Hanoi Hilton Brick
In 1997, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Ming Chang visited Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi. Admiral Chang retrieved the brick and presented it to General Reynolds who had been imprisoned there. Originally built by the French in the late 19th century, the prison came to be called the “Hanoi Hilton” by American POWs.
In March 1963 1st Lt. Jon A. Reynolds was an Air Liaison Officer and Forward Air Controller assigned to the South Vietnamese 22nd Infantry Division in Kontum. In January 1964 he returned to the U.S. and joined the 334th Tactical Fighter Squadron and later the 335th at Seymour Johnson AFB, NC, flying F-105 aircraft. His unit was deployed to Yokota AB, Japan, in July 1965 and then to Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, where he participated in strikes against North Vietnam.
On 28 November 1965 Capt. Reynolds’ aircraft was shot down while on a mission near Yen Bai, North Vietnam.
He was captured almost immediately and sent to the Hanoi Hilton (Hoa Lo Prison) where two of the first Americans he met were U.S. Navy Commander James B. Stockdale and USAF Lt. Colonel Robinson Risner. On 6 July 1966 Maj. Reynolds and 51 other POWs were taken to downtown Hanoi to be paraded in public view—a propaganda effort by the North Vietnamese. The prisoners were punched and hit with flying bricks and bottles on a two-mile march to a nearby stadium.
From 1966 to 1973 Maj. Reynolds, like most other prisoners, was moved from camp to camp—the Zoo, Briarpatch, Little Vegas, Dirty Bird. On 24 May 1968 he and 19 others opened Camp Hope at Son Tay. They left Son Tay on 14 July 1970 and moved to Camp Faith (nine miles west of Hanoi) just four months before the 21 November 1970 raid on Son Tay by U.S. Special Forces. After leaving Camp Faith he moved to Camp Unity and then to Dogpatch.
On 12 Feb 1973 Maj. Reynolds was in one of the first groups of POWs to be released. They left the Hanoi Hilton for the last time, boarded a C-141 Starlifter, and went home.
After repatriation Maj. Reynolds attended Duke University and then taught at the Air Force Academy for four years. He joined the Defense Intelligence Agency in 1982 and served as defense/air attaché in Beijing, China, from 1984 to 1988. Promoted to brigadier general in 1986, he served as Director of the U.S. Defense Attaché System until he retired from the USAF in 1990. His military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal and Silver Star with oak leaf cluster.
I was one of the first two U.S. diplomats permanently assigned to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I visited Hoa Lo Prison while it was being torn down in 1995 on numerous occasions. I know the bricks. I have a few myself. They are quite valuable. Some were hoarded by our POW/MIA Office and given as mementos to visiting VIPs. This is the real deal.
Very few bricks had a foundry imprint, and those were typically used around the lintels of windows. The vast majority of bricks had no imprint whatsoever. “F.C. & Cie/ Hanoï” was the most common of three possible imprints on those few bricks that bore an imprint, and is the most aesthetic, as the other imprints don’t identify the location.
Some Floridian businessmen once asked me to part with a brick for their congressman. I refused until I learned he’d been an inmate at Hoa Lo himself. A few months later I was surprised and delighted to find him named our first ambassador to the SRV. That was Pete Peterson, a fine gentleman. I also contributed one to the POW/MIA Museum in Andersonville, GA, in honor of our brave POWs and honored MIAs. God bless them all.