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HOME Hanoi' Things to do Hoa Lo Prison Museum Hanoi Hilton

Hoa Lo Prison Museum Hanoi Hilton

hoa-lo-prison-museum-the-hanoi-hiltonThis provocative site , at 1 Pho Hoa Lo on the corner with Pho Hai Ba Trung, is all that remains of the former Hoa Lo Prison, ironically nicknamed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by US POWs during the American War. Those incarcerated at Hoa Lo included Pete Peterson, who would later become the first US Ambassador to Vietnam following the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries in 1995.

The vast prison complex itself was built by the French in 1896. Originally intended to house around 450 inmates, records indicate that by the 1930s there were close to 2000 prisoners inside!

The prison was recently razed to the ground to make room for a modern skyscraper, though the building at the front of the site has been thoughtfully preserved and restored as a museum (look for the sign over the gate reading’ Maison Centrale’). There are some English and French labels corresponding with the displays, and you may be able to find an English-speaking guide on site.

The bulk of the exhibits relate to the prison’s use up to the mid-1950s, focusing on the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France. Notable tools of torture on display in the dark chambers include an ominous French guillotine which was used to behead Vietnamese revolutionaries during the colonial period.

There are also mug shots on display of Americans and Vietnamese who served time at Hoa Lo. Propaganda photos of cheerful looking American prisoners (showing how well the Vietnamese hosts treated their guests) are shown with a placard reading:

From August 5, 1964 to January 24, 1973US government carried out two destruction wars by air and navy against Northern Vietnam. The Northern Army and people brought down thousands of aircrafts and captured hundreds of American pilots. Part of these pilots was detained in Hoa Lo Prison by our Ministry of Interior. Though having committed untold crimes on our people, but American pilots suffered no revenge once they were captured and detained. Instead they were well treated with adequate food, clothing and shelter, According to the provisions of Paris Agreement; our government had in March 1973 returned all captured pilots to the US government.

The museum is open from 8 to 11 am and 1 and 4 pm; entry is 21,000d (US$ 1)

Author by Art Hotel Hanoi