(Washington, DC-AP) – The McCain family announced Friday that he was stopping medical treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer. He began chemotherapy treatment in July 2017 and has been absent from Washington since December. He spent the remaining time at his ranch in Arizona. McCain, known as a moderate conservative, was a retired Navy captain and POW during the Vietnam War.
The abuse he suffered while in captivity which included being hung by his arms from he ceiling, was the reason mobility was restricted in his upper limbs.
THE MOMENT OF CAPTURE
McCain’s bomber was hit by a surface-to-air missile on Oct. 26, 1967, destroying the aircraft’s right wing. According to McCain, the plane entered an “inverted, almost straight-down spin,” and he ejected.
But the sheer force of the ejection broke his right leg and both arms, knocking him unconscious, the report said. McCain came to as he landed in a lake, but burdened by heavy equipment, he sank straight to the bottom. Able to kick to the surface momentarily for air, he somehow managed to activate his life preserver with his teeth.
Once he reached the surface, he was pulled ashore by some North Vietnamese, the account said.
As his captors tore at his clothes in the wake of the crash, McCain recalls realizing the extent of his injuries. When he noticed the injuries to his right leg –- which he says had fractured at the knee –- one of his captors slammed a rifle butt into his right shoulder, shattering it, the account said. He was then bayoneted in the abdomen and foot.Over the next few days, he “lapsed from conscious to unconsciousness” while the North Vietnamese interrogated him, he said. “I refused to give them anything except my name, rank, serial number and date of birth,” McCain said in the U.S. News report. “I was in such a bad shape that when they hit me it would knock me unconscious,” he said.
Though initially refusing to give McCain medical treatment, the North Vietnamese, upon discovering that McCain’s father was an admiral in the Navy, decided to give him medical care, according to U.S. News. As word got around of McCain’s imprisonment and his father’s high military rank, several high ranking North Vietnamese officers came to the prison to observe McCain. Vietnamese surgeons operated on McCain’s broken leg, damaging several ligaments in the process. To this day, there is a noticeable limp in McCain’s step.
After receiving less than adequate treatment, McCain says he was moved to a prison camp known as “The Plantation” and locked in a cell with George “Bud” Day and Norris Overly, two Air Force majors. Day, who survived the ordeal, said of McCain: “He was in this great big white case, and his hair was snow white. He just looked like he was absolutely on the verge of death,” the report quoted him as saying.
SOLITARY CONFINEMENT AND TORTURE
When he was moved into solitary confinement in March 1968 and when his father was named commander-in-chief of all US Pacific forces several months later, McCain’s troubles were just beginning. The North Vietnamese hoped to score a propaganda victory by offering McCain an early release. McCain has said he refused the offer on the condition that he would only accept if every man captured before him was released as well. When McCain was brought to the senior North Vietnamese officer -– a man he refers to as “The Cat” –- he refused the offer of an early release yet again.
McCain says his torture began in August of 1968. “For the next four days, I was beaten every two or three hours by different guards. My left arm was broken again and my ribs were cracked,” he said according to U.S. News. The North Vietnamese wanted a confession for crimes committed against the North Vietnamese people. After holding out for four days, McCain, at the point of suicide, agreed to write a confession. Looking back on his decision, McCain reflected “I felt just terrible about it… Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine,” he said, according to the report.
McCain notes that toward the end of 1969, the treatment which he and his fellow POWs received became more tolerable. He reports of torture ended around October of 1969 and his solitary confinement concluded in March 1970. “Aside from bad situations now and then, 1971 and 1972 was a sort of coasting period,” McCain told U.S. News. After the signing of the Paris Peace Accords on Jan. 27, 1973, putting an end to the Vietnam War, McCain was released on March 14, 1973.
Though he made a recovery, many of McCain’s injuries have remained with him -– the combination of a hazardous ejection from his jet, torture and inadequate medical treatment have left him incapable of raising either arm above his shoulders.
He’s leaving behind a long political legacy. Republican McCain was a conservative icon in the Senate for three decades. He also relished a reputation as a political maverick and was always willing to work with Republicans and Democrats. One of McCain’s top achievements was passage of a bipartisan campaign finance reform bill in 2002. Key provisions of the bill were later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. McCain also led bipartisan efforts to reform the U.S. immigration system. The Senate passed a sweeping immigration bill in 2013 but the House refused to take it up.
McCain served two terms in the U.S. House before being elected to the Senate. He ran for president in 2000 but could not get past George W. Bush in the Republican primaries. McCain tried again in 2008 and became the Republican presidential nominee. He lost the general election to Democrat Barack Obama.It was during that campaign that another example of McCain’s character was displayed. During a rally, one of his supporter was asking a question and preceded it by speaking disparagingly about Barack Obama. McCain took the mic and refuted the woman’s claims and clarified that he may not agree with Barack on some of the issues but that he was a good man.
McCain was a frequent traveler to Iraq and Afghanistan and was a harsh critic of Obama’s policies in both war-torn countries. McCain became chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2015.
McCain died Saturday following a battle with aggressive brain cancer. He’ll be given a full funeral at the Washington National Cathedral before his burial in Annapolis, Maryland, at the U.S. Naval Academy. McCain will be the 13th former Senator to lie in state at the national capitol. His office said the official schedule would be released once all the arrangements are finalized. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has ordered all flags there to be flown at half-staff.