President Joe Biden paid tribute to John McCain Monday by visiting the monument in Hanoi that marks where the late senator’s plane was shot down before he spent five and a half years in Vietnam as a prisoner of war.
Biden was joined by former Secretary of State and Sen. John Kerry, who like Biden was one of McCain’s Senate colleagues, but unlike McCain returned from serving in Vietnam to be one of the faces of the U.S. anti-war movement.
The president spent the morning with Vietnamese officials, as the U.S.’s diplomatic status with the nation was upgraded, before making a final stop at the statue, located on the bank of Trúc Bạch Lake.
‘I miss him. He was a good friend,’ Biden said, adding ‘it was important to me,’ when asked by a reporter why he made this stop part of his official visit.
A wreath with red, white and blue flowers was already in place in front of the statue, with a Navy and a Marine officer standing alongside it.
President Joe Biden paid tribute to John McCain Monday by visiting the monument in Hanoi that marks where the late senator’s plane was shot down before he spent five and a half years in Vietnam as a prisoner of war
Biden was joined by former Secretary of State and Sen. John Kerry (right), who like Biden was one of McCain’s Senate colleagues, but unlike McCain returned from serving in Vietnam to be one of the faces of the U.S. anti-war movement
John McCain is photographed on March 14, 1973 the day he was released from a Hanoi prison camp after spending five and a half years as a prisoner of war at the hands of the North Vietnamese
The president touched the wreath and bowed his head.
He then shook the hands of the officers, giving them challenge coins.
Biden also left a command coin at the site.
Kerry and Secretary of State Antony Blinken lingered nearby.
Vice President Kamala Harris had previously visited the site in August 2021.
On Monday, Biden and National Assembly Chairman Vương Đình Huệ also witnessed the exchange of war artifacts at the National Assembly Building in Hanoi.
U.S. veterans Matt Keenan and Chuck Searcy returned a diary recovered by U.S. forces in 1967 to its author, Nguyễn Văn Thiệ
Vice Minister of National Defense Senior Lieutenant General Hoàng Xuân Chiến presented Blinken artifacts that were related to U.S. service members still missing in action from the Vietnam War.
The White House said that the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency had already verified the ID cards given to Blinken and the artifacts will be handed to family members once he returns to the U.S.
Blinken also gave the Vietnamese a report from Havard University produced for the Pentagon that contained information about 576 Vietnamese soldiers.
After his stop at the McCain memorial, the president was headed to the airport to fly to Alaska – to briefly mark 9/11 and refuel Air Force One – and then onto D.C., ending that five-day Asia trip that had him circumnavigating the globe.
Biden met McCain in the 1970s as a military aide assigned to the young Delaware senator and not long after the Arizona Republican had suffered immensely at the hands of the Vietnamese.
McCain described the brutal treatment he received as a prisoner in North Vietnam for five and a half years to U.S. News & World Report in 1973, which was republished in 2008 while he was running for the presidency.
President Joe Biden is captured walking to the statue that marks where the late Sen. John McCain was shot down, resulting in his 5.5 years of being a prisoner of war in Vietnam
President Joe Biden gave presidential challenge coins to the Navy and Marine officers who were standing at the John McCain monument in Hanoi, Vietnam on Monday
A picture taken in 1967 shows Navy Airforce Major John McCain lying in bed at a Hanoi hospital after his plane was shot down
He recalled October 26, 1967, when a Russian missile the ‘size of a telephone pole’ ripped the wing off his Skyhawk dive bomber.
The force of being ejected from the aircraft broke right leg and both arms.
After nearly drowning from the weight of his gear, he was kicked and spit on by some townspeople at the edge of the lake, and also bayoneted in the groin, before an ambulance hauled him off to a prison.
There, McCain was interrogated and deprived of medical care.
At one point McCain agreed to talk – with officers calling over a ‘psychotic torture’ called ‘The Bug’ – but a ‘completely incompetent’ doctor called ‘Zorba’ said the future senator was too far gone.
The North Vietnamese finally aided McCain once they realized he was the son of a ‘big admiral.’
McCain’s father, John S. McCain Jr., was the commander of the war in the Pacific.
‘They figured because my father had such high military rank that I was of the royalty or the governing circle. They have no idea of the way our democracy functions,’ McCain observed during his hospital stay.
An image of the sculpture depicting the capture of the late Sen. John McCain in Hanoi, Vietnam
A photo taken in 1967 shows Navy Airforce Major John McCain being examined by a Vietnamese doctor
Still, he was treated horrendously.
‘They said I needed two operations on my leg, but because I had a “bad attitude” they wouldn’t give me another one,’ McCain recalled.
After his time in the hospital, McCain was moved to a camp called ‘The Plantation,’ where he was kept in solitary confinement for more than two years.
He recalled being barely able to bathe and having a bucket with an ill-fitting lid as a toilet.
When McCain did get some human interactions it would be the North Vietnamese pushing him to confess to war crimes or asking him to lie and say on-the-record that the treatment he was receiving was humane.
In 1969, after three Americans were released from the POW camps, President Richard Nixon started publicizing the horrific treatment, which McCain said improved his life.
But he was still ravaged by illness.
Vice President Kamala Harris paid tribute to Sen. John McCain at the Hanoi statue on August 25, 2021, the three year anniversary of his death
John McCain is pictured about a month after being released from Hanoi
He recalled that in late 1969 he was down to ‘to 105, 110 pounds, boils all over me, suffering dysentery.’
Nixon’s bombing of Saigon in 1972 prompted McCain’s eventual release on March 14, 1973.
Biden came into McCain’s life several years later and even pushed him to launch a political career, despite the fact that they would be members of different parties.
That especially came to a head in 2008, when Biden was picked to be on Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama’s, presidential ticket.
McCain was leading the Republican presidential ticket with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his VP.
The Democrats would go on to win that race, while McCain stayed in the Senate, serving until his death from brain cancer on August 25, 2018.
Biden gave his eulogy.
As Biden mounted his own presidential campaign during the 2020 cycle – against Republican President Donald Trump – he received a key endorsement from Cindy McCain, John McCain’s widow.
She was hurt and disturbed by some of the comments made by Trump about her late husband.
Early on in Trump’s presidential run, Trump mocked McCain for his prisoner of war status.
‘I like people who weren’t captured,’ Trump said.
McCain, known as a political ‘maverick,’ later got back at Trump by refusing to provide a Senate vote that would have allowed the Republican president to tout that he had repealed Obamacare.
Cindy McCain got her revenge too, helping Biden flip Arizona to blue in the 2020 election.
She was rewarded with an ambassadorship, serving for two years as the ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture. She now heads the World Food Programme.
The late senator’s daughter, Meghan McCain, now a columnist for DailyMail.com, at times voiced support for Biden.
In April 2019, as Biden was about to announce his presidential campaign, Meghan defended him after a handful of women complained of him being too touchy-feely with them.
‘Joe Biden is one of the truly decent and compassionate men in all of American politics. He has helped me through my fathers diagnosis, treatment and ultimate passing more than anyone of my fathers friends combined,’ she tweeted. ‘I wish there was more empathy from our politicians not less.’
But Meghan, a Republican like her father, has voiced utter disappointment in Biden’s performance as president.
‘The man I once considered a friend and confidante has morphed into a feckless and unreliable leader I no longer recognize,’ she wrote in her opening DailyMail.com column in September 2021, and hasn’t been swayed away from this opinion since.