Hanoi Hilton

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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

The "Ha Noi Hilton"

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

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The sign on the outside of the prison

They were cells of death and torture.  Opened in 1896, Hoa Lo prison was the largest of the French prisons built in the north of Viet Nam. Constructed in the latter half of the 19th century, this penitentiary was part of France’s efforts to restrain the unruly and popular anti-colonial movements amongst the Vietnamese community.  Hoa Lo Prison quickly became a place where thousands of revolutionary fighters were imprisoned, beaten, cuffed, beheaded and suffered the worst abuse imaginable.

Entrance to the Hanoi Hilton

The entrance to Hoa Loi Prison

French-built for the sole purpose of torturing the Vietnamese dissidents during their occupation and colonialism of 80 years, it was during this occupation of nearly a century, that significant crimes against humanity took place, yet we rarely hear about this in the media today.

French built

French guillotines

We saw several guillotines imported by the French to make their points to the locals, and thereby suppress any uprisings through fear. We think it was the lucky ones who were beheaded. Those left behind to endure more agonies of various sorts including water tortures, beatings, broken bones never to be mended, paralysis and blindness only had more of the same on the road ahead of them.

3 dimensional picture showing torture

From the Vietnamese point of view, it was capitalism through French colonialism that was to blame for their troubles. Hence, their leanings towards communism at that time in history, and even today. The French, in their “greed for more goods to trade, i.e., capitalism” colonized Vietnam and basically used the native peoples as slaves to make goods for the French. Anyone who rose up against this tyranny, was thrown into prison, tormented physically and mentally, beheaded, or left to “languish," in dark, cramped cells, with their feet bolted to concrete slabs that served as their bed.

conditions inside the Hanoi Hilton

An example of a cell

Some cells did not have light, and so the prisoners soon became blind. Since their feet were bolted down, they could not move, and so they became paralyzed. It was in this condition, that they lived out the remainder of their days. This was decades before the Americans ever set foot upon the Vietnamese country land. We had no idea this existed, and coming face to face with it, the savagery was shocking.






A general population area

Following the liberation of North Vietnam from France in 1954, Hoa Lo became a state prison, housing the nation’s own criminal offenders. However, from August of 1964 to March of 1973, it was also used to detain American pilots whose aircraft had been shot down over Ha Noi. It was during this period that the Americans gave Hoa Lo the nickname “Hanoi Hilton.”

John McCain and others in The Hanoi Hilton

Photos of American prisoners

We visited what remains of this horror house during our stay in Hanoi (or as the Vietnamese say Ha Noi). It is here that Senator John McCain, (upper right) and Ambassador Douglas 'Pete' Peterson (upper center) were held during the “American War”. McCain’s flight suit, parachute and helmet is proudly displayed behind glass, as well as photos of other American prisoners.

Another illustration of prisoners in ankle chains

It was noted on the self directed tour that the Vietnamese’ humane treatment of the American prisoners far surpassed the French treatment of the Vietnamese nationals during occupation.





We have no idea if that was true or not. However, there were photos in the prison museum of the American pilots playing games, playing guitar and singing, and exercising. Also, there was a photograph of an American receiving medical treatment from the Vietnamese, but his condition looked questionable at best.

Another French guillotine

Walking through places like these is sobering. It was just the two of us at the time, in this barren, bleak, hopeless, blood drenched place, filled with fear and suffering… We could almost hear the cries of pain and loneliness, the desperation and futility from the now washed walls. We are blessed never to have had to endure anything like this sort of abuse in our lives. It had the effect of making us want to fall to our knees with the weight of it all; what we humans can do to other humans.

Another piece of artwork in the prison now open to tourists

Two thirds of the original prison was demolished in 1993 to make way for the Hanoi Towers (now known as Somerset Grand Ha Noi) serviced apartment and office complex. The southeastern corner has been preserved as an Historic Vestige and memorial to the revolutionaries, both men and women, who gave their lives for the freedom of their country, Viet Nam.

Open daily, entrance fee is minimal. Located at 1 Hoa Lo, Hoan Kiem, Ha Noi, Viet Nam.

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

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