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Coordinates: 21°1′31″N 105°50′47″E / 21.02528°N 105.84639°E / 21.02528; 105.84639 Hỏa Lò Prison
Prison
(Vietnamese: [hwa᷉ː lɔ̂]) was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam
Vietnam
for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam
Vietnam
for U.S. Prisoners of War during the Vietnam
Vietnam
War. During this later period it was ironically known to American POWs as the Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton. The prison was demolished during the 1990s, though the gatehouse remains as a museum.

Contents

1 French era 2 Democratic Republic of Vietnam, 1954 3 Vietnam
Vietnam
War

3.1 Notable inmates 3.2 Post-war accounts

4 Hỏa Lò in the late 1970s and early 1980s 5 Demolition, conversion and museum 6 See also 7 References 8 Further reading

French era[edit]

The French name "Maison Centrale" above the gate of Hỏa Lò

Museum reconstruction of First Indochina War
First Indochina War
prisoners in Hỏa Lò

The name Hoa Lo, commonly translated as "fiery furnace" or even "Hell's hole",[1] also means "stove". The name originated from the street name phố Hỏa Lò, due to the concentration of stores selling wood stoves and coal-fire stoves along the street from pre-colonial times. The prison was built in Hanoi
Hanoi
by the French, in dates ranging from 1886–1889[1] to 1898[2] to 1901,[3][4] when Vietnam
Vietnam
was still part of French Indochina. The French called the prison Maison Centrale[1]—literally, Central House, a traditional euphemism to denote prisons in France. It was located near Hanoi's French Quarter.[2] It was intended to hold Vietnamese prisoners, particularly political prisoners agitating for independence who were often subject to torture and execution.[4] A 1913 renovation expanded its capacity from 460 inmates to 600.[2] It was nevertheless often overcrowded, holding some 730 prisoners on a given day in 1916, a figure which would rise to 895 in 1922 and 1,430 in 1933.[2] By 1954 it held more than 2000 people;[1] with its inmates held in subhuman conditions,[4] it had become a symbol of colonialist exploitation and of the bitterness of the Vietnamese towards the French.[1] The central urban location of the prison also became part of its early character. During the 1910s through 1930s, street peddlers made an occupation of passing outside messages in through the jail's windows and tossing tobacco and opium over the walls; letters and packets would be thrown out to the street in the opposite direction.[5] Within the prison itself, communication and ideas passed. Indeed, many of the future leading figures in Communist North Vietnam
Vietnam
spent time in Maison Centrale during the 1930s and 1940s.[6] Democratic Republic of Vietnam, 1954[edit] Following the defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu
Battle of Dien Bien Phu
and the 1954 Geneva Accords the French left Hanoi
Hanoi
and the prison came under the authority of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.[7] Thereafter the prison served as an education center for revolutionary doctrine and activity, and it was kept around after the French left to mark its historical significance to the North Vietnamese.[6] Vietnam
Vietnam
War[edit] Main article: U.S. Prisoners of War during the Vietnam
Vietnam
War During the Vietnam
Vietnam
War, the first U.S. prisoner to be sent to Hỏa Lò was Lieutenant, Junior Grade
Lieutenant, Junior Grade
Everett Alvarez Jr., who was shot down on August 5, 1964.[8] From the beginning, U.S. POWs endured miserable conditions, including poor food and unsanitary conditions.[9] The prison complex was sarcastically nicknamed the " Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton" by the American POWs, in reference to the well-known Hilton Hotel
Hilton Hotel
chain. There is some disagreement among the first group of POWs who coined the name but F8D
F8D
pilot Bob Shumaker[10] was the first to write it down, carving "Welcome to the Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton" on the handle of a pail to greet the arrival of Air Force Lieutenant Robert Peel.[11]

The "Little Vegas" area built for American POWs in 1967, shown in a final inspection in 1973 shortly before the Americans' release.

Beginning in early 1967, a new area of the prison was opened for incoming American POWs;[12] it was dubbed "Little Vegas", and its individual buildings and areas were named after Las Vegas Strip landmarks, such as "Golden Nugget", "Thunderbird", "Stardust", "Riviera", and the "Desert Inn".[13] These names were chosen because many pilots had trained at Nellis Air Force Base, located in proximity to Las Vegas.[12] American pilots were frequently already in bad shape by the time they were captured, injured either during their ejection or in landing on the ground.[14] The Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton was one site used by the North Vietnamese Army
North Vietnamese Army
to house, torture and interrogate captured servicemen, mostly American pilots shot down during bombing raids.[15] Although North Vietnam
Vietnam
was a signatory of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949,[15] which demanded "decent and humane treatment" of prisoners of war, severe torture methods were employed, such as rope bindings, irons, beatings, and prolonged solitary confinement.[8][15][16] When prisoners of war began to be released from this and other North Vietnamese prisons during the Johnson administration, their testimonies revealed widespread and systematic abuse of prisoners of war.[13] Regarding treatment at Hỏa Lò and other prisons, the communists countered by stating that prisoners were treated well and in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.[17] During 1969, they broadcast a series of coerced statements from American prisoners that purported to support this notion.[17] The North Vietnamese would also maintain that their prisons were no worse than prisons for POWs and political prisoners in South Vietnam, such as the one on Côn Sơn Island.[citation needed] Mistreatment of Viet Cong
Viet Cong
and North Vietnamese prisoners and South Vietnamese dissidents in South Vietnam's prisons was indeed frequent, as was North Vietnamese abuse of South Vietnamese prisoners and their own dissidents.[18] Beginning in late 1969, treatment of the prisoners at Hỏa Lò and other camps became less severe and generally more tolerable.[8] Following the late 1970 attempted rescue operation at Sơn Tây prison camp, most of the POWs at the outlying camps were moved to Hỏa Lò, so that the North Vietnamese had fewer camps to protect.[19] This created the "Camp Unity" communal living area at Hỏa Lò, which greatly reduced the isolation of the POWs and improved their morale.[13][19] Notable inmates[edit] See also: Alcatraz Gang

John L. Borling, USAF pilot, POW for ​6 1⁄2 years, retired Major General Charles G. Boyd, USAF pilot, POW for almost 7 years, retired General; the only Vietnam-era POW to reach the four star rank. George Thomas Coker, US Navy pilot Bud Day, USAF pilot, Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
and Air Force Cross recipient, political activist, was cellmates with McCain Jeremiah Denton, US Navy pilot, Senator (R-AL) Leon F. "Lee" Ellis, USAF fighter pilot, motivational speaker and author Norman C. Gaddis, USAF pilot, POW for almost 7 years, retired Brigadier General Lawrence N. Guarino, U.S. Air Force officer, veteran of three wars and author. Doug Hegdahl, Inmate who played a fool to memorize all the names, personal information and capture dates of the prisoners there Sam Johnson, USAF fighter pilot, Representative (R-TX) Lance Sijan, USAF fighter pilot, Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
recipient. Joseph Kittinger, USAF pilot, record-breaking parachutist William P. Lawrence, US Navy pilot, Chief of Naval Personnel
Chief of Naval Personnel
and Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy John McCain, US Navy pilot, Senator (R-AZ) and 2008 Republican presidential nominee, spent parts of his five and a half years as a POW there Robinson Risner, USAF fighter pilot, POW from 1965 to 1973. A Lieutenant Colonel when shot down and captured, he was the senior ranking POW, responsible for maintaining chain of command among his fellow prisoners. Howard Rutledge, US Navy pilot, held there for part of his ​7 1⁄2 years of captivity, co-author of In the Presence of Mine Enemies: 1965–1973 – A Prisoner of War with his wife James Stockdale, US Navy pilot, Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
recipient, 1992 Vice Presidential candidate. He and Lawrence were the most senior-ranking US Navy POWs.

Post-war accounts[edit] After the implementation of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, neither the United States nor its allies ever formally charged North Vietnam
Vietnam
with the war crimes revealed to have been committed there. In the 2000s, the Vietnamese government has held the position that claims that prisoners were tortured at Hoa Lo and other sites during the war are fabricated, but that Vietnam
Vietnam
wants to move past the issue as part of establishing better relations with the U.S.[20] Tran Trong Duyet, a jailer at Hoa Lo beginning in 1968 and its commandant for the last three years of the war, maintained in 2008 that no prisoners were tortured.[20] However, eyewitness accounts by American servicemen present a different account of their captivity. After the war, Risner wrote the book Passing of the Night detailing his 7 years at the Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton. Indeed, a considerable literature emerged from released POWs after repatriation, depicting Hoa Lo and the other prisons as places where such atrocities as murder; beatings; broken bones, teeth and eardrums; dislocated limbs; starvation; serving of food contaminated with human and animal feces; and medical neglect of infections and tropical disease occurred. These details are revealed in famous accounts by McCain (Faith of My Fathers), Denton, Alvarez, Day, Risner, Stockdale and dozens of others.[citation needed] In addition, the Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton was depicted in the eponymous 1987 Hollywood
Hollywood
movie The Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton. Hỏa Lò in the late 1970s and early 1980s[edit] The prison continued to be in use after the release of the American prisoners. Among the last inmates was dissident poet Nguyễn Chí Thiện, who was reimprisoned in 1979 after attempting to deliver his poems to the British Embassy, and spent the next six years in Hỏa Lò until 1985 when he was transferred to a more modern prison. He mentions the last years of the prison, partly in fictional form, in Hỏa Lò/ Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton Stories (2007).[21] Demolition, conversion and museum[edit]

John McCain's flight suit and parachute, on display in the museum part of the Hoa Lo site

Most of the prison was demolished in the mid-1990s and the site now contains two high-rise buildings, one of them the 25-story Somerset Grand Hanoi
Hanoi
serviced apartment building.[3] Other parts have been converted into a commercial complex retaining the original French colonial walls.[22] Only part of the prison exists today as a museum. The displays mainly show the prison during the French colonial period, including the guillotine room, still with original equipment, and the quarters for male and female Vietnamese political prisoners.[23] Exhibits related to the American prisoners include the interrogation room where many newly captured Americans were questioned (notorious among former prisoners as the "blue room") is now made up to look like a very comfortable, if spartan, barracks-style room. Displays in the room claim that Americans were treated well and not harmed (and even cite the nickname " Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton" as proof that inmates found the accommodations comparable to a hotel's). Propaganda in the museum includes pictures of American POWs playing chess, shooting pool, gardening, raising chickens, and receiving large fish and eggs for food. The museum's claims are contested by former prisoners' published memoirs, and oral histories broadcast on C-SPAN
C-SPAN
identify the room (and other nearby locales) as the site of numerous acts of torture. See also[edit]

Vietnam
Vietnam
portal Prisons portal

Alcatraz Gang

References[edit]

^ a b c d e Logan, William S. (2000). Hanoi: Biography of a City. University of New South Wales Press. ISBN 0-86840-443-8.  pp. 67–68. ^ a b c d Zinoman, Peter (2001). The Colonial Bastille: A History of Imprisonment in Vietnam, 1862–1940. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22412-4.  p. 52. ^ a b "Vietnam's Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton – Hell on Earth". Archived from the original on May 11, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-23.  ^ a b c Coram, Robert (2007). American Patriot: The Life and Wars Of Colonel Bud Day. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-75847-7.  p. 178. ^ Zinoman, The Colonial Bastille, p. 54. ^ a b Logan, Hanoi, p. 145. ^ Tours of Vietnam: War, Travel Guides, and Memory – Page 1 Scott Laderman – 2008 "Following the 1954 Geneva Accords that put an end to French suzerainty in Indochina, Hoa Lo Prison, as the institution was called by the Vietnamese, fell under the authority of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the independent Vietnamese ..." ^ a b c Frisbee, John L. (February 1989). "Valor en Masse". Air Force Magazine.  ^ Hubbell, John G. (1976). P.O.W.: A Definitive History of the American Prisoner-Of-War Experience in Vietnam, 1964–1973. New York: Reader's Digest Press. ISBN 0-88349-091-9.  p. 18. ^ (later Navy Rear Admiral Robert H. Shumaker) ^ Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1961–1973 – Page 96 Stuart I. Rochester, Frederick T. Kiley – 2007 "There is disagreement among the first group of PWs as to who actually named Hoa Lo the Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton, but the nickname ... the message "Welcome to the Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton" on the handle of a pail to greet the arrival of Air Force Lt. Robert Peel." ^ a b Rochester, Stuart I.; Kiley, Frederick (1999). Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1961–1973. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-694-9.  pp. 292–294. ^ a b c Lieut. Commander John S. McCain III, United States Navy (1973-05-14). "How the POW's Fought Back". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on 2008-10-13.  Reposted under title "John McCain, Prisoner of War: A First-Person Account", 2008-01-28. Reprinted in Library of America
Library of America
staff (1998). Reporting Vietnam, Part Two: American Journalism 1969–1975. Library of America. pp. 434–463. ISBN 1-883011-59-0.  ^ Parker, Adam (2008-10-19). "Former Vietnam
Vietnam
POW recalls ordeal, fellowship". The Post and Courier. Retrieved 2009-06-27.  ^ a b c Karnow, Stanley (1983). Vietnam: A History. The Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-74604-5.  p. 655. ^ Mahler, Jonathan (2005-12-25). "The Prisoner". The New York Times Magazine.  ^ a b "U.S. Fliers Well Treated, Hanoi
Hanoi
Says". The Washington Post. United Press International. 1969-06-06.  ^ Karnow, Vietnam, pp. 655–656. ^ a b Glines, C. V. (November 1995). "The Son Tay Raid". Air Force Magazine. Archived from the original on 2008-04-24.  ^ a b "' Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton' jailer says he'd vote for McCain". USA Today. Associated Press. 2008-06-27. Retrieved 2008-07-25.  ^ Nguyễn Chí Thiện
Nguyễn Chí Thiện
Hỏa Lò/ Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton Stories Yale University, Southeast Asia Studies, 2007 "During the roughly fifteen years spent as a political prisoner in Vietnamese labor camps from 1960 to 1977, Nguyen Chi Thien composed hundreds of poems. Released following the fall of Saigon, Thien delivered a manuscript of these poems to the British Embassy in Hanoi. He was arrested at the gate and taken to Hoa Lo – the well known “ Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton” Prison, where he spent six of an additional twelve years of imprisonment, often in solitary confinement. ^ Passport Vietnam: your pocket guide to Vietnamese business Page 13 Jeffrey E. Curry, Chinh T. Nguyen – 1997 "(Hundreds of Vietnamese died in Hoa Lo prison — the famous " Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton" — long before it was used as a prison for American pilots. It is being turned into a commercial complex, but its original French colonial walls are being left as" ^ Frommer's Southeast Asia – Page 270 Daniel White, Ron Emmons, Jennifer Eveland – 2011 "Hoa Lo Prison
Prison
( Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton) For sheer gruesome atmosphere alone, this ranks near the top of the must-see list. ... To the west is the guillotine room, still with its original equipment, and the female and Vietnamese political prisoners' quarters.

Further reading[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hanoi
Hanoi
Hilton.

Coram, Robert. American Patriot : The Life and Wars Of Colonel Bud Day. Little, Brown and Company, ©2007. ISBN 0-316-75847-7, ISBN 978-0-316-75847-5 Denton, Jeremiah A; Brandt, Ed. When Hell Was In Session. Readers Digest Press, distributed by Crowell, 1976. ISBN 978-0-88349-112-6 ISBN 978-093528000-5 Lenzi, Iola (2004). Museums of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Archipelago Press. pp. 200 pages. ISBN 981-4068-96-9.  McDaniel, Eugene B. Scars and Stripes. Harvest House Publishers, May 1980. ISBN 0-89081-231-4

v t e

Hanoi

Historical sites Public buildings and places

Hoàn Kiếm Lake Turtle Tower Văn Miếu - Quốc Tử Giám Cổ Loa Citadel Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long Presidential Palace and Presidential Palace Historical Site Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Flag Tower Opera House Hỏa Lò Prison

Religious and worship sites

Cửa Bắc Church Hàm Long Church One-Pillar Pagoda Perfume Temple Phùng Khoang Church Quán Sứ Temple St. Joseph's Cathedral Trấn Quốc Temple

Parks and green areas

Ba Vì National Park West Lake Trúc Bạch Lake Red River

Museums

Vietnamese Women’s Museum Museum of Fine Arts Museum of Ethnology Museum of Vietnamese Revolution Hanoi
Hanoi
Museum Ho Chi Minh Museum Museum of Vietnamese History

Occupational villages

Bát Tràng
Bát Tràng
ceramic village Lệ Mật Vạn Phúc silk village

Other constructions

Noi Bai International Airport Hanoi
Hanoi
Railway Station Long Biên Bridge Mỹ Đình National Stadium National Convention Centre Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hilton Hanoi
Hanoi
Opera Hote

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