Nevadan recalls POW ordeal (William Elander)

Here’s how Nevada Republican delegate Bill Elander describes becoming a prisoner of war: a bad day.

“After 50 or 60 missions, I had a bad day,” the Sparks resident and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel said in an interview at the national GOP convention. “I was shot down in 1972 and captured right over Hanoi.”

Like the man he is here to nominate for the presidency, John McCain, Elander has a former flyboy’s irreverent sense of humor. Ask him to tell the story of his military service, and he says with an impish grin, “I was the world’s greatest fighter pilot for 20 years.”

As McCain strives to become the first Vietnam veteran elected to the presidency, there is a spotlight at this convention on his fellow veterans, especially his fellow former prisoners of war.

There are 24 of them here at the convention, and their names were read on the floor on Wednesday night. Elander, 74, has been feted at exclusive events, including a dinner with McCain’s mother and a special reception Thursday night after McCain’s acceptance speech.

Elander was prisoner with McCain at Hanoi Hilton in North Vietnam. They met only briefly.

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