There were 14 established POW camps in North Vietnam; 12 of the 14 were in or around Hanoi. Some were known by more than one name.  Conditions differed at each camp, and prisoners were sometimes transferred between them. 

All the 495 Aircrewmen shot down and captured in North Vietnam were brought to the Hanoi Hilton for questioning.  Each POW was first taken to the “Knobby room” located in “New Guy Village” for interrogation.  Every POW did his best to stick to the Code of Conduct to reveal only his name, rank, serial number, and date of birth.  The interrogators demanded more, starting with military tactical questions followed by demanding personal family information, written apologies and false confessions both in writing and making radio broadcasts over Radio Hanoi. Within minutes of arriving in the Knobby room, brutal torture was initiated.  Virtually all the POWs “broke” past name, rank, serial number, and date of birth.  28 American aircrewmen died in North Vietnam captivity. Most died in the Knobby room trying to uphold their sworn allegiance to uphold the Code.

Upon being broken in spirit and morale, the surviving POWs were taken to various sections of Little Vegas on the south side of Hoa Lo.  Most buildings were named after casinos in Las Vegas:  Thunderbird, Golden Nugget, The Mint, Desert Inn, Stardust, Riviera, Heartbreak Hotel, etc.  Many were held in solitary, sometimes for years.  All were denied communication with other POWs.  None were afforded medical treatment, a book, a pencil, a paper, a bible, socks or shoes, or even a stick to clean one’s fingernails.  Descriptions of miserable conditions abound in more than 165 books listed on this historical website. 

As the Little Vegas cells began to overflow, the POWs were moved to new camps where the conditions and treatment were much the same as those at the Hanoi Hilton. (See camp descriptions below).

The 13 POWs captured in Laos and the 108 Army and Marine Corps POWs captured in South Vietnam who were brought to Hanoi first passed through POW holding camps such as Portholes, Rock Pile, and Farnsworth before finally ending up in the Plantation for release during Operation Homecoming.  POWs captured in Laos and South Vietnam were never mixed with or in contact with the 495 aircrewmen captured in North Vietnam.  

All remaining 591 American POWs (566 servicemen and 25 captured civilians) were returned to U.S. control during “Operation Homecoming” (12 February 1973 – 29 April 1973), with the injured and longest-held returning first. 27 of the 28 bodies of deceased POWs were returned to U.S. control after the living POWs were released.  The body of one aircrewman remains in North Vietnam to this day: Master Sergeant (MSG) Ronald James Dexter, USA.

List of Camps