STEVE INSKEEP, host:
John McCain has some supporters in Vietnam. If Vietnamese could vote in this election you probably would not expect them to back a man who fought in the country and was famously shot down over Hanoi. But McCain has more Vietnamese supporters than you might think. Here's NPR's Michael Sullivan.
MICHAEL SULLIVAN: These days there are a lot of people who claimed to have pulled John McCain from Truc Bach Lake 41 years ago; some newly minted capitalists that they are, offering to tell their story for cash. But not Tran Van Tang(ph), who insists he was the one who reached McCain first.
Mr. TRAN VAN TANG: (Foreign language spoken)
SULLIVAN: Pointing out into the lake, Tang says he saw McCain's parachute and immediately started swimming towards it, while the Vietnamese anti-aircraft battery onshore fired continuously.
Mr. TANG: (Foreign language spoken)
SULLIVAN: McCain was unconscious, Tang says, when he reached him. He grabbed McCain by the left hand, he says - the one with the broken watch - and with the help of others dragged him to shore and cut the parachute away using the knife strapped to McCain's leg. Then the army and police came, Tang says, and took McCain away. Tang says he hopes the man he helped saved, the man who has visited Vietnam many times since, becomes the next U.S. president.
Mr. TANG: (Foreign language spoken)
SULLIVAN: He's been in the Senate for a long time, so he has experience, Tang says. He may have come during the war to bomb us, but in the end he was saved by the Vietnamese. And if he becomes president I think he will remember that and create more favorable conditions for Vietnam than the other candidate.
Across town, the man who commanded the missile battery that brought down McCain's F4, Nguyen Swan Dy(ph), sits under a photo of himself taken with Vietnam's legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: McCain was flying an A-4 Skyhawk, not an F4.]
The former missile battery commander, who is now 70, says he thinks it would be a beautiful thing if the man his crew brought down was trusted enough by voters to be elected president. But he says...
Mr. NGUYEN SWAN DY (Former Vietnamese General): (Foreign language spoken)
SULLIVAN: John McCain is now old, and I'm just wondering whether Americans will be confident enough in him to vote for him. Throughout the campaign he's done well, Nguyen says, but he's not young and I just wonder whether he can be elected.
One of McCain's jailers, Nguyen Tin Chan(ph), now lives in a small apartment not far from the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where McCain and other U.S. airmen were kept and tortured repeatedly, they say, by their captors.
Mr. NGUYEN TIN CHAN (Former Jailer): (Foreign language spoken)
SULLIVAN: Nguyen vehemently denies that John McCain or any of the others were tortured during their time in prison, but concedes McCain was tough. He says he remembers going to the hospital with McCain after he was pulled from the lake with his leg and both arms broken. Ninety percent of Vietnamese wouldn't have made it, Nguyen says, but McCain did.
Nguyen says he doesn't care who becomes the next U.S. president. That's the American people's decision, he says. But the war's in the past. The U.S. and Vietnam are friends, Nguyen says, and we see John McCain as a friend.
Back at Truc Bach Lake, a dozen or so young people born after the war ended are drinking coffee at a lakeside cafe. Nguyen Tin Ni(ph) is a 27-year-old businessman.
Mr. NGUYEN TIN NI: (Foreign language spoken)
SULLIVAN: Barack Obama doesn't have much experience in diplomacy or in foreign policy. He's not as strong as John McCain on these issues, he says. But Nguyen says he still prefers Obama, whom he sees as a unifier and a man who appears to care more about the poor and the middle class.
Nguyen's friend, 31-year-old Twan(ph), goes a step further.
TWAN: (Foreign language spoken)
SULLIVAN: He is friendly and people-oriented. He seems to have a peaceful spirit, Twan says, and he wants to unite the world, bring peace to the world, not create wars. So that's why I like Obama. Not creating wars is something people here care about.
Michael Sullivan, NPR News, Hanoi.
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