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French TV Archive Releases McCain POW Footage

INA, the French national television archive, has released a 42-minute documentary depicting life in Hanoi during the Vietnam War that contains four and a half minutes of an interview with an imprisoned Sen. John McCain.

The footage, bits and pieces of which have long been in circulation, is undated but, according to the International Herald Tribune, appears to have been shot during late 1967. The documentary was first broadcast in France in 1968. McCain appears about two-thirds of the way through the film.

In the video, McCain answers questions from Francois Chalais, a French reporter, while laying in a hospital bed and smoking a cigarette. From the International Herald Tribune:

At times, when speaking of his family, McCain’s lower lip trembles and his voice breaks.

“I was on a flight over the city (Hanoi) … and I was bombing and I was hit by a missile or anti-aircraft fire, I’m not sure which,” he said, adding that his plane “went straight down.”

After landing in the lake, McCain said he “was picked up and taken to the hospital, where I almost died.”

In the interview, McCain said he was treated well by his Vietnamese captors. Asked about the food, he told his French interviewer, “It’s not like Paris … (but) I eat it.”

Unfortunately, the documentary is almost entirely in French and Vietnamese. However, it is worth checking out. In addition to the McCain footage, it also features stunning images of the people of North Vietnam living their lives in a war zone.

In one scene, when the air raid sirens sound, people retreat to bomb shelters that resemble manholes in the street until the bombing stops, when they climb out and carry on with whatever they were doing. The film provides a rare glimpse of the Vietnam War, from the perspective of the Vietnamese people, that is seldom seen in this country.

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