In ordeal as captive, character was shaped
Time in Vietnam camp launched McCain on a meteoric political career
By Michael Dobbs
updated 7:22 a.m. ET, Sun., Oct. 5, 2008
HANOI - The lake into which John McCain parachuted after his Navy plane was shot down is now surrounded by chic restaurants, cellphone stores and motorcycle dealerships. The prison camp where he confessed to being a "black criminal" has been turned into a multiplex cinema showing garish American movies. A five-star hotel occupies the site of the "Hanoi Hilton" jail, where he spent more than three years. The surface-to-air missile sites that once circled Hanoi have been replaced by sprawling industrial parks churning out sneakers and television sets for the U.S. market.
Hanoi and Vietnam have changed dramatically since the war with the United States ended 33 years ago. But for the Republican presidential nominee, the 5 1/2 years he spent as a prisoner of war had an indelible impact, not just because of the terrible injuries he suffered but because of how the ordeal shaped his worldview.
In hushed conversations with his fellow POWs four decades ago, he developed firm beliefs about how the United States should use its military power, lessons that he has sought to apply to the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His resistance of his captors -- especially his refusal to accept an offer that would have freed him before his comrades -- forged his character, taught him the meaning of honor and, eventually, launched him on a meteoric political career.
Before his final, fateful bombing mission, McCain had been a gregarious flyboy "whose ambitions did not go much beyond being a commander of a squadron," according to Joe McCain, his younger brother. The decision to reject early release, Joe McCain believes, was "the most important single moment of his entire life" and turned him into a potential commander in chief. "It showed," his brother said, "that he can make tough decisions in tough times."
Much more at link.