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I had thought about writing and posting about McCain and his constant reference to being a POW. Then the flap over not being able to remember how many homes they own. There are things about his POW experiences that need to be put into perspective, because being a POW doesn't automatically make you a hero or presidential material. If this is true of any POW it is true of McCain in spades. Follow me below the fold for some straight talk about the "straight talk express."

According to John McCain, John McCain spent 5 and a half years as a POW, starting October 26, 1967 and ending March 14, 1973. He spent the time at the Hanoi Hilton, Hoa Lo Prison the main prison in Hanoi. There were 12 other prisons in North Vietnam and the Hanoi Hilton was not the worst.  McCain spent two years in solitary confinement. In August of '68 the severest beatings started on McCain, after 4 days he broke. However, the North Vietnamese wanted him to sign additional statements and he refused which got him 2-3 beatings a week.

Altho the real number will never be known it is believed 600-800  POWs were held in North Vietnam, John McCain was one. Those POWs were awarded eight Medals of Honor, 42 Service Crosses, 590 Silver Stars, 958 Bronze Stars and 1,249 Purple Hearts. VADM Jim Stockdale, USN; Col. Bud Day, USAF; Col. Don Cook, USMC (Posthumously); Capt. Lance Sijan, USAF (Posthumously); Capt. Rocky Versace (Posthumously) for action above and beyond the call of duty as POWs and Col. Leo Thorsness, USAF, SGM Jon Cavaiani, USA and SGT William Port, USA for heroism prior to their being captured.

Receiving the MOH for their service as a POW.

Col. Donald G. Cook 8 December 1967: Died while POW in Vietnam

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while interned as a Prisoner of War by the Viet Cong in the Republic of Vietnam during the period 31 December 1964 to 8 December 1967. Despite the fact that by so doing he would bring about harsher treatment for himself, Colonel (then Captain) Cook established himself as the senior prisoner, even though in actuality he was not. Repeatedly assuming more than his share of harsh treatment, Colonel Cook willingly and unselfishly put the interests of his comrades before that of his own well-being and, eventually, his life. Giving more needy men his medicine and drug allowance while constantly nursing them, he risked infection from contagious diseases while in a rapidly deteriorating state of health. This unselfish and exemplary conduct, coupled with his refusal to stray even the slightest from the Code of Conduct, earned him the deepest respect from not only his fellow prisoners, but his captors as well. Rather than negotiate for his own release or better treatment, he steadfastly frustrated attempts by the Viet Cong to break his indomitable spirit, and passed this same resolve on to the men whose well-being he so closely associated himself. Knowing his refusals would prevent his release prior to the end of the war, and also knowing his chances for prolonged survival would be small in the event of continued refusal, he chose nevertheless to adhere to a Code of Conduct far above that which could be expected. His personal valor and exceptional spirit of loyalty in the face of almost certain death reflected the highest credit upon Colonel Cook, the Marine Corps. and the United States Naval Service.

Major George Day

On 26 August 1967, Col. Day was forced to eject from his aircraft over North Vietnam when it was hit by ground fire. His right arm was broken in 3 places,and his left knee was badly sprained. He was immediately captured by hostile forces and taken to a prison camp where he was interrogated and severely tortured. After causing the guards to relax their vigilance, Col. Day escaped into the jungle and began the trek toward South Vietnam. Despite injuries inflicted by fragments of a bomb or rocket, he continued southward surviving only on a few berries and uncooked frogs. He successfully evaded enemy patrols and reached the Ben Hai River, where he encountered U.S. artillery barrages. With the aid of a bamboo log float, Col. Day swam across the river and entered the demilitarized zone. Due to delirium, he lost his sense of direction and wandered aimlessly for several days. After several unsuccessful attempts to signal U.S. aircraft, he was ambushed and recaptured by the Viet Cong, sustaining gunshot wounds to his left hand and thigh. He was returned to the prison from which he had escaped and later was moved to Hanoi after giving his captors false information to questions put before him. Physically, Col. Day was totally debilitated and unable perform even the simplest task for himself. Despite his many injuries, he continued to offer maximum resistance. His personal bravery in the face of deadly enemy pressure was significant in saving the lives of fellow aviators who were still flying against the enemy. Col. Day's conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S.Armed Forces.

Capt. Lance Sijan

While on a flight over North Vietnam, Capt. Sijan ejected from his disabled aircraft and successfully evaded capture for more than 6 weeks. During this time, he was seriously injured and suffered from shock and extreme weight loss due to lack of food. After being captured by North Vietnamese soldiers, Capt. Sijan was taken to a holding point for subsequent transfer to a prisoner of war camp. In his emaciated and crippled condition, he overpowered 1 of his guards and crawled into the jungle, only to be recaptured after several hours. He was then transferred to another prison camp where he was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated at length. During interrogation, he was severely tortured; however, he did not divulge any information to his captors. Capt. Sijan lapsed into delirium and was placed in the care of another prisoner. During his intermittent periods of consciousness until his death, he never complained of his physical condition and, on several occasions, spoke of future escape attempts. Capt. Sijan's extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at the cost of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.

Capt. James Stockdale

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while senior naval officer in the Prisoner of War camps of North Vietnam. Recognized by his captors as the leader in the Prisoners' of War resistance to interrogation and in their refusal to participate in propaganda exploitation, Rear Adm. Stockdale was singled out for interrogation and attendant torture after he was detected in a covert communications attempt. Sensing the start of another purge, and aware that his earlier efforts at self disfiguration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes had resulted in cruel and agonizing punishment, Rear Adm. Stockdale resolved to make himself a symbol of resistance regardless of personal sacrifice. He deliberately inflicted a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate. He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated in their employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the Prisoners of War. By his heroic action, at great peril to himself, he earned the everlasting gratitude of his fellow prisoners and of his country. Rear Adm. Stockdale's valiant leadership and extraordinary courage in a hostile environment sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Capt. Humbert (Rocky) Versace

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: Captain Humbert R. Versace distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period of 29 October 1963 to 26 September 1965, while serving as S-2 Advisor, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Detachment 52, Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Captain Versace and the patrol came under sudden and intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace, although severely wounded in the knee and back by hostile fire, fought valiantly and continued to engage enemy targets. Weakened by his wounds and fatigued by the fierce firefight, Captain Versace stubbornly resisted capture by the over-powering Viet Cong force with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he exemplified the tenets of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into Prisoner of War status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American soldiers, scorned the enemy's exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and made three unsuccessful attempts to escape, despite his weakened condition which was brought about by his wounds and the extreme privation and hardships he was forced to endure. During his captivity, Captain Versace was segregated in an isolated prisoner of war cage, manacled in irons for prolonged periods of time, and placed on extremely reduced ration. The enemy was unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America. Captain Versace, an American fighting man who epitomized the principles of his country and the Code of Conduct, was executed by the Viet Cong on 26 September 1965. Captain Versace's gallant actions in close contact with an enemy force and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself and the United States Army.

The perspective we need. McCain spent 5 1/2 year at the Hanoi Hilton, Lt. Everett Alvarez the first American to be captured in 1964 was repatriated along with all remaining POWs almost 9 years later.

McCain spent two years in solitary and James Stockdale spent 4 years. Coincidently perhaps, immediately after the death of Ho Chi Minh in September of 1969 the beatings became fewer and less harsh, torture as largely abandon, food and conditions generally improved, even tho McCain would let you believe he was beaten and tortured until the day he left.

More than one returning POW believes McCain spent time in the beginning at The Plantation, the show case prison. It is there he continued to collaborate with the North Vietnamese. Some also say it was immediately after his capture and at Hoa Lo Prison, he was beaten for four days and eventually traded military secrets for hospital care. Collaborator, those who broke, who gave information rather than nonsense,  that number is actually very small. Many do not believe McCain was ever tortured. We will never know because McCain worked to have those records sealed, not even surviving family members can find out about the last days of their loved ones. Would you not think a hero the stature McCain believes he is would want those records made public?

Why am I bothered? It is because McCain continues to make such a big deal out of being a POW, so much so it tends to overshadow everything else. But in fact McCain's time as a POW was exactly like the rest of his life, unremarkable and rather unheroic.

Originally posted to snackdoodle on Fri Aug 22, 2008 at 06:18 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you for writing this story so well. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Those of us who had relatives that really did fight heroically in Vietnam want the truth told. McCain is not what he would lead us to believe. His obstructionist tactics to prevent the release of records (his own and those of other POWs) is shameful. This information needs to be out there and examined. He is NOT fit for command.

    "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." - JFK

    by moose67 on Fri Aug 22, 2008 at 06:31:04 PM PDT

  •  where/what are the records? (2+ / 0-)

    are only his sealed?

  •  Daughter of a WW2 POW here (5+ / 0-)

    I've been mulling this all day. We knew that my father had been a POW, but we learned early on that he did not want to talk about it. We learned the details only after he'd passed on. That knowledge haunts me. I wish I didn't know.

    My father was human. He made mistakes. There were repercussions from some of those mistakes, but he never once used his POW status as an excuse for or a diversion from his actions.

    I can't explain more, but I'm beginning to understand that for all his faults, my father had more integrity in his little fingernail than Senator "I'm a POW, you can't criticize me" McCain can even imagine.


  •  Now these men fit my definition of a hero (6+ / 0-)

    I've always taken exception to McCain being called a hero because I've always wondered what heroic act he performed.

    Why I Will Not Vote for John McCain

    The author was an academy classmate and a POW for 8 years. This gives him a unique perspective on McCain.

    The was what he said about McCain's torture:

    1. Was he tortured for 5 years? No. He was subjected to torture and maltreatment during his first 2 years, from September of 1967 to September of 1969. After September of 1969 the Vietnamese stopped the torture and gave us increased food and rudimentary health care. Several hundred of us were captured much earlier. I got there April 20, 1965 so my bad treatment period lasted 4 1/2 years. President Ho Chi Minh died on September 9, 1969, and the new regime that replaced him and his policies was more pragmatic. They realized we were worth a lot as bargaining chips if we were alive. And they were right because eventually Americans gave up on the war and agreed to trade our POW's for their country. A damn good trade in my opinion! But my point here is that John allows the media to make him out to be THE hero POW, which he knows is absolutely not true, to further his political goals.
  •  Because of the honor of others, some of whom are (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snackdoodle, redtex

    thankfully here listed, we have had to wait for McC to jump the now much stomped on shark on his POW status, to go so fully over the top and into abuse of the very term, that saying something about it would not disrespect what he did do and what others like him did.

    Well, now he has done it, finally abused it in so manipulative and obnoxious  a way that the matter can be dealt with , with the house thing and the response that he lived five and a half years in a prison, said to get away from the house thing. Every American can now see how he abuses the status to hide from things that have nothng to do with it. Wesley was early, not wrong.  And the car thing. And the showing himself a common man by drinking a double cappucino at an Arizona starbucks. He finally overdid himself as Giuliani did with 9-11, and now it can be diluted as a campaign issue with power, unless you argue he has PTS but that gives him a problem being c in c with the finger on that button. Who says nothing interesting happens in the runup to the convention.

  •  Were you out there (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I can not understand your passion about Senator McCain using his POW experience during his campaign.

    Respectfully saying, Did not Senator Kerry identify his Vietnam service as well, did he not defended his actions over and over. Did he not denouse the Swift boat Vets for their views of his service in Vietnam War. I respect Senator Kerry's service and the men you mentioned here. Bless them..

    Our men and women who have serve in all Wars have gone through hell and back.  Their Families have lived with the history and pain, the nightmares and trama of their love ones living and loss faithful to their love ones serving their country.

    The generations who never had to be drafted or experience War or being a POW can not understand the hell our men and women had to endore.

    Many to this day hide their pain and rememberance of war within, a moment to them best to forget, a moment of friends lost. We should not judge them as many tend to do these days..

    There are so many moments, so may tears, those who has not experience their moments or hell can not even have the right to judge them.

    Peace be with you..

    "Were you out there"

    •  McCain uses them, he uses being a former (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      POW to ennoculate himself against criticism, to puff himself up to be more than he really is.

      •  I would agree He Does (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Identifies his experience as a POW, but so did Senator Kerry, so did General Clark, so did President Kennedy, so did Washington, So did Grant, So did Andrew Jackson.

        It's called Politics, but I not trying to defend McCain, he's his own man.

        My point is this is part of the political fabric of American politics.

        We are too easily waging a war on the candidates background, yet do we really know what they are going to do for America.

        Were is their plans? were is their projected budgets. I think every American would want to demand what the candidates stand for and what will they do for the American people.

        Considering the last 8 years. You would at least want to know the facts. no more lies and promises.
        wouldn't you?


        "Show me the Beef." Please...

        •  I don't believe the others lied about (0+ / 0-)

          what they did or experienced. That is one of my many problems with McCain, he is a pathological liar. I am also concerned about the fact he did break, I know he isn't the only one. But he is the only one running for President and how much pressure has to be exerted on him to get him to cave on important issues. There is also PTSD, it is generally held anyone who was a POW has PTSD to a greater or lesser degree. Roll it all up and he is one man I can think of who simply isn't qualified or suited to be President.

  •  POW (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Captured, kicked, and beaten,
    Spitted, chide, and mudded.
    Darken rooms and chained high,
    Pain is greater than my soul can cry.
    Thirst for water, urine sicken my quench,
    Bullied for pain, sicken by stench.
    Whipped for pleasure, feces padded my wounds,
    Too much to fear, too much too soon.
    Stiffing my mind, living this fight.
    Sweated by heat, I live for spite.
    Not ready for death, I hold my breath,
    Shoulder the hounds of pains grip.
    Not alone in my pitted hell,
    Silence is the law in darkness cell.
    Another night, heat too bearing,
    Why should I dare if not caring?
    Nights are long, yet hunger is cold.
    My cell men walk to check the bold.
    Ready my time to be prodded and whipped.
    Name and number is my crypt.
    Over and over my cell men stained,
    Pitted breath to utter pain.
    Another day, another night,
    Praying for freedom, nothing in sight.
    Months become years, when this ends,
    I hear the taps of few that are friends.
    Take heed to message as so many understand,
    Memories bled to make a stand.
    Wake the quiet to make the storm,
    No time to give up while they sound the horn.
    Choose to be one of many,
    Count the time with a penny.
    Live today for tomorrows gain.
    Cell men cometh to bring the pain.
    Another day and nights chained,
    Spitted, chide, and faith stained.
    Painted hell of human flood,
    Even today I live the blood.

    By Dario Gonzalez
         USAF Retired

  •  I do not like McCain... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...let's be clear on that.  However, the sum total of this diary tells me that McCain likely did an honorable if unheroic stint as a POW.  Almost any serviceman who is compared to a Medal of Honor recipient is inevitably going to come up short.  Is Pvt. Jessica Lynch's short time in Iraqi captivity any less honorable because she spent it in a hospital bed?

    Next point:  one of the major reasons I soured on the Republican Party was the "Swiftboats" crap inflicted on John Kerry--a man who served honorably and deserved better.  John Kerry did make a big deal of his bronze stars and purple hearts, but that in no way makes it any less slimy to attack his service.  I imagine that a lot of us independent-minded vets find this discussion nibbling at the edges of being another "Swiftboat" attack (minus the national exposure, of course).

  •  Amazing writing, excellent thesis and points (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Deserves to be seen far and wide. Wish I'd seen it on the rec list.

    Be good to each other. It matters.

    by AllisonInSeattle on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 10:13:49 PM PDT

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