John McCain Vietnam War POW
CIA & Department of Defense Files

download John McCain Vietnam War POW CIA - Department of Defense Files

download The Code of Conduct and the Vietnam War by John S McCain
download Treatment of American POWs in Vietnam CIA Files

download John S. McCain III Veterans History Project Interview Audio
(right-click to download mp3)


John McCain Vietnam War POW CIA - Department of Defense Files

73 pages of CIA and Department of Defense documents and transcriptions, of foreign broadcasts, from 1967 to 1973, relating to John McCain's captivity in North Vietnam.

On October 26, 1967, John McCain was flying an A-4E Skyhawk on his twenty-third mission over North Vietnam. This mission was his first encounter with the heavy air defenses deployed by the North Vietnamese in and around Hanoi. His plane was hit by a Russian made surface to air missile. McCain ejected and landed badly injured in Truc Bach Lake. He was dragged from the lake and beaten by civilians along the shore. Thus began John McCain's 5 1/2 years of captivity in North Vietnam. He was taken to Hoa Lo Prison, also known as "Hanoi Hilton," where he was refused medical treatment, interrogated, and beaten. After his captors learned his father was Admiral McCain he was given medical treatment.

Early on, this son and grandson of high-ranking naval officers was accorded relatively privileged status. Then he refused early release, which he says he saw as a public relations stunt by his captors, insisting that POWs held longer than him should be granted their freedom first.  Thereafter, McCain was treated much more severely. In March 1968, McCain was put into solitary confinement, where he would remain for two years. In August 1968, a program of severe torture began on McCain. He was subjected to rope bindings and repeated beatings every two hours for four days. McCain attempted to commit suicide, but was caught by guards. He was then put under suicide watch. He signed a forced confession during the torture. When he resisted further attempts to be used for North Vietnamese propaganda, a regiment of beatings two or three times a week was established. In the later half of 1969 the North Vietnamese treatment of American POWs became less inhumane and the express torture ended. McCain was released on March 14, 1973. He returned home on crutches and began years of physical rehabilitation. McCain later regained flight status and commanded a Navy squadron before retiring from the Navy in 1981.

The 35 pages of original documents in this set are intercept reports from the CIA'S Foreign Broadcast Information Service and the Message Center of the U.S. Department of Defense National Military Command Center. The Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) is an open source intelligence component of the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology that monitors, translates, and disseminates within the US Government openly available news and information from non-US media sources. The FBIS became known as the Open Source Center (OSC)in 2005.

The files date from October 11, 1967 to February 20, 1973. These files were originally released by the CIA in 1987. They were released in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests relating to POW/MIA issues. The CIA files in this set were released by the CIA in poor condition. A transcript of each page has been added to the set.

These documents do not make any assessment of the validity of the reporting they document.

The source of the broadcasts and their purpose should be included in the conception of the material.

Most of these broadcasts were part of a systematic propagation of a doctrine, reflecting the views and interests of the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.

The broadcasts translated and/or transcribed include: A Vietnam News Agency international broadcast of an interview with John McCain. Vietnam News Agency broadcasts directed to U.S. personnel in South Vietnam concerning the capture of McCain. Radio Moscow international broadcast concerning the reporting in North Vietnam of the shot down of McCain. A Paris based, AFP - Agence France-Presse, broadcast of an interview of John McCain, conducted by French journalist Bernard-Joseph Cabanes. Radio Moscow domestic Russian report on a Pravda Review article concerning the air defenses in Hanoi, featuring North Vietnamese interview content of McCain. An Article written by French TV reporter Francois Chalais concerning American pilots held in North Vietnam, includes interviews with American pilots, including McCain.

A January 1970 Radio Havana broadcast of an interview of John McCain by Spanish psychiatrist Fernando Barral. This interview received attention because McCain mentions Lyndon Johnson's management of the war as president, and the status of his father, Admiral McCain in the chain of command. Barral concludes the piece with a harsh "psychological" assessment of McCain. Years later John McCain referred to the interview in his book, "Faith of My Fathers. McCain refereed to Barral as "a Cuban propagandist masquerading as a psychiatrist and moonlighting as a journalist."


The report, "The Code of Conduct and the Vietnam War," by John S McCain, Commander United States Navy, a 44 page, April 8, 1974, individual research project conducted by John S. McCain, Commander, United States Navy, at the National War College.

The purpose of this paper was to review the Code of Conduct in the perspective of the Vietnam prisoner of war experience and to make recommendations for changes to the code itself and to the training and indoctrination of the members of the Armed Forces in the Code of Conduct. Additionally, recommendations are presented for the education of the members of the Armed Forces and the U.S. public in order to minimize the use of POWS in the future as political hostages and propaganda vehicles.

The Vietnam War was the first test of the Code of Conduct. The majority of the American POWS were held captive longer than in any other war engaged in by Americans. The paper discusses the Code of Conduct, article by article, and assesses its value and viability as they related to the Vietnam War experience.  The report compares conditions and treatment American POWs experienced in Vietnam, and how it effected their ability to live up to the code.

In the report Commander McCain writes that, "The American people have been inoculated with too many John Wayne movies and other examples of unbreakable will and super human strength. It has been amply proved that every man has a breaking point."


A 28 minute audio recording of a January 23, 2003, interview of John McCain, conducted by the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

McCain speaks about: The effect of attending on the Naval Academy on his life. His disagreement over how the air campaign against North Vietnam was carried out.

The fire aboard the USS Forrestal. While McCain was inside his plane on the deck of the Forrestal, a huge fire began among the aircraft on the flight deck. The fire spread into her hangar and took more than 130 lives of Forrestal crew members. Details about his shoot down and capture in Hanoi. His treatment while in captivity. Staying mentally alert while a prisoner. Being offered early release from being a POW. Refusing early release according to the Code of Conduct. The history and use of the Code of Conduct. The transition to post-POW life.



126 pages of selected CIA files dating from 1966 to 1971. The files concern the treatment of American POWs. The files cover: The exploitation of U.S. POWs for propaganda purposes. Experiences of American pilots captured in Vietnam. Intelligence on Hoa Lo Prison, also known as Hanoi Hilton. Lessons used in the indoctrination of American POWs. North Vietnamese policy toward American POWs. The Viet Cong practices involving the taking of POWs. The air raids that took place in and around Hanoi during the period of time of McCain's last sortie. The use of POWs for propaganda broadcasts. The Viet Cong prison system for Vietnamese under their detention.



John McCain (center) being captured by Vietnamese civilians in Truc Bach Lake near Hanoi Vietnam.

John McCain Vietnam War POW Files

John McCain, (front, right) with his squadron. 1965


Photograph of John McCain After Being Released as Prisoner of War

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