31) Hoa Lo Prison: The Hanoi Hilton

I felt obliged to tour the “Hanoi Hilton”, where American POWs were imprisoned during the Vietnam War.  It was as depressing as you might expect. Most of the original prison has given way to development, the part that does remain is a museum now.

The actual name of the prison is Hoa Lo, which translates to “the oven”.  It was built by the French in 1896 to hold Vietnamese political prisoners- the freedom fighters who were trying to overthrow their French colonial masters.

They finally got rid of the French in 1954, but when the Americans showed up in the 1960s the Vietnamese re-purposed the complex. Most of the museum focuses on the 58 year history of Vietnamese prisoners held there by the French, only one section is dedicated to the “American War”.

The American pilots who were imprisoned there nicknamed it the “Hanoi Hilton”. The museum display says that the nickname commemorated the excellent treatment the Americans received there, but you and I know better- that’s just good old American sarcasm.

Entry gate.
Early photo of the prison.
Photo of John McCain in the prison hospital. He was captured when his plane was shot down and crashed into Truc Bach Lake, right in the middle of Hanoi.  You will notice in the photo that his arm is bandaged.  To this day he has only partial use of that arm due to the injuries he sustained in the crash. Senator McCain is an American Hero.


Vietnamese prisoners held by the French in Hoa Lo Prison before the Vietnam War.
The “French Barber”.
POW clothes
Shackles inside the cell.
Senator John McCain returned to Hanoi to tour the prison in 2000.




2 thoughts on “31) Hoa Lo Prison: The Hanoi Hilton”

  1. Hi Kev! I just got caught up in your travels. Love the information and pictures! You are seeing so much of the world and educating us on the way. The food you describe sounds delicious. Glad to read you’re doing well and still enjoying your travels. Thanks so much for taking time to blog! May you continue safe travels and good health.

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