A “Hanoi Hilton Brick” was presented to the Aviation Heritage Park and Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association in Bowling Green, Kentucky on 9 June 2021. Colonel John Lewis USAF, (Ret) representing the Doggers Organization (Vietnamese Linguists who served during and after the Vietnam War), presented the Brick to Brigadier General Dan Cherry, USAF, (Ret) Director Emeritus for the Aviation Heritage Park.
As you can see by the pictures, the bricks themselves are common red-colored construction bricks measuring approximately eight inches in length, four inches in height, and three and a half inches thick. Each is marked by the abbreviation “F. C. & Cie” and the word “Hanoi”. An internet search reveals that F. C. & Cie was the trademark of a French silversmith and stands for the Foret Collin and Company. Additionally, the spelling of “Hanoi” is not in Vietnamese as it lacks essential tone and diacritical marks indicative of that language. In fact, it is written in French as a single word and includes two unusual dots over the “i” in the word “Hanoi”, which indicates a diphthong, or blending of the vowels “o” and “i” in French.
Since it is thoroughly documented that this company, Foret Collin and Company, manufactured all the metal features of the prison – doors and prison bars, it is apparent that it actually produced all the materials, including, the brick molds needed to construct the Maison Centrale prison around the beginning of the 20th Century. Based on the kiln marks and the French spelling of Hanoi, it is logical to presume that Foret Collin Company provided the molds to a local contractor in Vietnam to manufacture all of the bricks. Older Vietnamese people in the area interviewed when these bricks were recovered indicated that they had been told years ago that the actual brick kiln was located in the center courtyard of what became the Maison Centrale.
In 1993, a senior American official member of the Det. 2, JTF-FA in Hanoi was passing by the location of the Hanoi Hilton prison and noticed the ongoing destruction of a large portion of the prison to make way for new high-rise structures. He stopped his car and proceeded to ask the demolition crew if he could have some of the bricks. He was able to “procure” some of the bricks since the work crew was planning on destroying the bricks. Thus, he was granted permission to remove some bricks from the pile at Hoa Lo. Our benefactor chose only those bricks with the visible kiln mark “F . C. & Cie” and the word “Hanoi”.
Since that time in 1993 these bricks have been presented to Ambassador “Pete” Petersen, the first US ambassador to Vietnam following the Vietnam War, Senator John McCain, former POW at the Hanoi Hilton, other POWs to include Colonel Risner, several Doggers; National Security Agency, DIA, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; AF Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Agency; Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund; Vietnam Veterans Association; the National Vietnam War Museum and others.
These bricks are symbolic of the courage, service, and sacrifice not only of our POWs, but also the millions of American veterans answering their country’s call-to-duty during the Vietnam War. You can also see the background on the case holding the brick that the artist has included the tail number for the F-4 flown by Brigadier General Robin Olds. We feel fortunate to obtain one of these Bricks for the Red River Valley Fighter Pilot Association section of the Aviation Heritage Park.
The Brick is an interesting case proving that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”