Accessibility links

US Senator John McCain Visits Hanoi Prison Where He Was Held as POW

Senator John McCain has returned to Vietnam, visiting the prison where he was once held as a prisoner of war. The former presidential candidate is on a diplomatic tour of East Asia with two fellow senators, Lindsey Graham and Amy Klobuchar.

"It was in this block wasn't exactly like this...this was called Thunderbird. At one time they took me there, held me separately for five or six months...six feet by three was very hot," McCain said.

McCain went back to Hoa Lo Prison Wednesday, known to the American prisoners of war held there as the Hanoi Hilton. Hoa Lo was one of two prisons where the former Navy pilot spent five years after being shot down in 1967.

Today, the prison is a museum. McCain, like other POWs, says he was tortured by Vietnamese guards, but the exhibits purport to show how well the Vietnamese treated the prisoners. McCain showed fellow senator Amy Klobuchar photos staged by the Vietnamese of the POWs celebrating Christmas dinner.

McCain, Klobuchar and Senator Lindsey Graham visited Vietnam as part of a tour of East Asia, which also includes China and Japan.

In Hanoi, McCain delivered a speech at Vietnam's Diplomatic Academy calling for closer military relations between the U.S. and Vietnam.

"We would like to see an increase in military-to-military relations between our two countries," he said.

The Republican senator said that might mean Vietnamese officers training at American defense institutions. He placed such cooperation in the context of U.S. and Vietnamese security concerns over China's activities in the South China Sea.

It was not the first time that McCain, who once bombed Hanoi, had pushed for closer relations with his former enemies. He played a crucial role in the normalization of U.S.-Vietnam relations in the early 1990s.

After leaving the museum, the three senators headed for the airport, to board a flight to Beijing.