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The Maine Military Museum in South Portland is a treasure trove of military history, containing items and artifacts from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts. This expansive collection includes everything from 18th Century playing cards to an F14 ejection seat, representing every conflict in American history. Every item displayed in the museum is authentic, as historical proof is a prerequisite for being displayed.

One of the museum’s highlights is a full-scale replica of a Vietnam Prisoner of War cell, an exacting reproduction of the notorious “Hanoi Hilton.” The museum also houses over 50 uniformed life-like mannequins, thousands of artifacts, and framed insignia, many of which were donated by Mainers with military connections.

The Maine Military Museum and Learning Center is the brainchild of Lee Humiston, a retired Air Force officer who is the founder, curator, collector, chief spokesman, and just about everything else around here. He has assembled one of the world’s largest collections of prisoner-of-war artifacts and related items. Humiston’s passion for collecting military items dates back to when he was four and pulled an insignia off his father’s WWII Navy uniform.

Videos available from the Maine Military Musuems Vietnam Display

On August 5, 1964, Lieutenant (junior grade) Everett Alvarez, Jr., became the first American aviator shot down and made a prisoner of war (POW) in North Vietnam.  More followed him into captivity during the intensive air campaigns of the Vietnam War, the captivity in the foreboding prisons like Hoa Lo, which the POWs called the “Hanoi Hilton,” marked by torture, solitary confinement and horrific living conditions.  The museum’s exhibit tells the story of this experience from captivity to joyous homecomings in 1973.

The collection contains Mike McGrath’s original drawings, Everett Alvarez’s flight Jacket, maps of POW camps in North Vietnam, uniforms and mock up a cell in N. Vietnam, POW camp.

Opened in 1998, the National Prisoner of War Museum tells the story of prisoners of war throughout American History. This facility doubles as the park’s visitor center and is the best place to begin a visit.

Former prisoners of war partnered with Andersonville National Historic Site to create and develop the National Prisoner of War Museum, the only museum solely dedicated to interpreting the American prisoner of war experience. The National Prisoner of War Museum is dedicated to all prisoners of war in America’s past who have served their country with dignity and distinction, so that current and future generations will be inspired by their service and sacrifice.

American prisoners of war (POWs) in Southeast Asia endured inhuman torture, political exploitation, filthy living conditions and endless attempts at communist indoctrination. North Vietnam treated U.S. servicemen not as POWs but as foreign invaders and criminals bent on subverting Vietnam’s communist revolution. Most POWs were held in camps in North Vietnam, but some were imprisoned in South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and even in China. POWs’ families at home could not be sure if prisoners were alive or dead, and the question of POW treatment became a major public issue during the war.

Click on the following links to learn more about the Return with Honor: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Brutality and Endurance
The “Hanoi Hilton” and Other Prisons
Inner Strength
Unbroken Will: The Lance Sijan Story
Family Odysseys: Working At Home For POW-MIAs
Operation Homecoming
Home at Last: MIAs Since the End of the War
Click here to return to the Coming Home Overview


Maj. Gen. (Ret.) John Borling: “Return and Renewal with Honor” (00:41:40)

Dr. Doug Lantry: “Return with Honor” (00:38:20)

During the Vietnam War, hundreds of American aviators were shot down, imprisoned, tortured, and beaten in North Vietnam. They experienced the harshest conditions imaginable as Prisoners of War.

For as many as eight long years, the Vietnam POWs stayed true to their mission and survived behind bars. They communicated through codes and raps on prison walls. They were unbelievably brave and resisted enemy propaganda. And their families knew little of their fate.

See more than 75 unique artifacts from around the country, on display together for the first time. Launch from an aircraft carrier ready room into the skies. Get up close to a recreated, rat-infested prison cell. Relive the national celebration that was their homecoming, including the largest dinner in White House history.

The American Heritage Museum has reconstructed a cell of the Hanoi Hilton prison from Vietnam, using original recovered materials as part of a new major exhibit in the Vietnam War Gallery of the American Heritage Museum in honor of the POWs who endured years of torture and isolation after being shot down behind North Vietnamese lines.

We have completed and opened the exhibit as of February 12, 2023 for the 50th Anniversary of Operation Homecoming, the return of our POWs from Vietnam. Now we need your help to complete the funding that allowed us to complete this effort in time for this important anniversary.

As Vietnam looked to the future and began new development in their nation, portions of the capital city of Hanoi started to transform and erase the scars still evident from years of war. One such transformation took place at the Hỏa Lò prison.

In 1994, the Hỏa Lò site was selected for redevelopment and portions of the prison complex was slated for demolition to make room for new commercial buildings as the city grew. Instead of destroying the entire prison, the Vietnamese government decided to preserve the entrance and West side buildings of the “Maison Centrale” prison to tell their story of oppression and cruelty by the French when the facility was used as a prison under French Colonial rule.

The portions of the prison that were used mostly for American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War, known by American POWs as “New Guy Village”, were slated to be destroyed… erased from history.

Original cells of "New Guy Village" section being demolished.
A two-prisoner cell from "New Guy Village" being demolished.
A prisoner bed with shackles still attached before being removed.