• Hoa Lo Prison also known as Hanoi Hilton is a former French colonist run prison in the centre of Hanoi in Vietnam. It was first used for political prisoners mainly Vietnamese and was then used for US prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. Hoa Lo Prison was opened in 1896 and was demolished and closed as a prison in the 1990s while the gatehouse remains as a museum for tourists and locals to educate themselves with.

    I apologise in advance on the picture quality and the amount of photos. I didn’t want to take too many photos with my camera in case it was insensitive.


    The first photo shows what conditions would have been like for the male prisoners, who would be chained with their feet together sat next to each other with little or no space to move around. The second photo shows the number of deaths for prisoners during a one year period, the highest number of deaths was for Persistent Fever with 17 deaths, then Flu with 15 deaths and then Cholera with 10 deaths. The majority of the deaths happened in the nearby hospital but there was a few deaths which actually happened in the prison itself which were Cerebral Hemorrhage and Paralysed Neck.

    Visiting Hoa Lo Prison was a great history lesson and to learn what life was like back then during the french colonist ruling of Vietnam. Whilst learning about how the Vietnamese were being treated in this prison, we also learn how the American soldiers who were bombing Vietnam were being treated – quite royalty like if I must add. The Americans even resorted to calling the prison The Hanoi Hilton which is how it got it’s nickname. Despite the American soldiers bombing Vietnam they were treated really well, even though it didn’t start off that way.  The most famous American soldier to be held prisoner in Hoa Lo Prison was John McCain – a US Navy pilot, Senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee, spent parts of his five and a half years as a POW there.

    The Hanoi Hilton was one site used by the North Vietnamese Army to house, torture and interrogate captured servicemen, mostly American pilots shot down during bombing raids. Although North Vietnam was a signatory of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949, 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. 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.

    Beginning in late 1969, treatment of the prisoners at Hỏa Lò and other camps became less severe and generally more tolerable. 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. This created the “Camp Unity” communal living area at Hỏa Lò, which greatly reduced the isolation of the POWs and improved their morale.

    Are you planning on visiting Hanoi? Leave me comments below if you want any tips.

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    Learning About The Horrors Behind Hoa Lo Prison In Hanoi