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May-28-2008 07:58printcomments

McCain's Attack on the Last Vietnam POW Underscores a History of Poor Discretion

John McCain, who isn't known for surrounding himself with winners, used a CIA confirmed enemy agent to discredit the last POW to leave Vietnam.

Sen. John McCain warmly greets Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet during a 1992 meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam
Sen. John McCain warmly greets Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet during a 1992 meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam. In 1965, Kiet ordered the executions of at least three American prisoners of war. McCain called Marine Robert Garwood, the last POW to emerge from Vietnam, a traitor. Image by Austin King Salem-News.com

(SALEM, Ore.) - Two of John McCain's former campaign aids have recently been exposed for having ties to the oppressive military junta in Myanmar. That revelation joined several other problems within the McCain camp making news in recent months, and the repeated departures of his staff leave many questions about the Senator's ability to know good from bad when selecting his friends and sources.

Bobby Garwood drove a military
jeep in Vietnam. Photo: U.S. Army

In 1979, when the last POW unexpectedly returned from Vietnam with stories about other American POW's still alive, McCain went slightly ballistic and did everything he could to discredit a man who had been taken captive and held for an incredibly long 14 years.

The story of Marine Pfc Robert Garwood, the last POW to leave Vietnam, is a sad and twisted tale that most of us will never know the full truth about.

No bond existed between this Marine and McCain as fellow former POW's and Senator John McCain, who spent years as a prisoner of the Vietnamese during the war, turned on Garwood with a vengeance.

The Marine may have deserved McCain's wrath, but many people say the treatment from the Arizona Senator was way out of line.

One problem that stands out like a sore thumb, is the CIA's exposure of one of McCain's witnesses against Garwood, as a person who actually did work with the Viet Cong.

Garwood Reported Missing: 1965

Marine Pfc Bobby Garwood went missing in September 1965, a time before tensions over the Vietnam War went out of control in the United States. He was a jeep driver who went many places in his sector of Vietnam and he was the first Marine to be captured in the Vietnam war.

He would ultimately be accused of "going to the other side" and actually joining forces with the North Vietnamese. Accounts from other POW's who saw Garwood in captivity vary greatly. Some say he was working closely with the enemy, while others described his appearance in captivity as deplorable and emaciated, resembling a prisoner in a WWII concentration camp.

If Garwood conspired with the enemy as charged, then McCain and every other person who fought in the Vietnam War would have a right to bear animosity toward him, but too many people say he was set up and if he really went to the other side as accused, why did he do it when he had only ten days left in Vietnam?

It also seems odd that a voluntary deserter and turncoat would end up giving a note to a European tourist in Hanoi in 1979, asking him to contact the U.S. and tell them he was a POW alive there.

Garwood is said to have told the tourist that he knew the location of many more Americans being held in Vietnam. This became a major point of contention as it quickly made the press and even delayed Garwood's release by the Vietnamese government for a week, after they finally admitted he was there, something they initially denied according to reports.

McCain is Critical of Marine's POW Sightings


When it came to his claim of seeing other American POW's in the late 1970's, some elected officials backed Garwood, and others went for his throat. The leader of the pack with the loudest and most critical voice was Senator John McCain. He was especially bothered by the Garwood made-for-television movie called "The Last P.O.W." The Bobby Garwood Story which debuted on TV in 1992.

McCain didn't pull his punches, according to the Website for The 3rd Marines; he accused Pfc Garwood of being a traitor and a liar and continuing the anguish of the POW/MIA families by "lying" about having seen live Americans.

Of course one Senator's description of anguish, is another person or family's reason for hope. If there was any truth to his alleged sightings of post-war POW's, then it was hardly a disservice to the families of those men.

McCain said, "These efforts and other constitute an enduring betrayal of his country. And anyone who may be manipulating Garwood for their own ends is a co-conspirator in this betrayal."

He maintained that Garwood took up arms against American forces, guarded other American prisoners with rifles, used a bullhorn to encourage American soldiers to surrender and made propaganda broadcasts for the Vietnamese.

Garwood was also accused of leaving propaganda notes at the gates of American bases, but later under closer examination, they did not appear to have been written by a person with English as a first language and it is also reported that Garwood's signature originated from a rubber stamp.

McCain used testimony of Garwood's fellow prisoners to take the Marine to task and one person McCain used was Gustav Mehrer, a former POW who accused Garwood of trying to "recruit him into the North Vietnamese Army."

But that story fell apart when declassified CIA documents clearly showed Mehrer was believed to be the same SP4 Gustav Mehrer (also known as Gus Maddox) who was an American prisoner of war working for the Viet Cong near Quang Nam Province.

It isn't the entire picture, but certain parts of testimony that John McCain used to harm the legacy and image of the last POW of Vietnam to emerge alive, Bobby Garwood, are truly without credibility. That is a sad thing if this Marine is not guilty as charged.

It is a fascinating story that some will see as more evidence of McCain's inability to execute good decisions in selecting the people he works with. Others in reviewing the information, might see the Senator as a patriot who was determined to silence claims from a man who at least to some degree, had a questionable relationship with the Communist government of Vietnam.

God, Country and Corps

Marines are known for taking it on the chin a little too often in this country, and the Corps is often a favored target of funding cuts as it is not a military service but a "Department of the Navy".

Individual Marines who stray out of line often feel the wrath of police, politicians, the VA and the occasional ruthless military prosecutor anxious to take down a suspected "war criminal" under what sometimes appear to be almost speculative circumstances. It doesn't seem like a just reward for those who choose to serve their country under the most demanding conditions known to man.

For other reports about Marines on Salem-News.com, visit: Salem-News.com Marine Corps articles

________________________________________


Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

You can write to Tim at this address: tim@salem-news.com.

Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)

With almost 25 years of experience on the west coast and worldwide as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor, Tim King is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine who follows stories of Marines and Marine Veterans; he's covered British Royal Marines and in Iraq, Tim embedded with the same unit he served with in the 1980's.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from traditional mainstream news agencies like The Associated Press and Electronic Media Association; he also holds awards from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs; and was presented with a 'Good Neighbor Award' for his reporting, by the The Red Cross.

Tim King reporting from the war in Iraq

Tim's years as a Human Rights reporter have taken on many dimensions; he has rallied for a long list of cultures and populations and continues to every day, with a strong and direct concentration on the 2009 Genocide of Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka. As a result of his long list of reports exposing war crimes against Tamil people, Tim was invited to be the keynote speaker at the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) Conference in Baltimore, in July 2012. This is the largest annual gathering of North American Tamils; Tim addressed more than 3000 people and was presented with a traditional Sri Lanka ‘blessed garland’ and a shawl as per the tradition and custom of Tamil Nadu

In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005. Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 23+ countries and regions.

Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide; and maintains that the label 'terrorist' is ill placed in many cases; specifically with the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, where it was used as an excuse to slaughter people by the tens of thousands; and in Gaza, where a trapped population lives at the mercy of Israel's destructive military war crime grinder. At the center of all of this, Tim pays extremely close attention to the safety and welfare of journalists worldwide.

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Scott June 9, 2014 9:34 am (Pacific time)

Indeed, John McCain is not only a liar but a tratiror himself, i went to church NPBC in Phoenix, AZ for over 10 years all McCain wanted was to sign church bullentins and pump up his ego. I knew John well, and would never ever trust him. I was with LTG Eugene Tighe when Bobby Garwood was defried so McCain does NOT know anything. Bobby was a POW, shot, knifed, tortured worst than McCain could ever know. McCain is a disgrace to everyone in Uniform.


Anonymous October 28, 2013 4:21 pm (Pacific time)

MCcain is a tratior as well as Kerry


Mitzi Bryant December 29, 2011 1:24 pm (Pacific time)

Would love to talk with Gus, he was a roomate of mine in the eighties. mitzi_bryant@yahoo.com


Dermot M. 12/16/2011 December 16, 2011 5:09 pm (Pacific time)

Why would Bobby Garwood desert when his enlistment expiration date was only 10 days away? Why??? Answer this question! Read "Spite House" and weep.


JOE LAPLANTE USMC RET. November 4, 2011 9:09 pm (Pacific time)

IT SEEMS JOHN MCCAIN HAS NO SYMPATHY FOR VET'S THAT ARE REALLY HURTING. HE JUST CONDEMNS THEM AND THAT'S THAT. IT FIGURES HE WAS A NAVY FLY BOY THEY WERE ALL GAY ANYWAY. HE THINKS TODAY'S VET'S ARE WHINERS WHEN THEY ARE TRYING TO GET COMPENSATION FOR WAR INCURRED INJURIES AND HE BELIEVES THE IS NO SUCH THING AS PTSD. NO WONDER HE LOST TO A NON-VETERAN! JOE LAPLANTE USMC RET.


JOE LAPLANTE October 31, 2011 9:08 am (Pacific time)

B/1/9...HE WAS A 19 YR. OLD YOUNG MARINE. MS. HEARST WAS ABOUT THE SAME AGE WHEN SHE WAS CAPTURED AND BRAIN BY THE "SLA" AND THEY MADE A HERO OUT OF HER AFTER SHE HELD UP AND WAS INVOLVED IN A KILLING OF A COP. HOW ABOUT THE TRAITOR JANE FONDA SHE WAS ABOUT 29 WHEN SHE WAS IN HANOI PLAYING A VC BENEDICT ARNOLD.??? SEMPER FI JOE LAPLANTE USMC RET. B/1/9


JOE LAPLANTE October 31, 2011 9:03 am (Pacific time)

I WAS WITH BRAVO CO. 1/9 and LOCATED VERY SHORTLY FOR 3 DAYS WHEN WE WOULD COME IN FROM THE FIELD AFTER 30 DAYS IN THE FIELD FOR SHOWERS AND HOT CHOW. WE SAY OFF IN THE DISTANCE GARWOODS JEEP ON FIRE FROM THE BLACK SMOKE IN THE AIR ABOUT 1 MILE AWAY. THE MAIN COMMAND POST WAS AT THE BRIDGE BOBBY WAS SUPPOSED TO SHOW UP AT. HE SAID THERE WAS NOBODY THERE BS, THERE WERE HUNDREDS OF MARINES AND NAVY PERSONNEL THERE BECAUSE IT WAS HDQ'S. THE SKIVVIE HOUSE HE WAS GOING TO WAS LOCATED NEAR THE BRIDGE THERE WERE MANY PORTABLE SKIVVIES HOUSES EVERYWHERE AND PERMANENT ONE'S AS WELL. BOBBY'S PROBLEM IS HE WENT LEFT INSTEAD OF TAKING A RIGHT TO MARBLE MNT. HE WENT TO CHINA BEACH AREA AND WE PATROLLED IT EVERYDAY. THAT WAS THE NORTH ENTRANCE TO THE LEPROSY VILLAGE WITH HUNDREDS OF LEPROSY PATIENTS WITHIN THE COMPOUND. IF BOBBY WAS CAPTURED WHERE HE WAS THEN HE WAS GOOFING OF TRYING TO SEE THE SIGHTS OF CHINA BEACH. THERE WERE A LOT OF VC DOWN IN THOSE CANYONS OF THE HUGE SAND DUNES COVERED WITH PINE TREES GROWING IN THE SAND DUNES. SEMPER FI JOE LAPLANTE B/1/9 O311/POINTMAN 3RD SQUAD.


trevor s August 4, 2011 9:34 pm (Pacific time)

i still wonder if any of these guys are still alive today. we know there where some left behind but i think that we should explore the fact that there where some in the ussr as prisoners as late as 1992 confirmed by the then president of russia. come usa wake up own up and get these guys or bodys home so the familys can move on


Shelly May 11, 2011 10:14 pm (Pacific time)

The people of this Country deserve better than McCain and Obama. I am so ashamed of our leadership.


todd somers May 7, 2010 8:23 pm (Pacific time)

I am a 42 year old canadian male and very happy to live next to the US of A.I am discusted with McCains attitude,every one who went over to vietnam should have been given the chance to come back especially if they are still alive.America you owe it to your soldiers and there families to bring every body home.


G-2/3; October 3, 2009 8:32 pm (Pacific time)

good to see your post Henry, been a couple of moons, and this is a very thought provoking article. I wouldn't have traded places with either of them and our unit was "in the sh*t" often enough for me to want to be ANYWHERE but where I was.I hope for peace now, and Robert Garwood was treated like a traitor for the benefit of the denial ridden politicians who got us involved in the first place! As you all may have noticed in the last fifty or sixty years, they are there to promote their own agenda and save their own asses from accountability. They are paid professional liars in three piece suits,and would be unemployable if not otherwise presently occupied due to the glut of used automobiles on the present market, their only other option is now saturated with salesmen who really are hungry. Gordon Smith doesn't appear to have missed any meals lately. Semper Fi.


dick September 20, 2009 5:32 pm (Pacific time)

For a better understanding, one should read Frank Anton book entitled, "Why didn't you get me out" to learn the real story about Bob Garwook


Gary March 25, 2009 1:10 am (Pacific time)

McCain is and was a pussy and a Navy faggot. To think he has a right to treat a Marine pow vet like this, he should be flogged. Semper Fi Brother Garwood Col.GRC USMC


MNHLP November 25, 2008 9:28 pm (Pacific time)

WE left Pow's behind, there is NO doubt of that. I am ashamed of All those in our government who allowed this to happen. Hopefully the Good Lord above will give them their "JUST" reward.


Gordon October 9, 2008 11:40 pm (Pacific time)

Gustav is my great uncle, I seriously doubt he would have helped the VC. it's amazing what torture will do to a man, I've seen his scars on the outside, god only knows how he is scarred on the inside. That goes for all POWs, i cannot even imagine what you went through

EDITOR : Hey Gordon, I am extremely interested in talking to you more about this, email me at: <a href="mailto: tim@salem-news.com">tim@salem-news.com</a> 


Ellen October 5, 2008 5:31 pm (Pacific time)

Be careful what you read and believe before you research it thoroughly yourself. One might want to research some of the other POWs who experienced Garwood's betrayal.For one you might want to read Frank Anton's "Why Didn't They Get Me Out?" Look to your government for the "blame" as well as those who chose to crossover. Noone knows the horrors of a POW like a POW.You might not agree with McCain's politics, but using Garwood as an example to discredit McCain is quite suspect and doesn't evoke confidence in your reporting. DO YOUR RESEARCH!Be careful of believing someone who has lied to everyone. I hope Garwood regrets his choices but they are his with which to deal.


BrazosSteve September 22, 2008 4:30 am (Pacific time)

I for one have always beleived Garwood was treated badly upon his return...any chance his case can be made public again for McCain's response before the Nov election??


Henry Ruark May 29, 2008 5:06 pm (Pacific time)

Martin et al: Your support greatly appreciated, and we'll continue to strive to earn it. But do not overlook your own participation here -- dialog we provide is meant to bring out every possible point of view and all possible support information --that is the heavy responsibility of the press, in view of citizen need and demand for understandings to guide essentially unavoidable decisions, often made these days on distortion and perversion peddled for profit the easy-way: "Just give 'em what they want" -and here I paraphrase Murdoch and Ailes both, as they planned and built Fox. The majority is NOT always right --if that were so, there would never have been an American Revolution !!


Martin May 28, 2008 1:28 pm (Pacific time)

Thanks for helping us understand what these politicians are all about in the way they treat our veterans.  I especially commend the staff at Salem-News.com for keeping up the good fight, I wish I was part of your team.


Henry Ruark May 28, 2008 12:04 pm (Pacific time)

To all: Very serious question reflecting precisely the same level of judgment --or lack of strong level-- are now current, in repeated reports of sudden departures by McCain staff top-persons. Depending on which one, of about a dozen by casual recent count, the "undue influence" charge may involve everything from too-close working contact with despots to ongoing lobby work carried out right from the McCain campaign bus. For documentation, request to Editor Tim, with ID, will bring direct contact for details beyond this space.


Real Combat Vet May 28, 2008 9:56 am (Pacific time)

The real betrayl came from the people who used these POW's as political pawns. 

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