|Explore Asia Southeast Asia Vietnam|
Almost all of us had heard about the Hanoi Hilton, the most infamous of the Vietnam prisons holding American prisoners of war beween 1964 and 1973. Most of these terrible places were in or around the northern city of Hanoi. Vietnam's message at the Hanoi Hilton is of man's inhumanity to his fellow man, but it wasn't exactly what we had expected.
This prison was built by the French more than one hundred years ago, to detain Vietmanese dissidents, and it is now a museum. Its many exhibits show the suffering of the Vietnamese people under the oppressive French rule during those colonial days that ended in the 1950's, before America got so tragically involved.
There is no mention of the terrible conditions endured by the American POW's, mostly pilots shot down over enemy territory. Actually, their message is how kind the Vietnam captors were to the American prisoners !
This was hard for us American visitors to swallow, having heard so many stories of privation and torture and even death endured by the POW's, some of whom suffered here for more than eight years .
And at the same time, we realized that the city we were then visiting has the dubious reputation for being the most bombed city in the history . Many Vietnamese soldiers were killed in these bombings. So were many innocent civilians.
Just as in every war, there were injustices done by both sides.
article published 8/15/2003