The Farnsworth (Duong Ke) POW camp, also referred to as D-1 due to a marking on one of its buildings, was situated approximately 18 miles southwest of Hanoi, North Vietnam. Surrounding the camp was a quarry to the southwest and an airfield to the northwest. Nearby, several surface-to-air missile sites were visible. Primarily designated for detaining both civilian and military captives previously held in South Vietnam, the camp received its first prisoners in August 1968, when it received approximately 24 POWs who were transferred from the Portholes POW camp. Subsequently, an additional group of 24 POWs arrived from camps situated near the Cambodian and Laotian border.

The compound was composed of roughly eight concrete block buildings, each featuring red tiled roofs and enclosed by a perimeter of barbed wire fencing. The Drum was one building within another building. Due to its echo-producing design, as well as the amplification of sounds and communication, it became known as the “Drum.” Its four interior rooms lacked windows to the outside—two rooms were designated for solitary confinement, while the other two housed POWs. The Dispensary included one room specifically functioning as a medical dispensary, while the remaining rooms were used for detaining POWs. The Christmas building obtained its name from when one of its’ six rooms was used for a better-than-average meal and an annual Christmas celebration. Another building called the Office was utilized for interrogation and storage purposes.

The U-shaped “Death Row” building—so named by the POWs—was comprised of seven cells utilized for POW isolation. These small isolation cells were not only painted black but were devoid of interior windows or any natural light. Each cell had only two small vent holes in the ceiling. Prisoners confined in these cells were required to sit on their beds with their backs straight throughout the entire day. They received two small meals daily and were only permitted to leave their cells to use the latrine. There were at least two instances of individuals held in Death Row isolation for a duration of 2 to 3 years.


The prisoners were provided with the standard “pajama” clothing commonly used in other North Vietnam POW camps. Enlisted personnel and civilians were segregated from the military officers. Enlisted individuals received relatively better treatment, being housed in larger groups, and granted regular exercise and recreational opportunities after 1970. Conversely, American officers were confined to small, windowless rooms painted black and were seldom permitted outside.

The camp environment was highly stringent and abusive, leading to a miserable experience for all the POWs. Interaction with fellow prisoners outside one’s cell was prohibited. Guards were stationed at various points, including the perimeter gate, building entrances, some internal areas housing POWs, as well as throughout the compound. Bamboo fences were employed to separate different sections within the camp.

In the first six months at Farnsworth, prisoners were subjected to interrogation sessions and political lectures. The camp’s political officer, nicknamed “Cheese” (aka, the “Big Cheese” in the camp), was a sadistic interrogator harboring intense hostility towards American POWs. His brutal treatment and physical abuse instigated four attempted suicides among the prisoners before the severity of Cheese’s torment lessened. A doctor visited the camp every two weeks to provide treatment for at least some of the injured individuals.

In the typical daily schedule within the regular cells, wake-up time came at 0500, and the inmates cleaned their rooms until 0530. Afterward, they were required to stay seated on their beds until 0700. At that time guards would accompany each POW to one of eight water wells, each encircled by bamboo screens. These wells were utilized as both bathing and laundry areas, likely with one well specifically designated for each building accommodating the POWs.

After being escorted from the wells, most prisoners would typically return to their cells. Occasionally they were assigned tasks such as sweeping the compound or weeding the garden. The morning meal at 1100 usually comprised two or three slices of bread. The evening meal at 1630 consisted of bread and a bowl of soup. The food was often unsanitary, containing debris such as fingernails, hair, rocks, rodent feces and weevils. During the guards’ two-hour break in the early afternoon, prisoners were allowed to recline on their bunks. However, they were required to sit on their beds until the 1630 meal and again until 2100, which was signaled by the sound of a gong, indicating bedtime. 

Guards checked the cells a couple of times an hour. The only exercise allowed the military officers was the constant jumping up from the seated position on the bunk and bowing when the guards opened the small viewing port in the door of the cells.  The only other time a POW military officer left his cell what to be taken to interrogation by Cheese—where he would attempt to enlist them in the anti-war movement.

Because of the Son Tay raid on 25 November 1970, the entire population of 50 or so POWs at the camp was blindfolded and secured to the seats of a bus for relocation to the Plantation POW camp, located in downtown Hanoi.

Farnsworth prisoners included: John Anderson, Bruce Archer, William Baird, Michael Benge, Harvey Brande, Leonard Budd, Richard Burgess, Robert Chenoweth, Luis Chirichigno, Leonard Daugherty, John Deering, James Dibernardo, Peter Drabic, Harry Ettmueller, Martin Frank, Ted Gostas, Ted Guy, Daniel Hefel, Robert Helle, Nathan Henry, James Holt, Thomas Horio, Juan Jacquez, Abel Kavanaugh, Gail Kerns, Michael Lenker, Stephen Leopold, Ed Leonard, Tom Kobashigawa, Cordine McMurray, Don McPhail, Roger Miller, Paul Montague, Stanley Newell, James Nowicki, Michael O’Connor, John Parsels, Richard Perricone, Daniel Phillips, Don Rander, King Rayford, Alfonso Riate, Ronald Ridgeway, Joe Rose, David Sooter, Robert Tabb, Dennis Tellier, Dennis Thompson, John Young, and Roy Ziegler.


Some of the POW’s interned at Farnsworth POC Camp

Recommended Reading

Bean Camp to Briar Patch-Life in the POW Camps of Korea and Vietnam
They Wouldn't Let Us Die
Glory Denied: The Vietnam Saga of Jim Thompson, America's Longest-Held Prisoner of War

Thanks to Scott Dillingham for his research and composition of the above introduction to the “Farnsworth POW Camp.”