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A FLAG OF RAGS


In the final years of our imprisonment, the North Vietnamese moved us from small cells with one or two prisoners to large rooms with as many as 30-40 men to a room.

We preferred this situation for the companionship and strength we could draw from our fellow prisoners.

In addition to moving us to new quarters, our captors also let us receive packages and letters from home.

Many men received word from their families for the first time in several years.

The improved conditions were a result of public pressure put on the North Vietnamese by the American public.


In our cell was one Navy officer, Lt. Commander Mike Christian.

Over a period of time Mike had gathered bits and pieces of red and white cloth from various packages.

Using a piece of bamboo he had fashioned into a needle, Mike sewed a United States flag on the inside of his shirt, one of the blue pajama tops we all wore.


Every night in our cell, Mike would put his shirt on the wall, and we would say the pledge of allegiance.

I know that the pledge of allegiance may not be the most important aspect of our day now, but I can tell you that at the time it was the most important aspect of our lives.


This had been going on for some time until one of the guards came in as we were reciting our pledge.

They ripped the flag off the wall and dragged Mike out.

He was beaten for several hours and then thrown back into the cell.


Later that night, as we were settling down to sleep on the concrete slabs that were our beds, I looked over to the spot where the guards had thrown Mike.

There, under the solitary light bulb hanging from the ceiling, I saw Mike.

Still bloody and his face swollen beyond recognition, Mike was gathering bits and pieces of cloth together.

He was sewing a new American flag.




SOURCE: A Flag of Rags, Citation: John McCain. From the Files of Leadership. Contributed by: A. Todd Coget

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