By Ben Wheeler
EMOTIONAL COLOURISED footage showing American troops who were prisoners of war in Vietnam returning home has resurfaced this week, including the repatriation of current Arizona Senator and former Presidential candidate, John McCain.
The video, which was shot in March 1973, reveals a series of US soldiers stepping off a bus at Gia Lim Airport in Hanoi as they prepare to go through a release ceremony to repatriate them to the United States.
McCain and his colleagues can then be seen boarding planes to start the long trip back to the States to be reunited with their loved ones after years of imprisonment.
The footage marks some of the final moments in the conflict between the two countries after a cease-fire was mandated in January 1973.
It formed part of an exercise called Operation Homecoming which saw 591 American POWs held by the North Vietnamese returned to the US between February and April of that year, with a total of 54 flights being made.
Many of the men in the footage struggled to reintegrate into society and American culture after being captive for up to ten years in some cases.
Many of them had missed major events in US history such as the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy as well as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin becoming the first men on the moon.
McCain, who at the time was a lieutenant commander in the US Navy, was captured and subsequently imprisoned on October 26, 1967 when his A-4E Skyhawk was shot down by a missile whilst on a bombing mission over Hanoi.
Despite being seriously wounded, his captors refused McCain medical treatment until learning that his father was a high-ranking admiral.
He was also subject to severe torture at the hands of the Vietnamese, bound and beaten on a daily basis to the point of attempting suicide, which was stopped by guards.
From March 1968, McCain was placed in solitary confinement, where he would spend the next two years.
Despite this he refused early repatriation, offered on account of his father’s new role of Commander of all US forces in Vietnam, stating that he would refuse until every man imprisoned before him was also released.
His eventual release came on March 14, 1973 and despite a gruelling 18 months of rehabilitation, McCain’s wartime injuries left him permanently incapable of raising his arms above his head.