some people advocate that the deeds of prisoners of war should be commended. According to ang Dong, when imprisoned, they just want to live. Those who “engrave their names on the Veterans’ memorial wall, and even those who have not been found, are the real heroes”.
Paul Galanti raised his middle finger “unintentionally” when being photographed and was used as the cover of life magazine.
for American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War, the years of living in the “Hanoi Hilton” prison were not glorious but unique enough. Behind the iron window, depression and betrayal are not uncommon, but more people choose to enjoy themselves and continue the war in their own way.
on August 5, 1964, the bomb dropped by us warplanes blew up on the land of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). The war burning in the jungle of Southeast Asia has become a lingering nightmare for a generation. A considerable number of American soldiers captured during the Vietnam War were concentrated in the “stove” prison in Hanoi. For a long time, there was a joke here – “Hanoi Hilton”. Before and after the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Vietnam War,
, the western media led by the Star Spangled Banner aimed their cameras and microphones at the former American prisoners of war, followed their footsteps of revisiting their hometown, and reappeared the colorful iron window life in front of the world.
thousands of American soldiers fell to Vietnam
on a late winter day this year, Hanoi drizzle sole makes people feel quite cold. Lee Ellis, who returned to the capital of Vietnam for the first time after his release, walked in the street, but his eyes seemed to be burning with excitement – today’s Hanoi is no longer the dilapidated look of piles of rubble under the indiscriminate bombing of the US military in the war years, with lights and wine everywhere, a style of peace and ease.
after the Vietnam War, Ellis, who was a second lieutenant of the air force, flew to the front line and was shot down by North Vietnam air defense fire while carrying out air raid missions. He narrowly escaped and fell into the hands of the Vietnamese. After several twists and turns, the “stove” prison in Hanoi became his destination.
although he retired with the rank of Colonel 24 years ago, Ellis still maintained the bearing of a soldier. Instead of going straight to prison, he and his wife Mary had lunch at the Hilton Opera Hotel, the real Hilton Hotel. The hotel was built 15 years ago. When it was named, the word “opera” was specially added to avoid inappropriate associations among Western tourists.
were seated in the ornate hall. Ellis drank coffee and ordered delicious Vietnamese citronella chicken, which was the best meal the veteran had ever eaten in Vietnam. That year, when he lived in another Hilton, his only source of protein was a piece of tofu a week, “only the size of a golf ball”. At the entrance of
, scenes of past events surged in Ellis’s heart – heavy shackles, flip flops distributed to prevent prisoners of war from escaping, pumpkin soup and cabbage soup remained unchanged all year round… The “standard” for prisoners of war’s first meal after they were imprisoned was fish head and rice, so that American pilots often teased each other when they took off for battle, “Be smart, man! Be careful to eat fish head tonight.”
the Christian Science Monitor of the United States once published an article by air force magazine reporter Peter Greer, saying that the protracted Vietnam War caused the United States to lose nearly 9000 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, about 2000 pilots and crew members were killed, and another 500 people were imprisoned. Statistics from the US Department of Veterans Affairs show that from 1961 to 1973, another 725 US Army officers and soldiers were captured while fighting North Vietnam.
Greer said that North Vietnam had signed the Geneva Convention, but American prisoners of war were generally tortured during their detention – both physically and psychologically. North Vietnam stressed that these “imperialist minions” committed war crimes by attacking civilians.
“hinge tactics” are unforgettable
the confrontation between the United States and North Vietnam began with the “Beibu Gulf incident” in early August 1964. Since then, air forces have become the vanguard of the Pentagon’s involvement in the Vietnam War. On the first day after the air raid, US pilot Everett Alvarez crashed outside Hanoi and was immediately captured alive. The following week, Alvarez became the first American “tenant” of furnace prison. The history of
and “stove” prison can be traced back to the French colonial period. Originally rich in ceramics, the local people called it the “stove” by using the stove of the kiln. For a period of time, a large number of political prisoners opposed to French colonial rule were detained here. After nearly 70 years of establishment, the former prisoners became the masters of North Vietnam, and the prison itself turned to serve the new regime.
Alvarez felt lonely in the first seven months of his imprisonment. With the expansion of the war, more unlucky colleagues came one after another. The prisoners of war expelled their physical and mental pain with an optimistic attitude. I don’t know when the nickname “Hanoi Hilton” spread like wildfire.
Lee Ellis came to “report” in November 1967. In his memoir “under the guidance of glory”, Ellis called the iron window years a time when “everything was deprived, often subjected to corporal punishment and depression”.
the most unforgettable thing for prisoners of war is “hinge tactics”. Ellis described the punishment as follows: “the prisoner knelt on the ground, his legs tied together, his arms firmly pinned to his back and his elbows next to each other. Then, the interrogators tied the prisoner’s arms with another rope and raised it continuously. As a result, the victim’s shoulder joint was dislocated.”
“the blood circulation is not smooth, and the limbs are numb, but the pain of tearing muscles and ligaments is still unbearable. When the rope is removed, the blood begins to circulate again, and the pain is even more tearing as the limbs resume feeling.” Ellis said. The sequelae of
and “hinge tactics” is long-lasting. Most famousOne of the prisoners of war, Arizona Senator John McCain, who played against Obama on behalf of the Republican Party during the 2008 election, has been unable to raise his arms over his shoulders.
the main purpose of Vietnam’s doing this is believed to be to force prisoners to write “Confessions”, which puts a heavy psychological burden on the latter. Retired major Paul Galanti said he felt he was “the biggest traitor in history”.
“Hanoi Hilton” aerial view of
peaceful struggle never stopped
after lunch, Ellis took a short rest and drove to the “Hanoi Hilton” which had been away for many years.
the former heavily guarded fortress has now been transformed into a museum. There are some shackled statues in it, but they all look like yellow people. Young visitors born in peacetime are full of curiosity. Obviously, they can’t imagine how solemn the atmosphere here was.
between the cell and the cloister, Ellis walked and stopped, counting the years to his wife. The prison area where he was detained was named after the famous “Thunderbird” hotel in Las Vegas. Similarly, there are “Desert Inn”, “Stardust” and so on.
came to the toilet, and a rather disgusting memory came to Ellis’s mind: he saw with his own eyes that a prison officer had lost his denture while going to the toilet, so he ordered the guards to jump into the filthy pit to salvage it, wash it and put it on again.
there is no bed in the cell. Prisoners of war can only lie on the hard and wet ground. Many people have fallen into the root of joint pain. Even so, an undisturbed sleep is still a luxury. Whenever the prison door slams open, it means that another person will be tried late at night.
although they are in prison, some prisoners of war with higher ranks try their best to boost their morale. This is quite dangerous – the prison authorities prohibit prisoners of war from passing messages to each other. Once it is considered that there is an unusual act, the leading prisoner will be put on shackles and held in solitary confinement.
however, the communication between prisoners of war was never interrupted. When the guards were not nearby, they learned to silence with blankets, whispered or gestured across the 40 cm thick wall, and others knocked on the wall regularly as a “code telegram”.
information communication means that prisoners of war can “collude”. They made up names like “Clark Kent” or “Ben Casey” and said these people were their superiors, which confused the interrogators.
“in prison, even a small victory is so important.” Ellis wrote. The most important victory of
was won by Paul Galanti, who was a lieutenant at that time. Once, this gentleman was taken out alone to shoot promotional photos. Although the North Vietnamese side altered the photos, the original version of the photos later spread to the United States and was used as the cover of Life Magazine – it was noted that Galanti, sitting on a stool, inadvertently threw down and stood his middle finger to show contempt.
occasionally, there will be some gossip about “so and so will be released”. However, according to Ellis’s recollection, he chose to cool the rumors more at that time, “I won’t believe it until I get on the plane.”
some people become propaganda tools
“traitors!” Coming to a room near the interrogation room, Ellis looked contemptuously at the picture on the wall.
in the photo, two prisoners of war are playing chess. Ellis told his wife that in order to get better treatment, the two guys did not hesitate to cooperate with the prison to “play on the spot” to show that North Vietnam was very “kind” to prisoners of war.
there are many so-called “traitors” — in more photos, some prisoners of war are decorating a Christmas tree, some prisoners of war are reading family letters, and some are playing ball… However, Ellis said that most of the photos are taken, which is not in line with the actual situation. What made him even more unhappy was that the room did not show the mistreatment of prisoners of war at all. Instead, there was a propaganda slogan “in wartime, the country was in economic difficulties, but it still created the best living conditions for American pilots to live a normal life during their detention”.
“for North Vietnam, showing American prisoners of war has an obvious political purpose… Prisoners are mostly forced to write confessions. This material is a necessity for North Vietnam to publicize.” American historian Christine APPI analyzed it in the book Patriot: Vietnam War in all aspects of memory.
it was not until the end of 1969 that the treatment of prisoners of war began to “rebound” – the food became abundant and the interrogation was no longer so cruel. The prison also changed its strategy and adopted more “Huairou tactics”.
retired Lieutenant Colonel Thomas ondon, former chairman of the US “Vietnamese prisoners of war” organization, was shot down while flying a search and rescue mission in June 1972. During the first 10 days of the “Hanoi Hilton”, the prison hung a loudspeaker in his room to repeatedly broadcast the speeches of Hollywood actress Jane Fonda and other anti war figures, as well as the “Confessions” of other prisoners of war. Untouchable ang Dong tore off the wires of the loudspeaker. Surprisingly, his “malicious destruction” did not attract punishment.
in 1973, there was a substantial improvement in the food in the prison, which convinced the prisoners that they would soon be free – improving the food, perhaps because the North Vietnamese did not want the Americans to “look too thin” when they were released. They guessed right. Soon, the prisoners of war were released in batches. Ellis and McCain walked out of the “Hanoi Hilton” at the same time.
in October of that year, Nixon, who was devastated by the “Watergate incident”, specially took time to entertain on the South Lawn of the White House