It was mid-afternoon when our Exodus Travels tour group entered H?a Lò Prison, also known as “Hanoi Hilton,” where U.S. POWs were held during the Vietnam War.
What is left of H?a Lò Prison is the gatehouse, which now houses a museum focusing on both its use by the French and by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
The first rooms are cavernous and show the deplorable conditions endured by Vietnamese political prisoners, who were held by the French during the 1950s. At the time, the Vietnamese were struggling for independence from France.
The rooms dedicated to the prison’s American POW detainment take on a totally different tone: the illusion of humane treatment with photos of POWs celebrating the holidays by decorating a Christmas tree and sitting down to a festive meal. When the POWs were released after being held for years, they told of being tortured and interrogated by the North Vietnam.
Toward the end of the tour is a courtyard with a wall of graphic art reflecting the horrible conditions prisoners here lived through while incarcerated.
For anyone wanting to better understand American history and the Vietnam War, this prison should be on their list of places to visit.