Vietnam's Hanoi Hilton - Hell on Earth
Hoa Lo Prison aka "Hanoi Hilton"
"Maison Centrale" French for "Central Home or Building", the infamous Hanoi Hilton were many of our POW's were kept in North Vietnam.
Conditions were appalling; food was watery soup and bread. Prisoners were variously isolated, starved, beaten, torturedfor countless hoursand paraded in anti-American propaganda. "It's easy to die but hard to live," a prison guard told one new arrival, "and we'll show you just how hard it is to live." 'A Hell on Earth'
Hanoi became the capital of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1954; 22 years later, in 1976, it became the capital of the unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The city has grown from a population of 130,000 in 1930 to 3 million today. It is a city where old and new collide--often quite literally.
Americans were held as prisoners of war in North Vietnam, but also in Cambodia, China, Laos, and South Vietnam.
From 1961 to 1973, the North Vietnamese and Vietcong held hundreds of Americans captive. In North Vietnam alone, more than a dozen prisons were scattered in and around the capital city of Hanoi. American POWs gave them nicknames: Alcatraz, Briarpatch, Dirty Bird, the Hanoi Hilton , the Zoo. Conditions were appalling; food was watery soup and bread. Prisoners were variously isolated, starved, beaten, torturedfor countless hoursand paraded in anti-American propaganda. "It's easy to die but hard to live," a prison guard told one new arrival, "and we'll show you just how hard it is to live."
American prisoners were held at the Hoa Lo prison, nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton from 11 August 1964 to 28 March 1973. The French built this prison near the turn of the century, with construction completed in 1901.
On a scorching hot day in 1964, Lt. Everett Alvarez was shot down over Vietnam. He was sent to the Hanoi Hilton and would not know freedom again for almost nine years, earning the dubious honor of being the longest prisoner of war in Vietnam. Battling personal demons both in the Hilton and back home, Alvarez nevertheless overcame his obstacles, earning the respect of his fellow soldiers and becoming a true Legend. Photo Courtesy: Everett Alvarez
Hanoi Hilton Pajamas - Top and bottom of red and white striped cloth which quickly faded to the pinkish gray color. Initials "CAC" stenciled on patch. These two toned, "Pink" striped "pajamas" were issued to and worn by Commander Allan "Al" Carpenter, USN, who was a Prisoner of War from November 1, 1966 to March 4, 1973. He was flying an A4E with VA-72. His Vietnamese name "CAC" is stenciled on the white aiming patch on the pajamas.
Armed Forces History, Division of History of Technology, National Museum of American History
In 1994, the Hanoi Hilton (the French period prison) looked much as it had for almost 80 years, including the years when American prisoners of war were held there. Restrictions were placed on where you could walk near the prison and as late as 1993 photographs were prohibited. The actual name of the prison (at least when the Vietnamese controlled it) is Hoa Lo, for the street that runs alongside.
By 1996, most of the walls of the Hanoi Hilton had been torn down to make way for new construction. Portions of the walls were retained for historical reasons. The Vietnamese also have bitter memories of the prison, for many communist revolutionaries were kept and tortured there.
In 1998, the old front of the prison was painted and restored and the remaining portions of the prison were turned into a tourist site. Some of the cells have been opened and considerable information about Vietnamese prisoners is available. The information about the U.S. prisoners of war is unreliable.
A Pentagon study provides new details--about bravery, torture, and endurance
--on the experience of American POWs in Vietnam .
Hell on Earth
A Barbaric way to die!