Return with Honor,
Vietnam POW Exhibit

"We had a code. It was Return with Honor. It was our dignity, our reputation, our character that brought us through."

-Vietnam POW, Commander Everett Alvarez

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SUFFERING. BROTHERHOOD. SURVIVAL.

Experience the profound journey of the Return with Honor Exhibit as it combines the captivating power of storytelling with the remarkable advancements of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This exhibit grants visitors a deep understanding of the harrowing ordeals faced by pilots who were captured, the unimaginable treatment endured as prisoners of war (POWs) in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, and the heart-wrenching struggles their families faced during their absence. Prepare to be moved as you hear the jubilation that greeted the POWs upon their return and witness Everett Alvarez recount the experience in his own words.

Chapters of the Story

Home Front, The Capture, Interrogation, Prison Life, Coming Home, Aftermath

Hoa-Lo prison

The Hanoi Hilton

(Maison Centrale)

“We’ll show you just how hard it is to live,”

One prison guard reportedly told new prisoners at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.”  Vietnam’s Hòa Lò Prison, nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton” by American POWs, was a symbol of torture and suffering to all who were imprisoned there in the 1960s.  Completed in 1901 by the French, the prison, then called the Maison Centrale, was intended to hold Vietnamese political prisoners in French Indochina.  But on August 5, 1964, LTJG Everett Alvarez was the first US prisoner to be sent to the prison after being shot down in his Douglas A4-Skyhawk. Hundreds of American POWs would follow Alvarez’s footsteps down the halls of Hanoi Hilton and be subjected to unimaginable torture, isolation, and malnutrition for years. Visitors will be able to follow those footsteps as they walk through the National Naval Aviation Museum’s Return with Honor experience.

Vietnam

Prisoner of War

“There was one sound that could drive fear through the heart of every POW. It was keys jangling in the middle of the night. Someone was going to be dragged out and tortured, and you didn’t know if it was going to be you,”

American POW Mike McGrath recounted of his time as a POW in the Hoa Lo Prison. American POWs were not only suffering from the harsh living conditions of the prison, but they were also often plagued by injuries they sustained both from ejecting from their aircraft and the torture they endured. Many POWs credit their faith and their fellow prisoners for their survival. Desperate to communicate, they used a Tap Code with prisoners in adjoining cells. Those taps provided a means of solace and support in an unforgiving space. For most, liberation would not come until Operation Homecoming, the return of 591 American POWs in early 1973. Visitors of the Return with Honor will explore the remarkable journey of POWs, from the moment of capture to their ultimate liberation.

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A Life Suspended

While American POWs faced brutality and psychological abuse in Vietnam, their families suffered quiet torture on the home front. Wives, children, and other relatives were haunted each day by not knowing whether their loved ones were alive or dead. These families continued to experience the responsibilities, trials, and tribulations of normal life all while grieving in the absence for years. Ordered to “keep quiet,” some wives were overcome by the loneliness, but others were driven to organize to bring their husbands home. Time marched on but life as they knew it was suspended indefinitely. Visitors to the Return with Honor exhibit will be confronted by the struggles faced by these families.

Living room-Prison Cell
Meet POW Everett Alvarez

INTERACTIVE A.I.

Discover the captivating tale of Everett Alvarez, a former prisoner of war, through the state-of-the-art AI at the Return with Honor Exhibit. Immerse yourself in his remarkable journey as our groundbreaking Storyfile technology brings his words to life, answering all your questions.