While the late Sen. John McCain was captured in North Vietnam in October 1967 and held prisoner for five and a half years, an O’Fallon man was under the same roof, cells away from him in the Hanoi Hilton prison.
Richard “Dick” Anshus was captured in March 1971 while serving as a lieutenant in his battalion in South Vietnam. Anshus had been in the service for just a year and a half when he was captured. He would stay there for 751 days.
In “Hanoi Hilton,” as the prison was nicknamed, the U.S. prisoners of war endured torture and starvation.
“It was long periods of extreme boredom marked by periods of stark terror,” Anshus said of his time there.
When Anshus asked a prison official to provide some reading material for him to bide his time, the official brought him books about Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin.
“They were trying to convert us,” he said.
McCain was known for his steadfast defiance in the face of his Vietnamese captors. When he was offered early release as a propaganda ploy, he refused and said that those who were captured first should be set free first.
While in the camp, McCain would shout obscenities to the prison guards to keep other prisoners in high spirits.
Though McCain and Anshus did not know each other in the Vietnamese prison, Anshus said he had the opportunity to meet McCain three times later, and they talked about what they’d both endured.
Anshus said that while each prisoner had a unique experience, there was a definitive bond they all felt after having endured the same thing, and that he felt it when he was able to talk to McCain years later at a POW reunion.
“Everyone knows exactly what everyone went through,” he said.