Vienna, January 19 – Yuri Trushechkin, the former Soviet lieutenant colonel who shot down John McCain’s plane over North Vietnam in October 1967, died at the end of last week, insisting to the end that he would not want to meet the senator because of the latter’s great, if entirely understandable hostility to Russia.
Prior to his death, however Trushechkin told Russian journalists that he had retained McCain’s military identification papers as a souvenir and that he would like to ask the American senator and former presidential candidate “where he had read [Karl Marx’s] ‘Das Kapital’ to the end.” (www.kp.ru/online/news/189075/print/ and www.5-tv.ru/news/15121/).
But given McCain’s experiences in North Vietnamese prison camps, the former officer said, he could well understand the former U.S. Naval aviator’s dislike of communism in general and the Soviet Union in particular, although the former Soviet anti-aircraft unit commander said he remained proud of what he and his Soviet comrades had done in Vietnam.
During that now long-ago war, Moscow repeatedly insisted that no Soviet officers were serving in any capacity on the side of the North Vietnamese, a denial many anti-war groups in the United States and other Western countries accepted as true. And as a result, Trushechkin had to wait many years to receive public recognition of his exploits.
Indeed, until McCain ran for president, the retired officer did not speak to the media about them. But last year, he recounted to Russian outlets that he had received the Order of the Red Star for shooting down McCain’s plane and that he had been receiving a 1,000 ruble (30 US dollar) a month supplement to his military pension for services in Vietnam.