‘I liked him personally for his toughness’: John McCain’s Vietnamese jailer expresses sadness over his death

  • Sen. John McCain’s former Vietnamese jailer expressed sadness over the news of the former Navy pilot’s death and said he’d respected him.
  • “At that time I liked him personally for his toughness and strong stance,” former Col. Tran Trong Duyet told the English-language newspaper Vietnam News.
  • Many other Vietnamese people in Hanoi also paid their respects to McCain after the news of his death over the weekend.
  • McCain died from brain cancer on Saturday at the age of 81.

The man who ran the infamous Vietnamese prison where Republican Sen. John McCain was brutally tortured as a prisoner of war expressed sadness over the former Navy pilot’s death and said he’d respected him.

Former Col. Tran Trong Duyet, who oversaw the “Hanoi Hilton” prison while McCain was an inmate there, told the English-language newspaper Vietnam News that “at that time I liked him personally for his toughness and strong stance.”

McCain, who died from brain cancer on Saturday at the age of 81, was captured and imprisoned for more than five years during the Vietnam War after his Skyhawk dive bomber was shot down in Hanoi in 1967.

One year after his capture, McCain was given an opportunity to go free when his captors discovered that his father had been made commander of US forces in the Pacific, seeing an opportunity for positive media coverage of his release. But McCain refused the offer over loyalty to his fellow American POWs, some of whom had been held in captivity longer than he had been. As a consequence, he endured even harsher treatment and was ruthlessly tortured.

McCain is widely viewed as a war hero because of this bold, selfless moment of defiance.

As a US senator years after the war, McCain played a prominent role in normalizing relations between the US and Vietnam alongside former Democratic Sen. John Kerry, who is also a Vietnam veteran.

His former jailer expressed admiration for all McCain did to reestablish ties between countries that fought a brutal war he’d served in.

Duyet told Vietnam News that McCain and Kerry “greatly contributed to promote Vietnam-US relations, so I was very fond of him.”

“When I learnt about his death early this morning, I feel very sad. I would like to send condolences to his family,” Duyet was quoted as saying. “I think it’s the same feeling for all Vietnamese people as he has greatly contributed to the development of Vietnam-US relations.”

Many other Vietnamese people in Hanoi also paid their respects to McCain after the news of his death over the weekend.

Several Vietnamese leaders – including Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh – also paid respects to McCain and expressed condolences to his family.