On This Day in 1973… John McCain Freed As Prisoner of War
On this day in 1973, Lt. Commander John McCain was released from a North Vietnamese prison after spending five plus years as a prisoner of war.
Grand Old Partisan pays tribute.
John McCain was released on March 15, 1973:
John McCain: POW and War Hero:
John McCain’s capture and imprisonment began on October 26, 1967. He was flying his twenty-third bombing mission over North Vietnam, when his A-4E Skyhawk was shot down by a Soviet-made SA-2 anti-aircraft missile over Hanoi. McCain fractured both arms and a leg, and then nearly drowned when he parachuted into Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi. After he regained consciousness, a mob gathered around, spat on him, kicked him, and stripped him of his clothes. Others crushed his shoulder with the butt of a rifle and bayoneted him in his left foot and abdominal area; he was then transported to Hanoi’s main Hoa Loa Prison, nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton” by American POWs.
Although McCain was badly wounded, his captors refused to give him medical care unless he gave them military information, beating and interrogating him. Only when the North Vietnamese discovered that his father was a top admiral did they give him medical care and announced his capture. His status as a POW made the front pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post.
McCain spent six weeks in the Hoa Loa hospital, receiving marginal care. Now having lost 50 pounds, in a chest cast, and with his hair turned white, McCain was sent to a different camp on the outskirts of Hanoi in December 1967, into a cell with two other Americans who did not expect him to live a week; they nursed McCain and kept him alive. In March 1968, McCain was put into solitary confinement, where he would remain for two years.
In July 1968, McCain’s father was named commander of all U.S. forces in the Vietnam theater. McCain was immediately offered a chance to return home early: The North Vietnamese wanted a worldwide propaganda coup by appearing merciful, and also wanted to show other POWs that elites like McCain were willing to be treated preferentially. McCain turned down the offer of repatriation; he would only accept the offer if every man taken in before him was released as well. McCain’s refusal to be released was even remarked upon by North Vietnamese senior negotiator Le Duc Tho to U.S. envoy Averell Harriman during the ongoing Paris Peace Talks.
In August of 1968, a program of severe torture methods began on McCain, using rope bindings into painful positions, and beatings every two hours, at the same time as he was suffering from dysentery.
McCain refused to meet with various anti-war peace groups coming to Hanoi, not wanting to give either them or the North Vietnamese a propaganda victory based on his connection to his father.
Altogether, McCain was held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and a half years. The Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 27, 1973, ending direct U.S. involvement in the war, but the Operation Homecoming arrangements for POWs took longer; McCain was finally released from captivity on March 15, 1973.
There is one war hero in this election.