Hanoi Hilton site where American POWs were tortured in Vietnam now serves up propaganda claiming it wasn’t that bad

Not so many years ago, Vietnam was pretty much at the bottom of the list of places I wanted to see. Uncle Sam was offering a free trip, but there were strings attached.

Still, times change. Situations evolve. And countries stop heaving ordnance at each other and become trading partners.

So it was that recently Kayne and I spent four days in Hanoi, a city that once was a byword for the enemy and attached to perceived traitors (see Fonda, Jane) but that now houses a United States Embassy and draws American tourists along with throngs of others.

It was an enjoyable visit (with one drawback I’ll get to later), and certainly educational. Among the things I learned: Hanoi traffic is pretty much a live-action Frogger Game for pedestrians; and it’s easy to be a millionaire there: one million dong, the national currency, is worth about 44 bucks.

I also learned of the country’s long history of struggle against hostile outsiders. One of the museums we went to had assorted displays of past conflicts, including an apparently significant river battle against the Chinese in 938.

Run-ins with or subservience to China continued for almost 1,000 more years, at which time the French stepped in and assumed the role of colonial bully.

That French occupation, if you will, gave rise to one of our most enlightening sights in Hanoi: Hoa Lo Prison, dating from 1896. For decades, it was used by the French authorities to confine Vietnamese rebelling against their colonial rulers.

Confine and torture, as the Vietnamese tell it.

“Cruel persecution and hard life in the colonial prison killed thousands of Vietnamese patriots and revolutionaries,” a sign on one exhibit stated. The various displays – including foot shackles and other restraints, tiny death cells for the condemned, the oft-used guillotine – made it clear this was not a good place for a Vietnamese to be.

All in all it was easy to feel sympathy for the Vietnamese as a people, who apparently endured long, brutal hardships visited upon them by others.

Including, for a number of years, the United States. My opinion was then, and is now, that we had no business engaging in what amounted to a civil war in Southeast Asia.

But here’s that drawback I mentioned: This same prison used by the French was later used to house – and torture – captured Americans service members.

Perhaps you’ve heard it referred to, not fondly, as the Hanoi Hilton.

The Vietnamese today would have us believe that despite how badly the French had dealt with them in the prison, Americans were treated as “special guests.” Photographs show them playing basketball, volleyball, chess and pool; sitting around smiling; watching a film; tending to chickens that they kept.

John McCain’s flight suit and parachute, on display in the museum part of the Hoa Lo site (Wikimedia Commons)

A video makes it appear that, when finally released in early 1973, it was for the POWs like going home after an extended stay at some sort of Club Med, with new clothes and souvenirs provided.

It further asserts that most of the Americans came to repudiate the “war crimes” that they had committed, based on the “humane treatment” they received from their captors.

I think we Americans know what kind of treatment produced those “confessions” signed by people like John McCain.

So, by all means visit Vietnam. Appreciate a culture very different from ours. Broaden your culinary experiences. (I ate snails.) Forget to pack enough socks, spend 100,000 dong on new ones, and not even flinch.

But be advised: Though the war is over, the propaganda battle continues.

News

Mississippi man accused of enticing child then using vehicle to strike utility vehicle occupied by child’s father

News

Mississippi reports first case of West Nile virus in 2024

News

Man found dead in his car after initiating chase with Mississippi police

News

Mississippi national park commemorates Juneteenth with luminaria display

News

Watermelon truck fully engulfed in flames keeps Mississippi firefighters busy

News

Manhunt for ‘armed and dangerous’ murder suspect under way from Oklahoma to Alabama

News

Mississippi man arrested, accused of stealing from construction site

News

Popular Mississippi catfish restaurant closes after report of rodents, wastewater leads to failing health inspection

News

Mississippi woman charged with murder of 2-year-old daughter who officials say was ‘forcibly drowned’

News

Mississippi police searching for group of males who attacked victim with bat, robbed him of money and then shot him multiple times

News

Mississippi officials looking for culprits after new outboard motor stolen from boat

News

Mississippi teen charged with rape and burglary after reported sexual assault

News

Mississippi postal worker ordered to repay $80,000 she stole from taxpayers

News

Mississippi man pleads guilty to making antisemitic calls to Pennsylvania Jewish businesses, synagogues

News

Prison safety concerns raised after report of inmate death shows Mississippi man had meth in system while behind bars

News

Three Mississippi teens killed in late night wreck, four others injured in two-vehicle crash

News

Small-town SCORE! New Chick-fil-A coming to Mississippi town with less than 5,000 people

News

15-year-old Mississippi girl arrested after she reportedly attacked sleeping mother with knife

News

U.S. military community mourns death of leader at Mississippi’s Camp Shelby Training Center

News

Two men arrested in Texas for murder at Mississippi convenience store

News

Mississippi man dies in drowning in waters along Alabama beach

News

Major League Baseball fans mourn former player who died in Mississippi interstate crash

News

Two-year-old Mississippi boy killed in accidental shooting

News

Officials: Mother of abducted child found dead in Mississippi woods likely died from numerous stabbings