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.
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.
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.
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.
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.