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.