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Earlier, we took a look at a shady episode from John McCain's past - the time when he applied for permits for a quarter-million dollar home renovation on a house outside his congressional district under an assumed name, Eldon Smith.

Now, it may well have been a regulatory misdeed to fill out official paperwork with false information - but the statute of limitations I'm sure has long since passed, and I'm no Inspector Javert. What I'm more curious about, though, is how McCain picked the unlikely name of "Eldon Smith." As it happens, a couple of sleuthing Kossacks have observed that it's possible that John Sidney borrowed "Eldon" from the family histories of a pair of remarkable Vietnam-era POW/MIAs.

First, Paul Anderson picks up on the tragic story of Capt. Hallie "Bud" Smith, an RF-4 pilot whose plane was lost in Vietnam in 1968. Bud Smith's body was never recovered, and his loss was felt particularly hard in his home state of Oregon. According to one source:

His disappearance prompted the larger community - including students in the local schools - to get involved in prisoner-of-war humanitarian efforts. Fifty thousand letters were received by Governor Tom McCall to be delivered to the North Vietnamese during upcoming peace talks.

That same source says Bud's father was one Eldon Smith.

Meanwhile, route66 discovers Capt. Phillip Smith. According to this reference, Smith was the only Air Force pilot during the Vietnam War who was held captive and later released (after seven-and-a-half years of solitary confinement and torture) by the Chinese. His extremely unusual and harrowing tale returned to the news in early 2001 when a US spy plane made an emergency landing on the Chinese island of Hainan, where Smith himself was held for a time after his plane crashed.

Smith's full name, by the way, is Phillip Eldon Smith.

Now, Smith is the most popular surname in America. And believe it or not, according to the 1990 census, Eldon was actually the 529th-most popular male first name. Even so, the number of Eldon Smiths out there of any sort just isn't going to be all that high.

And the fact that two of these Eldon Smiths share such a connection with McCain's wartime experience is quite exceptional, to say the least. Indeed, both Bud and Phillip Smith were pilots, just like McCain, and their personal stories are all striking. But if John Sidney is borrowing the names of fellow war heroes to cover up his own shameful deeds, then I think we're entitled to know why.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Aug 26, 2008 at 11:02 PM PDT.

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