He had a request for his tombstone: “He served his country.”
In January 2015, when Mr. McCain had just taken over the chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee — “the only job in Washington, other than being president, that he ever wanted,” I wrote then — I ran into him practically skipping along in a Senate corridor. We hadn't seen one another in some time. “Come see me!" he said playfully. So I did. When I showed up at his office some days later for our interview, I found the senator in a contemplative mood.
— Sheryl Gay Stolberg
This is a long, but riveting (and tough) read of his personal account of his captivity. Including it simply because I find it fascinating and it re-affirms my stance that torture is never acceptable and war should be avoided as hard as possible.
I’m an historian, so I feel compelled, on the occasion of his passing, to respect the best of John McCain while also reckoning with the rest of John McCain. Death is one of those moments where legacies are made, where memories are shaped, and men of outsize power and privilege require a full reckoning, regardless of whether criticism is considered “bad timing” or “disrespectful.”
What makes John McCain’s passing more complicated for me—and this will probably upset some of my friends on the left—is that we need more Republicans to be like John McCain.
Of the many personal accounts coming to light about the almost unbelievably cruel treatment accorded American prisoners of war in Vietnam, none is more dramatic than that of Lieut. Commander John S. McCain III—Navy flier, son of the admiral who commanded the war in the Pacific, and a prisoner who came in "for special attention" during 5½ years of captivity in North Vietnam.
Now that all acknowledged prisoners are back and a self-imposed seal of silence is off, Commander McCain is free to answer the questions many Americans have asked:
What was it really like? How prolonged were the tortures and brutality? How did the captured U.S. airmen bear up under the mistreatment—and years spent in solitary? How did they preserve their sanity? Did visiting "peace groups" really add to their troubles? How can this country's military men be conditioned to face such treatment in the future without crumbling?
Here, in his own words, based on almost total recall, is Commander McCain's narrative of 5½ years in the hands of the North Vietnamese.