A hero’s life remembered: The story of J.B. McKamey

Quite a few of our country’s heroes have significant history at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, “The Cradle of Naval Aviation,” but none of them have a story quite like former Commanding Officer Capt. John Bryan (JB) McKamey.

For over 10 years now, the former base commanding officer has rested among the tens of thousands buried in NAS Pensacola’s Barrancas National Cemetery. His gravesite represents 37 years of federal service, nearly eight of which were spent as a Prisoner of War (POW) in North Vietnam’s infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” His life and service to the nation are remembered by former colleagues and held in high reverence to this day.

“JB McKamey was and always will be a great American hero,” said Art Giberson, a retired chief petty officer, Vietnam Veteran, and former colleague of McKamey’s at NAS Pensacola.

Giberson’s admiration for McKamey is evident by having interviewed him about his unimaginable time as a POW for a chapter in his book, War Stories.

“Like most Vietnam Veterans he was a little hesitant to talk about it with just anyone, but when he got to know you, particularly if you were also a Vietnam Veteran, he would go into great detail and you could see the emotion in his eyes when he discussed the mental suffering and pain,” he said.

On June 2, 1965, Lt. j.g. McKamey was flying combat missions with his wingman over North Vietnam from the USS Midway (CVA-41) in an A-4E Skyhawk. During an “uneventful” routine reconnaissance flight, they started to head back to the ship when the jets crossed over a river and he saw something that resembled a construction site. He told his wingman that he wanted to take a closer look at it, so he turned around and flew at low-altitude to see what it was.

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