McCain In 1973: Vietnam Captors “Homosexual” And “Sadistic”


John McCain’s POW past remains one of the politico’s most powerful identifying markers.

Time and time again it comes up in his stump speeches, campaign commercials and discussions on faith. And for good reason: the Arizona Senator’s tale of torture and patriotism captured a nation back in 1973, when he was finally released after almost six years in Vietnamese captivity. McCain became a bit of a – dare we say it – celebrity, and even penned a first hand account of his experience for US News & Report.

In the piece, McCain explains his relationship to his captors, some of whom he claims were gay:

In other words, if you are going to make it, you get tougher as time goes by. Part of it is just a transition from our way of life to that way of life. But you get to hate them so bad that it gives you strength.

Now I don’t hate them any more–not these particular guys. I hate and detest the leaders. Some guards would just come in and do their job. When they were told to beat you they would come in and do it. Some seemed to get a big bang out of it. A lot of them were homosexual, although never toward us. Some, who were pretty damned sadistic, seemed to get a big thrill out of the beatings.

It’s unclear in this last sentence is Senator McCain means “Some [gays]” or “Some [captors].” Implications aside, it’s curious the former seaman would feel compelled to include this queer detail.

This 1973 story, which is quite extensive, does not include McCain’s contentious “cross in the sand” story.