McCain: In Ordeal as Captive, Character Was Shaped

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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 The surface-to-air missile sites that once circled Hanoi have been replaced by sprawling industrial parks churning out sneakers and television sets for the U.S. market.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.
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