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Colorado Man Remembers Time Spent With McCain In Prisoner Of War Camp

By Rick Sallinger

MORRISON, Colo. (CBS4) - One of those mourning the death of Sen. John McCain is a Morrison resident who shared prisoner of war camps with him during the Vietnam War.

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(credit: CBS)

McCain was shot down over the North Vietnamese enemy territory, so too was Orson Swindle. Together they would share the worst of times in prisoner of war camps.

Now a retired U.S. Marine Lt. Col and former Federal Trade Commissioner, Swindle recalled to CBS4's Rick Sallinger how they first communicated.

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CBS4's Rick Sallinger interviews Orson Swindle. (credit: CBS)

"We were tapping on the wall to find out who's over there, and the next thing I know I'm tapping to John McCain."

He was well aware of the McCain family naval legacy. Now, they would share years filled with torture. What they had to endure was designed to get them to talk.

A photo taken in 1967 shows US Navy Airforce Major
HANOI, VIET NAM: A photo taken in 1967 shows US Navy Airforce Major John McCain being examined by a Vietnamese doctor. John McCain, current US presidential hopeful, was captured in 1967 at a lake in Hanoi after his Navy warplane was been downed by Northern Vietnamese army during the Vietnam War. One of his rescuers said 24 February 2000, McCain was well treated after being pulled from the lake by villagers. McCain said that upon capture he was beaten by an angry mob and bayoneted in the groin. (B/W ONLY) AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read AFP/Getty Images)

"They had my thumbs over my head over a rafter, and they were beating me," Swindle said.

He continued saying they pretended to give in, then simply lied about combat information. When asked names of U.S. military members he would instead falsely give names of former classmates.

"They took some of us to the brink of death, but we realized they valued us as a bargaining chip," said Swindle.

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Sen. John McCain and Orson Swindle (credit: Orson Swindle)

Following their release McCain and Swindle would share the good times often at a Washington Vietnamese restaurant. Swindle said he was always mindful that McCain turned down an early POW release to stay with his men.

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(credit: Orson Swindle)

"It tells me he is a man for whom honor integrity and loyalty are everything, and he lived that til the day he died."

Swindle added, from their time together in captivity he was not at all surprised that McCain would become a leader of his country.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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