The Distinguished Flying Cross is a medal awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself or herself in support of operations by "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to November 11, 1918."
For heroism while participating in aerial flight 26 October 1967 in North Vietnam. While attacking the thermal power plant in Hanoi, Commander (then Lieutenant Commander) McCain, despite extremely heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire and more than fifteen surface-to-air missiles in the air, pursued the attack until his aircraft was hit by enemy antiaircraft fire. Although his aircraft was severely damaged, he continued his bomb delivery pass and released his bombs on the target. When his aircraft would not recover from the dive, Commander McCain was forced to eject over the target. By his exceptional courage, superb airmanship, and total devotion to duty, Commander McCain reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United Suites Naval Service.