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POW Camps In North Vietnam
Defense Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C. 20301

A total of 13 facilities in North Vietnam were used as permanent detention camps for U.S. Prisoners-Of-War (POWs). Five of these camps were located in Hanoi, the remaining eight were outside the city.

With the exception of Hao Lo Prison, the official Vietnamese names for the POW camps are not known. Note that although the Son Tay POW Camp nickname is Camp Hope, Son Tay became the popular name after the rescue attempt in November 1970.

DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) identified the following four trends within the dates of use to account for the opening and closing of the camps:

  • Isolation. This period, from 1964 to 1969, was marked by the existence of several small camps, such as the Plantation and Briarpatch, and isolation of the POWs in small groups within the camps.

  • Movement: This period, from 1968 to 1972, was marked by the movement of U.S. POWs from South Vietnam and Laos into North Vietnam for detention. With few exceptions, the personnel moved into North Vietnam were kept separated from the men actually captured in North Vietnam.

  • Consolidation. This period, from 1970 to late 1972, was marked by the closing of several smaller camps and the regroupment of POWs into five major camps (Plantation, Zoo, Camp Faith, Hoa Lo and Dogpatch)

  • Repatriation. In December 1972, the North Vietnamese began shifting the camp populations in anticipation of the release of POWs. The prisoners in the first and second increments marked for release by the DRV (Democratic Republic of Vietnam), were grouped in one area in Hoa Lo, and all personnel to be released by the PRG and the Pathet Lao, were in another area of Hoa Lo. The POWs in the third increment for release by the DRV were moved to the Plantation, and the POWs in the fourth increment were held at the Zoo.

  • Following is a short history on each of the 13 POW Camps in North Vietnam

    ALCATRAZ The Alcatraz POW Camp, located in North Central Hanoi, became operational in October 1967, when 12 prisoners captured in North Vietnam were moved into this facility. These men were either high ranking POWs or POWs known to the North Vietnamese as "troublemakers". In December 1969 the camp was closed, except for a six week period in the summer of 1970 when one prisoner captured in South Vietnam was held at this location prior to his release in August 1970.

    BRIARPATCH The Briarpatch POW Camp, located 33 miles west-northwest of Hanoi, was opened in September 1965, but within one week it was closed, reportedly because of U.S. bombing in the area. It was reopened in December 1965 and was used until February 1967, when its POW population was moved. It was reopened a second time in February 1971 to hold a small group of POWs captured outside of North Vietnam. Briarpatch finally closed its gates in July 1971, when the last group of POWs was moved back to the Hanoi area.

    CAMP FAITH The Camp Faith POW Camp, located nine miles west of Hanoi, became operational in July 1970, when a major consolidation of U.S. prisoners began. Small and medium sized POW camps holding Americans captured in North Vietnam were closed, and many POWs were regrouped at Camp Faith. This was the first time the North Vietnamese allowed the POWs to associate in large numbers. A considerable improvement in treatment occurred at Camp Faith. At its peak, the POW population of Camp Faith was approximately 220 men. Three days after the Son Tay rescue effort, Camp Faith's U.S. POW population was moved to the Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi.

    DIRTY BIRD Beginning in June 1967, several locations in the immediate vicinity of the Hanoi Thermal Power Plant (TPP), were used for the detention of U.S. POWs. Approximately 30 POWs captured in North Vietnam were held in the TPP area at the Dirty Bird Camp in a probable attempt to prevent the bombing of the Power Plant. In October 1967, all prisoners held in Dirty Bird were removed to regular POW camps. It was never again used for the detention of U.S. POWs. Following is a short history on each of the 13 POW Camps in North Vietnam.

    DOGPATCH The Dogpatch POW Camp, located 105 miles north-northeast of Hanoi, became operational in May 1972, when 220 U.S. POWs captured in North Vietnam were transferred from Hao Lo to this detention facility. The reason for this move was probably to disrupt the U.S. POW organization which was extremely strong at Hoa Lo. The camp was closed in January, 1973, when the prisoners were returned to Hoa Lo for repatriation.

    FARNSWORTH The Farnsworth POW Camp, located 18 miles southwest of Hanoi, became operational in August 1968, when 28 U.S. POWs captured outside North Vietnam were moved to this location. Over the next two years, several groups of U.S. POWs captured outside of North Vietnam, were brought to this detention installation. In a reaction to the Son Tay rescue effort, Farnsworth's U.S. POW population was transferred to the Plantation POW Camp in Hanoi, in November 1970.

    HOA LO (HANOI HILTON) The Hoa Lo POW Camp, located in downtown Hanoi, became operational in August 1964, with the capture of L-CDR E. Alvarez, U.S. Navy. The detention facility was used continuously since that time as a processing point for captured U.S. personnel and as a camp of permanent detention. All acknowledged U.S. POWs captured in North Vietnam were moved into Hoa Lo in November and December 1970, after the Son Tay rescue attempt. The camp was the staging/collection point for the release of the first and second increments of U.S. POWs captured in North Vietnam and for the release of all U.S. POWs moved from South Vietnam and Laos.

    MOUNTAIN CAMP The Mountain Camp/Retreat located 40 miles northwest of Hanoi became operational in December 1971, when one prisoner from Hoa Lo and eight prisoners from Skidrow were moved to this location. This camp was used until January 1973 when its POW population was permanently moved to Hanoi for repatriation.

    PLANTATION The Plantation POW Camp, located in northeast Hanoi, became operational in June 1967. This installation became a "showplace" for U.S. POWs captured in North Vietnam. Numerous films, still photography and interviews of U.S. POWs were staged at the Plantation. The camp remained open until July 1970, when a major consolidation of U.S. POWs occurred. From July to November 1970, no U.S. POWs were held at the camp. In November 1970, in a reaction to the Son Tay rescue effort, the North Vietnamese moved the majority of U.S. POWs captured outside North Vietnam to the Plantation POW Camp. The camp remained open after this movement. In January 1973, the camp's existing population was moved to Hoa Lo, and the Plantation became the staging/collection point for the release of the third increment of POWs captured in North Vietnam.

    Following is a short history on each of the 13 POW Camps in North Vietnam.
    ROCKPILE The Rockpile POW Camp, located 32 miles south of Hanoi, became operational in June 1971 when 14 American and foreign POWs captured outside North Vietnam, were moved from the Skidrow POW Camp to this facility. This installation ceased to function as a POW detention installation in February 1973, when its POW population was moved to Hanoi for repatriation.

    SKIDROW The Skidrow POW Camp, located 6 miles southwest of Hanoi, became operational as a U.S. POW detention facility in July 1968, when U.S. civilian and military prisoners captured outside North Vietnam were moved to this installation.

    In March 1971, 36 prisoners captured in North Vietnam were moved from Hoa Lo to this facility because the North Vietnamese considered them "troublemakers". However, prior to the arrival of these prisoners, the personnel captured outside North Vietnam were transferred to another section of Skidrow to prevent communications between the two groups.

    In June 1971, 14 of the civilian POWs captured outside North Vietnam were moved from Skidrow to the Rockpile POW Camp. Due to the threat of floods at Skidrow, the "troublemakers" were transferred to Hoa Lo Prison in July and August 1971.

    In early September, 21 POWs were moved from Hoa Lo to Skidrow, where they remained until November 1971, when they were again returned to Hoa Lo. A small group of U.S. POWs were moved from Hoa Lo to Skidrow in December 1971, for two weeks and then were returned to Hoa Lo. At this time, the remaining prisoners captured outside North Vietnam were moved from Skidrow to the Mountain Camp, north of Hanoi.

    In December 1971, Skidrow ceased to function as a detention facility for U.S. POWs.

    SON TAY/CAMP HOPE The Son Tay POW Camp became operational in May 1968, when twenty U.S. POWs captured in North Vietnam were moved to the camp. Two subsequent groups of prisoners were moved to this installation, bringing the total prisoner population to 55 men. In a routine move on 14 July 1970, the entire camp population was moved to the Camp Faith POW Camp. This move was the beginning of a major regroupment of U.S. POWs, which occurred in the summer of 1970.


    Following is a short history of the 13 POW Camps in North Vietnam:

    ZOO The Zoo POW Camp, located in the southwest suburbs of Hanoi, became operational in September 1965, and remained open until December 1970, when all POWs were transferred to Hoa Lo. The Zoo POW Camp was used for two short periods during 1971, when two men captured in Laos were detained temporarily there, before moving to the Rockpile POW Camp.

    In September 1971, the Zoo was reactivated on a more permanent basis and used primarily to hold U.S. POWs captured after December 1971.

    It replaced the Plantation POW Camp as a "showplace", and remained the "showplace" throughout 1972. The Zoo as a "showplace" was similar in function to the Plantation. Films showing U.S. POWs playing basketball, volleyball and preparing for Christmas, were staged and used for external consumption only.

    The Zoo was used as the staging/collection point for the repatriation of the fourth and final increment of POWs captured in North Vietnam.


    A synopsis of the information provided in the preceding paragraphs is provided below:

    ALCATRAZ

    BRIARPATCH


    CAMP FAITH
    CAMP HOPE (Son Tay)
    DIRTY BIRD
    DOGPATCH
    FARNSWORTH
    HANOI HILTON (Hoa Lo)
    MOUNTAIN CAMP
    PLANTATION

    ROCKPILE
    SKIDROW


    ZOO
    North Central Hanoi

    33 Miles WNW of Hanoi


    9 Miles West of Hanoi
    22 Miles WNW of Hanoi
    Northern Hanoi
    105 Miles NNE of Hanoi
    18 Miles SW of Hanoi
    Central Hanoi
    40 Miles NW of Hanoi
    Northeast Hanoi

    32 Miles South of Hanoi
    6 Miles SW of Hanoi


    SW suburb of Hanoi
    25 Oct. 67 - 9 Dec. 69
    1 Jul. 70 - 17 Aug. 70
    13 Sep. 65 - 20 Sep. 65
    1 Dec. 65 - 2 Feb. 67
    5 Feb. 75 - 9 Jul. 71
    14 Jul. 70 - 24 Nov. 70
    23 May 68 - 14 Jul. 70
    29 Jun. 67 - 25 Oct. 67
    14 May 72 - 31 Jan. 73
    29 Aug. 68 - 25 Nov. 70
    11 Aug. 64 - 28 Mar. 73
    12 Dec. 71 - 28 Jan. 73
    6 Jun. 67 - 30 Jul. 70
    25 Nov. 70 - 16 Mar. 73
    21 Jun. 71 - 14 Feb. 73
    7 Jul. 68 - 19 Aug. 71
    9 Sep. 71 - 4 Nov. 71
    16 Dec. 71 - 1 Jan. 72
    20 Sep. 65 - 26 Dec. 70
    8 Feb. 71 - 10 Mar. 71
    14 Jun. 71 - 10 Jul . 71
    24 Sep. 71 - 29 Mar. 73


     

    Year # Firsthand Live Sighting Reports # Resolved # Unresolved
    1979 13
    1980 121 118 03
    1981 100 99 01
    1982 78 78 0
    1983 106 106 0
    1984 117 117 0
    1985 116 115 01
    1986 118 115 03
    1987 109 107 02
    1988 111 105 06
    1989 164 149 15
    1990 148 132 16
    1991 92 64 28
    1992 46 16 30
    Total Unresolved As At Aug 1992: 108
    NOTE: 92 of these live-sightings have been in Vietnam
    Copied with permission:
    Canadian POW/MIA Information Center
    Norman A. Todd Chapter, 41 Laurier Avenue, Milton, Ontario Canada L9T 4T1

    Phone: (905)875-0658


  • See These Camps! Former SRO of POWs captured in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, Col. Ted Guy, can give you a more in depth look at these camps.

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