John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
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John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam

Over the weekend, real-estate mogul and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said he did not like “losers,” like US Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), in reference to McCain’s 2008 presidential election loss to President Barack Obama.


“I never liked him after that, because I don’t like losers,” Trump said.

He then dug into McCain’s military career. Trump said the US Navy veteran imprisoned for nearly six years in Vietnam was not a “war hero.” He quickly caveated that statement.

“He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” Trump said.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Photo: US Navy

Amid the backlash, Trump has accused the media of taking his remarks about McCain’s military record out of context in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show.

McCain has talked and written extensively about his service and his experience as a prisoner of war.

On October 26, 1967, then-US Navy Lieutenant Commander John McCain’s A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Vietnam.

“I reacted automatically the moment I took the hit and saw my wing was gone. I radioed, ‘I’m hit,’ reached up, and pulled the ejection seat handle. I struck part of the airplane, breaking my left arm, my right arm in three places, and my right knee, and I was briefly knocked unconscious by the force of the ejection.”

Writing in 2000 memoir “Faith Of My Fathers,” this is how McCain describes the moment he became a prisoner of war for nearly six years. He continues:

“I landed in the middle of the lake (Truc Bach Lake), in the middle of the city, in the middle of the day. An escape attempt would have been challenging.”

Wearing approximately 50 pounds of gear and not being able to use either of his broken arms to deploy his life vest, McCain sank to the bottom of the shallow lake. He managed to inflate his life vest by pulling the plastic toggle with his teeth and shot to the surface. Floating in the lake, McCain fell in and out of consciousness until a group of Vietnamese villagers pulled him out of the water.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
McCain being pulled from Trúc Bạch Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“Several hundred Vietnamese gathered around me, shouting wildly, stripping my clothes off, spitting on me, kicking and striking me repeatedly. When they had finished removing my gear and clothes, I felt a sharp pain in my right knee. I looked down and saw that my right foot was resting next to my left knee, at a 90-degree angle … Someone smashed a rifle butt into my shoulder, breaking it. Someone else stuck a bayonet in my ankle and groin.”

Before the angry mob could do more harm, Vietnamese soldiers arrived and transported McCain to Hoa Lo, a French-built prison.

“As the massive steel doors loudly clanked shut behind me, I felt a deeper dread than I have ever felt since … for the next few days I drifted in and out of consciousness. When awake, I was periodically taken to another room for interrogation. “

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

McCain was accused of being a war criminal and tortured until he shared classified military information in exchange for medical attention. As he refused to reveal more than his name, rank, and date of birth, his condition steadily worsened.

“For four days I was taken back and forth to different rooms. Unable to use my arms, I was fed twice a day by a guard. I vomited after the meals, unable to hold down anything but a little tea. I remember being desperately thirsty all the time, but I could drink only when the guard was present for my twice-daily feedings.”

McCain, who was forced to lay in a puddle of his own vomit and other bodily wastes, became feverish and lost consciousness frequently and for longer periods of time.

One day the camp officer, who the PO Ws called Bug and who McCain referred to as “a mean son of b—-,” entered his filthy cell to examine his injuries.

“Are you going to take me to the hospital? I asked.

“No,” he replied. “It’s too late.”

“Take me to the hospital and I’ll get well.”

“It’s too late,” he repeated.

Hopeless, McCain assumed we would die and began mentally prepping himself of his approaching death; but a few hours later, Bug rushed into his cell and shouted: “Your father is a big admiral. Now we take you to the hospital.”

“A couple of days later I found myself lying in a filthy room about twenty by twenty feet, lousy with mosquitoes and rats. Every time it rained, an inch of mud and water would pool on the floor … I received no treatment for my injuries. No one even bothered to wash the grime off me.”

Meanwhile, McCain’s interrogators continued to pressure him for more information and threatened to terminate his medical treatment if he did not cooperate.

“I gave them the names of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line, and said they were members of my squadron. When asked to identify future targets, I simply recited the names of a number of North Vietnamese cities that had already been bombed.”

Since McCain could not feed himself, a young boy was assigned to feeding him. The boy forced three spoonfuls of food down McCain’s throat twice a day. There were usually leftovers, which the boy helped himself to in front of McCain.

Two months into his captivity, McCain underwent an operation on his leg.

“The Vietnamese filmed the operation, I haven’t a clue why. Regrettably, the operation wasn’t much of a success. The doctors severed all the ligaments on one side of my knee, which has never fully recovered.”

Shortly after his surgery, McCain was moved into a cell with two other American Air Force POWs. They took care of each other and McCain notes that his condition improved.

The darkest moments of his capture occur when guards place him in solitary.

“It’s an awful thing, solitary. It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.”

A year later, several guards brought a resistant McCain to the camp commander in order to formally charge him of his war crimes.

“Knowing that I was in serious trouble and that nothing I did or said would make matters any worse, I replied: ‘F— you.'”

McCain was beat up, tied up for a night, and then dragged to an empty room for 4 days.

“At two-to-three intervals, the guards returned to administer beatings … still I felt they were being careful not to kill or permanently injure me.”

The worst beating came on the third night.

“I lay in my own blood and waste, so tired and hurt that I could not move…he slammed his fist into my face and knocked me across the room towards the waste bucket. I fell on the bucket, hitting it with my left arm, and breaking it again. They left me lying on the floor, moaning from the stabbing pain in my refractured arm.”

It was after this night, that McCain tried to commit suicide twice. He was stopped by the guards and received more beatings. Shortly after, he confessed to whatever war crimes he was accused of and was left alone in his cell for 2 weeks.

“They were the worst two weeks of my life … I was ashamed … I shook, as if my disgrace were a fever.”

This was 2 years into McCain’s almost 6 year imprisonment. He was released as a POW in March of 1973.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

These book excerpts are from John McCain’s memoir “Faith Of My Fathers.” 

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Here’s what Mattis has to say about his loyalty to the White House

Secretary of Defense James Mattis dismissed murmurings Aug. 31 of an ideological divide between himself and President Donald Trump.


During a press briefing at the Pentagon, Mattis recalled the now-viral “hold the line” speech he gave in front of US service members in Jordan in August, in which some of his comments about division in the US were construed as an ethical separation from Trump.

During the Aug. 31 briefing, Mattis elaborated on the intended meaning behind his words, which he said were influenced by Trump’s recent speech on Afghanistan.

“If you’ll remember, the first, I don’t know, three, four, five, six paragraphs was about America coming together,” Mattis said. “And so, fresh in my mind a couple hours later, and I used that theme to say that, you know, we’ve got to come back together, get that fundamental friendliness. You guys — military guys, you hold the line as our country comes back together.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam

“I’m using the president’s thoughts, and they thought that I was distancing from the president,” Mattis continued. “So I mean, it shows how ludicrous this really is.”

“I mean, I’m not trying to make fun of the people who write along those lines,” Mattis said of the narrative that he was distancing himself from Trump. “I think this is more someone’s rather rich imagination,” he said.

Theories of a divide between Trump and other White House officials — most notably Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the National Economic Council director Gary Cohn — have spread as Trump continues to baffle critics and supporters following his administration’s response to the deadly Charlottesville, Virginia, rally and continued provocations from North Korea.

During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson fueled rumors of a White House rift when he was asked whether anyone doubted Trump’s values. “The president speaks for himself,” he responded.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis enters Michie Stadium before the 2017 graduation ceremony at West Point. Army photo by Michelle Eberhart.

Cohn took a more direct approach, publicly criticizing Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protests and saying the White House “must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning” white nationalist and white supremacist groups.

Mattis expressed confidence that divisiveness in the US was not a threat to the military’s unity in the field.

“The way our military is organized, the leaders — and by leaders, I mean the sergeants and the gunnery sergeants, the chief petty officers, the lieutenants, the captains — there is such a cohesion to the US military,” Mattis said. “There’s a reason this is a national jewel, this US military. It’s a national jewel. And that almost insulates it in a very proud way from something like we saw in Charlottesville.”

“That’s not to say it’s not a concern, because this lack of a fundamental friendliness among all of us, something I think the president brought up very well in those opening paragraphs of the Afghanistan speech … I agree a hundred percent with the way the president characterized that,” Mattis said.

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The second invasion of Nazi-occupied France that you’ve never heard of

On Aug. 15, 1944, a massive flotilla carrying approximately 200,000 heavily armed invaders surged from the Atlantic Ocean into Southern France. The men of the 6th Army Group were there to kill Nazis and chew bubblegum, and they were all out of bubblegum. It’s the invasion you’ve never heard of but should have.


 

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
The invasion fleet off the coast of Southern France. Photo: US Navy

The invasion of Southern France was originally planned as part of D-Day, but was pushed back due to a shortage of landing craft and slow progress of forces moving up Italy. By the time the allied armies were ready to make their landings, some leaders were pushing to change the plan.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wanted to use the resources and manpower dedicated to Operation Dragoon, as the invasion was called, to instead push harder through Italy or to land in the Balkans.

An Italian operation could have knocked the country out of the war faster. The Balkan operation would have robbed Germany of needed oil while also limiting the amount of territory that was gained by the Red Army, putting the other Allied powers in a better position against the Soviets after the war.

But Allied commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was adamant that Operation Dragoon should be launched to draw away German forces battling the Allied troops marching east from Normandy. Operation Dragoon would also deliver Marseille and Toulon, large port cities that could facilitate reinforcements and supplies for the push to Berlin, to the allies.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Photo: Wikipedia

So the men of 6th Army Group made their landings on a 35-mile beachhead Aug. 15 and immediately began moving north. German supply and communications lines had been attacked by French partisans and the allied forces capitalized on the confusion, attacking German units as they found them.

British and American paratroopers jumped into Le Muy to the north of the beaches. 1,300 Allied bombers from four aircraft carriers and a number of land bases began striking railroads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Naval ships positioned off the French Riviera began firing on targets fed to them by spotting aircraft.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Paratroopers ride in C-47 Skytrains en route to Le Muy for Operation Dragoon on Aug. 15, 1944. Photo: US Air Force

German troops conscripted from occupied territories quickly surrendered to the Allies. Germany’s Army Group G attempted to delay the Allied forces but was hampered by a lack of equipment and manpower. Also, many of their troops were sent there to recover from wounds received in other theaters, limiting their effectiveness.

Army Group G began preparations to retreat in the first day of fighting.

By Aug. 17, Hitler had authorized the retreat and the U.S. 6th Army Group and the German Army Group G engaged in a chase across miles of southern France. As most of the American and British soldiers in the invasion pushed north to chase the Germans, a number of French troops swung west to liberate the ports at Marseilles and Toulon.

The Allied push north stayed on the offensive, liberating town after town. The American forces eventually met up with Lt. Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army in early Sep. 1944. The German Army Group G did escape with many of their men.

Allied casualties in the fighting approached 20,000 but the Allied forces captured 100,000 German troops while killing and wounding a number of others.

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Military families ordered to leave US bases in Turkey

Security concerns over threats from ISIS prompted the Pentagon to order evacuations of military families from Southern Turkey, specifically Incirlik Air Base, Izmir, and Mugla. The State Department followed suit, ordering the evacuation of families connected to the U.S. consulate in Adana.


John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refuels a F-15 Strike Eagle in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Dec. 28, 2015. OIR is the coalition intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

“The decision to move our families and civilians was made in consultation with the Government of Turkey, our State Department, and our Secretary of Defense,” Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command, said in the statement. The decision affects 700 spouses and children in these areas.

The ongoing threat of ISIS attacks in Turkey makes Incirlik and other U.S. installations prime targets for terrorism. U.S. security forces in the country have been a Force Protection Condition (FPCON) Delta for weeks. Delta is the highest alert level, meaning intelligence has been received that terrorist action against a specific location or person is imminent. The base was locked down in July 2015 and voluntary departures for dependents were authorized in September.  The latest order is mandatory.

Almost 100 people have died in the five terror attacks in Turkey in 2016 alone. Two of the attacks were claimed by ISIS, while the other three allegedly from Kurdish terrorist organizations, which is still a threat to U.S. forces, as the Incirlik Air Base is shared with the Turkish Air Force. Incirlik, located 100 miles from the Turkish border with Syria, houses 2,500 American troops.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
An A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft sits on the flight line at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey Oct. 15, 2015. Along with the 12 A-10C Thunderbolt IIs from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, the U.S. Air Force deployed support equipment and approximately 300 personnel to Incirlik AB in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. This follows Turkey’s recent decision to open its bases to U.S. and other Coalition members participating in air operations against ISIL. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cory W. Bush)

“This step does not signify a permanent decision to end accompanied tours at these facilities,” said a European Command statement. “It is intended to mitigate the risk to DoD elements and personnel, including family members, while ensuring the combat effectiveness of U.S. forces and our mission support to operations in Turkey. The United States and Turkey are united in our common fight against ISIL, and Incirlik continues to play a key role in counter-ISIL operations.”

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Rarang, Senior Airman Tormod Lillekroken and Staff Sgt. Seth Hunt, all 2nd Air Support Operations Squadron joint terminal attack controllers, walk along a road as part of a training scenario during exercise Serpentex 16 in Corsica, France, March 15, 2016. JTACs are considered qualified service members who direct the action of air and surfaced-based fires at the tactical level. They are the Airmen on the ground with the authority to control and call in airstrikes on target.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Sara Keller)

Airman 1st Class Anthony Mahon, of the 436th Airlift Wing, performs a visual inspection on a C-17 Globemaster III during thick fog prior to the aircraft’s launch from Dover Air Force Base, Del., March 17, 2016. Experienced reservists from the 512th Airlift Wing frequently train active-duty Airmen in various career field tasks.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Bernie Kale

ARMY:

Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, with support from a 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (Griffins) CH-47 Chinook helicopter crew, conduct sling load training with a M777 towed 155mm howitzer during an exercise at the 7th Army JMTC’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 22, 2016.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Tanner

Soldiers, assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo, conduct pre-flight checks on a U.S. Army South UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, March 10, 2016.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
U.S. Army photo by Martin Chahin

NAVY:

WATERS SURROUNDING THE KOREAN PENINSULA (March 23, 2016) Sailors clean an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, John C. Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled U.S. 7th Fleet deployment.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andre T. Richard

ATLANTIC OCEAN (March 20, 2016) An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Gunslingers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105 takes off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the flagship of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. Dwight D. Eisenhower is underway conducting a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group in preparation for a future deployment.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado

MARINE CORPS:

Marines assigned to Marine Air Control Group 28, conduct an underwater gear shed during a basic swim qualification course at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, March 16, 2016. Marines are required to demonstrate proficient combat water survival skills to complete the basic qualification.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jered T. Stone

A candidate assigned to Delta Company, Officer Candidates Class-221, breaks the surface of the murky water of ‘The Quigley’ at Brown Field, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, on March 15, 2016. The mission of Officer Candidates School (OCS) is to “educate and train officer candidates in Marine Corps knowledge and skills within a controlled, challenging, and chaotic environment in order to evaluate and screen individuals for the leadership, moral, mental, and physical qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer.”

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Patrick H. Owens

COAST GUARD:

Seaman Anthony Fritz conducts firefighting training aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Albacore in Bristol Bay, Rhode Island, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2015. The Albacore is an 87-foot cutter home ported in New London, Connecticut.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Chief Petty Officer Armando Medina

Two MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point conduct a practice formation flight around the Island of Oahu, March 4, 2016. The Dolphin aircrews along with an HC-130 Hercules aircrew practice proficiency with multiple aircraft flying at once.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

It’s Friday, which means you’re one week closer to a DD-214. Here are 13 memes to kick off your weekend:


1. Passed is passed (via Air Force Memes and Humor).

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Now it’s time to celebrate.

2. It’s only a winter wonderland when you’re sleighing (via Air Force Nation).

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam

SEE ALSO: This wounded airman saved his team (with an A-10’s help)

3. Chief doesn’t care. Figure it out (via Bangor Correctional Facility).

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Maybe if you reboot again.

4. Hey, Carl. All those jokes that were so funny?

(via Pop Smoke)

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Probably should’ve checked to see if staff sergeant was laughing.

5. When the lieutenant finally gets to correct the chief:

(via Air Force Nation)

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Just wait till the next time you need something … sir.

6. The saltiest sailor who ever salted:

(via Team Non-Rec)

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam

7. If you’re story starts with, “In boot camp we …” no one wants to hear it (via Coast Guard Memes).

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam

8. When you’re headed to the field but you need that iced mocha:

(via Team Non-Rec)

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam

9. Til Valhalla!

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
There’s no mistress like the sea, right?

10. Surprisingly accurate.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Except the haircuts. Really, specialist? A pony tail?

11. The city that never sleeps …

(via Sh-t My LPO Says)

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
… except when chief isn’t watching.

12. Only the Air Force would think their base is supposed to be as good as a theme park (via Air Force Nation).

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam

13. Kind of makes me want to see other senior ISIS notebooks.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
10 bucks says Baghdadi’s is Pokemon.

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Noah Galloway talks about joining the ranks of ‘American Grit’


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Noah Galloway (Image: Fox)

Noah Galloway is a veteran who sustained injuries in an IED attack on his second deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005. He lost two of his limbs and sustained severe injuries to his right leg and his jaw.

Related: JR Martinez and Noah Galloway talk ‘Dancing with the Stars’

Like many disabled veterans, Galloway became withdrawn, out of shape and depressed. The former fitness fanatic and athlete was drinking, smoking, and sleeping his days away. But late one night, Galloway realized that there was more to him than the injuries. He walked out of his room realizing that he was setting the example for his boys of what a man is. And for his little girl, the example of how a man should act and it terrified him.

He needed to make a change, and he needed to do it fast. He joined a 24-hour gym and started eating right. He participated in obstacle races and adventure races around the country, such as Tough Mudder, Spartan events, Crossfit competitions plus numerous 5K and 10K races.

Now a personal trainer and motivational speaker, Galloway doesn’t take excuses from his clients, fans, or followers – and finds ways to get things done. Galloway was a season 20 participant of Dancing With The Stars in which he took third place following his appearance on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine and numerous other publications.

Most recently Noah joined WWE Superstar John Cena and three other veterans on American Grit, a military-inspired show on the Fox Network that splits 16 of the toughest men and women into four teams of four who work together to face survival challenges. It’s Galloway’s job to push his team of civilians to act as a team and go beyond their limits.

The show airs Thursday, April 14th at 9/8 central on Fox.

Hosted by:

Selected links and show notes from the episode

•  ‘American Grit‘ on Fox

Noah Galloway website

Noah Galloway Facebook

Noah Galloway Twitter

Noah Galloway Instagram

• [00:00 – 17:00] Talk about American Grit

• [17:00] Family time after filming American Grit

• [20:00] Big fish in a little pond. Noah’s hometown fame

• [25:00] Training civilians

• [28:00] Noah’s VA experience at Walter Reed hospital

• [33:00] Noah’s regret: not integrated with the other veterans at Walter Reed

• [35:00] Noah changes his life around for his kids

• [38:00] Noah’s book and dealing with depression

• [41:00] Veterans are more successful than the American average

• [45:00] Dealing with the VA and mental health care

• [49:00] Changing the VA system survey

Music license by Jingle Punks

 

  • Drum Keys 001-JP
  • Heavy Drivers
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This World War I ace went on to survive two plane crashes and 22 days lost at sea

Capt. Edward Rickenbacker was a hero of World War I who earned the title, “Ace of Aces,” a French Croix de Guerre, and a Medal of Honor despite joining the flying corps at 27, two years over the then-maximum age of 25.


John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

After the close of the Great War, the former race-car driver got into business. At first, it was automobiles and racing but he returned to aviation and ran Eastern Air Lines. In Feb. 1941, he was riding on one of the company’s planes when it crashed on a hill near Atlanta.

Rickenbacker was severely injured in the crash. His pelvic bone, a leg, and multiple ribs were broken and an eyelid was torn.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Edward Rickenbacker escorts a lady off one of his Eastern Air Lines planes in 1935. Photo: Public Domain/Harris Ewing via Wikipedia

In spite of his injuries and the fact he was pinned down by a dead body and the wreckage, he took control of the situation and sent a group to call for help. He kept everyone safe and calm for the nine hours it took for rescue workers to arrive and get him out of the wreckage.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t done with plane crashes. In 1942 Rickenbacker had mostly recovered from his earlier crash, though he continued to limp. The Army Air Force asked the aviation pioneer, then 52 years old, to consult on operations in the Pacific theater.

With a $1 a day salary, he set out for a tour of the Pacific. He first visited Hawaii en route to bases from Australia to Guadalcanal. On a B-17 with 7 other men, Rickenbacker departed Hawaii for Canton Island, but the B-17 got lost en route.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
A B-17 like the one Edward Rickenbacker crash-landed in. Photo: Tony Hisgett via Wikipedia

No one is quite sure how the B-17 got off course, though the navigator later suggested the octant may have been jarred during an aborted takeoff attempt. Regardless of how it happened, the B-17 found searched for Canton Island for hours without ever finding it and was eventually forced to ditch at sea.

Rickenbacker again took command, even though he was technically outranked by a colonel who was accompanying him as an aide. Floating in the ocean on three smalls rafts, the Army airmen were subjected to extreme cold at night and blistering heat in the day.

Rickenbacker oversaw the distribution of the four oranges the men managed to escape the sinking plane with, making them last six days. They had stored water for the crash landing, but it was lost in their hasty evacuation of the plane.

The eight men caught a small break two days later when Rickenbacker, who was sleeping with his hat protecting his face from the sun, woke up and realized that a sea gull was sitting on his head.

He managed to grab the gull and wring its neck. The men ate everything but the feathers and intestines raw, even the bones. The intestines were used as bait, allowing them to catch a few fish.

The audio is a bit hard to make out, but Rickenbacker told the story of the sea gull capture himself at a press conference:

(Note: The video erroneously identifies Rickenbacker as an admiral. He actually left the Army as a major but preferred to be referred to as a captain, the last rank he held in combat.)

That night, they got a second break when a storm hit. They spread all the fabric they could across the raft, socks, shirts, and handkerchiefs, and continuously wrung them out over a bucket, collecting a small quantity of water.

Despite these small successes, Sgt. Alexander Kaczmarczyk died on the 13th day. He had been returning to Australia after recovering from illness and had drank a large quantity of seawater on the escape from the plane. The added toll being soaked with sea water and exposed to extreme temperatures for nearly two weeks overcame him.

A few days later, on the 17th day, the group spotted a scout plane flying about 5 miles away. Efforts to flag it down failed, as did attempt to flag down the next six planes that appeared over the the two days after that.

Tired of waiting for rescue and believing that their chances would be better if they split up, two rafts left the flotilla, leaving Rickenbacker alone with two sick survivors.

Luckily, the plan worked. One raft found land where the natives and an English missionary nursed them while waiting on doctors to arrive. The other dispatched raft was spotted by a Navy patrol plane who picked them up. The survivors told the Navy where to look for Rickenbacker’s raft.

A Kingfisher plane then found Rickenbacker’s raft using the information from the other survivors and delivered Rickenbacker and another man to a Navy PT boat where they drank pineapple juice, soup, and water en route to an island medical facility.

One survivor, too sick to be moved, remained on the plane which delivered him to the same island.

Rickenbacker had lost 40 pounds, developed a number of sores from the salt water, and was severely dehydrated, but he spent only two weeks recovering in a Navy hospital before insisting on completing his mission.

He visited Australia, New Guinea, Guadalcanal, and Samoa, riding to each destination in planes at night while he slept, apparently unconcerned about the possibility of a third crash. When he arrived in Washington and spoke to Secretary of War Henry Stimson, he added into his report some suggestion for how to improve the survival kits installed in planes.

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These Striking Photos Show The True Nature Of America’s Veterans

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam


Two photographs are taken and then merged into one. The single image reveals a person looking at their reflection in the mirror, in different clothing. It seems a simple concept, but when applied to veterans, photographer Devin Mitchell’s Veteran Art Project gives a powerful view of military service and the back stories of the individuals underneath the uniform.

“I don’t interview them, all I ask is if they’re [a] veteran and if I can come and take their picture,” Mitchell told The Washington Post’s TM Gibbons-Neff. “This is an opportunity for people to speak without having to say something.”

And Mitchell’s photos speak a thousand words.

In one photo posted to Mitchell’s Instagram page, uniformed Marine Cpl. Brad Ivanchan looks out at his veteran self, now in civilian attire. His rolled up pants reveal both legs replaced with prosthetics, a result of his stepping on an improvised explosive device in Sangin, Afghanistan, The Post reported.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam

There are others, many of which break the stereotype of the “typical” veteran. There is Leyla Webb, a Muslim woman, who dressed in traditional Islamic garb for her photo shoot. Eric Smith wrote “Pride” in red ink on his chest as he looks to himself putting on his Army uniform, signifying his service as a gay soldier.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam

“A lot of veterans feel they’re misunderstood,” Mitchell told Yahoo News. “And they don’t have a voice or platform. Even though these pictures don’t have audio, I feel they still speak very loudly.”

It’s up to the individual veteran how they want their photo to be taken. Some are photographed in full dress uniform, while others may wear combat gear. Perhaps one of the most powerful images thus far is from Dave and Daphne Bye, two Marines once married who took their photographs together, despite their recent divorce.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam

“I think it’s important for everybody to understand that even though we looked happy on the outside and that we truly did try for us and our daughter there’s only so much you can do when the issues are within yourself,” Daphne told The Post, noting the couple’s struggle with post traumatic stress disorder.

Now a junior at Arizona State University, the 27-year-old Mitchell began his project as a photo essay that would hopefully get him into graduate school. Despite finding it difficult to find veterans to shoot initially, his goal now is 10,000 photos, and his email inbox has been flooded with requests.

Since he’s still a student, Mitchell — who completes classes remotely from where he lives in Los Angeles — has limited means to travel to veterans. If you’d like to participate (especially in the L.A. area), you can email him here.

Check out some more of the photos below and be sure to follow the project on Instagram:

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam

 

 

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Navy upgrades 8 valor awards for SEALs

On Jan. 13, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presented eight Navy Crosses and eight Silver Stars to active-duty and former members of East and West Coast Naval Special Warfare Commands at a ceremony in Virginia Beach, Virginia.


One Navy Cross and one Silver Star were presented posthumously, including an upgrade from a Silver Star to a Navy Cross for SEAL Charles Keating, IV, who was killed during an ambush in northern Iraq while assisting anti-ISIS Peshmerga forces.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
U.S. Navy file photo of Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles Keating IV, 31, of San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The upgrade for Keating was first reported by Stars and Stripes.

“Today we honor some of our nation’s finest heroes, not just for their individual acts of courage and bravery in the face of danger, but for the everyday selflessness that they and their peers demonstrate,” Mabus said. “This generation of Sailors, and particularly those serving as part of our Naval Special Warfare team, is an extraordinary group of men and women who have given so much to our country.”

These awards were upgrades to previously awarded medals for valor in combat and upgraded as a result of the Department of the Navy’s Post 9/11 Valor Awards Review Panel. This panel reviewed award nominations from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure members were appropriately recognized for acts of valor.

The Navy did not disclose the names of the SEALs whose awards were upgraded.

According to Keating’s Silver Star citation, he lead Peshmerga fighters in repelling an assault by 100 ISIS fighters, including intercepting a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device with sniper fire and rockets. Keating’s actions occurred in March 2016, two months before he was killed.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
A group of U.S. Navy SEALs clear a room during a no-light live-fire drill near San Diego. Naval Special Warfare reservists from a Combat Service Support unit attached to a West Coast-based Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) Team conducted a field training exercise based on principles from the expeditionary warfare community. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Stevenson/Released)

“Although today we recognize these individuals for their heroism and valor in combat, we are also honoring the Sailors and Marines who fought beside them and those who are still in the fight,” Mabus said.

The Department of the Navy reviewed more than 300 valor awards and the review was completed Nov. 15.

The Navy Cross, the U.S. Navy’s second highest decoration, is awarded for extraordinary heroism while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States. The act must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk.

The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations with a friendly force. It is the fourth highest military honor that can be awarded to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and the third highest award for valor.

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This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

Among the many planes flying sorties against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a version of the C-130. No, not the AC-130 gunship – although that plane did help blow up a lot of ISIS tanker trucks according to a 2015 Military.com report.


Here we’re talking about the EC-130H Compass Call. And while the highly-modified cargo plane doesn’t have the firepower appeal of the AC-130, it brings a lot of lethal wizbangery to the fight.

Things can go pear-shaped even with the best-laid operational plans when comms are crystal clear. Commanders can issue orders, and subordinates receive them and report information up the line.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
An EC-130H Compass Call prepares to taxi Dec. 5, 2016 at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The Compass Call employs a crew of roughly a dozen Airmen working together to jam Da’esh communications. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Park)

Now imagine being an ISIS commander who is unable to send orders to units, and concurrently, they can’t send you any information. You’re now fumbling around, and figuratively blind as a bat against the opposition.

When the anti-ISIS coalition comes, backed up by special operators and air power, pretty soon you find yourself in a world of coalition hurt.

According to an Air Force release, the EC-130H has been doing just that against ISIS. This plane is loaded with jamming gear that cuts off communications.

According to an Air Force fact sheet, it works with the EA-18G Growler, the F-16CJ Fighting Falcon, and the EA-6B Prowler. The plane, though, has been in service since 1983. It was first designed to help take down air-defense networks, usually by working with other planes like the F-4G Wild Weasel and the EF-111 Raven.

These are old airframes. The plane may have entered service in 1983, but the airframes are old.

“We have a 1964 model out here on the ramp and you run the gamut of issues from old wiring to old structural issues (and) corrosion. You find that many of the items on the aircraft have been on there for well over 20 or 30 years, and parts fail all the time. So the aircraft more often than not come down and they need us to fix it before it can fly again safely,” 1st Lt. John Karim, the Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge with the 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, told the Air Force News Service.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM — An EC-130H Compass Call with the 398th Air Expeditionary Group takes off from a forward-deployed location for a mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

They might be old, they don’t make things go boom, but they still help kick some terrorist ass.

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The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing Thursday on whether to confirm Gen. James Mattis as the next defense secretary, and plenty of interesting bits came out of the roughly three-hour session.


The retired four-star general gave frank and concise answers on everything from cybersecurity policy to what he expects will be the biggest threats to the United States.

Also read: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

Shortly afterward, he was approved for a waiver for the requirement of having a seven-year gap between being active-duty in the military and serving in the civilian role at the Pentagon.

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander, U.S. Central Command visits with Marines stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait on Feb. 26, 2011. | DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeleyMattis thinks the US needs to be more aggressive going after ISIS

When asked whether the US can confront the terror group in its capital of Raqqa, Mattis said he believed the US could, but he added that the anti-ISIS strategy needed to be reviewed and “energized on a more aggressive timeline.”

He told members that “we have to deliver a very hard blow against ISIS in the Middle East so there is no sense of invulnerability or invincibility there.” For the US, according to Mattis, that means attacking ISIS’ main areas of strength so they cannot pop up elsewhere.

He mentioned Russia as the biggest threat

Despite President-elect Trump’s restraint on calling out Russian aggression and cyberwarfare, Mattis didn’t pull punches in his assessment of Moscow.

“Since Yalta, we have a long list of times that we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia,” Mattis said. “We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.” He praised NATO and its effectiveness, and added that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “trying to break” that alliance.

In some areas Russia and the US can work together, but in many others, Mattis said, Putin remained a strategic competitor or an outright adversary.

“I have very modest expectations about areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin,” he said.

Mattis says he wouldn’t roll back the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or the change on women in combat roles

In the past, Mattis has not really been a fan of women being integrated into combat roles, such as infantry. He was asked about this repeatedly — at times having his speeches quoted to him — and asked whether he would reverse the 2013 policy change.

“I’ve never come into any job with an agenda, a pre-formed agenda of changing anything,” he said. “I assume the people before me deserve respect for the decisions they’ve made.”

That answer did not satisfy Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), however, and she continued to press him. In the end, Mattis told her: “I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military. In 2003, I had hundreds of Marines who happened to be women serving in my 23,000 person division … I put them right on the front lines with everyone else.”

He was also asked about protections for LGBTQ service members, and he had a very blunt answer to that. “Frankly, senator, I’ve never cared about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with.”

He says the Iran deal isn’t perfect, but it should remain intact

Mattis called the Iran deal an “imperfect” one, but still supported the US keeping its end of the bargain. The answer was a break from the President-elect, who has promised to “rip up” the deal with Tehran.

“I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement — it’s not a friendship treaty,” Mattis said. “But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”

Later, he said, “It’s not a deal I would have signed.”

Mattis says cyberwar is a big problem that still has no clear doctrine in place

Mattis was asked interesting questions on cyberwarfare, which were especially pertinent in the wake of Russian hacks of Democratic party officials and their affect on the presidential election. Unfortunately, he said he did not believe the US has anything resembling a sophisticated cyber doctrine.

In other words, there is no strategy in place for the US to respond to cyber attacks, like there is for other physical examples, such as a nuclear strike or an attack on a NATO ally.

Mattis said there needs to be a comprehensive plan developed to address this shortfall, because “cyber cuts across everything we do today.”

He added: “Because of the cyber domain, it’s not something the military can do in isolation.”

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On D-Day these veterans mobilized volunteers to honor the legacy of the Greatest Generation

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
Got Your 6’s executive director Bill Rausch unloads a bag of mulch at the World War II memorial. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


On the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, as World War II veterans gathered to attend a ceremony on their behalf at the National WWII Memorial in Washington DC, the veteran campaign Got Your 6 rallied 125 veterans, family members, and civilian supporter volunteers to work with the National Park Service beautifying the grounds — painting benches, clearing brush, and mulching flower beds.

“There’s not a better generation of veterans who have led a resurgence of community than World War II vets,” said Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6. “Seventy-two years ago today the United States lost more troops storming the beaches of Normandy than we have in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over 14 years. No generation has given more to their country, and we want to honor their legacy. That’s why we picked the World War II Memorial, but we had so many badass vets show up that we pushed them over to the Vietnam War Memorial as well.”

Marine Corps vet Matt Stiner, the White House’s associate director of Veterans and Military Affairs, kicked off the event by reading a proclamation from President Obama:

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
James Pierce. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

I send greetings to all those joining Got Your 6 in honoring our nation’s veterans. America endures because of the great patriots who bear the incredible burden of defending our freedom. Our veterans have been tested in ways that the rest of us may never fully understand. As you come together with a common purpose know that I am grateful for your efforts. God bless the members of our armed forces and their families, and God bless the United States of America.

The volunteers were given their beautification assignments by Park Ranger James Pierce, an Army veteran who was wounded by a suicide bomber while serving in Khost, Afghanistan. Pierce got his job through a program called Operation Guardian that places wounded vets into roles with the National Park Service.

“I just changed uniforms,” Pierce explained. “My mission is still important. A lot of people are depending on me. It gets me out of bed in the morning.”

John McCain describes what it was like to be a war prisoner in Vietnam
World War II veterans flown in as part of Honor Flight gather at the World War II memorial on the 72nd anniversary of D-Day. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

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