The footage has been in the archives of Sveriges Television (SVT) for the last 35 years, but has just been released on a DVD accompanying a book about the Vietnam War written by Swedish author Erik Eriksson, reports the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
The footage (see link below) shows McCain and other former POWs exiting a bus and standing on the tarmac at Hanoi’s airport.
McCain’s name is heard being called out by a voice with a strong Vietnamese accent, after which a slightly limping McCain is greeted by a high ranking US military officer on his way to an airplane after more than five years of captivity as a prisoner of war.
Eriksson covered the conflict in Vietnam from 1968 through 1979 for both Swedish and American news outlets.
Altogether he spent 12 months in the country, a period in his life he revisits in his new book, Jag såg kärleken och döden (‘I Saw Love and Death’).
Included with the book is a 30 minute DVD containing the previously unreleased footage of McCain.
“In February 1973 photographer Björn Henriksson and I were sent to Hanoi by SVT. We were filming when the first American prisoners of war, pilots, were released,” Eriksson told DN.
He explained that he soon returned to Stockholm to edit the film, but left a camera behind with a North Vietnamese photographer who had access to the airport and asked him to film all the prisoner releases and then send the film back to Sweden.
Several hundred prisoner releases were filmed.
“But there wasn’t anyone that we recognized, not even McCain. Of course he was the son of a well known admiral, but he was one of many, a young pilot. But the cameraman stayed with McCain and took close ups. And everything ended up in a box in the archives,” explained Eriksson.
During the summer as he was working on his book, Eriksson went back into the archives to find footage for the accompanying DVD and discovered the sequence with McCain.
“As far as we know, these are the only images that exist from when McCain was released in Hanoi,” said Eriksson.
“In American descriptions of the event, it is often said that he returned to the US on crutches. But he certainly didn’t leave North Vietnam on crutches.”