MORRISON, Colo. – One of those mourning the death of Sen. John McCain is a Morrison resident who spent time in a Prisoner of War camp with him during the Vietnam War.
McCain was shot down over North Vietnamese enemy territory. So was Orson Swindle. Together they would share the worst of times in that camp.
Now a retired U.S. Marine lieutenant colonel and former Federal Trade Commissioner, Swindle recalled for CBS Denver how they first communicated.
“We were tapping on the wall to find out who’s over there, and the next thing I know, I’m tapping to John McCain,” Swindle says.
He was well aware of the McCain family’s Navy legacy.
Swindle and McCain shared years filled with torture designed to get them to talk.
“They had my thumbs over my head, I was strung up over a rafter, and they were beating me,” Swindle says.
He says prisoners would pretend to give in, then simply lie about combat information. When asked names of U.S. military members, Swindle would instead falsely give names of former classmates.
“They took some of us to the brink of death, but we realized they valued us as a bargaining chip,” Swindle says.
Following their release, McCain and Swindle would share the good times, often at a Washington Vietnamese restaurant.
Swindle says he was always mindful that McCain turned down an early release from the POW camp to stay with his men.
“It tells me he was a man for whom honor, integrity and loyalty are everything and he lived that to the day he died,” Swindle says.
He added that from their time together in captivity, he wasn’t at all surprised that McCain went on to become a leader of his country.