In light of United States Senator, John McCain’s visit to Australia this week we take a look back at his war-torn past and how he managed to overcome five years of torture in a Vietnamese war camp.
It began in October 1967...
John McCain’s plane crashed in an “ inverted straight-down spin” breaking both his right leg and arms upon impact. Landing in a lake, McCain was dragged to the bottom. Fighting for air, he managed to use his teeth to activate his life preserver.
Image: John McCain being dragged ashore, still from Banged up Abroad
Somehow, with a broken leg and broken arms, McCain swam to shore only to be confronted and captured by North Vietnamese militia. His captors raided his clothes and slammed the butt of a rifle into his injured shoulder shattering it before stabbing him twice: once in the abdomen and the second in the foot.
He was interrogated over the next few days, wandering in and out of consciousness.
I refused to give them anything except my name, rank, serial number and date of birth; I was in such bad shape that when they hit me, it would knock me unconscious
His injuries were left untreated for days McCain was in agonising pain until his North Vietnamese captors discovered that his father was an admiral in the Navy. His father’s high rank attracted a number of Vietnamese officials who watched over him while in prison. Surgeons even operated on McCain’s injuries and in the process made irreversible damages, so much so, McCain still walks with a limp in his step.
Image: "Hanoi Hilton" Prisoner of War Camp, still from Banged up Abroad.
McCain was moved to “Hanoi Hilton”, a notoriously horrific prison camp. It was there he shared a cell with George “Bud” Day and Norris Overly from the air force. Day describes McCain’s condition upon entering the prison:
Great big white case and his hair was snow white. He just looked like he was absolutely on the verge of death
McCain was moved to solitary confinement when his father was appointed commander-in-chief of the US Pacific forces. The Vietnamese wished to release McCain as a propaganda victory, but McCain, who was one of the last to enter the prison camp refused, saying he would only accept if every man captured before him was released as well.
The torture McCain endured during his time in the camp was horrifying.
I was beaten every two or three hours by different guards. My left arm was broken again, and my ribs were cracked.
McCain endured as long as he could, but at the point of suicide, he was forced to confess to crimes committed against the North Vietnamese people.
I felt just terrible about it… Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.
McCain was released after the signing of the Paris Peace Accord in 1973.
McCain continues to serve as the senior United States Senator of Arizona under the Trump administration.
Video from Banged up Abroad.
Header: John McCain in Hospital, Vietnam a still from Banged Up Abroad