Hoa Lo Prison aka "Hanoi
"Maison Centrale" French
for "Central Home or Building", the infamous Hanoi Hilton were
many of our POW's were kept in North Vietnam.
were appalling; food was watery soup and bread. Prisoners were variously
isolated, starved, beaten, tortured for 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.
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."
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
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.
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.