John McCain Is No "Hero
He was a survivor
By Ted Sampley
U.S. Veteran Dispatch
John McCain seriously violated the Military Code of Conduct by trading "military information" and making numerous public statements that appeared favorable to the communist war effort in exchange for "special treatment."
The Code: Consisting of six articles in simple language, the United States Military Code of Conduct orders American military personnel to resist capture at all cost and if captured; to attempt to escape, to give the enemy no information other than name, rank, serial number and date of birth, to take charge if senior, to obey orders of the seniors, to accept no favors from the enemy and to make no written or oral statements disloyal to the United States.
In the original writing, the Code was declared the definitive code specifying the responsibilities of American military personnel while in combat or captivity.
The Code holds U.S. prisoners of war responsible to protect--at whatever cost--the cause for which the United States stands by continuing to carry on some form of resistance with the enemy. The establishment of the Code of Conduct was the result of what was considered in 1955 an embarrassing high number of U.S. servicemen held prisoner during the Korean War who apparently did little to resist collaborating with the enemy.
According to a Congressional Research Service Report (CRS), one out of every three American prisoners of the North Koreans and Chinese collaborated. The degree of collaboration ranged from such serious offenses as actually siding with the enemy to the relatively insignificant offense of broadcasting Christmas greetings home and therefore putting the communists in favorable light.
Although collaborating with the enemy is nothing new, there were a number of examples of it during WWII, its ramifications caused considerable damage to the morale and survival of U.S. POWs during the Korean War and later the Vietnam War.
The Korean War marked a new dimension in the relationship between U.S. servicemen taken prisoner and their captors. For the first time, U.S. prisoners of war were viewed by an enemy as more than soldiers from the other side temporarily restrained from conducting war. It was the first war fought by the United States against an enemy whose pathological desire to control the minds of U.S. prisoners extended the war into the POW camps.
North Korean and Chinese communists were not hesitant to use brutal and bloody torture as gruesome tools in their efforts to exploit U.S. prisoners of war into making public statements that appeared favorable to the communist war effort.
Communist interrogators also sought to further control their prisoners by manipulating them into looking to the detaining authorities as a source of leadership, thereby breaking down the leadership and internal discipline within the POW population.
In previous wars, prisoners were subjected to some inhumane and brutal treatment, but the enemy did not take it upon itself to tear down the chain of command within the prisoner ranks.
When the communists succeeded, a condition of distrust among the prisoners became the norm rather than the exception. Morale dropped and mutual assistance among the prisoners lessened.Chaos followed and the failure of the POWs to care for their fellow prisoners resulted in a higher death rate and made the captives more amenable to accept the doctrine of their captors.
Very few American servicemen were mentally prepared to protect themselves from such barbaric treatment and intense indoctrination attempts.
Through inhumane treatment and manipulation, many prisoners were forced to collaborate with the communists. Twenty-one chose to remain in China, refusing repatriation.
After the termination of the hostilities in Korea and the subsequent release of American prisoners of war, many former U.S. prisoners were criminally charged and tried for offenses that "amounted to treason, desertion to the enemy, mistreatment of fellow prisoners of war, and similar crimes."
The emotions and compassion of the public were aroused, as graphic details of the inhumane treatment of U.S. POWs in communist prison camps surfaced during the trials. Public discussion caused intense arguments over what should have been done about Americans who were "brainwashed" in Korea and what to do about those in future wars who may be the recipients of similar bloody treatment.
On August 7, 1954, the Secretary of Defense directed that a committee be formed to recommend a suitable approach for conducting a comprehensive study of the problems related to the entire Korean War POW experience. The work of that committee resulted in the May 17, 1955 appointment of the Defense Advisory Committee on Prisoners of War, headed by Carter L. Burgess, assistant secretary of defense for Manpower and Personnel.
The committee took heed of the ongoing divisive debate, noting that while all services had regulations governing the conduct of prisoners of war, "the United States armed forces have never had a clearly defined code of conduct applicable to American prisoners after capture."
Claiming the new code had been hammered out of "home-forged" American principles with no room for turncoats--prisoners who declare their allegiance to the enemy--the committee conceded that the Code did, however, allow special consideration for those who yield only under torture.
A Presidential commission was appointed after the Vietnam War, in 1976, to reevaluate the code of 1955. After a study, the commission recommended a subtle revision to Article V which, in its original form, stated: When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am bound to only give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
President Carter ordered the revision in 1977. The word "bound" was changed to "required" and the word "only" was deleted.
John McCain's Collaborations:
During his 23rd mission over Vietnam on Oct. 26, 1967, Lt. Commander John McCain was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.
To relate the event, McCain later recalled that he was "flying right over the heart of Hanoi in a dive at about 4,500 feet, when a Russian missile the size of a telephone pole came up--the sky was full of them--and blew the right wing off my Skyhawk dive bomber. It went into an inverted, almost straight-down spin. -U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain
"I pulled the ejection handle, and was knocked unconscious by the force of the ejection--the air speed was about 500 knots. I didn't realize it at the moment, but I had broken my right leg around the knee, my right arm in three places and my left arm. I regained consciousness just before I landed by parachute in a lake right in the center of Hanoi, one they called the Western Lake. My helmet and my oxygen mask had been blown off. "I hit the water and sank to the bottom . . . I did not feel any pain at the time, and I was able to rise to the surface. I took a breath of air and started sinking again." -U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain
After bobbing up and down, he was eventually pulled from the water by Vietnamese who had swam out to get him.
A mob gathered on shore and McCain was bayoneted in the foot and his shoulder was smashed with a rifle butt. He was put on a truck and taken to Hanoi's main prison.
After being periodically slapped around for "three or four days" by his captors who wanted military information from him, 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
McCain was taken to Gai Lam military hospital normally unavailable to American POWS. (U.S. government documents)
"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.
Nov. 9, 1967 (U.S. government documents) Hanoi press began quoting him giving specific military information.
One report dated read, "To a question of the correspondent, McCain answered: 'My assignment to the Oriskany, I told myself, was due to serious losses in pilots, which were sustained by this aircraft carrier (due to its raids on the North Vietnam territory - VNA) and which necessitated replacements. From 10 to 12 pilots were transferred like me from the Forrestal to the Oriskany. Before I was shot down, we had made several sorties. Altogether, I made about 23 flights over North Vietnam.'"
In that report, McCain was quoted describing the number of aircraft in his flight, information about rescue ships, and the order of which his attack was supposed to take place.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. Veteran Dispatch acquired a declassified Department of Defense (DOD) transcript of an interview prominent French television reporter Francois Chalais had with McCain.
Chalais told of his private interview with POW McCain in a series titled Life in Hanoi, which was aired in Europe. In the series, Chalais said his meeting with McCain was "a meeting which will leave its mark on my life."
"My meeting with John Sidney McCain was certainly one of those meetings which will affect me most profoundly for the rest of my life. I had asked the North Vietnamese authorities to allow me to personally interrogate an American prisoner. They authorized me to do so. When night fell, they took me---without any precautions or mystery--to a hospital near the Gia Lam airport reserved for the [North Vietnamese] military. (passage omitted) The officer who receives me begins: I ask you not to ask any questions of political nature. If this man replies in a way unfavorable to us, they will not hesitate to speak of 'brainwashing' and conclude that we threatened him.
"'This John Sidney McCain is not an ordinary prisoner. His father is none other than Admiral Edmond John McCain, commander in chief of U.S. naval forces in Europe. (passage omitted)'"
". . . Many visitors came to talk to me [John McCain]. Not all of it was for interrogation. Once a famous North Vietnamese writer-an old man with a Ho Chi Minh beard-came to my room, wanting to know all about Ernest Hemingway . . . Others came to find out about life in the United States. They figured because my father had such high military rank that I was of the royalty or governing circle . . . One of the men who came to see me, whose picture I recognized later, was Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the hero of Dienbienphu." U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain
Vietnamese doctors operate (early December 1967) on McCain's Leg. Later that month, six weeks after he was shot down, McCain was taken from the hospital and delivered to a POW camp, Room No. 11 in "The Plantation" and into the hands of two other U.S. POWs, Air Force majors George "Bud" Day and Norris Overly. They helped further nurse him along until he was eventually able to walk by himself. --Faith of My Fathers by John McCain
McCain, Day and Overly, were relocated (early January 1968) to "another end of the camp, a place we called 'the Corn Crib.'" A group of "obviously senior" Communist Party members visited and talked with McCain. --Faith of My Fathers by John McCain
Overly was offered and he accepted early release. He was released February 16. --Faith of My Fathers by John McCain
Overly was released with David Matheny and John Black. "They were the first three POW's to be released by the North Vietnamese." U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain
In March, Day was "relocated" to another cell.--Faith of My Fathers by John McCain. A month later, McCain was "moved into another building, the largest cell block in the camp, 'the Warehouse.'" Day was moved to another prison (the Zoo). McCain began solitary confinement.--Faith of My Fathers by John McCain
For nearly two years, McCain's communist handlers kept him isolated from other U.S. prisoners. Because they considered him a "special prisoner," McCain became the target of intense indoctrination and psychological programs the communists had perfected during the Korean War.
The communists were very much aware that POW McCain would be under great psychological pressure not to do or say anything that would tarnish his famous military family and they considered that to be the key to eventually breaking and then "turning" him. McCain's handlers kept meticulous records of his behavior, including his personal strengths, weaknesses and any special favors he may have accepted while under the pressure of isolation.
McCain's interrogators considered him a "special prisoner." They believed that because he came from a "royal family," he would, when finally released, return to the United States to some important military or government job.
Because he was kept isolated from other U.S. prisoners during these years of captivity, no one, except McCain and his captors, know exactly to what he was subjected or how he responded. Most information in the public record detailing McCain's experience with the North Vietnamese during this time frame came from McCain and McCain only.
"In May of 1968, I [McCain] was interviewed by two North Vietnamese generals at separate times." U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain
McCain claimed (page 133 of The Nightingale's Song, by Robert Timberg) that he was first offered early release (parole) in late June, 1968. He said that after months of interrogation he was "summoned" to a room that had soft chairs and a glass table on which were "cookies, a pot of tea, and cigarettes."
He said "Major Bai, known to the prisoners as the Cat," was waiting for him. He said "a second Vietnamese known as the Rabbit, stood by to serve as translator."
McCain said that as he "helped himself" to the cookies, tea and cigarettes, the Cat began speaking through the translator. He said they talked about "his father, other members of his family, the war." McCain said that after about two of talk, the Cat asked him if he wanted to be released. The Cat, according to McCain, told him to go back to his cell and think about it.--The Nightingale's Song.
McCain said that three nights later the Cat sent for him and again asked him if he wanted to go home. McCain said he answered No. --The Nightingale's Song
A week later, according to McCain, he was taken to a room in which the camp commander, who the prisoners had nicknamed Slopehead, was waiting. McCain said ten guards and an interrogator nicked named The Prick was also in the room. --The Nightingale's Song
McCain said the guards charged into him beating and kicking him until he 'lay on the floor, bloody, arms and legs throbbing, ribs cracked, several teeth broken off at the gumline." The Vietnamese, according to McCain, wanted him to confess to being a "black criminal." --The Nightingale's Song
McCain said he was next introduced for the first time to the "torture ropes." He said the torture went on for several days before he broke and agreed to write and sign a confession that he was a "black criminal." McCain said that he was moved to another building away from the other POWs. --The Nightingale's Song
McCain said (page 136) that he was so distraught because he had signed the statement that he attempted suicide but was stopped when a guard burst into the room. --The Nightingale's Song
In August 1968, other POWs learned for the first time that John McCain had been taken prisoner (page 137) after Charlie Plumb and Kay Russell figured out that the "mystery" prisoner in a neighboring cell is McCain. --The Nightingale's Song
A September 13, 1968, cable from Averell Harriman, U.S. ambassador-at-large, to the State Department confirmed that McCain's captors had offered him early release, but that he had refused. The cable reported that, according to the Vietnamese, "Commander McCain feared that if he was released before the war is over, President [Lyndon] Johnson might 'cause difficulties' for his father because people will wonder if McCain had been brainwashed." Harriman speculated that instead, McCain was abiding by the Code of Conduct.-- The Phoenix New Times March 25, 1999
June 1969 - "Reds Say PW Songbird Is Pilot Son of Admiral. . . Hanoi has aired a broadcast in which the pilot son of United States Commander in the Pacific, Adm. John McCain, purportedly admits to having bombed civilian targets in North Vietnam and praises medical treatment he has received since being taken prisoner." New York Daily News, June 5, 1969
"The English-Language broadcast beamed at South Vietnam was one of a series using American prisoners. It was in response to a plea by Defense Secretary Melvin S. Laird, May 19, that North Vietnam treat prisoners according to the humanitarian standards set forth by the Geneva Convention." The Washington Post
In December, McCain was moved out of "The Plantation" and into a "one man cell" in the "Hanoi Hilton.". On Christmas Eve, McCain chatted with the Cat. They talked about McCain refusing early release. --The Nightingale's Song
"There was pressure to see American antiwar delegations, which seemed to increase as the time went on. But, there wasn't any torture.
In January 1970, I [McCain] was taken to a quiz with 'The Cat.' He told me that he wanted me to see a foreign guest." U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain
A declassified DOD document reports an interview between POW McCain and Dr. Fernando Barral, a Spanish psychiatrist who was living in Cuba at the time. The interview was published in the Havana Granma in January 1970.
According to the DOD report, the meeting between Barral and McCain (which was photographed by the Vietnamese) took place away from the prison at the office of the Committee for Foreign Cultural Relations in Hanoi. During the meeting, POW McCain sipped coffee and ate oranges and cakes with his interrogator.
While talking with Barral, McCain seriously violated the military Code of Conduct by failing to evade answering questions "to the utmost" of his ability when he, according to the DOD report, helped Barral by answering questions in Spanish, a language McCain had learned in school.
1973 - McCain was released from the Hilton on March 15, 1973.
Two Former POWs Say They Doubt McCain Was Physically Abused
1999 - March 25, 1999, The Phoenix New Times: Ted Guy and Gordon "Swede" Larson, two former POWs, who were McCain's senior ranking officers (SRO's), at the time McCain says he was tortured in solitary confinement, told the New Times that while they could not guarantee that McCain was not physically harmed, they doubted it.
"Between the two of us, it's our belief, and to the best of our knowledge, that no prisoner was beaten or harmed physically in that camp [known as "The Plantation"]," Larson says. ". . . My only contention with the McCain deal is that while he was at The Plantation, to the best of my knowledge and Ted's knowledge, he was not physically abused in any way. No one was in that camp. It was the camp that people were released from."
In 1993, during one of his many trips back to Hanoi, McCain asked the Vietnamese not to make public the records they hold pertaining to returned U.S. POWs.