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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Head of the class

Joe Kernan is still one of the classiest guys around. He had planned to go on a trade mission to Vietnam when he was lieutenant governor, but the trip fell through, and he says he's always wanted to go back to the country where he fought and was held as a prisoner of war for 11 months. Now a trip is on:

Tour stops will include the site where Kernan's plane was shot down and the preserved portion of the prison referred to by Americans held there, including Sen. John McCain, as the Hanoi Hilton.

What does Kernan expect his reaction to be as he walks into the portion of the prison now turned into a museum?

"Well, I don't know," he says. "It's been a long time."

[. . .]

But Kernan says he has no hatred toward the North Vietnamese for what happened at a time of war. He explains:

"If somebody from somewhere else parachuted down in this country after 33 planes were dropping bombs on their neighborhood, what kind of reception would they get?"

Sure, he adds, "I didn't like some of them I met along the way."

I know Vietnam vets who aren't as over the war as Kernan is, and some of them weren't even in combat, let alone a prison camp. Hell, I know World War II vets who still aren't over Japan.

Posted in: History, Hoosier lore


Wed, 11/18/2009 - 12:47pm

I've visited that prison and somewhere I have the complimentary "Hanoi Hilton" postcards that came with the 5000 dong (30 cents) admission price. Interesting place.

All of what's left is devoted to showing the place where the French imprisoned and tortured the Vietnamese (which, they did) with the exception of one 8' x10' room. That is represented as typical of the cells where Americans were "kept in comfort and safety despite raining death down upon the women and children of Vietnam."

The room looks like what I imagine a college dorm room from the fifties looked like. There is one glass case, holding pictures and artifacts like "volleyball net used by American pilots for fun and recreation." Hope Joe can see the humor in the absurdity.