As much it might be a metaphor for McCain’s general behavior the rumor that McCain wet started his plane on the US Forrestal is probably not true.
I will also submit that based on his 20 hours in combat on 23 combat missions, it is also questionable that he be considered a war hero.
(A wet start is caused by allowing the jet engine to fill with kerosene before hitting the starter, causing a huge flame from the exhaust to spook the pilot behind him.) The flame cooked off and launched a M34 Zuni rocket into the plane of the hot dog hot shot. *
The flyboy son of a 4 star admiral was quickly transfered to the USS Oriskany .
* Surviving crewmen and those who investigated the Forrestal fire case reported that McCain deliberately ‘wet-started’ his A-4E Skyhawk to shake up the guy in the F-4 Phantom behind his A-4. ‘Wet-starts’, done either deliberately (the starter motor switch allowed kerosene to pool in the engine and give a wet start) or accidentally, shoot a large flame from the tail of the aircraft. In McCain’s case, the ‘wet-start’ ‘cooked off’ and launched the M34 Zuni rocket from the rear F-4 that punctured the Skyhawk’s fueltank, knocked the M-65 1000 lb bomb off it’s 500 lb rated mount, and touched off the explosions and massive fire. The F-4 pilot was reportedly killed in the conflagration, along with 167 of his fellow Forrestal shipmates (including those who died later from wounds suffered). ‘Wet starting’ was a common practice among young ‘hot-dog’ pilots. McCain was quickly (they were still counting the Forrestal dead) transferred to the USS Oriskany (the only Forrestal crewman to be immediately transferred).