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Survival Stories #1: Hanoi Hilton POWs

by spike.com   September 01, 2009 at 1:32PM  |  Views: 2,357

I'm Cade Courtley, Navy SEAL and host of Spike TV’s Surviving Disaster. I've heard a lot of great survival accounts over the years.  However, these 10 individual narratives represent true self-preservation through instinct, and a never-say-die attitude. This list is a chronicle--a testament--of what I find most impressive in defining true individual strength and human perseverance.  These few did not just lead to legend, but more importantly and most basic, survival.

We all know who John McCain is, but most of us don’t know his entire heroic story. The guy was shot down, badly injured, and captured in the Vietnam War. Even though he didn’t take home the gold in the past presidential election, the man is a patriot and a true survivor.

On October 26, 1967 Lieutenant Commander McCain was flying over North Vietnam for a 23rd bombing mission when his A-4E Skyhawk was shot down by a missile over Hanoi. When trying to eject from the aircraft, John fractured both arms and a leg and almost drowned when he parachuted into Truc Bach Lake. North Vietnamese residents then pulled him ashore while others crushed his shoulder and bayoneted him. McCain was then transported to Hanoi's main Hoa Lo Prison, a.k.a. the "Hanoi Hilton.”

McCain’s captors refused to treat his injuries and proceeded to beat and interrogate him to get information. John’s status as a prisoner of war hit the front pages of major newspapers shortly thereafter. He was eventually sent to a different camp on the outskirts of Hanoi in December 1967, and was placed into a cell with two other Americans. In March 1968, McCain was put into solitary confinement, where he would remain for two years.

In mid-1968, his father Admiral John S. McCain, Jr. was named commander of all U.S. forces in Vietnam and the North Vietnamese offered McCain an early release. McCain turned down the offer and said he would only accept if every man taken in before him was released as well. McCain was subjected to rope bindings and repeated beatings every few hours and was suffering from dysentery at the same time. He even attempted suicide, but it was stopped by the guards. After four days, McCain hit his breaking point and gave an anti-American propaganda "confession," but he subsequently received two to three beatings weekly because of his refusal to sign additional statements.

Altogether, McCain was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for over five years. He was released on March 14, 1973. His injuries left him permanently incapable of raising his arms above his head.

Stay tuned to Spike.com as I’ll be unveiling the top 10 most inspiring survival stories one-by-one over the following weeks.



Want more? Check out Survival Story #2: Chris Ryan

Make sure to check out the Wounded Warrior Project to honor and empower wounded warriors.


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