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Published: Friday, 9/5/2008

Ohioan, once a POW, is surprised to hear his story told at convention

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

MINNEAPOLIS - Col. Tom Moe's life unfolded before a capacity crowd Wednesday night.

The story of how he and John McCain supported each other while fellow prisoners-of-war in Vietnam has been told before, but on Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention, the 64-year-old Lancaster, Ohio, man was shocked to hear it again before an international audience by vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Mr. Moe, a voting Ohio delegate, was seated with the Ohio delegation in front of Mrs. Palin as she related the story of how he would look through the pinhole in his cell door as guards led Lieutenant Commander McCain past.

"As the story is told," she said, "when McCain shuffled back from torturous interrogations, he would turn toward Moe's door and flash a grin and thumbs-up as if to say, 'We're going to pull through this.' My fellow Americans, that is the kind of man America needs to see us through these next four years."

As chairman of Ohio Veterans for McCain, Mr. Moe had never spoken to Mrs. Palin but had exchanged thumbs-up with her from a distance.

Like Arizona Senator McCain, Mr. Moe was a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War. When his wingman's nearby fighter exploded because of a malfunctioning bomb fuse, his hydraulic system was taken out by the shrapnel.

He parachuted into the jungle and was just about to be rescued after three days when he was captured.

"I could see the rescue helicopters and airplanes," he said shortly after addressing Ohio's convention delegation.

"Sadly, during that effort on the second day, one of the rescuers crashed and was killed," he said. "No effort was spared to try to get us out of there."

Like Mr. McCain, he was tortured many times.

"I shouldn't have survived," he said. "The doctors told me when I came home that the injuries I sustained from torture should have been fatal, and many of my colleagues were beaten to death. I was kicked so badly and suffered such internal injuries that my kidneys shut down for days."

The kidneys and broken ribs healed, but he now suffers from general degradation of his musculo-skeletal system as a result of malnutrition and exposure to the elements while a prisoner. But he said he doesn't have difficulty talking about it.

"The emotions do run very deep because the memories are very deep, especially for our colleagues who were beaten to death or were allowed to die," he said. "But I also think of my memories of John and some of my badly injured colleagues, to watch them limping along.

"People tell me they get strength from the stories, and that's something I didn't appreciate for years," he said.

Although he voted for President Bush in 2004, he said he was not happy with the independent "swift boat" advertising that challenged Democrat John Kerry's Vietnam War hero claims.

"Neither Senator McCain nor I supported the swift boat point of view," he said.

"He was able to make public renouncements, and my circle of friends had no part of it. I had no patience for that kind of pettiness."

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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