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Hanoi Prison 2

CHUCK KUHN PHOTOGRAPHY
All photos are copyright Chuck Kuhn. Please contact for use of photos.
Hoa Lo Prison AKA "Hanoi Hilton"
Hanoi Prison is now a museum. Called "Maison Centrale" by the French, most of the prison was destroyed for the construction of Hanoi Towers, a skyscraper that houses apartments and offices. Most of the exhibits in the museum focus on the years when the prison was run by the French and housed Vietnamese prisoners, but one small room houses exhibits from American POWs as well.
My statement here is simple " This a museum and I photographed what my eyes saw thru the lens"
This article, best describes what we saw at the prison today, from Aimee Kligman/writer/journalist
"Hoa Lo means coal oven; this prison was also known as “Maison Centrale” in 1901, when the French built it. During the American War, it acquired the name of “Hanoi Hilton”. Interestingly, in 1954 and prior to 1965, the citizens of Hanoi used the facility as a temporary rehabilitation for delinquents. You will not see significant and unusual answers here about the American War. Much of that section has been demolished in favor of the Hanoi Central Tower, built in 1997. No need to fret however, as you will come across novel approaches to torture.
The doorway is not in any way a preview of what is to come; in fact, it looks more like the entrance to a hotel. Until you get inside. Those who can read French will be smacked in the face with the following notice posted at regular intervals throughout the prison: “Hoa Lo Prison – A Crime by French Colonialists toward jailed Patriots and Revolutionaries”. There goes la grande histoire d’amour between the two! Horrific were the renditions and actual leg iron clamps to which the prisoners were confined, days at a time. Another wonderful French invention, the guillotine, made its way into the prison, and was used for most executions. There was a particular record of the beheading of certain Vietnamese patriots by the names of Nguyen Thai Hoc, Pho Duc Chinh (both in 1930) and between 1930 and 1932, Nguyen Duc Canh , Ho Ngoc Lan and Nguyen Hoang Ton.

You will find photographs and scale models of the original structure which was quite ambitious in size; as you weave through the rooms and in and out of courtyards, an actual part of a sewer and its door are on display; in 1951, more than a dozen death row inmates escaped through it, some of which were able to join the resistance movement against the French. Also outdoors are oversized bronze carvings depicting violence against the prisoners, showing some tied to chairs with heavy ropes, others tied to ladders with ropes around limbs and torso. Look up, and you’ll understand the reasons for underground escapes: the walls are exceptionally high and copiously crowned with shards of broken glass.

Let’s move on to the American section, albeit small, but the exhibit might elicit a chuckle or two. Several photographs of captured soldiers are featured, with an emphasis placed on John McCain’s personal and military apparel that earned a separate glass case. What is impossible to swallow though is yet another photograph of American G.I.’s cooking chicken, looking as if they were guests of Emeril Lagasse. Another showcase delineates all the items given to the prisoners for their comfort and well being. Though some of the translated material leaves much to be desired, it wishes to convey that the North Vietnamese not only treated their prisoners humanely, but also with special leniency as they were released from Hoa Lo in February of 1973. This is a must-see."

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. Initially, this information was downplayed by American authorities for fear that conditions might worsen for those remaining in North Vietnamese custody.[10] Policy changed under the Nixon administration, when mistreatment of the prisoners was publicized by U.S. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird and others.[10] Beginning in late 1969, treatment of the prisoners became less severe and generally more tolerable.[7] Following the late 1970 attempted rescue operation at Son Tay prison camp, most of the POWs at the outlying camps were moved to Hoa Lo, so that the North Vietnamese had fewer camps to protect.[20] This created the "Camp Unity" communal living area at Hoa Lo, which greatly reduced the isolation of the POWs and improved their morale.[10][20]

Future U.S. Vice Presidential candidate James Stockdale and decorated U.S. Air Force pilot Bud Day were held as prisoners at the Hanoi Hilton, as was future Senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, who spent parts of his five and a half years as a POW there. Air Force colonel and record-setting parachutist Joseph Kittinger spent 11 months in prison there. Brigadier General Robinson Risner was the senior ranking POW, responsible for maintaining chain of command among his fellow prisoners, from 1965 to 1973.
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Original Prison Photo
Original Prison Photo
Model of Original
Model of Original
Model II
Model II
Entrance today
Entrance today
New Hotel behind prison
New Hotel behind prison
Today
Today
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McCain's bio
McCain's bio
McCain's Helmet
McCain's Helmet
McCain's Shoes
McCain's Shoes
McCain's Parachute
McCain's Parachute
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McCains uniform when captured
McCains uniform when captured
McCain's uniform and parachute
McCain's uniform and parachute
John McCain
John McCain
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