Prison of Hoa Lo (Hanoi Hilton)

In 1896, the French constructed Hoa Lo Prison on the site of Phu Khanh Hamlet, Vinh Xuong, Tho Xuong District in Ha Noi, which was a well-known pottery village (now is No1 Hoa Lo St, Hoan Kiem Dist). One of the largest prisons the French constructed in Indochina was Hoa Lo. The French colonialists severely suppressed the Vietnamese people's armed movements beginning towards the end of the 19th century. To support their ruling government in Vietnam, they established court systems, hired additional police officers, and constructed a large number of prisons. Hoa Lo was the most notorious among of them. Now, Hoa Lo Prison (aka Hanoi Hilton or Maison Centrale) is one of the few remaining historical relics that testify clearly and sharply to Vietnam's complex journey through the 20th century.


Hoa Lo Prison (easy known as Maison Centrale by the French) was constructed from a well-known pottery town to house thousands of Vietnamese revolutionary and patriot warriors. These detainees endured both physical and psychological torture. The living conditions were horrible; there was bad food, bad hygienic conditions, plenty of diseases, and inadequate personal cleanliness. However, by converting the prison into a revolutionary school where they disseminated the revolutionary causes, the imprisoned revolutionists continued to trust in the Communist Party. Many people made it out of here safely, returning to take the lead in the overall rebellion.


Many Vietnamese revolutionaries, including Phan Boi Chau, Luong Van Can, Nguyen Quyen, Ho Tung Mau, and Nguyen Luong Bang, as well as five general secretaries of the Communist Party of Vietnam (Nguyen Van Cu, Truong Chinh, Le Duan, Nguyen Van Linh, and Do Muoi), were imprisoned in Hoa Lo.

The Hoa Lo Prison was used by the Vietnamese government to temporarily house ordinary inmates in October 1954, following the liberation of the north of the country.


A portion of the facility was used to imprison American pilots who were shot down during bombing flights against North Vietnam from 5 August 1964 until 3 March 1973. During this time, Hoa Lo was jokingly referred to as the "Ha Noi Hilton" by the detained inmates. John McCain, a US Senator, and Douglas Peter Peterson, who later served as the country's first ambassador to Vietnam, are both considered "alumni" of Hoa Lo.


In 1993, the Vietnamese government kept a portion of Hoa Lo to turn into a historical relic in order to meet the economic development of Ha Noi. This area, which lies in the prison's southeast corner, was repaired, renovated, and conserved.

A memorial monument honoring the Vietnamese patriots and revolutionaries is located here. This is also a "Red Address" to teach Vietnamese people from all socioeconomic levels, especially the younger generations, about the revolutionary and patriotic traditions of those who gave their lives to ensure the independence and freedom of the country.

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