Live

Watch CBSN Live

Vietnamese pay tribute to John McCain

HANOI, Vietnam -- People in Vietnam are paying their respects to U.S. Sen. John McCain who was held as prisoner of war in Vietnam and later was instrumental in bringing the wartime foes together. McCain died of brain cancer Saturday in his home state of Arizona, which he had served over six terms in the U.S. Senate.

People paid tribute to McCain at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi on Monday and also at the monument built where he parachuted from his Navy Skyhawk dive bomber in October 1967 and was taken prisoner of war. He was held more than five years at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison.

McCain and former Sen. John Kerry played an important role in the bilateral normalization of relations in 1995.

Revisiting Hanoi where John McCain crashed and was help captive

McCain's plane was shot down during a bombing run over North Vietnam, and he parachuted into a lake in what is now a busy part of Hanoi. Already badly injured, he was beaten and taken to a nearby prison called Hoa Lò, which the U.S. POWs nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton. He was refused medical treatment and beaten with a bayonet.

Hanoi residents held a memorial at the lake on Sunday, leaving flowers to remember the man who "fought for peace in many countries, including Vietnam," as one onlooker told The Associated Press.

While holding him as a prisoner of war, the North Vietnamese tried to exploit the fact that his father was a prominent admiral at the time. They offered McCain an early release. But he refused, adhering to the military code of "first in, first out."

Military Attache Ton Tuan from U.S. Embassy places incense while he pays respect in memory of the late U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) at the McCain Memorial in Hanoi
Military Attache Ton Tuan from U.S. Embassy places incense while he pays respect in memory of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, at the McCain Memorial in Hanoi, Vietnam, Aug. 27, 2018. Reuters

McCain was finally freed after five and a half years, two of which he spent in solitary confinement. He limped off the plane that returned him to the U.S. gripping a handrail and with hair that had turned white, according to a New York Times report from 1973 on his release. The injuries he sustained would affect his mobility for the rest of his life.

At Truc Bach Lake, which is situated in the middle of modern-day Hanoi, there is a memorial that bears McCain's name. He told C-SPAN in 1992 he "never understood" why the monument is there. "Why they erected it and the significance it has to them, I have never quite figured out," he laughed.

McCain returned to Vietnam a number of times, and has even visited the Hanoi Hilton. He told C-SPAN it isn't difficult for him to go back.

"There is no reason for me to hold a grudge or anger," McCain said. "There's certainly some individual guards who were very cruel and inflicted a lot of pain on me and others but there's certainly no sense in me hating the Vietnamese ... I hold no ill will toward them."