War is a living hell. If you believe nothing is worse than being on the battlefield, never allow enemies to capture and detain you as a prisoner of war (POW). Despite being well protected by international laws under the Third Geneva Convention of 1949, many POWs experienced horrifying tortures and abuses that immensely violated even their most basic human rights.

The year was 1954, and tensions in Vietnam had escalated among its disunited people, with each side favoring and promoting different ideologies. The communist North had long despised how its liberal brothers in the South had welcomed US funding, armaments, and training, and as its Western allies continued their military expansion, the North began its aggressive move toward the South. At the height of the conflict, the United States had deployed approximately 550,000 troops to the frontlines of Vietnam and had reportedly suffered over 58,000 casualties and missing until its withdrawal in 1973.

Throughout the conflict period, the North Vietnamese had established at least thirteen prisons and prison camps (mostly located near Hanoi) to detain its American POWs, the most notoriously known of which was Hoa Lo Prison (nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton”).

Once A Vietnamese Torture Camp

The Hoa Lo Prison was first built by the French to incarcerate Vietnamese political prisoners who tried to advocate for independence from French Indochina. Initially named Maison Centrale (means “Central House”), even then, the prison camp had seen dozens of inhumane torture and executions of its captives—becoming a bitter symbol of colonialist exploitation and Vietnamese hostility toward the French and, eventually, the West.