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Vietnam POW exhibit opens at Air Force museum

POW-MIA flag. (U.S. Air Force graphic)

POW-MIA flag. (U.S. Air Force graphic)

DAYTON, Ohio (AFPN) -- Visitors can get a rare glimpse into the lives of prisoners of war through a dramatic new exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The exhibit, titled "Return with Honor: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia," located in the museum's Modern Flight Gallery, is now open to the public.

Visitors enter the exhibit next to a reproduced doorway to the "Hanoi Hilton," the name given by Americans to Hoa Lo Prison. Photographs, videos, dioramas and artifacts tell the story of prisoner torture, political exploitation, filthy living conditions and endless attempts at communist indoctrination.

Visitors can look inside re-created, life-size prison cells for an up-close picture of POW living conditions. Several artifacts, including handmade games, rings, cigarette cases and clothing that were created by the prisoners during their confinement, also are on display.

"We are extremely honored to have an exhibit that pays tribute to the courage and bravery exemplified by these POWs," said museum director retired Maj. Gen. Charles D. Metcalf. "The POW story is one that ignites emotion and this exhibit will give visitors a greater understanding of the inhumane conditions the POWs endured."

The exhibit also features a Son Tay prison camp rescue raid display. Although the raiders in November 1970 found that the prison camp did not hold any POWs, the raid proved a success in other ways. A daring raid so close to Hanoi showed that the United States had the will to carry out exceptional operations to ensure POW well-being. POW morale soared on account of the raid.

The exhibit also highlights the story of U.S. forces' final combat in Southeast Asia, which occurred in May 1975 when the American cargo ship SS Mayaguez was seized by the Cambodian Khmer Rouge navy while it was in international waters. Featured in this display are a life ring from the Mayaguez and a beret worn by one of the pararescuemen who participated in the operation.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on Springfield Pike, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day).

Admission to the museum and parking are free. For more information about this and other exhibits at the museum, please call (937) 255-3286, Ext. 302.

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