Monday, May 5, 2008

Heartbreak Hotel

By now, most people know John McCain was a prisoner of war for many years and much to the contrary of Hillary Clinton, is probably less likely to leverage his story, which is actually true.

Occasionally John would get called up to the "Big House." That's what the prisoners named the building where I was taken the night I arrived in the camp. Sometimes he had news that was not on the speakers in the camp. In September 1968 John had gone through a particularly bad session at the Big House where they had broken his left arm again by bending it beyond its limited mobility. After almost four days of beatings and torture John had signed a "crime confession." In the years to follow in Hanoi I found that most prisoners had been tortured to the extent that many had signed "crime confessions, letters requesting amnesty, or early release, and letters to their buddies not to fly in this cruel and senseless war."

I was leaving friends and could hardly hold back tears as they dragged me across the courtyard. They pushed me up into a truck and told me to keep silent. I was up against another prisoner on the floor of the truck. I felt something hit my thigh and then a hand slowly tapped, "MCCAIN, who U." I smiled as I realized I was not being sent back to the jungle after all. I tapped back "EB GBU." Later I was to find that there were four prisoners on that truck leaving the Plantation: John McCain, Swede Larson, Ted Guy and me. Swede tried to join in on the tapping of names, but started his tapping on a guard's leg and received a hard kick for his efforts.

It would be Christmas 1969 in a few days. Little did we know we would see three more Christmases after 1969, still in Hanoi, still in prison.

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