North Vietnamese POW Camps (1964-73)

The following is a list of the correct Vietnamese names, the confirmed map coordinates, and a few notes concerning each of the twelve POW detention sites where American POWs were held in North Vietnam. The spellings inside double parens are the standard Vietnamese telegraphic codes that represent the diacritic and tone marks used in the Vietnamese writing system. The Vietnamese names will be important to anyone trying to find his way back to any of the sites. The views expressed in the notes are my personal views and are not intended to represent the views of my office. I would welcome any corrections, clarifications, or additions members of NAMPOWs wish to send to me.

Robert J. Destatte

Webmaster's note: Clicking on Bob's name will send him an email with any corrections or additions Nam-POWs may be aware of. We are grateful to Bob for sharing this information with us. PG

The Camps:

(1) Hanoi Hilton, Camp One, Camp Unity, Heartbreak, Little Vegas, New Guy Village, West Court. (Some of these names apply only to specific sections of the prison.)

(2) Citadel, Plantation, Country Club, Camp Four, Funny Farm, Holiday Inn, Lows or Lowes Camp.

(3) Camp Alcatraz, Country Club Annex, Plantation West.

(4) Thermal Power Plant.

(5) Zoo, Zoo Annex, Cu Loc, BOQ, Camp Two, Camp America. (Some of these names apply only to specific sections of the camp.)

(6) Camp Faith, Don Hoi.

(7) Camp Hope, Son Tay.

(8) Briarpatch, Tic-tac-toe, Country Club, Farm, Xom Ap Lo.

(9) The Rockpile, Noi Coc, Camp B.

(10) Dogpatch, Luong Lang, That Khe, Dong Khe.

(11) Mountain Camp, Mountain Retreat, K.77 or K.71, Duong Ke, Vinh Quang B, Vinh Ninh, D.1.

(12) Skidrow, Thanh Liet, Bang Liet, B.15.

(13) Others including temporary camps

(1) American nicknames: Hanoi Hilton, Camp One, Camp Unity, Heartbreak, Little Vegas, New Guy Village, West Court. (Some of these names apply only to specific sections of the prison.)

Vietnamese name: Hoa Lo ((Hoar Lof)) Prison.

Geographic coordinate: 21 01 26N 105 51 01E.

UTM coordinate: 48QWJ88342483.

Dates US POWs present: 11 Aug 64 to 28 Mar 73.

Notes: The French built this prison at the turn of the century--if memory serves me correctly, construction was completed in 1901. The name, Hoa Lo, means "portable earthen stove;" i.e., what we call an earthenware hibachi. In the 19th Century several families that lived on the land where the prison was later built manufactured earthenware hibachis, called hoa lo. As was the custom at the time, the street became known by the name of the primary industry or commerce conducted on the street; in this instance, it became known as "Pho Hoa Lo" ((Phoos Hoar Lof)), or "Hibachi Street." After the French built the prison, they named the street "rue de la Prison," or in Vietnamese "Pho Nha Tu" ((Phoos Nhaf Tuf)). After the French departed, in 1954, Vietnamese authorities changed the name of the street to "Pho Hoa Lo" and the name of the prison to "Hoa Lo." Hoa Lo Street is the only street in Hanoi that has only one address on it-- the prison. Some of the aging leaders of the Communist government in Hanoi were imprisoned here during the French era. I last visited Hoa Lo with a member of NAMPOWS, US Army Command Sergeant Major Tom Davis, in July 1995. At that time, nearly the entire prison had been demolished in preparation for construction of a five-star hotel, which according to rumor would include a shopping arcade and parking garage. The plans, at that time, called for preservation of a small section of the southwest corner of the prison and the death row cells along the rear wall (north side of the prison) as a historic site in memory of Vietnamese who were imprisoned at Hoa Lo during the French era.

Many Hanoi residents in our age group use the American nickname, Hanoi Hilton, when they refer to this prison. Nevertheless, I learned during my first visit to the prison how quickly the war is fading from the memory of the younger generation. In January 1991, I and another DoD officer who also speaks Vietnamese, while touring Hanoi on rented bicycles, stopped at the front entrance to Hoa Lo and struck up a conversation with a small group of young guards--some of whom were off duty. Initially, not wanting to arouse suspicion, we pretended to be lost and asked directions. It quickly became obvious that the guards were genuinely pleased at the opportunity to meet and talk with a couple of Americans. Neither side made any mention of the prison a few feet behind the guards. Several minutes into the conversation, one of the young guards noted that a recent newspaper article announced that a group of American officials might visit Vietnam soon and asked whether we were part of the group. We explained that we were not; however, nodding toward the prison entrance, we noted that at least one member of the group "had been a guest in your hotel during the war." With a look of astonishment, one of the young guards pointed to the prison entrance and said, "That's NOT a hotel!" One guard caught the intended joke and explained it--to the amusement of the others.

(2) American nicknames: Citadel, Plantation, Country Club, Camp Four, Funny Farm, Holiday Inn, Lows or Lowes Camp.

Vietnamese name: 17 Pho Ly Nam De ((17 Phoos Lys Nam DDees)); 17 Ly Nam De Street.

Geographic coordinate: 21 02 09N 105 51 02E.

UTM coordinate: 48QWJ88362615.

Dates US POWs present: 6 Jun 67--30 Jul 70; and, 25 Nov 70--16 Mar 73.

Notes: The villa at the north end of this compound was the family residence of a French military officer during the French era. The daughter of the last French officer that occupied the residence visited the compound in about 1993-94. Unfortunately, I did not note his position or name. After the French departed, the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) motion picture department took over the compound. The PAVN film department was subordinate to PAVN's General Political Directorate--one of the PAVN's three principle staff components (the others were the General Staff Directorate and the General Directorate for Rear Services). In 1967, the Enemy Proselyting Department (another component of the General Political Directorate) took control of the compound and used it to detain American POWs. The Enemy Proselyting Department was the principle PAVN element responsible for administering American POWs until about April 1972. The Enemy Proselyting Department administered this camp until about April 1972. In about April 1972, Office 22 of the newly formed PAVN Group 875 assumed responsibility for administration of this and other American POW camps in North Vietnam. (The Enemy Proselyting Department apparently retained responsibility for interrogation, indoctrination, and records keeping.) After 1973 the compound was returned to the PAVN motion picture department. The building on the east side of the compound that housed American POWs was demolished in about 1992 and replaced by a three or four story building that houses offices of the PAVN motion picture institute.

(3) American nicknames: Camp Alcatraz, Country Club Annex, Plantation West.

Vietnamese name: 4 Pho Ly Nam De ((4 Phoos Lys Nam DDees)); 4 Ly Nam De Street.

Geographic coordinate: 21 02 16N 105 51 00E

UTM coordinate: 48QWJ88302637.

Dates US POWs present: 25 Oct 67--09 Dec 69; and, 01 Jul 70--17 Aug 70.

Notes: Annex to 17 Ly Nam De Street. This facility was a small jail that the French built prior to 1954. It was located on the grounds of the Ministry of Defense Headquarters Compound, behind the offices of the Military Arts and Literature Magazine (Van Nghe Quan Doi). According to Vietnamese sources, the Enemy Proselyting Department used this old jail to house American POWs it considered to be disciplinary problems. This jail was torn down sometime prior to 1991 and replaced by a multi-story apartment building that houses PAVN officers and their families.

(4) American nicknames: Thermal Power Plant.

Vietnamese name: Nha May Dien Yen Phu ((Nhaf Mays DDieenj Yeen Phuj)); the Yen Phu Electric Plant.

Geographic coordinate: 21 02 33N 105 50 53E

UTM coordinate: 48QWJ88102689.

Dates US POWs present: 25 Jun 67--25 Oct 67.

Notes: According to a mural on the wall outside the main entrance, an AAA gun crew defending the Yen Phu power plant shot down Senator McCain. A separate monument on the shore of Truc Bach Lake, a short distance west of the power plant, commemorates the persons who pulled him from the lake and captured him. In 1992, a former deputy director of the Enemy Proselyting Department told American interviewers that after the U.S. announced plans to bomb the Yen Phu power plant and the nearby Doumier Bridge, PAVN decided to place American POWs in the power plant and publicize the fact to prevent the U.S. from bombing the plant. Two American POWs escaped from the camp, but were recaptured as they tried to make their way down the Red River to the coast. The power plant stopped generating power sometime before my first visit in 1991.

(5) American nicknames: Zoo, Zoo Annex, Cu Loc, BOQ, Camp Two, Camp America. (Some of these names apply only to specific sections of the camp.)

Vietnamese name: Nga Tu So ((Ngax Tuw Sowr)) (the So Intersection); and Pha Phim (Film Studio).

Geographic coordinate: 21 00 00N 105 49 30E

UTM coordinate: 48QWJ85732217.

Dates US POWs present: 20 Sep 65--16 Dec 70.

8 Feb 71--19 Mar 71.

14 Jun 71--10 Jul 71.

24 Sep 71--29 Mar 73.

Notes: This was the location of the PAVN motion picture institute's film studio before the war. It is located in a residential area in the southwest suburbs of Hanoi, on the east side of Nguyen Trai ((Nguyeenx Traix)) Street (the road to Ha Dong City), a short north of Cau Moi ((Caauf Mowis)) (the "New Bridge"). In 1965, the facility was transferred temporarily to the Enemy Proselyting Department for use as a POW camp. In about April 1972, Office 22 of the newly formed PAVN Group 875 took responsibility for administration of this and other US POW camps in North Vietnam. After the war this facility was returned to the PAVN motion picture institute. When I last visited the camp in about July 1995 it appeared much the same as it did at the time of Operation Homecoming.

(6) American nicknames: Camp Faith, Don Hoi.

Vietnamese name: Lai Xa ((Lai Xas)).

Geographic coordinate: 21 04 01N 105 43 23E.

UTM coordinate: 48QWJ75102953.

Dates US POWs present: 14 Jun 70--24 Nov 70.

Notes: This was a PAVN radio communications center during the war. When I last passed by this installation in mid-1995 it was still being used as a military communications center. It is an isolated installation, surrounded by farm land, about 10 miles west of Hanoi, on the north side of National Route 11; which is the main route between Hanoi and Son Tay. PAVN's Enemy Proselyting Department housed a number of American POWs in one section of this installation for a brief period. It is not clear why the PAVN held American POWs here for such a brief period; however, two possibilities come to mind. One, PAVN might have intended to keep the POWs here only long enough for us to learn about them and, thus, inhibit us from targeting the communications center. Alternatively, and most likely, Hanoi moved the POWs because the November 1970 raid on Son Tay illustrated the vulnerability of isolated installations in the region west of Hanoi.

(7) American nicknames: Camp Hope, Son Tay.

Vietnamese name: Son Tay ((Sown Taay)).

Geographic coordinate: 21 08 36N 105 30 01E

UTM coordinate: 48QWJ51933790.

Dates US POWs present: 23 May 68--14 Jul 70.

Notes: Target of the U.S. rescue attempt in November 1970. Originally administered by the Ministry of Public Security (now Ministry of Interior), it was transferred temporarily to PAVN's Enemy Proselyting Department in 1968 to use as a POW camp for Americans. The PAVN returned the installation to the Ministry of Interior in about 1993-1995. I visited the installation in about 1993. The local authorities I spoke with told me that PAVN troops had been conducting maneuvers in the area shortly before the American raid took place. When the raiding party's helicopters landed some local residents thought they were Soviet helicopters and, elated to see PAVN troops practicing a heliborne assault, came out of their homes and cheered the troops. They soon realized their mistake and retreated into their homes. An interesting anecdote that I would like to believe. Nearby is a famous historic landmark, the 3,000 year old Den Va ((DDeenf Vaf)) pagoda, also known as the Cung Dong ((Cung DDoong)) (eastern palace).

(8) American nicknames: Briarpatch, Tic-tac-toe, Country Club, Farm, Xom Ap Lo.

Vietnamese name: Bat Bat ((Baats Batj)).

Geographic coordinate: 21 09 08N 105 20 31E.

UTM coordinate: 48QWJ35493884.

Dates US POWs present: 15 Sep 65--10 Oct 65.

15 Dec 65-- 2 Feb 67.

5 Feb 71-- 9 Jul 71.

Notes: Located in Ba Vi District, Son Tay Province, about 35 kilometers west-southwest of Hanoi. The retired PAVN colonel who was commander of Office 22, Group 875, from about April 1972 until after Operation Homecoming, told me that convicted collaborator, Robert Garwood, lived nearby at Trai Tre ((Traij Tre)) (literally, Camp Bamboo) for a period in the early 1970s. The colonel, who said he was Garwood's commanding officer in PAVN for a while in the 1970s, said that Trai Tre is located in Son Da ((Sown DDaf)) Village, about two kilometers from Bat Bat prison, where the America POWs were held. Trai Tre was the site of a re-education camp for South Vietnamese military officers after the war, but was dismantled in the early 1990s. According to the PAVN colonel, PAVN built Bat Bat before the war as a jail for members PAVN convicted and sentenced for military offenses. Originally administered by the PAVN equivalent of the American military's provost marshal, Bat Bat was transferred to the Enemy Proselyting Department in 1965 for use as a POW camp for Americans. Several American civilians that PAVN forces picked up during the final offensive in 1975 were held at Bat Bat. One of those Americans, a man named Arlo Gay, escaped in 1976 and remained free for nearly one month. Eventually, he succumbed to hunger and the realization that he had no realistic hope of finding his way out of Vietnam and turned himself in. Hanoi released him in September 1996.

(9) American nicknames: The Rockpile, Noi Coc, Camp B.

Vietnamese name: Nam Ha ((Nam Haf)); and, Ba Sao ((Ba Sao)) (literally,

three stars).

Geographic coordinate: 20 33 24N 105 47 30E

UTM coordinate: 48QWH82607310.

Dates US POWs present: 21 Jun 71--14 Feb 73

Notes: The Ministry of Public Security (now Ministry of Interior) administered the camp. It was located about 35 kilometers south of Hanoi and about 15 kilometers west of Phu Ly Town. About 10-12 American POWs were held in a small compound separate from Vietnamese prisoners. Two or three Americans escaped briefly from this camp.

(10) American nicknames: Dogpatch, Luong Lang, That Khe, Dong Khe.

Vietnamese name: Bo Giuong ((Bos Giuowngf)); and, Dong Khe ((DDoong


Geographic coordinate: 22 28 27N 106 24 40E

UTM coordinate: 48QXK45168581.

Dates US POWs present: 14 May 72--31 Jan 73.

Notes: More than 200 American POWs were moved to this site in Cao Bang Province, about 190 kilometers north of Hanoi, after Group 875, took over responsibility, in about April 1972, for the increasing numbers of American and Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF) POWs in North Vietnam. Office 22, Group 875 was responsible for American POWs, and Office 23, Group 875 was responsible for RVNAF POWs. The former commander of Office 22, told me he moved the Americans to this location near the buffer zone along the China-Vietnam border because he knew that American policy was to not conduct operations in this buffer zone.

(11) American nicknames: Mountain Camp, Mountain Retreat, K.77 or K.71, Duong Ke, Vinh Quang B, Vinh Ninh, D.1.

Vietnamese name: Xa Dao Tru ((Xax DDao Truwf)) (Dao Tru Village).

Geographic coordinate: 21 31 39N 105 31 52E

UTM coordinate: 48QWJ55008040.

Dates US POWs present: 24 Aug 68--25 Nov 70.

Notes: Located about 60 kilometers northwest of Hanoi. Apparently, the Ministry of Public Security ran this camp until LTC Ben Purcell escaped. The military apparently took control after LTC Purcell's escape. When LTC Purcell and a group of other former POWs visited the site in March 1993 they found the camp had been dismantled. USAF Captain Robert N. Daughtrey (captured after his F105 went down in NVN on 2 Aug 65), called this site "Camp D.1" because the "D.1" was posted on the building in which he was detained. "D.1" might be an abbreviation for "Doanh Trai ((Zoanh traij)) No. 1;" i.e., Barracks No. 1. Daughtrey recalled that the American POWs were moved to the Plantation (17 Ly Nam De Street) about two days after the American raid on Son Tay in November 1970.

(12) American nicknames: Skidrow, Thanh Liet, Bang Liet, B.15.

Vietnamese name: Xom Cau Bieu ((Xoms Caauf Bieeu)); Xa Thanh Liet

((Xax Thanh Lieetj)).

Geographic coordinate: 20 57 44N 105 49 04E

UTM coordinate: 48QWJ85001800.

Dates US POWs present: 07 Jul 68--19 Aug 71.

09 Sep 71--04 Nov 71.

06 Dec 71--01 Jan 72.

Notes: As of mid-1995 this prison was still administered by the Ministry of Public Security (now Ministry of Interior). The Vietnamese commonly refer to this prison by the names cited above based on the fact that the prison is located in Cau Bieu Hamlet (Xom Cau Bieu), Thanh Liet Village (Xa Thanh Liet), Thanh Tri District, Hanoi Municipality. This prison has a formal designation; however, it is not in common use and I didn't record it in the notes I am using.

(13) In addition to the permanent camps described above, some American POWs passed through various TEMPORARY camps in NVN. We don't have precise coordinates for these camps.

a. Several Americans captured in the vicinity of the eastern DMZ were held for several days or more at one or more locations a short distance north of the east end of the DMZ--in Vinh Linh District, Quang Binh Province--before being moved to Hanoi. It is not clear whether they all were held at the same location. In any event, Headquarters PAVN B.5 Front was located in this area. HQ B.5 Front was the command element for PAVN forces operating in the DMZ and northern Quang Tri Province--generally north of National Route 9 (between Dong Ha and Khe Sanh). In any event, B.5 Front appears to have not maintained a permanent facility for detaining American and RVNAF POWs. Americans known to have been captured by B.5 Front forces appear to have been moved to Hanoi as soon as transportation could be arranged.

b. Camp Bao Cao (literally Camp Report). Several Americans captured in South Vietnam had an approximate 10-week layover at a camp that appears to have been located about 15-20 kilometers northwest of Vinh City, from about 15 Jun 68 to about 28 Aug 68. Vinh is located near the coast, about mid-way between the DMZ and Hanoi, and was for all practical purposes the northern end of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Americans nicknamed this site Camp Bao Cao. According to two Vietnamese officers familiar with the POW/MIA issue, this site was one of several "stations" on the Ho Chi Minh Trail where south-bound PAVN troops could rest and prepare for the trek to South Vietnam; and north-bound persons (sick, wounded, etc.) could recover from the arduous trip from South Vietnam before continuing to their final destination. I can confirm that such stations existed in this region. Although I can't confirm that Camp Bao Cao was such a camp, the Vietnamese explanation is plausible and in my judgment accurate.

c. Some American POWs might have spent from a few days to a few weeks at other temporary layovers in North Vietnam en route to Hanoi; however, the two sites cited above are the only ones that I have a fairly good fix on.

Regards, RJD