Film shows McCain's release from Vietnamese prison

(AP Photo/Toby Jorrin)
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STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- Previously unseen footage emerged Thursday showing Republican presidential candidate John McCain as a proud, stoic prisoner of war in Hanoi on the day his Vietnamese captors released him to the U.S. military.

A former reporter from Swedish broadcaster SVT, 71-year-old Erik Eriksson, told The Associated Press he found the video in the network's archives while researching a book he was writing about his experiences as a Vietnam War correspondent.

The footage was filmed by a North Vietnamese photographer with whom Eriksson had contracted to film the release of U.S. prisoners of war.

AP Television News acquired exclusive worldwide distribution rights to the SVT footage from March 14, 1973, and edited it into a 2-minute, 14-second video of a remarkable day in the life of the Republican candidate. SVT posted a 39-second clip on its Web site.

The AP footage begins with prisoners being led out of a Hanoi compound one by one, then climbing onto buses taking them to the handover area. Each prisoner is dressed in identical blue-gray, long-sleeved shirts and dark pants, and carries a beige jacket. Up to 16 U.S. POWs are seen.

McCain grimaces as he steps off a bus with other prisoners. He has a pronounced limp and needs to put both feet on the same step before continuing but is not using crutches.

The prisoners stand in rows until a Vietnamese official calls their name. McCain, like other prisoners, briskly walks up to salute and shake hands with U.S. military officers. Although only 37, he has prematurely white hair. Then the prisoners are seen walking to a U.S. plane.

APTN kept to the chronological order of the video.

"This summer when I was preparing the release of my book we were putting together a DVD with some of my reports from Vietnam and then I thought, 'I wonder if we have McCain here?'" Eriksson said.

Per Yng, head of SVT's national news, confirmed that Eriksson found the film in the network's archives. "It's our material. So we can confirm its authenticity," Yng said.

Yng could not confirm the exact date, but the AP was able to by matching the footage with black-and-white AP photographs taken of the POW release.

Eriksson said he covered the Vietnam War for SVT as well as U.S. television networks CBS and NBC. He explained that in February 1973, he was in Hanoi filming the release of the first American pilot prisoners, but had to return home to edit the film "because it was the first release that was sensational."

"However, we knew that more prisoners would probably be released shortly, so we left a camera and lots of film with a North Vietnamese photographer and asked him to film all the releases of U.S. prisoners," Eriksson said.

Eriksson could not recall the name of the Vietnamese cameraman and said he had not been in contact with him after finding the clip.