VIETNAM WAR POWS: THEIR UNSETTLED LEGACY AT FIFTY YEARS (Groom, Fryett, Edward Johnson

Donald Trump’s 2015 dismissal of American military personnel captured and held prisoner in Hanoi during the war in Vietnam was aimed at Arizona Senator John McCain who had been shot down over North Vietnam in 1967. McCain was held prisoner until the peace accords ending the war were signed in January 1973. He came home to a hero’s welcome that he parlayed into a political career. 

Trump’s putdown of McCain was made at made an Iowa campaign stop on July 17 when Trump was in a battle for the Republican Party nomination for president. His barb “prompted disbelief—as well as a wave of public outrage,” wrote Felicia Sonmez in the Washington Post.[1]

The indignation with candidate Trump’s slough-off of the POWs was not surprising. Rendered through a near-half-century of literature, film and folklore, the hero stature of the POWs was all but sanctified. A comparison with Barack Obama’s 2012 Memorial Day speech sets Trump’s indecency in relief: With Vietnam veteran and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at his side and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall behind him, Obama invoked the image of Vietnam veterans abused by war protesters and neglected by the public to pledge that that would not happen again—a message that Trump apparently did not get.[2]

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