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John McCain in the Military: From Navy Brat to POW


When John McCain made his first bid for public office in 1982, running for a House seat in Arizona, critics blasted him as a carpetbagger, pointing out that he’d only lived in the state for 18 months.

“Listen, pal, I spent 22 years in the Navy,” the exasperated candidate reportedly shot back at one event. Then, after explaining that career military people tend to move a lot, he delivered a retort that made the attacks against him seem ridiculously petty: “As a matter of fact… the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.”

McCain won the election, launching a political career that earned him two terms in the House, six in the Senate, and his party’s presidential nomination in 2008. But even after four decades in public life, McCain’s experience as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam continued to define him in the minds of many Americans, admirers and detractors alike. While he ultimately made his name on the national political stage, the scion of two four-star admirals was, at his core, a lifelong military man. He followed into the family business, becoming a decorated, if at times reckless, fighter pilot who conducted nearly two dozen bombing runs in Vietnam before being shot down, captured and tortured.

In both his military and political careers, McCain earned a reputation for being feisty and combative. “A fight not joined is a fight not enjoyed,” he declared in his 2018 memoir The Restless Wave, written with his longtime collaborator Mark Salter, and published after he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that took his life on August 25, 2018.

Below, a timeline of his military life:

1936: To the Navy born

John Sidney McCain III is born on August 29 at a U.S. Navy base in the Panama Canal Zone. His father, John S. McCain, Jr., is a submarine officer who will later rise to the rank of admiral and become commander in chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific during much of the Vietnam War. His grandfather, John S. McCain, Sr., also an admiral, would come to command the Navy’s Fast Carrier Task Force in the Pacific during World War II. “They were my first heroes, and earning their respect has been the most lasting ambition of my life,” McCain would later write in a 1999 memoir, Faith of My Fathers.

Prior McCains had opted for the Army rather than the Navy and fought in every American conflict since the Revolutionary War. Several were West Point graduates, including his grandfather’s uncle, Major General Henry Pinckney McCain—sometimes called the “father of the Selective Service” for his role in organizing the World War I draft.

1936-1954: Peripatetic life of a ‘navy brat’

McCain and his two siblings, an older sister and a younger brother, move frequently, following the trail of their father’s military career. He attends some 20 different schools by age 18, according to USA Today’s later count.

1954: An indifferent Naval Academy student

John McCain enters the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1954 and graduates with the class of 1958. He’s the third generation in his family to attend the Academy; his father had been class of 1931; his grandfather, class of 1906.

By all accounts, especially his own, the young McCain is an indifferent and rambunctious student, prone to pranks and occasional disobedience to authority. He graduates fifth from the bottom of his class. “My four years here were not notable for individual academic achievement but, rather, for the impressive catalogue of demerits which I managed to accumulate,” he admitted to the graduating class of 1993 in a commencement speech.

1958: Birth of a maverick

After graduation, McCain goes on to flight school in Pensacola, Florida, and later Corpus Christi, Texas, to train as a pilot. “I enjoyed the off-duty life of a Navy flyer more than I enjoyed the actual flying,” he will remember. “I drove a Corvette, dated a lot, spent all my free hours at bars and beach parties, and generally misused my good health and youth.”

1960-1965: A series of crashes

McCain develops, by his own telling, a reputation for being undisciplined and fearless. During his early years as a naval aviator, he is involved in three flight accidents.

While training in Texas in March 1960, he narrowly escapes when his AD-6 Skyraider crashes into Corpus Christi Bay and he’s knocked unconscious. After the plane settles on the bottom of the bay, he comes to, then manages to free himself and swim to the surface, where he is rescued by a helicopter. After an investigation, the official Navy report attributes the accident to operator error: "the preoccupation of the pilot coupled with a power setting too low to maintain level flight."

During his early years as a pilot, McCain serves on aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean and Caribbean as well as at several stateside bases. In December 1961, he flies another Skyraider too low into electrical wires in Southern Spain, causing a local blackout. “My daredevil clowning had cut off electricity to a great many Spanish homes and created a small international incident,” he would later write in his autobiography.

In November 1965, McCain has a third accident in a T-2 jet trainer, suffering an engine flame-out that causes him to eject from the aircraft over the Eastern Shore of Virginia. According to his official Navy biography, the Naval Aviation Safety Center was unable to pinpoint the accident’s cause.

"John was what you called a push-the-envelope guy," Sam H. Hawkins, who flew with McCain's VA-44 squadron in the 1960s, told The Los Angeles Times in 2008.

October 1966: Combat deployment

In late 1966, he joins a squadron of A-4E Skyhawk pilots that will deploy on the U.S.S. Forrestal, a carrier that soon heads to the Tonkin Gulf, off the coast of North Vietnam. They arrive at the peak of President Lyndon Johnson’s Operation Rolling Thunder campaign of massive sustained aerial bombardment.

July 1967: The deadly Forrestal fire

On the morning of July 29, 1967, McCain has another brush with death. As he awaits his turn for takeoff from the USS Forrestal, for a bombing run over North Vietnam, another plane accidentally fires a missile. It strikes either his plane or the one next to him (accounts differ), igniting a raging fire on the ship’s deck. McCain manages to extricate himself from his plane, only to be hit in the legs and chest by hot shrapnel.

“All around me was mayhem,” he would recall years later. “Planes were burning. More bombs cooked off. Body parts, pieces of the ship, and scraps of planes were dropping onto the deck. Pilots strapped in their seats ejected into the firestorm. Men trapped by flames jumped overboard.” By the time it’s over, more than 130 crew members are dead.

October 1967: Shot down and badly injured

Three months later, on October 26, McCain takes off on his 23bombing run over North Vietnam, reportedly on a mission to destroy Hanoi’s thermal power plant. Just as he releases his bombs over the target, a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, described as looking like “a flying telephone pole,” strikes his plane, ripping off its right wing. McCain ejects, breaking both arms and one knee, and parachutes into a shallow lake.

After briefly losing consciousness, he wakes up to find himself “being hauled ashore on two bamboo poles by a group of about 20 angry Vietnamese. A crowd of several hundred Vietnamese gathered around me as I lay dazed before them, shouting wildly at me, stripping my clothes off, spitting on me, kicking and striking me repeatedly…. Someone smashed a rifle butt into my shoulder, breaking it. Someone else stuck a bayonet in my ankle and groin.”

Soon, an army truck arrives, taking McCain as a prisoner of war. He will remain one for five and a half years.

1967-1973: POW hell

North Vietnamese soldiers bring the badly injured McCain to a prison that American POWs have nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton.” He receives no medical attention but is repeatedly interrogated and beaten. Some days later, after his captors discover he’s the son of an American admiral and realize his potential propaganda value, they transfer him to a hospital, where he receives blood transfusions and injections but little other treatment for his injuries. After six weeks, he has lost 50 pounds and weighs barely 100. He’s told he isn’t getting any better and sent to a prison camp, presumably to die.

With the help of fellow prisoners, McCain slowly regains some strength and is eventually able to stand up and walk with the aid of crutches. He won’t enjoy the camaraderie for long, however; in April 1968, he’s put into solitary confinement, where he’ll stay for the next two years.

In June 1968, however, McCain’s captors make an unexpected offer: They will let him go home. McCain suspects that they will force him to sign a last-minute confession in exchange, that they want to embarrass his father, and that they believe giving him special treatment will demoralize other POWs whose fathers don’t happen to be Navy admirals. He would also be violating what he calls a standard policy among officers to remain behind until those who’ve been held longer are released.

McCain ultimately refuses the offer, telling a North Vietnamese officer that his decision is final. “Now it will be very bad for you, Mac Kane,” the officer tells him.

The beatings and interrogations continue, and McCain makes two attempts to hang himself, earning further beatings as punishment. Unable to take it any longer, he says, he signs a confession dictated by his captors. Told the following day to make a tape recording of the confession he at first refuses but is soon beaten into complying.

“All my pride was lost, and I doubted I would ever stand up to any man again,” he recalled years later. “Nothing could save me. No one would ever look upon me again with anything but pity or contempt.” The confession would haunt McCain for years to come.

1973: Released from captivity

McCain remains a prisoner until the U.S. and North Vietnam sign a peace accord in late January 1973, ending the conflict. He is released in March, along with 107 other POWs, and boards a U.S. transport plane headed to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.

A New York Timesreporter describes McCain’s arrival at the air base: “His hair was gray, almost white in patches, after almost five and a half years as a prisoner, and as he limped off the plane he held the handrail.” The men, the Timesnotes, were taken to the base hospital and given a dinner of “steak, eggs, fried chicken, corn on the cob, vegetables, salads, fruits and ice cream.”

Ten days later, the returned POWs are honored at a White House reception. McCain is photographed shaking hands with President Richard M. Nixon, while standing with the aid of two crutches. In the coming months Navy surgeons will attempt to repair his arms and knee and he’ll endure what he describes as “a difficult period of rehabilitation” with a “remarkably determined physical therapist.” Eventually he’s fit enough to pass the physical exam required of Navy pilots, but he’ll never regain the full use of his arms or injured leg.

Later, during his run for president in 2008, he’ll joke that he has “more scars than Frankenstein.”

1973-1981: Back on the homefront

After his return to the States, and while he’s still undergoing therapy for his injuries, McCain requests assignment to the National War College in Washington, D.C. “By the time my nine months at the War College ended, I had satisfied my curiosity about how Americans had entered and lost the Vietnam War,” he later wrote. “The experience did not cause me to conclude that the war was wrong, but it did help me understand how wrongly it had been fought and led.”

In late 1974, after he manages to pass the physical exam to qualify for flight status, he’s sent to Cecil Field, a naval air station in Jacksonville, Florida. A few months later, he’s promoted to commanding officer of a replacement air group, responsible for training carrier pilots.

McCain’s third and final assignment, however, may be the most influential in setting his future course. In 1977, he’s assigned to a liaison office in the United States Senate in Washington, where he serves as the Navy’s lobbyist and gets to see the workings of Congress from the inside. The job marked “my real entry into the world of politics and the beginning of my second career as a public servant,” he later recalls.

In 1981, McCain retires from the Navy with the rank of captain. His decorations include, among others, a Silver Star, three Bronze Stars and a Distinguished Flying Cross.

1986: A political career with a military bent

On November 4, 1986, after two terms in the House, McCain is elected to the U.S. Senate, where he becomes an unusually visible freshman senator, with a focus on military and foreign-policy issues. In a 1988 profile, The New York Timescalls him “the Senate’s young man in a hurry,” adding that, “Cheated of five and a half years of his life by the North Vietnamese… John McCain runs a little faster, pushes himself a little harder than most people.”

Drawing on his POW experience, he also becomes the Senate’s most vocal and credible opponent of the use of torture on prisoners, particularly in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

More than a dozen years into his Senate career, McCain observes in his 1999 memoir that his public image is still “inextricably linked” to his POW experience. “Whenever I am introduced at an appearance, the speaker always refers to my war record first.”

Although he didn’t want Vietnam to “stand as the ultimate experience of my life,” he writes, he was also grateful for it. “Vietnam changed me, in significant ways, for the better. It is a surpassing irony that war, for all its horror, provides the combatant with every conceivable human experience. Experiences that usually take a lifetime to know are all felt, and felt intensely, in one brief passage of life.”

1994: The McCain family destroyer

The U.S. Navy commissions the USS John S. McCain, a destroyer named for both McCain’s father and grandfather. It is the second such honor for the grandfather; another destroyer bearing his name was in service from 1953 to 1978.

2015: A hawk in the Senate

McCain becomes chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, after being the committee’s ranking Republican. He had joined when he was first elected to the Senate in 1986.

2018: Honors for the son

On March 23, John McCain is honored with the Naval Academy Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate Award. Unable to attend because of his illness and treatment, he’s represented by a longtime friend and Senate colleague, former Vice President Joe Biden. “John wouldn’t say it, but I will,” Biden remarks. “John is an American hero who has lifted all of us up, lifted his nation up.”

On July 12, the Navy announces that the name of the destroyer USS John S. McCain will now honor Senator McCain as well as his father and grandfather. “As a warrior and a statesman who has always put country first, Sen. John McCain never asked for this honor, and he would never seek it,” Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer says. “But we would be remiss if we did not etch his name alongside his illustrious forebears, because this country would not be the same were it not for the courageous service of all three of these great men.”


10 Photos That Capture John McCain’s Heroism In Vietnam And His Impact On The Military

Senator John McCain, a U.S. Navy hero and one of the nation&aposs most influential Republicans, passed away from brain cancer on Saturday at age 81 after choosing to forgo treatment.

McCain would rise from an admiral&aposs son and Naval Academy midshipman to a decorated Navy captain and then a senator and Republican presidential nominee, who earned a reputation as a maverick who takes his own counsel.

As a 31-year-old Navy pilot, McCain&aposs plane was shot down on a bombing run, which began a searing five-year experience as a prisoner of war that would change the course of his life. He received a Silver Star for his heroism in captivity.

He has been a defense hawk and one of Congress&apos most influential anti-torture voices — consistently opposing the kind of brutality he suffered in Vietnam.

I love my husband with all of my heart. God bless everyone who has cared for my husband along this journey. pic.twitter.com/v27sEbboii

&mdash Cindy McCain (@cindymccain) August 24, 2018

This is a look at his decorated war service and the lasting impact he&aposs made on the armed services.

John McCain graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958

Midshipman John S. McCain III, 1958U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command

John McCain hails from a storied military family.

McCain Field, the U.S. Navy training base, was commissioned and named in honor of Admiral John S. McCain July 14, 1961. Standing before his plaque from left, grandson, Lt. John S. McCain III and his parents, Rear Admiral John S. McCain Jr. and Roberta Wright McCain.Associated Press photo

His father, seen here as a rear admiral in 1961, would rise to the rank of admiral — like his own father — and lead U.S. Pacific Command.

McCain became a naval aviator and flew A-4 Skyhawks

McCain, at right, in 1965.Library of Congress

A-4 Skyhawks were U.S. Navy carrier-based attack planes that flew some of the most dangerous missions in Vietnam. According to Naval History and Heritage Command, these subsonic jets were increasingly vulnerable to North Vietnam&aposs air defenses by the mid-1960s and suffered the highest loss rate of any Navy plane in Vietnam. Thirty percent of the planes in McCain&aposs squadron were battle casualties during the year he served.

On Oct. 26, 1967, McCain was on his twenty-third mission — a bombing mission over Hanoi. He took a calculated risk to attack his target at an altitude low enough to be struck by North Korea missiles and managed to release his bombs right before his plane was struck.

The missile struck one of the A-4&aposs wings. McCain bailed out at high speed, according to Naval History and Heritage Command, which broke both his arms, his right leg and knocked him unconscious.

McCain landed in a lake and somehow regained consciousness

North Vietnamese guards look at magazines and notebooks left behind by departing U.S. prisoners of war at the prison known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” the day after the last American POW left the prison, March 17, 1973.Associated Press photo

He had only just resurfaced in the lake when an angry mob attacked the injured aviator.

He would be taken to the notorious Hoa Lo prison, known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” and was interrogated for four days before he was medically treated. He was vomiting, fever-ridden and drifting in and out of consciousness.

The North Vietnamese doctors tried to set his bones without anesthetics, according to NHHC, and he was eventually given surgery to operate on his broken leg.

He was a POW for five and a half harrowing years

McCain was released on March 14, 1973Associated Press photo

The 31-year-old officer would spend the next two years in solitary confinement. He was routinely beaten and would eventually signed a confessional of criminal wrongdoing and apology, which was permissible under the military&aposs code of conduct, according to NHHC.

McCain would become one of the leaders of the POW resistance at the “Plantation” prison where he continued to be held.

McCain would never fully recover from the injuries he suffered in Vietnam

President Richard Nixon greets McCain in May 1973.National Archives

After his return to the U.S., McCain spent five months recuperating. Some wounds never fully heal. He never regained the ability to raise his arms above his head.

McCain became a U.S. Navy liasion to Congress and decided to embark on a political career rather than stay in and try to make admiral. He would retire in 1981, according to NHHC, after a distinguished career, in which he received the Silver Star, Legion of Merit with Combat &aposV&apos and gold star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Purple Heart among other awards.

McCain returned to Vietnam in 2000 and visited the former prison, which was turned into a museum.

John McCain tells his son Jack about his time as a Vietnam war P.O.W. as they look into a prison cell at the Hoa Lo prison in 2000.Associated Press/David Guttenfelder

McCain became a leading voice on veteran&aposs issues.

John McCain and his wife Cindy show their respects during a repatriation ceremony, Vietnam, April 2000.Associated Press/David Guttenfelder

John McCain and his wife Cindy show their respects during a ceremony in April 2000 on an airfield in Vietnam, honoring the repatriation of recently recovered remains of American soldiers who had gone missing during the Vietnam war.

The McCains visited Vietnam to mark the 25th anniversary of the end of the war. Throughout his tenure in the US Senate, McCain often drew attention to veterans affairs and has remained an active advocate for prisoners of war and missing servicemembers.

He served on the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs from 1991 to 1993 and currently serves as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

As a maverick, McCain would make unlikely allies

Despite their positions on opposing sides of the aisle, McCain and Sen. Russ Feingold joined forces to reform campaign finances.Associated Press/Lauren Victoria Burke

An unlikely friendship developed between the two senators through a partnership aimed at campaign finance reform.

The resulting 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, nicknamed the McCain-Feingold law, prohibits elected officials and candidates from pursuing soft money donations during federal elections.

McCain was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who lost to Barack Obama

John McCain greets supporters during his campaign for the presidency.Associated Press/ Mary Ann Chastain

John McCain greets supporters during a door to door campaign swing in South Carolina in 2008.

The senator campaigned against junior Senator Barack Obama, who went on to win the historic election.


Inside John McCain's Journey From Annapolis to the Hanoi Hilton: How He Became a Prisoner of War

A career in the navy seemed preordained for John McCain. Born on the American Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone, he came from a family with a storied history of military service. An ancestor, John Young, had served on George Washington&rsquos staff, and a great-uncle had helped Gen. John &ldquoBlack Jack&rdquo Pershing chase Pancho Villa across Mexico. Grandfather John &ldquoSlew&rdquo McCain was a daring commander who during World War II fought at Guadalcanal. And McCain&rsquos father, Jack, whose penchant for cursing earned him the nickname &ldquoGoddamn!&rdquo McCain, battled Japanese destroyers. Slew and Jack then became the first father and son to attain the rank of four-star admiral.

As a Navy brat, John moved with his family for each of Jack&rsquos assignments. In 1950 they landed in Washington, D.C., where Jack became chief of the Navy&rsquos legislative-affairs office, and McCain&rsquos mother, Roberta, hosted Beltway parties. Four years later, John followed his father and grandfather&rsquos trajectory and joined the Naval Academy in Annapolis, though he admitted later, &ldquoThere were times in my youth when I harbored a secret resentment that my life&rsquos course seemed so preordained.&rdquo

While McCain did well in such academy classes as history and literature, as a rambunctious underachiever he quickly earned the nickname John &ldquoWayne&rdquo McCain. The plebe balked at rules, led a clique called the Bad Bunch and played poker till the wee hours. Even so, McCain showed leadership skills, once even chastising an upperclassman for unfairly berating a steward. &ldquoHe&rsquod pick fights with midshipmen and even officers if he felt he was in the right about something,&rdquo said classmate and future admiral James Hamrick.

As the antithesis of naval spick-and-span, McCain regularly earned demerits for unshined shoes and lateness. When he graduated in 1958, he ranked 894th in a class of 899. It wasn&rsquot that bad, considering that Slew had finished 79th out of 116 in 1906 and Jack eked out as 423rd out of 441 in 1931. Ensign McCain then headed to flight school in Pensacola, Fla. He proved an average pilot, once having to ditch his plane in Texas&rsquos Corpus Christi Bay after his engine gave out. Soon after, he deployed to the Mediterranean, where what he referred to as his &ldquodaredevil clowning&rdquo knocked down some Spanish power lines.

Back in Pensacola, he met Carol Shepp. They married in July 1965, and he adopted her two sons, Douglas and Andrew. He was soon off to Meridian, Miss., as a flight instructor. Throughout, he felt the weight of his martial heritage, later writing, &ldquoI worried that my deserved reputation for foolishness would make command of a squadron or a carrier . . . too grand an ambition for an obstreperous admiral&rsquos son, and my failure to reach command would dishonor me and my family.&rdquo

McCain knew that to &ldquoraise my profile as an aviator, perhaps the only way, was to achieve a creditable combat record.&rdquo Soon after he and Carol welcomed daughter Sidney in September 1966, McCain joined a squadron in Vietnam. Assigned to the U.S.S. Forrestal in the South China Sea, he felt he had finally arrived: &ldquoNobody made me fly over Vietnam. That&rsquos what I was trained to do, and that&rsquos what I wanted to do.&rdquo

When McCain arrived in Vietnam, 385,000 Americans served in Southeast Asia. His squad took part in Operation Rolling Thunder, a brutal bombing campaign that President Lyndon Johnson had started in March 1965. By January 1967, McCain had risen to lieutenant commander. But in July, while preparing for a bombing run, a nearby jet accidentally fired a missile and hit McCain&rsquos fuel tank. The blast triggered a series of explosions, shot shrapnel into his chest and legs, and killed 134 sailors and aviators.

Recovering at home in Florida, McCain wondered what to do, telling his classmate Chuck Larson, &ldquoI want to be a serious officer, and I&rsquom having problems getting people to take me seriously.&rdquo Said Larson, &ldquoYou&rsquore going back into combat, and you will prove yourself.&rdquo McCain joined the Saints, an attack squadron aboard the carrier U.S.S. Oriskany. He made regular runs strapped into his A-4 Skyhawk and, on October 25, took out three MiGs on Hanoi&rsquos Phuc Yen airfield. The following day, as McCain left the ready room, strike- operation officer Lew Chatham told him, &ldquoYou&rsquod better be careful. We&rsquore probably going to lose someone on this one.&rdquo The cocky pilot called back, &ldquoYou don&rsquot have to worry about me, Lew.&rdquo

McCain&rsquos A-4 And 19 other jets streaked toward Hanoi to destroy a power plant, and the pilots spied the eruption of dust and smoke when surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) took off toward them like &ldquoa flying telephone pole moving at great speed.&rdquo Black clouds of antiaircraft flak exploded in the air. As McCain neared the power plant, a missile locked on his jet, and his missile-warning gauge emitted a shrill warning. &ldquoSo, at about 3,500 feet,&rdquo he later recalled, &ldquoI released my bombs, then pulled back the stick to begin a steep climb to a safer altitude. In the instant before my plane reacted, a SAM blew my right wing off. I was killed.&rdquo

Spiraling down at 550 miles an hour, McCain radioed, &ldquoI&rsquom hit.&rdquo As he ejected from the plane, his right knee slammed into something and broke, and the force of shooting from the craft and hitting the air snapped his arms. McCain&rsquos chute opened, and he tumbled, unconscious, toward the earth. He landed in Truc Bach Lake in the center of Hanoi and, weighed down with 50 pounds of gear, quickly sank. Jarred awake, he used his good leg to kick up to the surface but couldn&rsquot understand why his arms would not respond. McCain went down again and, with his teeth, pulled the toggle and inflated his vest. Twenty angry North Vietnamese yanked him ashore, stripped him to his underwear, kicked him and spat on him. Someone smashed his shoulder with a rifle butt, and a bayonet was jabbed into his groin and ankle. Soldiers then heaved his body onto a truck.

They brought him to Hoa Lò prison in central Hanoi &mdash Hoa Lò translates as &ldquofiery furnace&rdquo &mdash and McCain was about to learn of the deadly reputation of the yellow stone, concrete-walled prison complex that Americans nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton. At the Hilton, soldiers dumped McCain&rsquos stretcher on the floor. &ldquoNo American reached Hoa Lò in worse physical condition than McCain,&rdquo observed John G. Hubbell in his book P.O.W.: A Definitive History of the American Prisoner-of-War Experience in Vietnam, 1964&ndash1973. Guards gave him minimal food and water. After being bandaged, McCain learned he wouldn&rsquot get medical care unless he talked. For days, the 31-year-old pilot drifted in and out of consciousness. When questioned, he just told his captors his name, rank and serial number. In return, jailers beat him

As blood pooled in McCain&rsquos knee, he begged for care. A medic took his pulse and, shaking his head, said, &ldquoIt&rsquos too late, it&rsquos too late.&rdquo McCain lapsed into unconsciousness, but soon an excited officer rushed in and yelled, &ldquoYour father is a big admiral. Now we take you to the hospital.&rdquo For the North Vietnamese, Lt. Cmdr. John Sidney McCain III was a royal catch. They called him the Crown Prince, and Radio Hanoi boasted of the capture of &ldquoair pirate McCain, son of Admiral McCain.&rdquo The aviator was transferred to a medical facility, waking up a few days later &ldquoin a filthy room . . . lousy with mosquitoes and rats.&rdquo Rain washed in mud. Medics gave him transfusions and blood but, as McCain recalled, &ldquono treatment for my injuries. No one had even bothered to wash the grime off me.&rdquo

Two weeks later, a doctor tried to set McCain&rsquos right arm and its three breaks. The man didn&rsquot use anesthesia, and after 90 minutes he gave up and slapped on a neck-to-waist cast. An officer whom McCain remembered as &ldquoshort and fat, with a strangely wandering right eye that was clouded white by a cataract&rdquo then told him that a French correspondent wanted to interview him. When asked about the prison food, McCain told the journalist, &ldquoWell, it&rsquos OK, but it&rsquos not Paris.&rdquo

Guards returned McCain to a roach-filled room, and interrogators beat him. They did operate on his knee, but they simply cut out the ligaments and cartilage and refused to give him more surgery because of his &ldquobad attitude.&rdquo By the time the jailers left him in a prison cell, McCain&rsquos cheeks had sunk, his legs had atrophied, his body had shriveled, and his hair had turned white. &ldquoI&rsquove seen some dead that looked at least as good as John,&rdquo said Maj. George &ldquoBud&rdquo Day of his and Maj. Norris Overly&rsquos new cellmate. &ldquoI didn&rsquot think he was going to live out the day.&rdquo


USS Forrestal Mishap July 29, 1967

McCain Lies About Being Tortured As A P.O.W.

From: NATIONAL VIETNAM P.O.W. STRIKE FORCE

To: CBS News, 10/12/97

You did not do your homework well enough on “Hanoi John” McCain. If you had read the lengthy article about him in the April 1973 issue of U.S. News and World Report, you would have seen that in none of his quotes did he allege torture, except from the irate civilians at the scene of his crash. Once in captivity, he lived in relative splendor compared to his hapless cohorts who refused to denounce America on the radio and paid for their patriotism in blood, literally. Here are some other facts your sloppy journalism omitted:

(1) USAF Major Overly could not have cared for McCain’s “wounds” for very long he collaborated and accepted early release in less than five months from shootdown.

(2) Another of McCain’s roommates “disappeared” and was not released at Homecoming I. McCain was kept in the camp for “progressives” (collaborators) and away from “reactionaries” (John Wayne types who spit in the face of their torturers). Other roommates were Day and Flynn, both of whom made propaganda broadcasts along with McCain urging pilots to return to carriers and soldiers to surrender.

(3) McCain returned from communist captivity 10 pounds heavier.

(4) Patricia O’Grady, daughter of a POW/MIA, on a visit to Hanoi to look for her father, was given a tour of the “Hanoi Hilton” prison. They showed her McCain’s cell. It had a writing desk, a large bed, a goldfish bowl, a flush toilet and a nice window of downtown Hanoi out the window.

(5) Both North Vietnamese Generals Giap and Bui Tin met with McCain in his cell. No other returned POWs reported meeting with high-ranking generals. I have a picture of McCain enjoying a large plate of food while talking to a Soviet KGB officer in the Foreign Ministry. A Soviet doctor was rushed to Hanoi to treat his wounds.

(6) In personal conversations I have had with General Bui Tin, he assured me they never touched McCain, saying that since he was the son of the CINCPACFLT Admiral, “He too important”.

(7) McCain said in 1973, he sustained his ordeal with his “love for his wife”. In a matter of months he had dumped her for a woman 1/3rd his age whose father owned the Coors Beer franchise in Phoenix. (His good friend Senator Kerry, about the same time, dumped his wife after fornicating with Jane Fonda.) McCain also has a secret “wife” in Hanoi and an illegitimate son.

(8) McCain would sit beside with army officers at a table when newly-captured pilots arrived and urged them to cooperate.

(9) McCain viciously fought against the formation of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA and then got on it and sabotaged any hopes of finding real answers. He called me and others crooks profiteering on the issue, yet he is the biggest loot recipient of the Keating Five.

(10) If the “Crowned Prince” of the “Plantation” does not stop his outlandish lies about his “torture”, several of his fellow POW’s “will” soon break their “code of silence”. McCain is a brainwashed Manchurian candidate who has fawningly supported Hanoi and the Communist Bloc countries ever since he entered congress. The man is a liar, a traitor and a crook. Any senator who uses the word “scumbag” 20 times a day addressing his employees is not fit to serve.

Also, CBS, you went on to a segment of a Latino who was on death row (wrongfully) in a “miscarriage of justice”. The biggest “MOJ” of this decade would be for traitor and Hanoi lover McCain to continue in office after the 1998 elections.

Joe L. Jordan

USN Squadron VQ-1

Da Nang 1967-68

National Vietnam P.O.W. Strike Force

P.S. McCain is the only returned POW NEVER TO BE DEBRIEFED.

Source: CONTACT: THE PHOENIX PROJECT, October 27, 1997, Volume 18, Number 9, Page 10.

John McCain: Traitor

Forbidden Knowledge TV

Earl Hopper spent 30 years with the Army in Airborne Special Services and with Army Intelligence and he was a founding member of the National League of Families, dedicated to returning living POWs and MIAs of the Vietnam War.

He and those interviewed allege that the narrative propagated by McCain, of his five and a half years as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam is about as far from the truth as one could possibly imagine. They allege that McCain, from the very first moments of his capture behaved as a COLLABORATOR and propaganda tool for his North Vietnamese captors.

McCain is described as engaging in no less than 30, and up to 38 anti-American propaganda broadcasts for Radio Hanoi during the period of his captivity.

Far from the image of the dedicated American “hero” sweating it out in a North Vietnamese prisoner’s “hotbox” for five and half years, McCain was observed by fellow prisoners to be receiving special treatment by his captors, who were fully aware of his father’s and grandfather’s 4-star Admiral positions with the US Navy.

Not a single contemporary captive interviewed here ever witnessed McCain’s alleged “torture” at the hands of his jailers and the consensus opinion of the other POWs in McCain’s camps was that McCain was actually NEVER tortured by the North Vietnamese.

McCain’s disgraceful and wholly reprehensible conduct (along with that of John Kerry) during the 1991-93 Senate Committee on POW/MIAs, where McCain made massive efforts to block the release of classified documents and is described here as the person who did the “most harm” to the movement of families who wanted to rescue any remaining loved ones, left behind in Vietnam and Laos.

McCain is described by those interviewed in this clip as perhaps the person who did the most to quash this movement – and they suspect that this was because he didn’t want the truth to be revealed by them.

To them, his actions leave no doubt that McCain is a traitor to this country and its veterans and especially, to the [POWs and MIAs and their families].

John Mccain Traitor- By Vietnam Vets And Pow’s

By Sydney Schanberg

The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.

Eighteen months ago, TAC publisher Ron Unz discovered an astonishing account of the role the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, had played in suppressing information about what happened to American soldiers missing in action in Vietnam. Below, we present in full Sydney Schanberg’s explosive story.

John McCain, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam POW war hero, has, inexplicably, worked very hard to hide from the public stunning information about American prisoners in Vietnam who, unlike him, didn’t return home. Throughout his Senate career, McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents. Thus the war hero who people would logically imagine as a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books.

Almost as striking is the manner in which the mainstream press has shied from reporting the POW story and McCain’s role in it, even as the Republican Party has made McCain’s military service the focus of his presidential campaign. Reporters who had covered the Vietnam War turned their heads and walked in other directions. McCain doesn’t talk about the missing men, and the press never asks him about them.

The sum of the secrets McCain has sought to hide is not small. There exists a telling mass of official documents, radio intercepts, witness depositions, satellite photos of rescue symbols that pilots were trained to use, electronic messages from the ground containing the individual code numbers given to airmen, a rescue mission by a special forces unit that was aborted twice by Washington—and even sworn testimony by two Defense secretaries that “men were left behind.” This imposing body of evidence suggests that a large number—the documents indicate probably hundreds—of the U.S. prisoners held by Vietnam were not returned when the peace treaty was signed in January 1973 and Hanoi released 591 men, among them Navy combat pilot John S. McCain.

Mass of Evidence

The Pentagon had been withholding significant information from POW families for years. What’s more, the Pentagon’s POW/MIA operation had been publicly shamed by internal whistleblowers and POW families for holding back documents as part of a policy of “debunking” POW intelligence even when the information was obviously credible.

The pressure from the families and Vietnam veterans finally forced the creation, in late 1991, of a Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. The chairman was John Kerry. McCain, as a former POW, was its most pivotal member. In the end, the committee became part of the debunking machine.

One of the sharpest critics of the Pentagon’s performance was an insider, Air Force Lt. Gen. Eugene Tighe, who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) during the 1970s. He openly challenged the Pentagon’s position that no live prisoners existed, saying that the evidence proved otherwise. McCain was a bitter opponent of Tighe, who was eventually pushed into retirement.

Included in the evidence that McCain and his government allies suppressed or sought to discredit is a transcript of a senior North Vietnamese general’s briefing of the Hanoi politburo, discovered in Soviet archives by an American scholar in 1993. The briefing took place only four months before the 1973 peace accords. The general, Tran Van Quang, told the politburo members that Hanoi was holding 1,205 American prisoners but would keep many of them at war’s end as leverage to ensure getting war reparations from Washington.

Throughout the Paris negotiations, the North Vietnamese tied the prisoner issue tightly to the issue of reparations. They were adamant in refusing to deal with them separately. Finally, in a Feb. 2, 1973 formal letter to Hanoi’s premier, Pham Van Dong, Nixon pledged $3.25 billion in “postwar reconstruction” aid “without any political conditions.” But he also attached to the letter a codicil that said the aid would be implemented by each party “in accordance with its own constitutional provisions.” That meant Congress would have to approve the appropriation, and Nixon and Kissinger knew well that Congress was in no mood to do so. The North Vietnamese, whether or not they immediately understood the double-talk in the letter, remained skeptical about the reparations promise being honored—and it never was. Hanoi thus appears to have held back prisoners—just as it had done when the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and withdrew their forces from Vietnam. In that case, France paid ransoms for prisoners and brought them home.

In a private briefing in 1992, high-level CIA officials told me that as the years passed and the ransom never came, it became more and more difficult for either government to admit that it knew from the start about the unacknowledged prisoners. Those prisoners had not only become useless as bargaining chips but also posed a risk to Hanoi’s desire to be accepted into the international community. The CIA officials said their intelligence indicated strongly that the remaining men—those who had not died from illness or hard labor or torture—were eventually executed.

My own research, detailed below, has convinced me that it is not likely that more than a few—if any—are alive in captivity today. (That CIA briefing at the Agency’s Langley, Virginia, headquarters was conducted “off the record,” but because the evidence from my own reporting since then has brought me to the same conclusion, I felt there was no longer any point in not writing about the meeting.)

For many reasons, including the absence of a political constituency for the missing men other than their families and some veterans’ groups, very few Americans are aware of the POW story and of McCain’s role in keeping it out of public view and denying the existence of abandoned POWs. That is because McCain has hardly been alone in his campaign to hide the scandal.

The Arizona senator, now the Republican candidate for president, has actually been following the lead of every White House since Richard Nixon’s, and thus of every CIA director, Pentagon chief, and national security adviser, not to mention Dick Cheney, who was George H.W. Bush’s Defense secretary. Their biggest accomplice has been an indolent press, particularly in Washington.

McCain’s Role

An early and critical McCain secrecy move involved 1990 legislation that started in the House of Representatives. A brief and simple document, it was called “the Truth Bill” and would have compelled complete transparency about prisoners and missing men. Its core sentence reads: “[The] head of each department or agency which holds or receives any records and information, including live-sighting reports, which have been correlated or possibly correlated to United States personnel listed as prisoner of war or missing in action from World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam conflict, shall make available to the public all such records held or received by that department or agency.”

Bitterly opposed by the Pentagon (and thus McCain), the bill went nowhere. Reintroduced the following year, it again disappeared. But a few months later, a new measure, known as “the McCain Bill,”suddenly appeared. By creating a bureaucratic maze from which only a fraction of the documents could emerge—only records that revealed no POW secrets—it turned the Truth Bill on its head. The McCain bill became law in 1991 and remains so today. So crushing to transparency are its provisions that it actually spells out for the Pentagon and other agencies several rationales, scenarios, and justifications for not releasing any information at all—even about prisoners discovered alive in captivity. Later that year, the Senate Select Committee was created, where Kerry and McCain ultimately worked together to bury evidence.

McCain was also instrumental in amending the Missing Service Personnel Act, which had been strengthened in 1995 by POW advocates to include criminal penalties, saying, “Any government official who knowingly and willfully withholds from the file of a missing person any information relating to the disappearance or whereabouts and status of a missing person shall be fined as provided in Title 18 or imprisoned not more than one year or both.” A year later, in a closed House-Senate conference on an unrelated military bill, McCain, at the behest of the Pentagon, attached a crippling amendment to the act, stripping out its only enforcement teeth, the criminal penalties, and reducing the obligations of commanders in the field to speedily search for missing men and to report the incidents to the Pentagon.

About the relaxation of POW/MIA obligations on commanders in the field, a public McCain memo said, “This transfers the bureaucracy involved out of the [battle] field to Washington.” He wrote that the original legislation, if left intact, “would accomplish nothing but create new jobs for lawyers and turn military commanders into clerks.”

McCain argued that keeping the criminal penalties would have made it impossible for the Pentagon to find staffers willing to work on POW/MIA matters. That’s an odd argument to make. Were staffers only “willing to work” if they were allowed to conceal POW records? By eviscerating the law, McCain gave his stamp of approval to the government policy of debunking the existence of live POWs.

McCain has insisted again and again that all the evidence—documents, witnesses, satellite photos, two Pentagon chiefs’ sworn testimony, aborted rescue missions, ransom offers apparently scorned—has been woven together by unscrupulous deceivers to create an insidious and unpatriotic myth. He calls it the “bizarre rantings of the MIA hobbyists.” He has regularly vilified those who keep trying to pry out classified documents as “hoaxers,” “charlatans,” “conspiracy theorists,” and “dime-store Rambos.”

Some of McCain’s fellow captives at Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi didn’t share his views about prisoners left behind. Before he died of leukemia in 1999, retired Col. Ted Guy, a highly admired POW and one of the most dogged resisters in the camps, wrote an angry open letter to the senator in an MIA newsletter—a response to McCain’s stream of insults hurled at MIA activists. Guy wrote, “John, does this [the insults] include Senator Bob Smith [a New Hampshire Republican and activist on POW issues] and other concerned elected officials? Does this include the families of the missing where there is overwhelming evidence that their loved ones were ‘last known alive’? Does this include some of your fellow POWs?”

It’s not clear whether the taped confession McCain gave to his captors to avoid further torture has played a role in his postwar behavior in the Senate. That confession was played endlessly over the prison loudspeaker system at Hoa Lo—to try to break down other prisoners—and was broadcast over Hanoi’s state radio. Reportedly, he confessed to being a war criminal who had bombed civilian targets. The Pentagon has a copy of the confession but will not release it. Also, no outsider I know of has ever seen a non-redacted copy of the debriefing of McCain when he returned from captivity, which is classified but could be made public by McCain.

[In an interview with 60 Minutes in 1997, McCain mentioned the confession his North Vietnamese captors forced him to write: “I was guilty of war crimes against the Vietnamese people. I intentionally bombed women and children.” The truth, of course, is that what McCain wrote under duress is actually an accurate statement. –http://www.lewrockwell.com/ 2008/ 09/ laurence-]

All humans have breaking points. Many men undergoing torture give confessions, often telling huge lies so their fakery will be understood by their comrades and their country. Few will fault them. But it was McCain who apparently felt he had disgraced himself and his military family. His father, John S. McCain II, was a highly regarded rear admiral then serving as commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific. His grandfather was also a rear admiral.

In his bestselling 1999 autobiography, Faith of My Fathers, McCain says he felt bad throughout his captivity because he knew he was being treated more leniently than his fellow POWs, owing to his high-ranking father and thus his propaganda value. Other prisoners at Hoa Lo say his captors considered him a prize catch and called him the “Crown Prince,” something McCain acknowledges in the book.

Also in this memoir, McCain expresses guilt at having broken under torture and given the confession. “I felt faithless and couldn’t control my despair,” he writes, revealing that he made two “feeble” attempts at suicide. (In later years, he said he tried to hang himself with his shirt and guards intervened.) Tellingly, he says he lived in “dread” that his father would find out about the confession. “I still wince,” he writes, “when I recall wondering if my father had heard of my disgrace.”

He says that when he returned home, he told his father about the confession, but “never discussed it at length”—and the admiral, who died in 1981, didn’t indicate he had heard anything about it before. But he had. In the 1999 memoir, the senator writes, “I only recently learned that the tape … had been broadcast outside the prison and had come to the attention of my father.”

Is McCain haunted by these memories? Does he suppress POW information because its surfacing would rekindle his feelings of shame? On this subject, all I have are questions.

Many stories have been written about McCain’s explosive temper, so volcanic that colleagues are loath to speak openly about it. One veteran congressman who has observed him over the years asked for confidentiality and made this brief comment: “This is a man not at peace with himself.”

He was certainly far from calm on the Senate POW committee. He browbeat expert witnesses who came with information about unreturned POWs. Family members who have personally faced McCain and pressed him to end the secrecy also have been treated to his legendary temper. He has screamed at them, insulted them, brought women to tears. Mostly his responses to them have been versions of: How dare you question my patriotism? In 1996, he roughly pushed aside a group of POW family members who had waited outside a hearing room to appeal to him, including a mother in a wheelchair.

But even without answers to what may be hidden in the recesses of McCain’s mind, one thing about the POW story is clear: if American prisoners were dishonored by being written off and left to die, that’s something the American public ought to know about. 10 Key Pieces of Evidence That Men Were Left Behind

1. In Paris, where the Vietnam peace treaty was negotiated, the United States asked Hanoi for the list of American prisoners to be returned, fearing that Hanoi would hold some prisoners back. The North Vietnamese refused, saying they would produce the list only after the treaty was signed. Nixon agreed with Kissinger that they had no leverage left, and Kissinger signed the accord on Jan. 27, 1973 without the prisoner list. When Hanoi produced its list of 591 prisoners the next day, U.S. intelligence agencies expressed shock at the low number. Their number was hundreds higher. The New York Times published a long, page-one story on Feb. 2, 1973 about the discrepancy, especially raising questions about the number of prisoners held in Laos, only nine of whom were being returned. The headline read, in part, “Laos POW List Shows 9 from U.S.—Document Disappointing to Washington as 311 Were Believed Missing.” And the story, by John Finney, said that other Washington officials “believe the number of prisoners [in Laos] is probably substantially higher.” The paper never followed up with any serious investigative reporting—nor did any other mainstream news organization.

2. Two Defense secretaries who served during the Vietnam War testified to the Senate POW committee in September 1992 that prisoners were not returned. James Schlesinger and Melvin Laird, both speaking at a public session and under oath, said they based their conclusions on strong intelligence data—letters, eyewitness reports, even direct radio contacts. Under questioning, Schlesinger chose his words carefully, understanding clearly the volatility of the issue: “I think that as of now that I can come to no other conclusion … some were left behind.” This ran counter to what President Nixon told the public in a nationally televised speech on March 29, 1973, when the repatriation of the 591 was in motion: “Tonight,” Nixon said, “the day we have all worked and prayed for has finally come. For the first time in 12 years, no American military forces are in Vietnam. All our American POWs are on their way home.” Documents unearthed since then show that aides had already briefed Nixon about the contrary evidence.

Schlesinger was asked by the Senate committee for his explanation of why President Nixon would have made such a statement when he knew Hanoi was still holding prisoners. He replied, “One must assume that we had concluded that the bargaining position of the United States … was quite weak. We were anxious to get our troops out and we were not going to roil the waters…” This testimony struck me as a bombshell. The New York Times appropriately reported it on page one but again there was no sustained follow-up by the Times or any other major paper or national news outlet.

3. Over the years, the DIA received more than 1,600 first-hand sightings of live American prisoners and nearly 14,000 second-hand reports. Many witnesses interrogated by CIA or Pentagon intelligence agents were deemed “credible” in the agents’ reports. Some of the witnesses were given lie-detector tests and passed. Sources provided me with copies of these witness reports, which are impressive in their detail. A lot of the sightings described a secondary tier of prison camps many miles from Hanoi. Yet the DIA, after reviewing all these reports, concluded that they “do not constitute evidence” that men were alive.

4. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, listening stations picked up messages in which Laotian military personnel spoke about moving American prisoners from one labor camp to another. These listening posts were manned by Thai communications officers trained by the National Security Agency (NSA), which monitors signals worldwide. The NSA teams had moved out after the fall of Saigon in 1975 and passed the job to the Thai allies. But when the Thais turned these messages over to Washington, the intelligence community ruled that since the intercepts were made by a “third party”—namely Thailand—they could not be regarded as authentic. That’s some Catch-22: the U.S. trained a third party to take over its role in monitoring signals about POWs, but because that third party did the monitoring, the messages weren’t valid.

Here, from CIA files, is an example that clearly exposes the farce. On Dec. 27, 1980, a Thai military signal team picked up a message saying that prisoners were being moved out of Attopeu (in southern Laos) by aircraft “at 1230 hours.” Three days later a message was sent from the CIA station in Bangkok to the CIA director’s office in Langley. It read, in part: “The prisoners … are now in the valley in permanent location (a prison camp at Nhommarath in Central Laos). They were transferred from Attopeu to work in various places … POWs were formerly kept in caves and are very thin, dark and starving.” Apparently the prisoners were real. But the transmission was declared “invalid” by Washington because the information came from a “third party” and thus could not be deemed credible.

5. A series of what appeared to be distress signals from Vietnam and Laos were captured by the government’s satellite system in the late 1980s and early ’90s. (Before that period, no search for such signals had been put in place.) Not a single one of these markings was ever deemed credible. To the layman’s eye, the satellite photos, some of which I’ve seen, show markings on the ground that are identical to the signals that American pilots had been specifically trained to use in their survival courses—such as certain letters, like X or K, drawn in a special way. Other markings were the secret four-digit authenticator numbers given to individual pilots. But time and again, the Pentagon, backed by the CIA, insisted that humans had not made these markings. What were they, then? “Shadows and vegetation,” the government said, insisting that the markings were merely normal topographical contours like saw-grass or rice-paddy divider walls. It was the automatic response—shadows and vegetation. On one occasion, a Pentagon photo expert refused to go along. It was a missing man’s name gouged into a field, he said, not trampled grass or paddy berms. His bosses responded by bringing in an outside contractor who found instead, yes, shadows and vegetation. This refrain led Bob Taylor, a highly regarded investigator on the Senate committee staff who had examined the photographic evidence, to comment to me: “If grass can spell out people’s names and secret digit codes, then I have a newfound respect for grass.”

6. On Nov. 11, 1992, Dolores Alfond, the sister of missing airman Capt. Victor Apodaca and chair of the National Alliance of Families, an organization of relatives of POW/MIAs, testified at one of the Senate committee’s public hearings. She asked for information about data the government had gathered from electronic devices used in a classified program known as PAVE SPIKE.

The devices were motion sensors, dropped by air, designed to pick up enemy troop movements. Shaped on one end like a spike with an electronic pod and antenna on top, they were designed to stick in the ground as they fell. Air Force planes would drop them along the Ho Chi Minh trail and other supply routes. The devices, though primarily sensors, also had rescue capabilities. Someone on the ground—a downed airman or a prisoner on a labor gang —could manually enter data into the sensor. All data were regularly collected electronically by U.S. planes flying overhead. Alfond stated, without any challenge or contradiction by the committee, that in 1974, a year after the supposedly complete return of prisoners, the gathered data showed that a person or people had manually entered into the sensors—as U.S. pilots had been trained to do—no less than 20 authenticator numbers that corresponded exactly to the classified authenticator numbers of 20 U.S. POWs who were lost in Laos. Alfond added, according to the transcript, “This PAVE SPIKE intelligence is seamless, but the committee has not discussed it or released what it knows about PAVE SPIKE.”

McCain attended that committee hearing specifically to confront Alfond because of her criticism of the panel’s work. He bellowed and berated her for quite a while. His face turning anger-pink, he accused her of “denigrating” his “patriotism.” The bullying had its effect—she began to cry.

After a pause Alfond recovered and tried to respond to his scorching tirade, but McCain simply turned away and stormed out of the room. The PAVE SPIKE file has never been declassified. We still don’t know anything about those 20 POWs.

7. As previously mentioned, in April 1993 in a Moscow archive, a researcher from Harvard, Stephen Morris, unearthed and made public the transcript of a briefing that General Tran Van Quang gave to the Hanoi politburo four months before the signing of the Paris peace accords in 1973.

In the transcript, General Quang told the Hanoi politburo that 1,205 U.S. prisoners were being held. Quang said that many of the prisoners would be held back from Washington after the accords as bargaining chips for war reparations. General Quang’s report added: “This is a big number. Officially, until now, we published a list of only 368 prisoners of war. The rest we have not revealed. The government of the USA knows this well, but it does not know the exact number …and can only make guesses based on its losses. That is why we are keeping the number of prisoners of war secret, in accordance with the politburo’s instructions.” The report then went on to explain in clear and specific language that a large number would be kept back to ensure reparations.

The reaction to the document was immediate. After two decades of denying it had kept any prisoners, Hanoi responded to the revelation by calling the transcript a fabrication.

Similarly, Washington—which had over the same two decades refused to recant Nixon’s declaration that all the prisoners had been returned—also shifted into denial mode. The Pentagon issued a statement saying the document “is replete with errors, omissions and propaganda that seriously damage its credibility,” and that the numbers were “inconsistent with our own accounting.”

Neither American nor Vietnamese officials offered any rationale for who would plant a forged document in the Soviet archives and why they would do so. Certainly neither Washington nor Moscow—closely allied with Hanoi—would have any motive, since the contents were embarrassing to all parties, and since both the United States and Vietnam had consistently denied the existence of unreturned prisoners. The Russian archivists simply said the document was “authentic.”

8. In his 2002 book, Inside Delta Force, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Haney described how in 1981 his special forces unit, after rigorous training for a POW rescue mission, had the mission suddenly aborted, revived a year later, and again abruptly aborted. Haney writes that this abandonment of captured soldiers ate at him for years and left him disillusioned about his government’s vows to leave no men behind. “Years later, I spoke at length with a former highly placed member of the North Vietnamese diplomatic corps, and this person asked me point-blank: ‘Why did the Americans never attempt to recover their remaining POWs after the conclusion of the war?’” Haney writes. He continued, saying that he came to believe senior government officials had called off those missions in 1981 and 1982. (His account is on pages 314 to 321 of my paperback copy of the book.)

9. There is also evidence that in the first months of Ronald Reagan’s presidency in 1981, the White House received a ransom proposal for a number of POWs being held by Hanoi in Indochina. The offer, which was passed to Washington from an official of a third country, was apparently discussed at a meeting in the Roosevelt Room attended by Reagan, Vice President Bush, CIA director William Casey, and National Security Adviser Richard Allen. Allen confirmed the offer in sworn testimony to the Senate POW committee on June 23, 1992.

Allen was allowed to testify behind closed doors and no information was released. But a San Diego Union-Tribune reporter, Robert Caldwell, obtained the portion relating to the ransom offer and reported on it. The ransom request was for $4 billion, Allen testified. He said he told Reagan that “it would be worth the president’s going along and let’s have the negotiation.” When his testimony appeared in the Union-Tribune, Allen quickly wrote a letter to the panel, this time not under oath, recanting the ransom story and claiming his memory had played tricks on him. His new version was that some POW activists had asked him about such an offer in a meeting that took place in 1986, when he was no longer in government. “It appears,” he said in the letter, “that there never was a 1981 meeting about the return of POW/MIAs for $4 billion.”

But the episode didn’t end there. A Treasury agent on Secret Service duty in the White House, John Syphrit, came forward to say he had overheard part of the ransom conversation in the Roosevelt Room in 1981, when the offer was discussed by Reagan, Bush, Casey, Allen, and other cabinet officials.

Syphrit, a veteran of the Vietnam War, told the committee he was willing to testify, but they would have to subpoena him. Treasury opposed his appearance, arguing that voluntary testimony would violate the trust between the Secret Service and those it protects. It was clear that coming in on his own could cost Syphrit his career. The committee voted 7 to 4 not to subpoena him.

In the committee’s final report, dated Jan. 13, 1993 (on page 284), the panel not only chastised Syphrit for his failure to testify without a subpoena (“The committee regrets that the Secret Service agent was unwilling …”), but noted that since Allen had recanted his testimony about the Roosevelt Room briefing, Syphrit’s testimony would have been “at best, uncorroborated by the testimony of any other witness.” The committee omitted any mention that it had made a decision not to ask the other two surviving witnesses, Bush and Reagan, to give testimony under oath. (Casey had died.)

10. In 1990, Col. Millard Peck, a decorated infantry veteran of Vietnam then working at the DIA as chief of the Asia Division for Current Intelligence, asked for the job of chief of the DIA’s Special Office for Prisoners of War and Missing in Action. His reason for seeking the transfer, which was not a promotion, was that he had heard from officials throughout the Pentagon that the POW/MIA office had been turned into a waste-disposal unit for getting rid of unwanted evidence about live prisoners—a “black hole,” these officials called it.

Peck explained all this in his telling resignation letter of Feb. 12, 1991, eight months after he had taken the job. He said he viewed it as “sort of a holy crusade” to restore the integrity of the office but was defeated by the Pentagon machine. The four-page, single-spaced letter was scathing, describing the putative search for missing men as “a cover-up.”

Peck charged that, at its top echelons, the Pentagon had embraced a “mind-set to debunk” all evidence of prisoners left behind. “That national leaders continue to address the prisoner of war and missing in action issue as the ‘highest national priority,’ is a travesty,” he wrote. “The entire charade does not appear to be an honest effort, and may never have been. … Practically all analysis is directed to finding fault with the source. Rarely has there been any effective, active follow through on any of the sightings, nor is there a responsive ‘action arm’ to routinely and aggressively pursue leads.”

“I became painfully aware,” his letter continued, “that I was not really in charge of my own office, but was merely a figurehead or whipping boy for a larger and totally Machiavellian group of players outside of DIA … I feel strongly that this issue is being manipulated and controlled at a higher level, not with the goal of resolving it, but more to obfuscate the question of live prisoners and give the illusion of progress through hyperactivity.” He named no names but said these players are “unscrupulous people in the Government or associated with the Government” who “have maintained their distance and remained hidden in the shadows, while using the [POW] Office as a ‘toxic waste dump’ to bury the whole ‘mess’ out of sight.” Peck added that “military officers … who in some manner have ‘rocked the boat’ [have] quickly come to grief.”

Peck concluded, “From what I have witnessed, it appears that any soldier left in Vietnam, even inadvertently, was, in fact, abandoned years ago, and that the farce that is being played is no more than political legerdemain done with ‘smoke and mirrors’ to stall the issue until it dies a natural death.”

The disillusioned colonel not only resigned but asked to be retired immediately from active military service. The press never followed up.

My Pursuit of the Story

I covered the war in Cambodia and Vietnam, but came to the POW information only slowly afterward, when military officers I knew from that conflict began coming to me with maps and POW sightings and depositions by Vietnamese witnesses.

I was then city editor of the New York Times, no longer involved in foreign or national stories, so I took the data to the appropriate desks and suggested it was material worth pursuing. There were no takers. Some years later, in 1991, when I was an op-ed columnist at Newsday, the aforementioned special Senate committee was formed to probe the POW issue. I saw this as an opening and immersed myself in the reporting.

At Newsday, I wrote 36 columns over a two-year period, as well as a four-part series on a trip I took to North Vietnam to report on what happened to one missing pilot who was shot down over the Ho Chi Minh trail and captured when he parachuted down. After Newsday, I wrote thousands more words on the subject for other outlets. Some of the pieces were about McCain’s key role.

Though I wrote on many subjects for Life, Vanity Fair, and Washington Monthly, my POW articles appeared in Penthouse, the Village Voice, and APBnews.com. Mainstream publications just weren’t interested. Their disinterest was part of what motivated me, and I became one of a very short list of journalists who considered the story important.

Serving in the Army in Germany during the Cold War and witnessing combat firsthand as a reporter in India and Indochina led me to have great respect for those who fight for their country. To my mind, we dishonored U.S. troops when our government failed to bring them home from Vietnam after the 591 others were released—and then claimed they didn’t exist. And politicians dishonor themselves when they pay lip service to the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers only to leave untold numbers behind, rationalizing to themselves that it’s merely one of the unfortunate costs of war.

John McCain—now campaigning for the White House as a war hero, maverick, and straight shooter—owes the voters some explanations. The press were long ago wooed and won by McCain’s seeming openness, Lone Ranger pose, and self-deprecating humor, which may partly explain their ignoring his record on POWs. In the numerous, lengthy McCain profiles that have appeared of late in papers like theNew York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, I may have missed a clause or a sentence along the way, but I have not found a single mention of his role in burying information about POWs. Television and radio news programs have been similarly silent.

Reporters simply never ask him about it. They didn’t when he ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination in 2000. They haven’t now, despite the fact that we’re in the midst of another war—a war he supports and one that has echoes of Vietnam. The only explanation McCain has ever offered for his leadership on legislation that seals POW files is that he believes the release of such information would only stir up fresh grief for the families of those who were never accounted for in Vietnam. Of the scores of POW families I’ve met over the years, only a few have said they want the books closed without knowing what happened to their men. All the rest say that not knowing is exactly what grieves them.

Isn’t it possible that what really worries those intent on keeping the POW documents buried is the public disgust that the contents of those files would generate?

How the Senate Committee Perpetuated the Debunking …

READ THE COMPLETE DOCUMENT AT:

Incumbent Sen. John McCain Running For A Fifth Term

Rocky Montana

The above compendium of the articles about the past behavior of John McCain tell it all. As McCain is now running for a fifth term as U.S. senator for Arizona, these articles are being posted once again in an effort to inform more Arizona voters and the American people about McCain past behavior. On November 8, 2016, Arizona voters either reelect John McCain for a fifth term, knowing that he has lied to and deceived the them and the American public throughout his political career, or they will finally do the right thing and run McCain out of office, and replace him with a more honest, honorable and deserving individual. The U.S. Senate and the Republican Party will do just fine without John McCain.

In review: John “McCain was personally responsible for the deadliest fire in the history of the US Navy. That catastrophe, with 27 dead and over 100 wounded’ and over $72 million in aircraft damage, eclipses ‘McCain’s record as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.” McCain has admited: “I’m not a war hero.” , but for nearly 50 years he has allowed falsehoods to be reported about himself by the controlled media and his colleagues in the Washington Establishment. They have repeatedly claimed that John McCain is a “war hero” and that he was tortured by his captors while “imprisoned” at Hanoi.


McCain lost five U.S. Navy aircraft.

McCain lost five U.S. Navy aircraft.

Navy pilot John Sidney McCain III should have never been allowed to graduate from the U.S. Navy flight school. He was a below average student and a lousy pilot. Had his father and grandfather not been famous four star U.S. Navy admirals, McCain III would have never been allowed in the cockpit of a military aircraft.

His father John S. “Junior” McCain was commander of U.S. forces in Europe later becoming commander of American forces in Vietnam while McCain III was being held prisoner of war. McCain III’s grandfather John S. McCain, Sr. commanded naval aviation at the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.

During his relative short stunt on flight status, McCain III lost five U.S. Navy aircraft, four in accidents and one in combat.

Robert Timberg, author of The Nightingale’s Song, a book about Annapolis graduates and their tours in Vietnam, wrote that McCain “learned to fly at Pensacola, though his performance was below par, at best good enough to get by. He liked flying, but didn’t love it.”

McCain III lost jet number one in 1958 when he plunged into Corpus Christi Bay while practicing landings. He was knocked unconscious by the impact coming to as the plane settled to the bottom.

McCain’s second crash occurred while he was deployed in the Mediterranean. “Flying too low over the Iberian Peninsula,” Timberg wrote, “he took out some power lines [reminiscent of the 1998 incident in which a Marine Corps jet sliced through the cables of a gondola at an Italian ski resort, killing 20] which led to a spate of newspaper stories in which he was predictably identified as the son of an admiral.”

McCain’s third crash three occurred when he was returning from flying a Navy trainer solo to Philadelphia for an Army-Navy football game.

Timberg reported that McCain radioed, “I’ve got a flameout” and went through standard relight procedures three times before ejecting at one thousand feet. McCain landed on a deserted beach moments before the plane slammed into a clump of trees.

McCain’s fourth aircraft loss occurred July 29, 1967, soon after he was assigned to the USS Forrestal as an A-4 Skyhawk pilot. While seated in the cockpit of his aircraft waiting his turn for takeoff, an accidently fired rocket slammed into McCain’s plane. He escaped from the burning aircraft, but the explosions that followed killed 134 sailors, destroyed at least 20 aircraft, and threatened to sink the ship.

McCain’s fifth loss happened during his 23rd mission over North Vietnam on Oct. 26, 1967, when McCain’s A-4 Skyhawk was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. McCain ejected from the plane breaking both arms and a leg in the process and subsequently parachuted into Truc Bach Lake near Hanoi.

After being drug from the lake, a mob gathered around McCain, spit on him, kicked him and stripped him of his clothing. He was bayoneted in his left foot and his shoulder crushed by a rifle butt. He was then transported to the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton.

After being periodically slapped around for “three or four days” by his captors who wanted military information, McCain called for an officer on his fourth day of captivity. He told the officer, “O.K., I’ll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital.” -U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain.

“Demands for military information were accompanied by threats to terminate my medical treatment if I [McCain] did not cooperate. Eventually, I gave them my ship’s name and squadron number, and confirmed that my target had been the power plant.” Page 193-194, Faith of My Fathers by John McCain.

When the communist learned that McCain’s father was Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., the soon-to-be commander of all U.S. Forces in the Pacific, he was rushed to Gai Lam military hospital (U.S. government documents), a medical facility normally unavailable for U.S. POWs.

The communist Vietnamese figured, because POW McCain’s father was of such high military rank, that he was of royalty or the governing circle. Thereafter the communist bragged that they had captured “the crown prince.”

For 23 combat missions (an estimated 20 hours over enemy territory), the U.S. Navy awarded McCain a Silver Star, a Legion of Merit for Valor, a Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars, two Commendation medals plus two Purple Hearts and a dozen service medals.

“McCain had roughly 20 hours in combat,” explains Bill Bell, a veteran of Vietnam and former chief of the U.S. Office for POW/MIA Affairs — the first official U.S. representative in Vietnam since the 1973 fall of Saigon. “Since McCain got 28 medals,” Bell continues, “that equals out to about a medal-and-a-half for each hour he spent in combat. There were infantry guys — grunts on the ground — who had more than 7,000 hours in combat and I can tell you that there were times and situations where I’m sure a prison cell would have looked pretty good to them by comparison. The question really is how many guys got that number of medals for not being shot down.”

For years, McCain has been an unchecked master at manipulating an overly friendly and biased news media. The former POW turned Congressman, turned U.S. Senator, has managed to gloss over his failures as a pilot and collaborations with the enemy by exaggerating his military service and lying about his feats of heroism.

McCain has sprouted a halo and wings to become America’s POW-hero presidential candidate.


John McCain is No War Hero: He’s a Traitor!

For decades, John McCain has been touted as a war hero and a Patriot an image he has carefully crafted. But behind the façade lies the true nature of John McCain, which is a far cry from what we’ve all been told about the man. He is an arrogant, incompetent, spoiled military brat that could care less about anyone but himself. It’s this hubris that got him captured in Vietnam as a prisoner of war.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, lets talk about the time his hubris caused an explosion on the USS Forrestal. Then A4 pilot McCain decided that he was going to “wet start” his A4E to shake up the guy in back of his A4. What resulted was a massive explosion and fire that killed 144 sailors and put the USS Forrestal out of commission. Video below:

Now how could then pilot John McCain get away with this without any blemish on his record? Because he practically comes from Navy royalty his father and grandfather were both Admirals. This is why McCain has had this “untouchable” attitude throughout his military career. That was until his hubris got him captured by the Viet Cong on October 26, 1967.

It during his time as prisoner of war is when he showed his true traitorous colors. It wasn’t until August of 2016 when researchers in the National Archives noticed a mislabeled recording while researching declassified files from the CIA. When the researchers listened, they were shocked to discover that it was an unknown “Tokyo Rose” broadcast by John McCain. The recording was aired over the Viet Cong airwaves as propaganda. Video below:

This recording alone should be the end of John McCain’s career and legacy. But for whatever reason, no one in the media has bothered to cover this unearthed evidence of treason. This underscores the hypocrisy and true soullessness of this filthy traitor!

Yet, now Senator John McCain is now one of the most vocal Republican voices against our current President President Trump. But how can anyone with evidence of this kind of treason be given any kind credibility to even suggest “investigations” or even “impeachment” on our President? It’s truly insane!

To top it all off, Senator McCain got prank called by Russian hackers that made McCain believe he was talking to the Prime Minister of Ukraine. In this recording he committing a wide range of crimes, including violating the Logan act (not to mention giving sensitive information to the Russians). Below is the full recording of the prank:

How long is John McCain going to keep getting away with this perpetual incompetence? Is this man never going to be held accountable? It’s time the American People start standing up and calling for the removal and arrest of John McCain. He has gotten away with far too many crimes hiding behind the fake POW smoke screen. Any one of us who did a fraction of what John McCain has done, would have been sitting in jail years ago. What has John McCain truly done to deserve a pass? NOTHING!


Thank you!

By the time McCain was released in 1973, Americans were learning more about the treatment of prisoners in North Vietnam. The return of almost all of the Vietnam POWs meant that former prisoners could finally tell what they had seen &mdash free from the fear that their comrades would be targets of retribution. &ldquoThey conceded that treatment had varied for each P.O.W., that conditions had improved remarkably by the fall of 1969, and that high-ranking officers had absorbed the worst of it,&rdquo TIME reported.

The details that comprised &ldquothe worst of it&rdquo were grisly: starvation rations, iron manacles, solitary confinement, the sick left to sit in their own filth. The end goal of such torture was often the extraction of information.

But, along with those reports came word that American prisoners had proved tough to break. Asked to list the names of the men in his squadron, McCain instead listed the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers. When his famous name afforded him a chance to jump the line to go home early, he refused prisoners were supposed to be released in the order in which they had been taken, and he knew he wasn’t next in line. When his cellmate&rsquos broken arm went untreated, McCain fashioned a cast out of his own bandages.

All told, he had spent five and a half years as a prisoner, with a substantial amount of that time in solitary confinement. And, though he was self-deprecatingly aware of the irony of becoming well-known as a military man for what he did as a prisoner of war, his story struck a chord with Americans of all political leanings. And McCain, as much as anyone, knew that such a feeling was rare &mdash and something that should not go to waste.

“Until the day I went down, I lived under my father’s shadow,” McCain told TIME in 1978. “Incarceration relieved me of that burden &mdash he couldn’t affect my future there.”


Recent Articles in the Creek


USS Forrestal, July 29, 1967 - The worst accident aboard a US Navy surface vessel since WWII

BY WAYNE MADSEN/WAYNE MADSEN REPORT

The Navy released John McCain&rsquos military record after a Freedom of Information Act request from the Associated Press. The record is packed with information on McCain&rsquos medals and commendations but little else. The one thing that the McCain campaign does not want to see released is the record of McCain&rsquos antics on board the USS Forestal in 1967. McCain was personally responsible for the deadliest fire in the history of the US Navy. That catastrophe, with 27 dead and over 100 wounded trumps McCain&rsquos record as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

WMR has learned additional details regarding the deadly fire aboard the Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Forrestal, on July 19, 1967 in the Gulf of Tonkin. The additional details point to then-Lt. Commander John McCain playing more of a role in triggering the fire and explosions than previously reported.

On January 16, 2006, WMR reported that according to a US Navy sailor who was aboard the Forrestal on the fateful day of the fire, &ldquoMcCain and the Forrestal&rsquos skipper, Capt. John K. Beling, were warned about the danger of using M-65 1000-lb. bombs manufactured in 1935, which were deemed too dangerous to use during World War II and, later, on B-52 bombers. The fire from the Zuni missle misfire resulted in the heavy 1000 pound bombs being knocked loose from the pylons of McCain&rsquos A-4 aircraft, which were only designed to hold 500-pound bombs.&rdquo

WMR further reported, &ldquoThe unstable bombs had a 60-second cook-off threshold in a fire situation and this warning was known to both Beling and McCain prior to the disaster.&rdquo WMR also cited the potential that McCain&rsquos Navy records were used against him by the neo-cons in control of the Pentagon, &ldquoThe neo-cons, who have had five years to examine every file within the Department of Defense, have likely accessed documents that could prove embarrassing to McCain, who was on board the USS Forrestal on July 29, 1967, and whose A-4 Skyhawk was struck by an air-toground Zuni missile that had misfired from an F-4 Phantom.&rdquo

WMR has been informed that crewmen aboard the Forrestal have provided additional information about the Forrestal incident. It is believed by many crewmen and those who have investigated the case that McCain deliberately &ldquowet-started&rdquo his A-4E to shake up the guy in the plane behind his A-4. &ldquoWet-starts&rdquo, done either deliberately or accidentally, shoot a large flame from the tail of the aircraft.

In McCain&rsquos case, the &ldquowet-start&rdquo apparently &ldquocooked off&rdquo and launched the Zuni rocket from the rear F-4 that touched off the explosions and massive fire. The F-4 pilot was reportedly killed in the conflagration. &ldquoWet starting&rdquo was apparently a common practice among young &ldquohot-dog&rdquo pilots.

McCain was quickly transferred to the USS Oriskany (the only Forrestal crewman to be immediately transferred). Three months later, McCain was shot down over North Vietnam on October 26, 1967.

As WMR previously reported, at the time of the Forrestal disaster, McCain&rsquos father, Admiral John McCain, Jr., was Commander-in-Chief of US Naval Forces Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR) and was busy covering up the details of the deadly and pre-meditated June 8, 1967, Israeli attack on the NSA spy ship, the USS Liberty.

The fact that both McCains were involved in two incidents just weeks apart that resulted in a total death count of 168 on the Forrestal and the Liberty, with an additional injury count of 234 on both ships (with a number of them later dying from their wounds) with an accompanying classified paper trail inside the Pentagon, may be all that was needed to hold a Sword of Damocles over the head of the &ldquofamily honor&rdquo-oriented McCain by the neo-cons.

WMR has also been informed by knowledgeable sources, including an ex-Navy A-4 pilot, the &ldquowet-start game&rdquo was a common occurrence. However, it is between &ldquovery unlikely&rdquo and &ldquoimpossible&rdquo for the Forrestal &ldquowet start&rdquo to have been accidental. &ldquoWet starts&rdquo were later rendered impossible by automated engine controls.


John McCain Has a Bizarre History of Hiding Evidence About His Fellow POWs

John McCain, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam POW war hero, has, inexplicably, worked very hard to hide from the public stunning information about American prisoners in Vietnam who, unlike him, didn't return home. Throughout his Senate career, McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents. Thus the war hero people would logically imagine to be a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books.

Almost as striking is the manner in which the mainstream press has shied from reporting the POW story and McCain's role in it, even as McCain has made his military service and POW history the focus of his presidential campaign. Reporters who had covered the Vietnam War have also turned their heads and walked in other directions. McCain doesn't talk about the missing men, and the press never asks him about them.

The sum of the secrets McCain has sought to hide is not small. There exists a telling mass of official documents, radio intercepts, witness depositions, satellite photos of rescue symbols that pilots were trained to use, electronic messages from the ground containing the individual code numbers given to airmen, a rescue mission by a Special Forces unit that was aborted twice by Washington and even sworn testimony by two defense secretaries that "men were left behind." This imposing body of evidence suggests that a large number -- probably hundreds -- of the US prisoners held in Vietnam were not returned when the peace treaty was signed in January 1973 and Hanoi released 591 men, among them Navy combat pilot John S. McCain.

The Pentagon had been withholding significant information from POW families for years. What's more, the Pentagon's POW/MIA operation had been publicly shamed by internal whistleblowers and POW families for holding back documents as part of a policy of "debunking" POW intelligence even when the information was obviously credible. The pressure from the families and Vietnam veterans finally produced the creation, in late 1991, of a Senate "Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs." The chair was John Kerry, but McCain, as a POW, was its most pivotal member. In the end, the committee became part of the debunking machine.

Included in the evidence that McCain and his government allies suppressed or tried to discredit is a transcript of a senior North Vietnamese general's briefing of the Hanoi Politburo, discovered in Soviet archives by an American scholar in the 1990s. The briefing took place only four months before the 1973 peace accords. The general, Tran Van Quang, told the Politburo members that Hanoi was holding 1,205 American prisoners but would keep many of them at war's end as leverage to ensure getting reparations from Washington.

Throughout the Paris negotiations, the North Vietnamese tied the prisoner issue tightly to the issue of reparations. Finally, in a February 1, 1973, formal letter to Hanoi's premier, Pham Van Dong, Nixon pledged $3.25 billion in "postwar reconstruction" aid. The North Vietnamese, though, remained skeptical about the reparations promise being honored (it never was). Hanoi thus held back prisoners -- just as it had done when the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and withdrew their forces from Vietnam. France later paid ransoms for prisoners and brought them home.

Two defense secretaries who served during the Vietnam War testified to the Senate POW committee in September 1992 that prisoners were not returned. James Schlesinger and Melvin Laird, secretaries of defense under Nixon, said in a public session and under oath that they based their conclusions on strong intelligence data -- letters, eyewitness reports, even direct radio contacts. Under questioning, Schlesinger chose his words carefully, understanding clearly the volatility of the issue: "I think that as of now that I can come to no other conclusionsome were left behind."

Furthermore, over the years, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) received more than 1,600 firsthand reports of sightings of live American prisoners and nearly 14,000 secondhand accounts. Many witnesses interrogated by CIA or Pentagon intelligence agents were deemed "credible" in the agents' reports. Some of the witnesses were given lie-detector tests and passed. Sources provided me with copies of these witness reports. Yet the DIA, after reviewing them all, concluded that they "do not constitute evidence" that men were still alive.

There is also evidence that in the first months of Reagan's presidency, the White House received a ransom proposal for a number of POWs being held by Hanoi. The offer, which was passed to Washington from an official of a third country, was apparently discussed at a meeting in the Roosevelt Room attended by Reagan, Vice President George H.W. Bush, CIA director William Casey and National Security Adviser Richard Allen. Allen confirmed the offer in sworn testimony to the Senate POW committee on June 23, 1992.

Allen was allowed to testify behind closed doors, and no information was released. But a San Diego Union-Tribune reporter, Robert Caldwell, obtained the portion of the testimony relating to the ransom offer and wrote about it. The ransom request was for $4 billion, Allen testified. He said he told Reagan that "it would be worth the president going along and let's have the negotiation." When his testimony appeared in the Union-Tribune, Allen quickly wrote a letter to the panel, this time not under oath, recanting the ransom story, saying his memory had played tricks on him.

But the story didn't end there. A Treasury agent on Secret Service duty in the White House, John Syphrit, came forward to say he had overheard part of the ransom conversation in the Roosevelt Room in 1981. The Senate POW committee voted not to subpoena him to testify.

On November 11, 1992, Dolores Alfond, sister of missing airman Capt. Victor Apodaca and chair of the National Alliance of Families, an organization of relatives of POW/MIAs, testified at one of the Senate committee's public hearings. She asked for information about data the government had gathered from electronic devices used in a classified program known as PAVE SPIKE.

The devices were primarily motion sensors, dropped by air, designed to pick up enemy troop movements. But they also had rescue capabilities. Someone on the ground -- a downed airman or a prisoner on a labor gang -- could manually enter data into the sensor, which were regularly collected electronically by US planes flying overhead. Alfond stated, without any challenge from the committee, that in 1974, a year after the supposedly complete return of prisoners, the gathered data showed that a person or people had manually entered into the sensors -- as US pilots had been trained to do -- "no less than 20 authenticator numbers that corresponded exactly to the classified authenticator numbers of 20 US POW/MIAs who were lost in Laos." Alfond added, says the transcript: "This PAVE SPIKE intelligence is seamless, but the committee has not discussed it or released what it knows about PAVE SPIKE."

McCain, whose POW status made him the committee's most powerful member, attended that hearing specifically to confront Alfond because of her criticism of the panel's work. He bellowed and berated her for quite a while. His face turning anger-pink, he accused her of "denigrating" his "patriotism." The bullying had its effect -- she began to cry.

After a pause Alfond recovered and tried to respond to his scorching tirade, but McCain simply turned and stormed out of the room. The PAVE SPIKE file has never been declassified. We still don't know anything about those 20 POWs.

The committee's final report, issued in January 1993, began with a forty-three-page executive summary -- the only section that drew the mainstream press's attention. It said that only "a small number" of POWs could have been left behind in 1973. But the document's remaining 1,180 pages were quite different. Sprinkled throughout are findings that contradict and disprove the conclusions of the whitewashed summary. This insertion of critical evidence that committee leaders had downplayed and dismissed was the work of a committee staff that had opposed and finally rebelled against the cover-up.

Pages 207-209 of the report, for example, contain major revelations of what were either massive intelligence failures or bad intentions. These pages say that until the committee brought up the subject in 1992, no branch of the intelligence community that dealt with analysis of satellite and lower-altitude photos had ever been informed of the distress signals US forces were trained to use in Vietnam -- nor had they ever been tasked to look for such signals from possible prisoners on the ground.

In a personal briefing in 1992, high-level CIA officials told me privately that as it became more and more difficult for either government to admit that it knew from the start about the unacknowledged prisoners, those prisoners became not only useless as bargaining chips but also a risk to Hanoi's desire to be accepted into the international community. The CIA officials said their intelligence indicated strongly that the remaining men -- those who had not died from illness or hard labor or torture -- were eventually executed. My own research has convinced me that it is not likely that more than a few -- if any -- are alive in captivity today. (That CIA briefing was conducted "off the record," but because the evidence from my reporting since then has brought me to the same conclusion, I felt there was no longer any point in not writing about the meeting.)

For many reasons, including the absence of a constituency for the missing men other than their families and some veterans' groups, very few Americans are aware of McCain's role not only in keeping the subject out of public view but in denying the existence of abandoned POWs. That is because McCain has hardly been alone in this hide-the-scandal campaign. The Arizona senator has actually been following the lead of every White House since Richard Nixon's and thus of every CIA director, Pentagon chief and National Security Adviser, among many others (including Dick Cheney, who was George H.W. Bush's defense secretary).

An early and critical attempt by McCain to conceal evidence involved 1990 legislation called the Truth bill, which started in the House. A brief and simple document, the bill would have compelled complete transparency about prisoners and missing men. Its core sentence said that the "head of each department or agency which holds or receives any records and information, including reports, which have been correlated or possibly correlated to United States personnel listed as prisoner of war or missing in action from World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam conflict, shall make available to the public all such records held or received by that department or agency."

Bitterly opposed by the Pentagon (and thus by McCain), the bill went nowhere. Reintroduced the following year, it again disappeared. But a few months later a new measure, the McCain bill, suddenly appeared. It created a bureaucratic maze from which only a fraction of the documents could emerge -- only the records that revealed no POW secrets. The McCain bill became law in 1991 and remains so today.

McCain was also instrumental in amending the Missing Service Personnel Act, which was strengthened in 1995 by POW advocates to include criminal penalties against "any government official who knowingly and willfully withholds from the file of a missing person any information relating to the disappearance or whereabouts and status of a missing person." A year later, in a closed House-Senate conference on an unrelated military bill, McCain, at the behest of the Pentagon, attached a crippling amendment to the act, stripping out its only enforcement teeth, the criminal penalties, and reducing the obligations of commanders in the field to speedily search for missing men and report the incidents to the Pentagon.

McCain argued that keeping the criminal penalties would have made it impossible for the Pentagon to find staffers willing to work on POW/MIA matters. That's an odd argument to make. Were staffers only "willing to work" if they were allowed to conceal POW records? By eviscerating the law, McCain gave his stamp of approval to the government policy of debunking the existence of live POWs.

McCain has insisted again and again that all the evidence has been woven together by unscrupulous deceivers to create an insidious and unpatriotic myth. He calls it the work of the "bizarre rantings of the MIA hobbyists." He has regularly vilified those who keep trying to pry out classified documents as "hoaxers," "charlatans," "conspiracy theorists" and "dime-store Rambos." Family members who have personally pressed McCain to end the secrecy have been treated to his legendary temper. In 1996 he roughly pushed aside a group of POW family members who had waited outside a hearing room to appeal to him, including a mother in a wheelchair.

The only explanation McCain has ever offered for his leadership on legislation that seals POW information is that he believes the release of such information would only stir up fresh grief for the families of those who were never accounted for in Vietnam. Of the scores of POW families I've met over the years, only a few have said they want the books closed without knowing what happened to their men. All the rest say that not knowing is exactly what grieves them.

It's not clear whether the taped confession McCain gave to his captors to avoid further torture has played a role in his postwar behavior. That confession was played endlessly over the prison loudspeaker system at Hoa Lo -- to try to break down other prisoners -- and was broadcast over Hanoi's state radio. Reportedly, he confessed to being a war criminal who had bombed a school and other civilian targets. The Pentagon has copies of the confessions but will not release them. Also, no outsider I know of has ever seen a nonredacted copy of McCain's debriefing when he returned from captivity, which is classified but can be made public by McCain.

In his bestselling 1999 autobiography, Faith of My Fathers, McCain says he felt bad throughout his captivity because he knew he was being treated more leniently than his fellow POWs, owing to his propaganda value (his high-ranking father, Rear Adm. John S. McCain II, was then the commander of US forces in the Pacific). Also in this memoir, McCain expresses guilt at having broken under torture and given the confession. "I felt faithless and couldn't control my despair," he writes, revealing that he made two "feeble" attempts at suicide. Tellingly, he says he lived in "dread" that his father would find out about the confession. "I still wince," he writes, "when I recall wondering if my father had heard of my disgrace."

McCain still didn't know the answer when his father died in 1981. He got his answer eighteen years later. In his 1999 memoir, the senator writes, "I only recently learned that the tape had been broadcast outside the prison and had come to the attention of my father."

Does this hint at explanations for McCain's efforts to bury information about prisoners or other disturbing pieces of the Vietnam War? Does he suppress POW information because its surfacing rekindles his feelings of shame? On this subject, all I have are questions. But even without answers to what may be hidden in the recesses of someone's mind, one thing about the POW story is clear: if American prisoners were dishonored by being written off and left to die, that's something the American public ought to know about.

AlterNet is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed by its writers are their own.


Watch the video: The legacy of John McCain (January 2022).