Sunday, March 4, 2012

Vietnam 33: The Hanoi Hilton

by Pa Rock
Entrance to Hoa Lo Prison - a.k.a.  The Hanoi Hilton
World Traveler

Hoa Lo Prison was constructed by the French in Hanoi in 1896.  It was used primarily to house and torture political prisoners who were almost exclusively Vietnamese.  As the Vietnamese were finally beginning to drive the French from the country in 1954, they took over control of Hoa Lo Prison and began using it to house prisoners of war.  American pilots who were held prisoner there began referring to the prison as the "Hanoi Hilton."

Visitor regulations
Old enlarged photo of Vietnamese prisoners of the French
One of the most famous occupants of the Hanoi Hilton was American pilot John McCain.  McCain returned to the prison for a brief visit twenty years after his release.  His original flight suit is on display inside of the prison, as well as a photograph of the Vietnamese pulling him from a lake after he tried to parachute to safety.

Today much of the prison has been torn down and small shops have sprung up on land that was once part of the prison compound.  A small portion of the exercise yard remains along with a couple of rooms that hold art work and dioramas depicting life in the prison during some of its worst times.

Diorama of Vietnamese prisoners with one leg shackled
A trip through the Hanoi Hilton is a very sad experience.

More depiction of human suffering

And another
Some rusted bars from the original cells
The almond tree was in the exercise yard
Bronze wall hanging depicting prisoner life
Another bronze display of suffering at the prison
The entire prison was a very "dark" experience
Guillotine used by the French government
Another diorama display of a prisoner
More art representations of prisoners
Statement about American pilots as prisoners of war
John McCain's Flight Suit
Photo of John McCain being pulled from the lake by
his Vietnamese captors.

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