John McCain Betrayed the Man Who Saved His Life

Crossposted from The Motley Moose

We hear a lot about John McCain's military record.  Most often we are hearing about it from John McCain, unless Sarah Palin is telling us how much he doesn't like to talk about it.

Apparently there is one part he doesn't like to talk about, and that's how he was saved from drowning and being beaten to death by Mr. Mai Van On.


On October 26, 1967, Mai Van On ran from the safety of a bomb shelter at the height of an air raid and swam out into the lake where Lieutenant Commander McCain was drowning, tangled in his parachute cord after ejecting when his Skyhawk bomber was hit by a missile.

In an extraordinary act of compassion at a time when Vietnamese citizens were being killed by US aerial bombardments, he pulled a barely conscious McCain to the lake surface and, with the help of a neighbour, dragged him towards the shore. And when a furious mob at the water's edge began to beat and stab the captured pilot, Mr On drove them back.

Chuck Searcy is a Vietnam War veteran in charge of the Vietnam Veteran War Memorial Fund, and he was given Mr. On's letter in 1995.

I thought it was endearing. I sent the letter to McCain's office and I got back a sniffy response from some assistant saying, 'Mr McCain isn't interested in these fanciful stories'.

After Mr. On was confirmed as the man who saved John McCain's life, McCain was reunited with him in 1996.  After Mr. On finished retelling the story of that day, McCain just nodded, said, 'Thank you very much,' and gave Mr On a small Senate seal.  "It was the kind of thing you buy in the souvenir shop in the Senate basement," said Mr. Searcy.  "But Mr On, to the day he died, treated it as if it were a Congressional Medal of Honour."

From that brief encounter to his death at the age of 88 two years ago, Mr On never heard from the senator again, and three years after their meeting, McCain published an autobiography that makes no mention of his apparent debt to Mr On.

It is a snub Mr On took to his death.

His widow, Bui Thi Lien, 71, said: "In his last years, my husband was very sad sometimes.  He would say, 'Mr McCain has forgotten me."

Three years after the meeting, John McCain wrote his autobiography, The Faith of My Fathers.  He omitted Mr. On's rescue from it, but rather substituted his own Rambo version in its place:

When I came to, I was being hauled ashore on two bamboo poles.  A crowd of several hundred Vietnamese gathered around me as I lay dazed before them, shouting wildly at me, stripping my clothes off, spitting on me, kicking and striking me repeatedly.

That makes for better Hollywood when you are a presidential wannabe, but it doesn't stand up to reality.  Mr. McCain would continue on this path of betrayal in his neverending quest to play his role in Vietnam into personal power at the expense of Mr. On.

In 2000, McCain, by then a presidential candidate, visited the lake that almost claimed his life.

"His entourage was outside our house but Mr McCain just passed by," said Mr On's widow, who insists she bears no grudge.

Theft of Valor takes many forms, Senator McCain.  Your actions stole the valor of the man who saved your life, and diminished whatever valor you could have hoped to lay claim to.


Tags: Betrayal, John McCain, mai van on, mccain, vietnam, war hero (all tags)



Tips for Honor

or maybe that's just not Mavericky anymore...

by chrisblask 2008-10-15 04:44AM | 0 recs
Re: John McCain Betrayed the Man Who

How come the Democratic party is so lame when it comes to propagating this story? I never heard of this while Kerry was bombarded with false stories in 2004. We need the Democrats to destroy these people.

by Pravin 2008-10-15 05:32AM | 0 recs
Dems don't get to do this

Or at least we don't until we finally put to death the lie that Democrats are unsupportive of our soldiers.

The Vietnam war has many legacies, and one of them is the lie that Democrats are anti-military. While a few are, the wide majority are supportive of the troops even when they're mired in an unpopular war.

This is one more reason why it's so important to take back the media from the oligarchs.

by Spiffarino 2008-10-15 10:30AM | 0 recs
There is a place in the afterlife for

each of these men (assuming there is an afterlife).  Well, the history will be told in truth somewhere.  

by activatedbybush 2008-10-15 08:21AM | 0 recs
Someone should be hammering the military record.

From incompetence, to recklessness to cowardice, a large portion of the credit McCain is being given is because of his military service.  But it is the tale of someone who is completely unfit to be in uniform, succeeding only because of family connections.  The people in our military today know they wouldn't have been able to get away with even one of the around 8 major incidents McCain was given a pass on, or with his overall disagreeable behavior.  If this was a Democrat we would be hammered with Reckless, Nepotism, broke the Military Code of Conduct and Gave Information to the Enemy.  Followed by some soldier saying they know you have to rely on the people you serve with, and McCain in the military put American lives at risk, we don't need it on a national scale with him as Commander and Chief.  Cut to Petraeus saying there will never be a situation he will call victory in Iraq, and then a clip of McCain saying we cannot leave Iraq until we achieve victory. Bad Soldier, Endless War over a clip of McCain saying we could be in Iraq for 100 years.

by Tumult 2008-10-15 09:56AM | 0 recs
It's the same reason he can't face Obama

He's a nasty, petty, angry little man.

by Spiffarino 2008-10-15 10:31AM | 0 recs
Re: John McCain Betrayed the Man Who Saved His Lif

McCain only respects people with power.

by applecrispbetty 2008-10-15 01:51PM | 0 recs

Mr. On's a brown guy, anyway...

by chrisblask 2008-10-15 03:15PM | 0 recs
Re: John McCain Betrayed the Man Who Saved His Lif

This story can be forwarded via email groups ala "Obama is a Muslim" type politics but there is no proof that this man's account is true. He could be telling the truth or he could be lying - who is to say which man's account is accurate? And by the way  I am NOT a McCain supporter, I am voting for Obama and just convinced someone else who voted for W last time to come to our side. But this diary that was just posted - ichh.

by jrsygrl 2008-10-15 03:15PM | 0 recs
Re: John McCain Betrayed the Man Who Saved His Lif
"who is to say which man's account is accurate?" Well, I certainly would believe McCain. Throughout his life - and certainly during this campaign - he has proven himself to be a man of honor and integrity. A man who has never lied or misled his country (or his wife). A man whose word is respected worldwide. A man who would never change his "facts" from one week to the next. A man who can be respected because he shows so much respect to others. That's what I have to say about which man's account might be more accurate.
by royce 2008-10-15 03:40PM | 0 recs
Re: John McCain Betrayed the Man Who Saved His Lif

Huh? Your answer makes no sense.  I don't know WHO to believe on this account - it is stupid. Does McCain have a history of lying? Yes. Is it possible his account is untrue? Yes.

Some stranger has a different account and we are supposed to say he is telling the truth with no evidence b/c this guy is the political opponent. C'mon this is beyond weak.  There is no proof. Anyone could come forward and say this - with so much REAL things that can discredit McCain why would you muddy it with something so ridiculous? It corrupts the validity of concerns about his candidacy.

by jrsygrl 2008-10-15 05:48PM | 0 recs
Actually, no,

You can follow the link to the original story.  McCain obviously believed it as well, otherwise he would not have met with Mr. On at all.  The fact is that McCain believes Mr. On saved his life, he just doesn't respect him.

More references to the story:

Time Magazine,  Monday, Nov. 25, 1996


Senator JOHN MCCAIN learned how to say "My God!" in Vietnamese last week. This is because "Troi O!" is what the man who saved McCain's life 29 years ago shouted when meeting him for the first time in Hanoi. During the Vietnam War McCain ejected from his plane into Hanoi's Truc Bach Lake. He was unconscious, with two broken legs, when MAI VAN ON, a member of the People's Army, swam in and fished him out with two bamboo poles. On's neighbors called him a coward for not beating the American. These days McCain is at the forefront of the push to normalize relations with Vietnam. "I didn't know why I saved him at the time," admits On, 79. "But now I know." 22400/gen_rescuer.shtml =352&photo_name=ptl:afp:xt-mt-afp-or ig_name_CPS.MXL20.060708073634.photo03 news/mn-57061 4.htm will bring you several books with the reference. itics/20captor.html?pagewanted=print

by chrisblask 2008-10-15 10:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually, no,

UH Actually Yes. The man's story is irrelevant as is McCain's. There is NO proof. You have no idea why McCain met him. For all I know the man is telling the truth. Or for all I know he was someone that said he knew McCain when he was a POW and helped him and McCain met him & realized the guy was just trying to get his 15 minutes. Or whatever - seriously this is beyond moronic. There is a lot more credible things to discuss about what is wrong with McCain's candidacy, including his time as a POW then this nonsense.

by jrsygrl 2008-10-16 02:25PM | 0 recs
Oh good grief.

McCain and his entourage met with the man because he had been identified as his rescuer.  It was reported on extensively at the time by reporters and other veterans who were there.  If there is any debate about that then there isn't a single reported fact that you did not personally witness that is not open to question (and if we want to delve into philosophy, even those).  If you have an issue with the facts, take it up with Time Magazine.

It is a verifiable incident (and, moreover, lack of followup incidents that could be assumed a reasonable person would do, such as at least having a staffer send a letter of condolences to the widow).  It speaks to the character of a candidate in a way that is pertinent to attempts to gain insight into his possible future behavior.

Lastly, no one is forcing you to discuss this.  Yes, there are lots of other things to discuss that are also pertinent.  I discuss those, too.  If you think it is a better use of your time, discuss them.

by chrisblask 2008-10-16 07:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Oh good grief.

Right back at you. The point is this conversation, this blog, your decision that one mans version MUST be more true b/c you like that version of events better when there are so many more solidly provable issues is moronic.

Spend time getting back on message that a 250K business will NOT pay more in taxes under a Dem. presidency b/c the media is incorrectly starting to say that. Get our team on point repeating that over & over again.  And get our candidate to stop saying such things when his policies DON'T say that.

by jrsygrl 2008-10-17 02:51PM | 0 recs
You do as you choose. That's the whole idea

of being an individual.

I will do what I chose, for the same reasons.

It is not my intent to tell you what to think or say.  It seems that it is your intent to tell me what to think or say.  If true, then that is a pointless exercise at best.

Our candidate is doing a fine job despite the advice of pundits large and small that he chooses not to heed.  I'm content to allow him to do so (not that he needs my permission) and to act in my own self-directed manner.

by chrisblask 2008-10-17 03:20PM | 0 recs
Re: You do as you choose. That's the whole idea

Not telling you what to do or say. Rather I am pointing out how off course this blog is. And what Obama said to the fictitious Joe the Plumber is creating a media fire storm that could've been avoided had he simply, truthfully answered the question accurately. He didn't and he gave the GOP a bunch of INACCURATE sound bites that play into the fears of ignorant swing voters. And now even the MSM is reporting these inaccuracies as fact. It is very frustrating to see people wasting time on this garbage instead of getting in front of this very real problem and ensuring the policies of the party are not distorted. That is a real issue.

So not telling you what to say; merely pointing out why it is problematic & not helpful.

by jrsygrl 2008-10-17 05:28PM | 0 recs


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