hoping to reach that goal in June of next year. Too much emphasis has been put on the fact that if only we would pay those in the Armed Forces the same amount of money that they could get in comparable positions in civilian life, that that would solve the problem of getting the volunteers that we need to maintain the strength that America must maintain.

That is important, and certainly we should have adequate pay, comparable pay, for those who choose the profession so proudly represented here today. But even more important--and I say this to all of the American people today--more important than the money that we pay to those who defend America and peace around the world is the respect which is due those who wear the uniform of the United States of America. Let's honor and respect them.

Every American, every man, every woman in the armed services of the United States, can be proud of the record of this country over this past century, and every American in the armed service of the United States, as we move toward a period of peace, can be proud of the fact that he is serving the cause of peace, because the United States, a strong United States, let us never forget, is not the enemy of peace; it is the guardian of peace.

So, finally, I say that in honoring this magnificent family, John McCain, John McCain, Jr., John McCain III, we honor three magnificent men, but I know that each of them would want it said that not just these men, but that all the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces, are honored today by this ceremony. Let us always respect the men and women who maintain the strength that keeps us free.

Note: The President spoke at 12:55 p.m. at Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, Hawaii. He spoke without referring to notes.

Adm. Noel A.M. Gaylet, USN, succeeded Admiral McCain as Commander of the Pacific forces.

The President presented the Distinguished Service Medal to Admiral McCain at the ceremony. The citation which accompanied the award read as follows:

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL (Gold Star in lieu of the Second Award) to


for service as set forth in the following

For exceptionally meritorious service to the Government of the United States in a position of great responsibility as Commander in Chief Pacific from July 1968 through August 1972.

Admiral McCain's inspiring personal leadership and consummate strategic direction of military forces in the Pacific Command have contributed substantially toward reducing the conflict in Southeast Asia to a level at which peace and stability are attainable. His rapport with Asian leaders forged a unity of purpose and regional cooperation essential to achieving this goal.

Admiral McCain's perception of national objectives and strategy has been instrumental to implementing the Nixon Doctrine in Pacific-Asia. Further, his foresight and leadership in implementing the significant military adjustments resulting from the application of the Nixon Doctrine, the reversion of Okinawa and the rapidly-changing situation in Southeast Asia have helped perpetuate the United States as the bulwark of peace.

By his historic contribution to American interests in a most difficult period and his unswerving dedication to the ideals and aspirations of his country, Admiral McCain has upheld the highest traditions of the military profession and the United States Naval Service.


Richard Nixon, Remarks at a Ceremony Marking the Retirement of Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., as Commander in Chief, Pacific. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Simple Search of Our Archives