In the middle of 1968, John McCain's father, John S. McCain Jr., was named commander of all U.S. forces in the Vietnam theater. The North Vietnamese wanted to appear merciful as part of their propaganda and so they offered McCain an early release. They also wanted to show other POW's that elite prisoners were willing to be treated preferentially. McCain turned down the offer stating that he refused to leave unless every man taken in before him was released. In truth, such early releases were prohibited by the POW's interpretation of the military code of conduct. In order to prevent the enemy from using prisoners as propaganda, officers were to agree to be released in the order in which they were captured.
In August of 1968, a regiment of severe torture began on McCain. During this time, McCain attempted suicide but was stopped by guards. Eventually, McCain made the first of several anti-American propaganda confession video. He was released as a POW on March 14, 1973, having been a prisoner for five and a half years.
John McCain returned to the United States and was reunited with his family. His wife Carol had suffered an automobile accident on Christmas Eve of 1969 that left her crippled and terribly disfigured. Her pelvis and one arm were shattered by the impact and she suffered from massive internal injuries. In order to save her legs, surgeons had to cut away very large sections of shattered bone, which took away her tall, willowy frame. She was confined to a wheelchair and was forced to use a catheter. She eventually learned to walk again but had gained a lot of weight by the time McCain came home.
As a returned POW, McCain became a celebrity of sorts. There was much fanfare at his return and even a handshake from President Richard Nixon. McCain enjoyed the limelight. During 1973-1974, McCain attended the National War College at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. By late 1974, he had his flight status reinstated and in 1976 he became the commanding officer of a training squadron in Florida.During his time in Florida, McCain had extramarital affairs which led to the breakdown of his marriage. He no longer was attracted to Carol because of her injuries. In 1980, the McCain's divorced and one month later, John married Cindy Hensley, whom he had met in April of 1979, who was 18 years his junior and the heir to an Arizona brewing fortune.
All of the above was taken from McCain's life as is listed on Wikipedia and other sites that outline his life. Now let's take a look at what really happened.
According to writings by McCain, himself, after about 3-4 days of torture by the Vietnamese, he called for an officer and stated that he would give them information. He told the officer, "O.K., I'll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital." -U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain. So these are his own words. After this McCain was taken to Gai Lam military hospital which was normally unavailable to American POW's. This from U.S. government documents.
On November 9, 1967, according to U.S. government documents, the Hanoi press began quoting McCain who was giving specific military information. One report read, "To a question of the correspondent, McCain answered: "My assignment to the Oriskany, I told myself, was due to serious losses in pilots, which were sustained by this aircraft carrier (due to its raids on the North Vietnam territory - VNA) and which necessitated replacements. From 10 to 12 pilots were transferred like me from the Forrestal to the Oriskany. Before I was shot down, we had made several sorties. Altogether, I made about 23 flights over North Vietnam."
In that report, McCain was quoted describing the number of aircraft in his flight, information about rescue ships, and the order of which his attack was supposed to take place. All of these things place American soldier lives at risk and subsequently, American planes were shot down at a 64% increase after he told the Vietnamese these things. Through the Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. Veteran Dispatch acquired a declassified Department of Defense (DOD) transcript of an interview that prominent French television reporter, Francois Chalais, had with McCain. Following is said transcript:
"My meeting with John Sidney McCain was certainly one of those
meetings which will affect me most profoundly for the rest of my life.
I had asked the North Vietnamese authorities to allow me to personally
interrogate an American prisoner. They authorized me to do so. When
night fell, they took me---without any precautions or mystery--to a
hospital near the Gia Lam airport reserved for the [North Vietnamese]
military. (passage omitted) The officer who receives me begins: I ask
you not to ask any questions of political nature. If this man replies
in a way unfavorable to us, they will not hesitate to speak of
'brainwashing' and conclude that we threatened him.
"'This John Sidney McCain is not an ordinary prisoner. His father is
none other than Admiral Edmond John McCain, commander in chief of U.S.
naval forces in Europe. (passage omitted)'"
". . . Many visitors came to talk to me [John McCain]. Not all of it was for interrogation. Once a famous North Vietnamese writer-an old man with a Ho Chi Minh beard-came to my room, wanting to know all about Ernest Hemingway . . . Others came to find out about life in the United States. They figured because my father had such high military rank that I was of the royalty or governing circle . . . One of the men who came to see me, whose picture I recognized later, was Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the hero of Dienbienphu." U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain.
The two Americans that McCain was held prisoner with were Air Force Majors George "Bud" Day and Norris Overly. Overly was offered release and he accepted. Day was "relocated" to another cell and about a month later, McCain was moved into another building, the largest in the camp called "the warehouse". This is where McCain spent his two years of solitary confinement as he was considered a "special prisoner". He became the target of intense indoctrination and psychological programs the communists had perfected during the Korean War.
The communists were very much aware that McCain would be under tremendous psychological pressure not to do or say anything that would tarnish his famous military family and they considered that to be the key to eventually breaking and then "turning" him. McCain's handlers kept meticulous records of his behavior, including his personal strengths, weaknesses and any special favors he had accepted while under isolation.
McCain's interrogators believed that because he came from a "royal family", he would, when he was finally released, return to the United States to some important military or government job. Because he was isolated during those two years, no one except for McCain himself and his captors know exactly what he was subjected to or how he responded. Most of the information in the public record detailing his ordeal during this time comes from McCain and McCain only.
"In May of 1968, I [McCain] was interviewed by two North Vietnamese generals at separate times."
U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 article written by former POW John McCain
McCain claimed (page 133 of The Nightingale's Song, by Robert Timberg) that he was first offered early release in late June of 1968. He said that after months of interrogation he was "summoned" to a room that had soft chairs, a glass table, cookies with a pot of tea, and cigarettes. He said "Major Bai, known to the prisoners as the Cat," was waiting for him. He said a second Vietnamese known as the Rabbit, stood by to serve as translator."
McCain said that he helped himself to the cookies, tea and cigarettes as the Cat began speaking through the translator. He said they talked about "his father, other members of his family, the war." McCain said that after about two hours of talking, the Cat asked him if he wanted to be released. The Cat, according to McCain, told him to go back to his cell and think about it. --The Nightingale's Song.
According to McCain, the Cat sent for him three nights later and again asked him if he wanted to go home. McCain said he answered no. A week later, he was taken to a room in which the camp commander, who the prisoners had nicknamed Slopehead, was waiting. McCain said ten guards and interrogator, nicknamed The Prick, was also in the room. He said the guards charged into him, beating and kicking him until he "lay on the floor, bloody, arms and legs throbiing, ribs cracked, several teeth broken off at the gumline." According to McCain, the Vietnamese wanted him to admit to being a "black criminal." -- The Nightingale's Song.
I will insert here that pictures of McCain's arrival back in the U.S. after his release as a POW do not conclusively show that he was missing any teeth. I'm not saying it didn't happen, just that pictures do not conclusively show any missing teeth. And his arm and leg were broken as a result of his ejecting from his aircraft.
June 1969 - "Reds Say PW Songbird Is Pilot Son of Admiral. . . Hanoi
has aired a broadcast in which the pilot son of United States
Commander in the Pacific, Adm. John McCain, purportedly admits to
having bombed civilian targets in North Vietnam and praises medical
treatment he has received since being taken prisoner." New York Daily
News, June 5, 1969
1999 - March 25, 1999, The Phoenix New Times: Ted Guy and Gordon
"Swede" Larson, two former POWs, who were McCain's senior ranking
officers (SRO's), at the time McCain says he was tortured in solitary
confinement, told the New Times that while they could not guarantee
that McCain was not physically harmed, they doubted it.
"Between the two of us, it's our belief, and to the best of our
knowledge, that no prisoner was beaten or harmed physically in that
camp [known as "The Plantation"]," Larson says. ". . . My only
contention with the McCain deal is that while he was at The
Plantation, to the best of my knowledge and Ted's knowledge, he was
not physically abused in any way. No one was in that camp. It was the
camp that people were released from."
The documentary alleges McCain manipulated the legislative process, mandating his POW records be sealed forever to conceal his actual behavior in captivity from the legend that has evolved. It also suggests that this same motivation explains McCain's history of opposing and shutting down all Congressional POW inquiries.