Sen. John McCain, who died Saturday at the age of 81, has been remembered for his “toughness and strong stance” by the former director of the Vietnamese prison where he was held as a prisoner of war for five and a half years.
McCain was held in captivity by the North Vietnamese in Hoa Lo Prison, nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton” by American POWs, after his plane was shot down in October 1967 during a bombing mission over Hanoi.
McCain was subjected to repeated beatings and interrogations while being held captive and sustained lifelong injuries that prevented him from raising his arms above his head.
“I had a lot of time meeting him when he was kept in the prison,” Duyet said. “At that time I liked him personally for his toughness and strong stance. Later on, when he became a U.S. Senator, he and Senator John Kerry greatly contributed to promote Vietnam-U.S. relations so I was very fond of him.”
Duyet added that he’d like to send condolences to the McCain family.
“I think it’s the same feeling for all Vietnamese people as he has greatly contributed to the development of Vietnam-U.S. relations,” he said.
Speaking during a visit to Vietnam in 2000 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, McCain said he harbored “no anger nor rancor.”
“I’m a better man for my experience and I’m grateful for having the opportunity of serving,” he said at the time.
Indeed, in 1995, when diplomatic relations between the countries were normalized after two decades of severed ties, McCain said the United States had “looked back in anger at Vietnam for too long.”
“I cannot allow whatever resentments I incurred during my time in Vietnam to hold me from doing what is so clearly my duty,” he said in a statement. “I believe it is my duty to encourage this country to build from the losses and the hopes of our tragic war in Vietnam a better peace for both the American and Vietnamese people.”