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 Sydney Schanberg Archive
John McCain and the POW Cover-Up
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.

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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.

TAC-McCainPOWs 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.

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 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 the New 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

In its early months, the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs gave the appearance of being committed to finding out the truth about the MIAs. As time went on, however, it became clear that they were cooperating in every way with the Pentagon and CIA, who often seemed to be calling the shots, even setting the agendas for certain key hearings. Both agencies held back the most important POW files. Dick Cheney was the Pentagon chief then; Robert Gates, now the Pentagon chief, was the CIA director.

Further, the committee failed to question any living president. Reagan declined to answer questions; the committee didn’t contest his refusal. Nixon was given a pass. George H.W. Bush, the sitting president, whose prints were all over this issue from his days as CIA chief in the 1970s, was never even approached. Troubled by these signs, several committee staffers began asking why the agencies they should be probing had been turned into committee partners and decision makers. Memos to that effect were circulated. The staff made the following finding, using intelligence reports marked “credible” that covered POW sightings through 1989: “There can be no doubt that POWs were alive … as late as 1989.” That finding was never released. Eventually, much of the staff was in rebellion.

This internecine struggle continued right up to the committee’s last official act—the issuance of its final report. The Executive Summary, which comprised the first 43 pages, was essentially a whitewash, saying that only “a small number” of POWs could have been left behind in 1973 and that there was little likelihood that any prisoners could still be alive. The Washington press corps, judging from its coverage, seems to have read only this air-brushed summary, which had been closely controlled.

But the rest of the 1,221-page Report on POW/MIAs was quite different. Sprinkled throughout are pieces of hard evidence that directly contradict the summary’s conclusions. This documentation established that a significant number of prisoners were left behind—and that top government officials knew this from the start. These candid findings were inserted by committee staffers who had unearthed the evidence and were determined not to allow the truth to be sugar-coated.

If the Washington press corps did actually read the body of the report and then failed to report its contents, that would be a scandal of its own. The press would then have knowingly ignored the steady stream of findings in the body of the report that refuted the summary and indicated that the number of abandoned men was not small but considerable. The report gave no figures but estimates from various branches of the intelligence community ranged up to 600. The lowest estimate was 150.

Highlights of the report that undermine the benign conclusions of the Executive Summary:

Pages 207-209: These three pages contain revelations of what appear to be either massive intelligence failures or bad intentions—or both. The report says 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 specific distress signals U.S. personnel were trained to use in the Vietnam War, nor had they ever been tasked to look for any such signals at all from possible prisoners on the ground.

The committee decided, however, not to seek a review of old photography, saying it “would cause the expenditure of large amounts of manpower and money with no expectation of success.” It might also have turned up lots of distress-signal numbers that nobody in the government was looking for from 1973 to 1991, when the committee opened shop. That would have made it impossible for the committee to write the Executive Summary it seemed determined to write.

The failure gets worse. The committee also discovered that the DIA, which kept the lists of authenticator numbers for pilots and other personnel, could not “locate” the lists of these codes for Army, Navy, or Marine pilots. They had lost or destroyed the records. The Air Force list was the only one intact, as it had been preserved by a different intelligence branch.

The report concluded, “In theory, therefore, if a POW still living in captivity [today], were to attempt to communicate by ground signal, smuggling out a note or by whatever means possible, and he used his personal authenticator number to confirm his identity, the U.S. government would be unable to provide such confirmation, if his number happened to be among those numbers DIA cannot locate.”

It’s worth remembering that throughout the period when this intelligence disaster occurred—from the moment the treaty was signed in 1973 until 1991—the White House told the public that it had given the search for POWs and POW information the “highest national priority.”

Page 13: Even in the Executive Summary, the report acknowledges the existence of clear intelligence, made known to government officials early on, that important numbers of captured U.S. POWs were not on Hanoi’s repatriation list. After Hanoi released its list (showing only ten names from Laos—nine military men and one civilian), President Nixon sent a message on Feb. 2, 1973 to Hanoi’s Prime Minister Pham Van Dong saying, “U.S. records show there are 317 American military men unaccounted for in Laos and it is inconceivable that only ten of these men would be held prisoner in Laos.”

Nixon was right. It was inconceivable. Then why did the president, less than two months later, on March 29, 1973, announce on national television that “all of our American POWs are on their way home”?

On April 13, 1973, just after all 591 men on Hanoi’s official list had returned to American soil, the Pentagon got into step with the president and announced that there was no evidence of any further live prisoners in Indochina (this is on page 248).

Page 91: A lengthy footnote provides more confirmation of the White House’s knowledge of abandoned POWs. The footnote reads, “In a telephone conversation with Select Committee Vice-Chairman Bob Smith on December 29, 1992, Dr. Kissinger said that he had informed President Nixon during the 60-day period after the peace agreement was signed that U.S. intelligence officials believed that the list of prisoners captured in Laos was incomplete. According to Dr. Kissinger, the President responded by directing that the exchange of prisoners on the lists go forward, but added that a failure to account for the additional prisoners after Operation Homecoming would lead to a resumption of bombing. Dr. Kissinger said that the President was later unwilling to carry through on this threat.”

When Kissinger learned of the footnote while the final editing of the committee report was in progress,he and his lawyers lobbied fiercely through two Republican allies on the panel—one of them was John McCain—to get the footnote expunged. The effort failed. The footnote stayed intact.

Pages 85-86: The committee report quotes Kissinger from his memoirs, writing solely in reference to prisoners in Laos: “We knew of at least 80 instances in which an American serviceman had been captured alive and subsequently disappeared. The evidence consisted either of voice communications from the ground in advance of capture or photographs and names published by the Communists. Yet none of these men was on the list of POWs handed over after the Agreement.”

Then why did he swear under oath to the committee in 1992 that he never had any information that specific, named soldiers were captured alive and hadn’t been returned by Vietnam?

Page 89: In the middle of the prisoner repatriation and U.S. troop-withdrawal process agreed to in the treaty, when it became clear that Hanoi was not releasing everyone it held, a furious chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Thomas Moorer, issued an order halting the troop withdrawal until Hanoi complied with the agreement. He cited in particular the known prisoners in Laos. The order was retracted by President Nixon the next day. In 1992, Moorer, by then retired, testified under oath to the committee that his order had received the approval of the president, the national security adviser, and the secretary of Defense. Nixon, however, in a letter to the committee, wrote, “I do not recall directing Admiral Moorer to send this cable.”

The report did not include the following information: behind closed doors, a senior intelligence officer had testified to the POW committee that when Moorer’s order was rescinded, the angry admiral sent a “back-channel” message to other key military commanders telling them that Washington was abandoning known live prisoners. “Nixon and Kissinger are at it again,” he wrote. “SecDef and SecState have been cut out of the loop.” In 1973, the witness was working in the office that processed this message. His name and his testimony are still classified. A source present for the testimony provided me with this information and also reported that in that same time period, Moorer had stormed into Defense Secretary Schlesinger’s office and, pounding on his desk, yelled: “The bastards have still got our men.” Schlesinger, in his own testimony to the committee a few months later, was asked about—and corroborated—this account.

Pages 95-96: In early April 1973, Deputy Defense Secretary William Clements “summoned” Dr. Roger Shields, then head of the Pentagon’s POW/MIA Task Force, to his office to work out “a new public formulation” of the POW issue; now that the White House had declared all prisoners to have been returned, a new spin was needed. Shields, under oath, described the meeting to the committee. He said Clements told him, “All the American POWs are dead.” Shields said he replied: “You can’t say that.” Clements shot back: “You didn’t hear me. They are all dead.” Shields testified that at that moment he thought he was going to be fired, but he escaped from his boss’s office still holding his job.

Pages 97-98: A couple of days later, on April 11, 1973, a day before Shields was to hold a Pentagon press conference on POWs, he and Gen. Brent Scowcroft, then the deputy national security adviser, went to the Oval Office to discuss the “new public formulation” and its presentation with President Nixon.

The next day, reporters right off asked Shields about missing POWs. Shields fudged his answers. He said, “We have no indications at this time that there are any Americans alive in Indochina.” But he went on to say that there had not been “a complete accounting” of those lost in Laos and that the Pentagon would press on to account for the missing—a seeming acknowledgement that some Americans were still alive and unaccounted for.

The press, however, seized on Shields’s denials. One headline read, “POW Unit Boss: No Living GIs Left in Indochina.”

Page 97: The POW committee, knowing that Nixon taped all his meetings in the Oval Office, sought the tape of that April 11, 1973 Nixon-Shields-Scowcroft meeting to find out what Nixon had been told and what he had said about the evidence of POWs still in Indochina. The committee also knew there had been other White House meetings that centered on intelligence about live POWs. A footnote on page 97 states that Nixon’s lawyers said they would provide access to the April 11 tape “only if the Committee agreed not to seek any other White House recordings from this time period.” The footnote says that the committee rejected these terms and got nothing. The committee never made public this request for Nixon tapes until the brief footnote in its 1993 report.

McCain’s Catch-22

None of this compelling evidence in the committee’s full report dislodged McCain from his contention that the whole POW issue was a concoction by deluded purveyors of a “conspiracy theory.” But an honest review of the full report, combined with the other documentary evidence, tells the story of a frustrated and angry president, and his national security adviser, furious at being thwarted at the peace table by a small, much less powerful country that refused to bow to Washington’s terms. That president seems to have swallowed hard and accepted a treaty that left probably hundreds of American prisoners in Hanoi’s hands, to be used as bargaining chips for reparations.

Maybe Nixon and Kissinger told themselves that they could get the prisoners home after some time had passed. But perhaps it proved too hard to undo a lie as big as this one. Washington said no prisoners were left behind, and Hanoi swore it had returned all of them. How could either side later admit it had lied? Time went by and as neither side budged, telling the truth became even more difficult and remote. The public would realize that Washington knew of the abandoned men all along. The truth, after men had been languishing in foul prison cells, could get people impeached or thrown in jail.

Which brings us to today, when the Republican candidate for president is the contemporary politician most responsible for keeping the truth about this matter hidden. Yet he says he’s the right man to be the commander in chief, and his credibility in making this claim is largely based on his image as a POW hero.

On page 468 of the 1,221-page report, McCain parsed his POW position oddly, “We found no compelling evidence to prove that Americans are alive in captivity today. There is some evidence—though no proof—to suggest only the possibility that a few Americans may have been kept behind after the end of America’s military involvement in Vietnam.”

“Evidence though no proof.” Clearly, no one could meet McCain’s standard of proof as long as he is leading a government crusade to keep the truth buried.

To this reporter, this sounds like a significant story and a long overdue opportunity for the press to finally dig into the archives to set the historical record straight—and even pose some direct questions to the candidate.


Sydney Schanberg has been a journalist for nearly 50 years. The 1984 movie “The Killing Fields,” which won several Academy Awards, was based on his book The Death and Life of Dith Pran. In 1975, Schanberg was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting “at great risk.” He is also the recipient of two George Polk awards, two Overseas Press Club awards, and the Sigma Delta Chi prize for distinguished journalism. His latest book is Beyond the Killing Fields ( This piece is reprinted with permission from The Nation Institute.

(Reprinted from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
The McCain/POW Series
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A Dangerous Game for Washington

69 Comments to "John McCain and the POW Cover-Up"

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  1. I did a lot of research into the POW coverup back in the late 80′s
    and had the chance to see mccain at a Republican rally about 1989.
    I asked him about what efforts were being made to bring the
    Vietnam POWs back home. He shuffled his feet, looked down and
    to the left, covered his mouth with his hand, changed the tone of
    his voice, mumbled that “there are no POWs left in Vietnam”, looked
    at someone else, and changed the subject. In short, he showed multiple
    “tells” that indicate that a person is lying.
    He knows the truth.
    And it isn’t what he tells the media.

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  2. McCain is a gutless coward, and he has been for most of his lifetime. When he sang to his North Vietnamese captors he was given liberties and privileges the other prisoners weren’t, and he played them to the hilt. Only in the US could a coward like this actually gain the nomination of a major political party in his bid for the presidency.

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  3. […] those new doubts about McCain were still in my mind a few months later when I stumbled upon Sidney Schanberg’s massively documented exposeabout McCain’s role in the POW/MIA cover up, a vastly greater scandal. This time I was […]

  4. […] those new doubts about McCain were still in my mind a few months later when I stumbled upon Sidney Schanberg’s massively documented exposeabout McCain’s role in the POW/MIA cover up, a vastly greater scandal. This time I was […]

  5. […] those new doubts about McCain were still in my mind a few months later when I stumbled upon Sidney Schanberg’s massively documented exposeabout McCain’s role in the POW/MIA cover up, a vastly greater scandal. This time I was […]

  6. […] Along those lines, I remember the story of an ex-Special Forces officer and POW activist who grabbed one of John McCain’s aides, pulled him a stairwell, and gave him a beating right in the Capitol Building. I read about it in a media article which portrayed the guy as a nutcase, and back then in those pre-internet days, if the media said it, it must be true. But then I read this, by Pulitzer Prize winning NY Times Reporter Sydney Schanburg. […]

  7. […] those new doubts about McCain were still in my mind a few months later when I stumbled upon Sidney Schanberg’s massively documented exposeabout McCain’s role in the POW/MIA cover up, a vastly greater scandal. This time I was presented […]

  8. Let me begin by saying Nixon did a good job extracting the USA from the Vietnam mess, which is why the CIA ousted him with their Watergate Op. What were we to do about the other POWs the N. Viets kept? Most were captured in Laos where we told the world we were not fighting because that was illegal. At least Dick Nixon got most of the POWs out. For the doubters that many were left, read about POW Bobby Garwood, whose story is documented in the the book “Buzzsaw”. He escaped in 1979, and was charged with treason!

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  9. Political parties love candidates with a “history”. They always tell them not to worry, that none of this will come to light. That this will never be a problem as long as they do as they are told and vote the way the establishment wants them to vote. The candidate thus puts the noose around his own neck. They are the perfect party hacks. McCain, a man who has received government checks all his life, is quite at home in this atmosphere of deceit and betrayal. His anger stems from the inner fury that is unleashed every time some constituency reminds him of his perfidy.

  10. My liberal father wondere why I, his progeny, flew the MIA flag at my home. His generation didn’t care, mine less so, the current one its nonexistent. Seems trite on one level, almost like “liking” something on Facebook to “raise awareness” for breast cancer or rape, especially since nothing can or will be done at this point. But it hits a little harder when a magnificent liar like McCain represents your state.

  11. Nixon did a good job extracting the USA from the Vietnam mess,

    There are thousands of names on the Vietnam Memorial who might disagree since he promised to end the war in 1968 but instead escalated it and just killed more Americans and Vietnamese for that “peace with honor” thingy.

  12. Sunday on Fox News Chris Wallace stated that John McCain was a Navy pilot shot down while defending his country.

    Who believes this crock of crap? North Vietnam attacked the US?
    McCain was shot down over North Vietnam….not Toledo.

    This is why IQ is important!

  13. Somehow, it has become an Amerikan pastime to consider via dirt, rather than consider by reason.
    My first instinct with a piece like this one is an immediate aversion. I am not a John McCain fan in any way, shape, or form. Personally, John McCain is unbalanced. Crackers. Bonkers. He doesn’t seem to be able to manage or hold a reasonable thought. But, disparaging John McCain is NOT going to make Donald Trump look better. If Trump cannot survive on his own without spreading dirt, he doesn’t deserve to win. That doesn’t mean that the candidate who runs the sleaziest, most low-brow, cretinous campaign won’t win – c’mon man, this is Amerika.

  14. It’s true that McVain, whose love for all war may be motivated from the psychological after effects of the torture he suffered, still better fits the definition of hero than the freakish ones of Jennernation XXX. Heck, even Bowie Bergdahl, who at least still has a conscience, shows way more moral fibre than those we’re lionizing as the ultimate Profiles in Courage these (last?) days.

    More travestite than transvestite…

    As for Kiefer, he-has-betrayed-his-own-kind…

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  15. Before the Keating scandal, McCain was fairly cautious regarding military intervention. After that he was favored uncritically Clinton’s foreign policy and was wildly enthusiastic for any war the neocons dreamed up.

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  16. It’s the corrupt and perverted politicians who are easiest to control. Hence the proliferation of (quickly covered up) paedophile scandals amongst the political filth.

  17. says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    I will not participate in meanness or innuendo. I am a Veteran and will speak truth. I remember when McCain was captured. My brothers and I watching on AFRTS and reading in the Stars and Stripes paper the traitor (1) lying on a gurney, (2) arm in a cast, (3) smoking a cigarette while being interviewed, knowing full well the cost to other GI’s for getting those 3 things (at least).

    Shortly thereafter watching almost every one of McCain’s F4 fighter squadron being shot down because of flight path, tactical and strategic information he gave his captors.

    Hearing and reading the things he said to our troops over the enemies radio systems just as the “Tokyo Roses” did in WWII.

    After the war watching with heartbreak as he used his political powers to block every attempt of our military, groups, families and even individuals to find and return POW’s and MIA’s through the 70′s and 80′s.

    Living through the Keating Five scandal and savings and loan tragedy, he was involved in, that nearly broke this country.

    Some of us are blessed with the ability to keenly remember things. Some of which you can’t even see, hear or read anymore because truth has been “wiped” for those of vast power who are corrupt. Mr McCain willingly chose to serve the wrong gods. The cost to himself for what he has done I cannot imagine. May God have mercy on his soul.

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  18. says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    I once saw a comment somewhere that when John McCain was given the opportunity to leave prison he let another leave in his place. A decent thing to do. But this was disputed in an article I read. When he was permitted to go his also captured commanding officer said you don’t go before another soldier who was there longer. McCain was stuck there awhile. But then when he was freed he changed the story to it was he himself that let his fellow serviceman go instead of himself. Does anyone know if this is true.

  19. This is McCain with the aforementioned Dolores Alfond.

    My God he’s vain. He thinks wrapping himself in the flag and obfuscation is a substitute for argument. The evidence in the article is pretty convincing. I just don’t understand how, as a human being who has gone through that, McCain could possibly cover that up. Is he some sort of psychopath without empathy? I mean, I guess the argument that it could “rekindle feelings of shame” kinda makes sense. Beginning around 6:50 in the video, when talking about the nightmare ending, he does appear like someone frantically trying to plunge some things that won’t go down the memory hole. Last nine seconds sad, “hope to get it declassified,” yeah right.

  20. “I remember when McCain was captured. My brothers and I watching on AFRTS and reading in the Stars and Stripes paper the traitor (1) lying on a gurney, (2) arm in a cast, (3) smoking a cigarette while being interviewed, knowing full well the cost to other GI’s for getting those 3 things (at least).
    Shortly thereafter watching almost every one of McCain’s F4 fighter squadron being shot down because of flight path, tactical and strategic information he gave his captors.”

    Gary in UT, as veterans, you and your brothers could clearly assess what you saw and read much better than those of us who never served in the military. In effect, your experience made you expert witnesses. But, even if we lacked those pictures and the accounts in Stars and Stripes by which we can infer certain things, we have John McCain’s own first person account in U.S. News back in 1973 after his release in which he admitted that after a few days in captivity he volunteered to cooperate with his captors in exchange for medical treatment. His own written admission appears to confirm what you and your brothers inferred from the pictures and subsequent events. In light of that damning admission, I don’t see that McCain’s defenders have a leg to stand on.

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  21. The Stars and Stripes web site is probably on board with the McCain Hero tripe.
    I tried to put up the following link that I got from this Unz web site and their moderator won’t publish it.
    What is ironic is that it was published in their own magazine.

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  22. What you say doesn’t surprise me. Your response is just further confirmation of Ron Unz’s general thesis about “American Pravda.”

    With respect to the specific topic of whether John McCain was a “war hero,” I am going to take the liberty of repeating what he himself said in the long first person account published by U.S. News & World Report back in 1973 shortly after his release by the North Vietnamese:

    “I think it was on the fourth day that two guards came in, instead of one. One of them pulled back the blanket to show the other guard my injury. I looked at my knee. It was about the size, shape and color of a football. I remembered that when I was a flying instructor a fellow had ejected from his plane and broken his thigh. He had gone into shock, the blood had pooled in his leg, and he died, which came as quite a surprise to us—a man dying of a broken leg. Then I realized that a very similar thing was happening to me.

    “When I saw it, I said to the guard, “O.K., get the officer.” An officer came in after a few minutes. It was the man that we came to know very well as “The Bug.” He was a psychotic torturer, one of the worst fiends that we had to deal with. I said, “O.K., I’ll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital.” He left and came back with a doctor, a guy that we called “Zorba,” who was completely incompetent. He squatted down, took my pulse. He did not speak English, but shook his head and jabbered to “The Bug.” I asked, “Are you going to take me to the hospital?” “The Bug” replied, “It’s too late.” I said, “If you take me to the hospital, I’ll get well.” ”

    I contend that his own admission in 1973 is totally inconsistent with his later citation for the Silver Star which basically referred to his heroic resistance to his captors in the first two months of his captivity. To quote from my earlier post, “According to one press account, “McCain was awarded a Silver Star Medal for resisting “extreme mental and physical cruelties” inflicted upon him by his captors from late October to early December 1967, the early months of his captivity, according to the citation.” Donald Trump has simply challenged John McCain’s status as a war hero, but he showed great restraint in not going further.

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  23. About 7 years ago, when I first started looking closely into McCain’s story as he was a candidate for President of the U.S., I read the entire first person account of John McCain that I discovered in the 1973 edition of U.S. News & World Report that was reposted online on January 28, 2008. [I started posting on Yahoo Finance in early 2003 and posted regularly there through 2009. I first started posting on The American Conservative in early 2010 and reposted there some of the things I had previously posted on Yahoo Finance message boards.] Piqued by Ron Unz’s recent piece on McCain, I recently went back and reread the first few paragraphs to refresh my memory. I wish I had reread more, as I just did, for I would have rediscovered a lot more that my memory failed to retain over the years. Keep in mind that McCain was shot down on October 26, 1967, and, by his own admission in U.S. News, he brought up on his own just four days later (the end of October, 1967) his offer to provide military information to the North Vietnamese in exchange for medical care for his various injuries. That resulted in his being taken to a hospital where medical care of sorts was given to him. There is no mention in his account that he was tortured during the time he was in the hospital. He describes in detail the somewhat incompetent medical care he received, but his account states:

    “For the next three or four days [following his crash and rescue], I lapsed from conscious to unconsciousness. During this time, I was taken out to interrogation—which we called a “quiz”—several times. That’s when I was hit with all sorts of war-criminal charges. This started on the first day. I refused to give them anything except my name, rank, serial number and date of birth. They beat me around a little bit. I was in such bad shape that when they hit me it would knock me unconscious. They kept saying, “You will not receive any medical treatment until you talk.”

    “I didn’t believe this. I thought that if I just held out, that they’d take me to the hospital. I was fed small amounts of food by the guard and also allowed to drink some water. I was able to hold the water down, but I kept vomiting the food.

    “They wanted military rather than political information at this time. Every time they asked me something, I’d just give my name, rank and serial number and date of birth.

    “I think it was on the fourth day that two guards came in, instead of one. One of them pulled back the blanket to show the other guard my injury. I looked at my knee. It was about the size, shape and color of a football. I remembered that when I was a flying instructor a fellow had ejected from his plane and broken his thigh. He had gone into shock, the blood had pooled in his leg, and he died, which came as quite a surprise to us—a man dying of a broken leg. Then I realized that a very similar thing was happening to me.

    “When I saw it, I said to the guard, “O.K., get the officer.” An officer came in after a few minutes. It was the man that we came to know very well as “The Bug.” He was a psychotic torturer, one of the worst fiends that we had to deal with. I said, “O.K., I’ll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital.” He left and came back with a doctor, a guy that we called “Zorba,” who was completely incompetent. He squatted down, took my pulse. He did not speak English, but shook his head and jabbered to “The Bug.” I asked, “Are you going to take me to the hospital?” “The Bug” replied, “It’s too late.” I said, “If you take me to the hospital, I’ll get well.”
    * * * *
    I was in the hospital about six weeks, then was taken to a camp in Hanoi that we called “The Plantation.” This was in late December, 1967. I was put in a cell with two other men, George Day and Norris Overly, both Air Force majors. I was on a stretcher, my leg was stiff and I was still in a chest cast that I kept for about two months. I was down to about 100 pounds from my normal weight of 155.

    “I was told later on by Major Day that they didn’t expect me to live a week. I was unable to sit up. I was sleeping about 18 hours, 20 hours a day. They had to do everything for me. They were allowed to get a bucket of water and wash me off occasionally. They fed me and took fine care of me, and I recovered very rapidly.

    We moved to another room just after Christmas. In early February, 1968, Overly was taken out of our room and released, along with David Matheny and John Black. They were the first three POW’s to be released by the North Vietnamese. I understand they had instructions, once home, to say nothing about treatment, so as not to jeopardize those of us still in captivity.
    * * * *
    As soon as I was able to walk, which was in March of 1968, Day was moved out.

    “I remained in solitary confinement from that time on for more than two years. I was not allowed to see or talk to or communicate with any of my fellow prisoners.
    * * * *
    “From the time that Overly and Day left me—Overly left in February of 1968, Day left in March—my treatment was basically good. I would get caught communicating, talking to guys through the wall, tapping—that kind of stuff, and they’d just say, “Tsk, tsk; no, no.” Really, I thought things were not too bad.

    “Then, about June 15, 1968, I was taken up one night to the interrogation room. “The Cat” and another man that we called “The Rabbit” were there. “The Rabbit” spoke very good English.
    * * * *
    “I really didn’t know what to think, because I had been having these other interrogations in which I had refused to co-operate. It was not hard because they were not torturing me at this time. They just told me I’d never go home and I was going to be tried as a war criminal. That was their constant theme for many months.
    * * * *
    “On the morning of the Fourth of July, 1968, which happened to be the same day that my father took over as commander in chief of U. S. Forces in the Pacific, I was led into another quiz room.
    * * * *
    “But the primary thing I considered was that I had no right to go ahead of men like Alvarez, who had been there three years before I “got killed”—that’s what we say instead of “before I got shot down,” because in a way becoming a prisoner in North Vietnam was like being killed.

    About a month and a half later, when the three men who were selected for release had reached America, I was set up for some very severe treatment which lasted for the next year and a half. [Note: a "month and a half" after July 4, 1968 would mean approximately August 20, 1968.]
    * * * *
    “To get back to the story: They took me out of my room to “Slopehead,” who said, “You have violated all the camp regulations. You’re a black criminal. You must confess your crimes.” I said that I wouldn’t do that, and he asked, “Why are you so disrespectful of guards?” I answered, “Because the guards treat me like an animal.”

    “When I said that, the guards, who were all in the room—about 10 of them—really laid into me. They bounced me from pillar to post, kicking and laughing and scratching. After a few hours of that, ropes were put on me and I sat that night bound with ropes. Then I was taken to a small room. For punishment they would almost always take you to another room where you didn’t have a mosquito net or a bed or any clothes. For the next four days, I was beaten every two to three hours by different guards. My left arm was broken again and my ribs were cracked.
    * * * *
    “So this was a period of repeated, severe treatment. It lasted until around October of ’69.
    * * * *
    “That was a long, difficult summer. Then suddenly, in October, 1969, there were drastic changes around the camp. The torture stopped. [Note: from August 20, 1968 noted above until October 1969 is a little more than one year.]
    * * * *
    “In 1969, after the three guys who were released went back to the U. S. and told about the brutality in the POW camps, President Nixon gave the green light to publicizing this fact. It brought a drastic change in our treatment. And I thank God for it, because if it hadn’t been for that a lot of us would never have returned. . . .”

    The personal account of John McCain in early 1973 in U.S. News totally contradicts the citation for the Silver Star he received as a result of being a POW in North Vietnam. The citation specifically cites the “torture” he was subjected to during his first month and a half in captivity, whereas his personal account mentions no torture during that period but rather the medical treatment he was given from the end of October 1967 until his release in late December 1967. By his own admission, he was placed in solitary confinement for two years from the time that the last of his first two roommates left in March 1968 and he concedes that his treatment was “pretty good.” During that two-year period of solitary confinement, he was “not allowed to see or talk to or communicate with any of my fellow prisoners.” So it appears that the only witness to the torture he claims he was subjected to beginning in the late summer of 1968 was John McCain himself. In essence, he was the source of two different accounts which are totally inconsistent with each other. Both accounts cannot be true. McCain was lying either to the readers of U.S. News (the first public account) or to the military men who prepared his Silver Star citation.

    BTW we know from the sad case of Pat Tillman that the military is not above fabricating citations for prestigious medals. That admirable patriot had forsaken a lucrative career in the NFL to enlist after 9/11, a decision which can be admired even if one questions the sense of it. He was killed as a result of “friendly fire” in Afghanistan, yet, he was, nevertheless, awarded a posthumous Silver Star for engaging with the enemy, an award that demeaned a very good man. The citation for his medal was pure fiction concocted by some bureaucrat in the military trying to garner some favorable publicity for our military.

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  24. […] 1 – Report one. 2 – Report two. 3 – Report three. […]

  25. […] 1 – Report one. 2 – Report two. 3 – Report three. […]

  26. I just went back and reread the late Col. David Hackworth’s account written in 2000 when McCain was running for President. Col. Hackworth made this important point re McCain’s Silver Star, which I should have included in my prior post:

    “Accounts by McCain and other writers tell of the horror he endured:
    relentlessly beatings, torture, broken limbs.

    All inflicted during savage interrogations.

    Yet no other POW was a witness to these accounts.

    A former POW says “No man witnessed another man during interrogations…
    We relied on each other to tell the truth when a man was returned to
    his cell.”

    The U.S. Navy says two eyewitnesses are required for any award of

    But for the valor awards McCain received, there are no eyewitnesses,
    less himself and his captors.”!topic/talk.politics.misc/F0cLkpJe4BM

    I did make the same point that only John McCain offered testimony about his exploits which led to the prestigious medal, but I omitted to say that the U.S. Navy requires “two eyewitnesses” to justify “any award of heroism.” (I am not certain whether those “two eyewitnesses” must be other than the proposed medal recipient, but, even if one of the eyewitnesses can be the medal recipient, McCain clearly failed that test as well since there were no other witnesses. The word “eyewitness” seems to imply someone other than the perpetrator of the deed.) I did stress that the citation for his Silver Star conflicts with McCain’s own personal account published in U.S. News soon after his release of events that occurred after he was shot down. One of the two accounts has to be false.

    P.S.—The opponents of John Kerry during the 2004 campaign for President raised the same objection to Kerry’s Silver Star. (“The reason I say it places his officers on the hot seat is because they were very aware of the criteria required for the recommendation and approval of the Silver Star. There has to be at least two witness reports; there has to be a after-action report. There is no after-action report for the February 28, 1969 engagement in the spot reports for the months of February and March 1969 released to the public by Senator Kerry.”)

  27. […] of The American Conservative (July 1, 2010, cover story) and currently as editor-in-chief of The Unz Review – Mr. Unz has kept Schanberg’s voluminously sourced and criminally underexposed exposé […]

  28. ” I did stress that the citation for his Silver Star conflicts with McCain’s own personal account published in U.S. News soon after his release of events that occurred after he was shot down. One of the two accounts has to be false.”

    I don’t know whether John McCain provided the U.S. Navy with the account of events that appears in his Silver Star citation, but he did accept the award of the Silver Star and surely either read or heard the words contained in the citation. Even if the citation were manufactured out of whole cloth by some functionary in the U.S. Navy, McCain’s acceptance of the Silver Star constituted implied acceptance of the account set forth in the citation, as did his flaunting of his “war hero” status throughout his political career. And, as I have made clear repeatedly, the account set forth in the Silver Star citation is totally inconsistent with the first person account he gave to U.S. News upon his release and return to the States.

    If pressed on the McCain issue at the debates, especially if pressed by McCain’s close buddy Lindsey Graham (assuming he qualifies for the debate), here’s a suggestion for Trump. He can simply ask Graham (or another candidate) which account is true: the Silver Star citation or the first person account in the 1973 U.S. News magazine? They both can’t be true, and the latter makes it clear that McCain was not tortured during the first months of captivity, which directly contradicts the Silver Star citation, upon which his reputation as a “war hero” rests. That would have the advantage of killing two “wacko birds” with one stone: McCain, who never met a war he didn’t like, and Lindsey Graham, who has equal bellicose inclinations. Trump, to his credit, has made it clear that he correctly thinks the Iraq War was a disaster for the U.S., and that counts for something even if he initially supported the war, like the great majority of Americans.

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  29. The following statement by McCain is how he justified volunteering information to his captors.

    ‘I remembered that when I was a flying instructor a fellow had ejected from his plane and broken his thigh. He had gone into shock, the blood had pooled in his leg, and he died, which came as quite a surprise to us—a man dying of a broken leg. Then I realized that a very similar thing was happening to me’.

    Has this remark of his, ever been verified by any of our hard hitting reporters of that era?
    Can it even be verified?

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  30. I just read all the reports, I find that I have truly back then , didn’t see McCain for what he is. I disgusted of my self to even trusting him. And I voted for him for President. I feel sick. And then to read He lied about the other POW’s . God help us. First Kerry and now McCain what the hell do we have in the congress and Senate. First class corruption. Kick them all out. I want this to get out and no more cover ups. And now we have Satanic obama at the helm. I also have been reading about the Muslim Brotherhood and what they plan for our country . This has all got to stop. We have to kick them all out and start over, with trust worthy men.

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  31. “Has this remark of his, ever been verified by any of our hard hitting reporters of that era?
    Can it even be verified?”

    Good questions. In light of the fact that no “hard hitting reporter” bothered to investigate the clear discrepancy between his 1973 U.S. News account and his Silver Star citation, as far as I know, I think it’s safe to say that the answer to the first question is clearly “no.” As far as I know, no reporter bothered to pick up that discrepancy even after highly decorated war veteran Col. Hackworth raised it in 2000. But then McCain was a MSM favorite and remained so until he won the Republican nomination in 2008. And, furthermore, in 1973, the hard hitting reporters were starting to pick up on the developing Watergate story, which had started in early summer 1972.

    As far as your second question, a good start would be to ask McCain himself to identify the airman who died from a broken leg. Even at this late date, I would think that it would not take much investigating to track down airmen who had been involved in such an accident between the time McCain graduated from the Naval Academy and the time he got shot down over North Vietnam. After all, we do have detailed records of every plane lost by McCain in his glorious flying career. BTW I recall reading that McCain never flew again after retiring from the Navy. At least he had the good sense to judge an incompetent pilot.

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  32. I tried Googling Hackworth + McCain + Vietnam and came up with no MSM articles exploring McCain’s war record, but I did come across this blog from 2008:

    ” Aug 15, 2008
    Kenhunt wrote:
    It might improve my comprehension, Bill, if you can provide a credible example (URL/site) wherein he used his silver star to “beat down, humiliate, and destroy” someone who got in his way. Can you do that, Hillary? Again for you to claim he was not tortured lowers your own character to the bottom rung, Teddy. Do you know of any of the 651 prisoners who returned alive who claim McCain was not tortured, Barney?
    Come on, you are just some thick-headed Democrat still moping because your hero, Kerry, got swiftboated, isn’t that right, Mr. Edwards!.

    Let’s get specific.

    In his autobiography McCain makes no claim to being tortured while in the hospital.

    The problem with this is that it was while he was in the hospital he gave detailed military information to Soviet agents.

    I have the Department of Defense transcript of this interview here: [I clicked on and got no response.]

    Therefore, since McCain self-reported his supposed resistance to giving military information while under torture to get his Silver Star, he told Navy brass two lies: 1. that he was tortured while in the hospital, and 2. he did not give up military information while being tortured.

    The fact that McCain may have been tortured at a later date is not relevant to the period covered in the Silver Star citation.

    Again, by his own admission (in his autobiography) he states he was not tortured during the period of captivity his Silver Star citation says he was.

    This contradiction is objective fact.

    This means his self-reporting of his suppose deeds of “extraordinary heroism” is fraudulent.

    This means he lied to get his Silver Star and now that the lie is laid bear, his Silver Star should be revoked.


    I think the reference to McCain’s autobiography is interesting. I never read it.

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  33. The blogger, Ric Ricland, followed up in the same thread with another comment:

    “Ric Ricland
    Aug 16, 2008
    McCain has two problems with the 1973 self-report he gave to win his Silver Star.

    First, Department of Defense documents have surfaced that show he gave Soviet agents classified military information during the period his Silver Star citation says he refused to give such information under torture.

    Second, he states in his autobiography he WASN’T tortured during the period of time of the citation.

    From these two points we can only conclude one thing: he gave up military information to the Soviet agents WITHOUT being tortured; that is, the acts of “extraordinary heroism” he self-reported to get his Silver Star never happened, at least during the time cited in his Silver Star narrative.

    That’s all I’ve tried to explain to the idiot yahoos in this forum — that by his own words as laid out in his 1999 autobiography, “Faith of My Fathers” McCain contradicts the story he told Navy brass 23 years earlier to get his Silver Star.


    Notice that the blogger goes from first stating that McCain made no claim to being tortured while in the hospital (just like his 1973 U.S. News account) to claiming that his autobiography affirmatively states that he wasn’t tortured at that time. Subtle difference, I know, but an important distinction that can’t be resolved without reading his autobiography.

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  34. I just ran across a September 2008 blog from Barry Sussman (former Washington Post editor) re media coverage of McCain’s war record. He makes the following observations, while citing Mr. Schanberg’s article:

    “McCain probably needn’t worry–there has been no pressure by the news media to examine these issues or by political opponents to push him on them. Instead, the pressure, from people like keynote convention speaker Fred Thompson, is in the opposite direction—consisting of bullying comments likely to have a chilling effect on reporters and editors.

    The mainstream press has done numerous profiles on McCain in print and on TV but none that I know of dwell on his record as a pilot or his Senate activity against releasing POW files.

    As for his five and a half years as a POW himself, that’s obviously a sensitive area. Who would want to be the first to question that? Except they wouldn’t be the first. They’d only be the first in the MSM in 2008.”

    - See more at:

    One of the commenters to Sussman’s blog alludes to a Rolling Stone article on McCain, but a click on the link revealed that the article is no longer available:
    “Sal says:
    October 12th, 2008 at 1:12 pm |
    Tim Dickerson in Rolling Stone did a bang-up job writing about McCain’s life and work:

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  35. “One of the commenters to Sussman’s blog alludes to a Rolling Stone article on McCain, but a click on the link revealed that the article is no longer available”

    I thought I would try a different route to locate the John McCain article in Rolling Stone by clicking on Rolling Stone and using their search engine. I found this link: and it included a link to three articles on McCain, one of which was the one I was searching for, “Make Believe Maverick: The Real John McCain” by Tim Dickinson (not Dickerson). When I clicked on it, I got the following message, which was the same one I got earlier:”Sorry for the inconvenience, this page is not found.” One more article down the memory hole, for unexplained reasons. Apparently, the article is from 2008 when McCain was running for President.

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  36. says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    A friend of mine who was born in Saigon to a man who was a North Vietnamese General in charge of a lot of POW’s said her father would transport prisoners to different areas to be then sent on to Laos. At the time of the end of the war….ALL American POWs were NOT in Vietnam but were in Laos. Yes, the Vietnamese were telling the truth…. but not telling the truth about their wereabouts. She would have many talks with her father who was a very very cruel man who drank a lot and beat her and her mother up all the time.

  37. I just came across a lengthy article in the Phoenix New Times dated March 25, 1999, which predates Col. Hackworth’s 2000 piece.

    It must be kept in mind that a lot of people must have read the 1973 U.S. News first person account that appeared two months after McCain was released. (I didn’t until 2008.) Many of those who read the piece were Vietnam vets. For the next 25 years, a number of them were circulating accounts among themselves, convinced that McCain was no hero. Obviously, a lot of this material must have come to Hackworth’s attention, so the 2000 blockbuster piece had been percolating below the surface, generally unknown to most of us, for quite some time. There may be long articles predating the New Times piece, but so far it is the earliest one I have run across. I do find it interesting that a small paper like the Phoenix New Times can retain this 1999 piece in their computer, whereas a larger paper like Rolling Stone cannot retain a 2008 article in its computer. (Unless the article contained errors, like last winter’s UVA rape case story, and RS was forced to delete it.)

  38. McInsane killed sailors on the Forrestal and went on to kill his squadron pilots, then condemn POWs MIAs to slow deaths and executions… he serves no gods, only Satan. His role in our government has been to send more of our young to death in service of zionist neocon wars. God will have no mercy on his soul.

  39. says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    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.
    Let me remember what I know about Senator McCain – the losing RINO in the elections of 2008 to the winner B. Hussein Obama, previously a street agitator for the ACORN thugs:
    1) He was a son of the notable Navy Admiral in the WW2; as such he was accepted in the Air Force Academy in spite of his low grades from high school; that in my book is called nepotism;
    2) In the academy he was at the bottom of the graduating class but passed due to his Admiral father;
    3) While in training he jumped and parachuted from 4 – FOUR – training planes for unknown reasons thus destroying those planes; apparently he got confused by the knobs and levers and panel lights;
    4) In Vietnam when his plane attracted North Vietnamese communist fire he abandoned the completely untouched war plane and parachuted into the enemy hands;
    5) The communists wanted to trade his name to Americans for substantial rewards – but McCain refused – that was his only true patriotic gesture;
    6) 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 the prison —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.
    7) In Congress McCain was known as a watcher of wind indicator and so voted Republican as often as Democrat;
    8) In the elections of 2008 he was just an incoherent moderate RINO trying to please everybody – and was swept by the Chicago vote fraud machine.
    Since then he has shown himself a low-IQ bloviating gasbag with no political program of his own except in voting 50-50 with his Republican colleagues. Just like that other low-IQ bloviating gasbag John Hanoi Kerry he just improvises his politics as the wind blows on any particular day. WAR HERO – hell no! McCain is the chairman of the Veterans Committee, and those criminal Veteran Administration scandals remain unaddressed. Just like Trump – I prefer our soldiers who did not surrender for no apparent reason. But at least he did not malign our soldiers like that traitor Hanoi Kerry did – after spending only 8 weeks patrolling the Mekong Delta while avoiding the enemy.

  40. says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    Thank you for re-pubbing this. The POW-commission went over my political-head the first time around and fortunately someone I follow on Twitter posted a link to the re-print a few days ago. This is truly heartbreaking. John McCain’s 15-minutes of “Thanks” for his “service” are way past up.

  41. […] is also the author of a “remarkable 8,000-word exposé”: “McCain and the POW Cover-Up.” Here follow the opening paragraphs. They provide a précis of the forensic evidence collected by […]

  42. says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    As far as I am concerned John McCain could NEVER convince me that this story about POW/MIA’s cover ups is not true. Any decent POW would have fought for the return of all POW and MIA’s until the last breath in his body! BTW, No I was not a POW, but all Nam Vets are brothers!

  43. says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    Senators Mccain & Kerry worked hard together to stop the return of POW’s from Vietnam.
    Who better to front this then Mccain,
    a former POW who the Viet-comm dubbed “The signing canary.”
    Watch a documentary on this topic.

  44. […] John McCain and the POW Cover-Up : “The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam. 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.” […]

  45. […] How John McCain has covered up information about POWs left behind in Vietnam. […]

  46. […] is also the author of a “remarkable 8,000-word exposé”: “McCain and the POW Cover-Up.” Here follow the opening paragraphs. They provide a précis of the forensic evidence collected by […]

  47. […] The real John McCain treachery, killing the chances of POW/MIA’s left behind, is detailed in this long article that was released while he was running for President in 2008: […]

  48. […] is also the author of a “remarkable 8,000-word exposé”: “McCain and the POW Cover-Up.” Here follow the opening paragraphs. They provide a précis of the forensic evidence collected by […]

  49. says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    Overall, a very interesting, albeit depressing, article. One minor correction if I may As an Air Force Communications Specialist who served in Viet Nam on three separate occasions throughout the years of ’67, ’68 and ’69, I can assure Sen. McCain DID NOT (emphasis added) enter, much less graduate, from the Air Force Academy, as alluded to in Marc Jeric’s 7/25/15 posting. Senator McCain did however attend the US Naval Academy.

    Jack Rush
    Scottsdale, Arizona

  50. […] “[H]is tasteless attack on John McCain” – Victor Davis Hanson, 9/1/15. McCain’s service to POW/MIAs here. […]

  51. I lost friends, high school companions, in that cesspool of the war machine. McInsane got a free ride to Annapolis, became a pilot and burned up 140 some sailors when he cut in the afterburners onto a missile loaded plane behind him. Whisked away from the Forrestal before any investigation could begin shipboard (his father was Admiral Mc Cain (CINC atlantic fleet), he did not fly much longer before being shot down. (If that is what happened). We see his collaboration with the enemy still today: witness the selfies on the internet taken by Islamic terrorists in the Mideast, standing with this tool of the devil. The MIA movement finally gave up when most of us got diseases, got old, got tired, got cynical, got dead while waiting for justice for our brothers-in-arms and medical treatment from the VA. Donald Trump knows the truth; I pray he puts John McCain on trial for treason and hangs him from the Washington monument.

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  52. says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    Gee Barbara, I wonder where you get your information? Obama surely isn’t the greatest leader, mostly thanks to a horrific stonewalling congress, but he surely isn’t Satanic. Check your sources as you should have done with McCain.

  53. Great article- I still have the copy of The American Conservative when part of the story was featured.

  54. There were many reports in the early 70s about sightings and more remote camps where “Americans ” were held. There were a few books written about Americans said to be alive and held as collateral. A few books and reports also mentioned Air Force crews running commo in many remote areas in Vietnam and yet these teams were not given Vietnam campaign credit.
    Those of us who were not completely sure but felt that certain people who reported sightings of POWs as well as AF teams among others were not thinking wishfully. We were hopeful because you cannot send people to war and then just dismiss them and make the rest of us feel like dumb gullible hicks because we had faith in the integrity of some who saw Americans and heard from loyal Vietnamese that there were Americans who were alive and then our government spokes people said that what we “heard” was all rubbish and that we were stupid and gullible..

  55. Its time to unleash the London press on this – local US reportage and ‘ investigation ‘ is shoddy and incompetent …

  56. […] di quello stesso McCain che tradì i suoi commilitoni prigionieri in Vietnam. Ron Unz ha portato prove convincenti che dimostrano che McCain fu l’uomola cui falsa testimonianza fece condannare  i […]

  57. says:
         Show CommentNext New Comment

    As I approach my 67 year as an American I’ve come to the conclusion our nation has become so corrupt that it is beyond reversal. At the end of the VN war I recall vividly the demand for money in return for POWs. I also recall that the story grew murky after the first installment of US POWs came home. It was my thought then, as it is now, that the agreed upon money was never paid for the complete release of our fighting men. Smedley Butler had this war thing right; it’s a racket that lines the pickets of the uber rich at the expense of America’s youth. Screw John McCain.

  58. The film of the Forrestal fire clearly shows a rocket as the cause.

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