Hanoi Hilton - Vietnam War - Post-war Accounts

Post-war Accounts

After the implementation of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, neither the United States nor its allies ever formally charged North Vietnam with the war crimes revealed to have been committed there. Similarly, the Americans and their allies were never tried for their poor treatment of prisoners either. Extradition of North Vietnamese officials who had violated the Geneva Convention, which they had always insisted officially did not bind them as their nation had never signed it, was not a condition of the U.S. withdrawal and ultimate abandonment of the South Vietnam government. The present government of Vietnam firmly holds to the view that the Hanoi Hilton was a prison for criminals, not POWs, and that those held in the Hanoi Hilton were "pirates" and "bandits" who had attacked Vietnam without authority. In the 2000s, the Vietnamese government has held the position that claims that prisoners were tortured during the war are fabricated, but that Vietnam wants to move past the issue as part of establishing better relations with the U.S. Bui Tin, a North Vietnamese Army colonel-turned-later dissident and exile, who believed that the cause behind the war had been just but that the country's political system had lost its way after reunification, maintained in 2000 that no torture had occurred in the POW camps. Tin stated that there were "a few physical hits like a slap across the face, or threats, in order to obtain the specific confessions," and that the worst that especially resistant prisoners such as Stockdale and Jeremiah Denton encountered was being confined to small cells. Tran Trong Duyet, a jailer at Hoa Lo beginning in 1968 and its commandant for the last three years of the war, maintained in 2008 that no prisoners were tortured. However, eyewitness accounts by servicemen who survived present a different account of their captivity.

After the war, Risner wrote the book Passing of the Night detailing his 7 years at the Hanoi Hilton. Indeed, a considerable literature emerged from released POWs after repatriation, depicting Hoa Lo and the other prisons as places where such atrocities as murder; beatings; broken bones, teeth and eardrums; dislocated limbs; starvation; serving of food contaminated with human and animal feces; and medical neglect of infections and tropical disease occurred. These matter-of-fact details are revealed in famous accounts by McCain (Faith of My Fathers), Denton, Alvarez, Day, Risner, Stockdale and dozens of others. In addition, the Hanoi Hilton was depicted in the eponymous 1987 Hollywood movie The Hanoi Hilton.

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