John McCain’s fingerprints are all over the city of Hanoi in Vietnam. His name is popularly seen at the Downed Aircraft Memorial. But what makes the name of a previous United States running candidate so closely associated with Hanoi?
The name of 2008 American Presidential candidate John McCain stands out as one of the most fascinating sights at the Downed Aircraft Memorial. The plaque commemorates the shooting down of an American Navy Aircraft in 1967. John McCain was one of the airmen.
The Navy was not just in John S. McCain III’s bloodline, it was their life. Both McCain’s grandfather and father were admirals of the Unites States Navy. Following their footsteps, McCain attended the United Stated Naval Academy and graduated in year 1958. He married in 1965 and became a naval aviator who flew attack aircrafts from carriers. After working as an instructor in Mississippi, McCain was tasked to an operational assignment in December of 1966.
But in the morning of July 29, 1967, McCain barely escaped death when a Zuni rocket fired his A-4 Skyhawk that was getting ready to launch. McCain was on aboard the USS Forrestal. Luckily, McCain escaped the burning jet and even tried to help a co-pilot escape when a bomb exploded. McCain was hit in the chest and legs by shrapnel. The fire caused the death of 134 sailors, injured 161 men and took about 24 hours to control.
McCain had broken his right leg and both of his arms. During the time the missiles struck, Mau Van On, a retired North Vietnamese Army colonel was returning to his lakeside home along the shores of Truc Bach Lake in downtown Hanoi. Despite air-raid sirens sounding throughout the city and locals trying to prevent him from doing it, On insistently grabbed a bamboo pole and swam 200 yards to where McCain splashed down into the lake. On gave the young McCain one end of the pole as he held the other and swam into safety. Another northern Vietnamese helped the pair to shore.
On enemy grounds, McCain was brought to the Ministry of Defense Hospital and was taken to the Hoa Loa Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton where captured Americans were kept in prison. Because of his father’s status of being the Commander in Chief of all U.S Navy Forces, he was offered an early release to his imprisonment. Citing the American Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct principle of “first in, first out”, McCain refused the offer saying that he would only accept if every man taken before him was released as well. McCain then had to sustain five years of captivity under the hands of the North Vietnamese with beatings, poor medical treatment and a total of three years of solitary confinement.
Today, on the western lake shore of Truc Bach Lake along Thanh Nien Road, the Downed Aircraft Memorial lies commemorating McCain’s shoot-down and capture. His inscription translates that John S. McCain was shot out of the sky by local military citizens that were defending Yen Phu. Ten other planes were shot down on that same day as well.