The Rock Pile POW camp was located 30 miles south of Hanoi and was one of the smaller, more isolated POW camps. Also known as Stonewall, Camp B or simply Noi Coc by the Vietnamese, Rock Pile held prisoners from June 1971 to January 1973. Despite its grim name, this prison was described by the POWs as relatively “comfortable” compared to other POW camps.
Initially, Rock Pile held 14 prisoners captured in South Vietnam and Laos; two were U.S. military and the remainder were civilian captives who had been seized during the 1968 Vietnamese Tet offensive. Eventually, an additional 14 American POWs would arrive at Rock Pile after a four-day relocation march from the Skid Row camp.
A sixteen foot wall surrounded the camp with a single gate in one wall. Prisoners were kept in one large building inside the walled compound measuring about 60 x 120 feet. The prisoners were held in two cells, sleeping on rice mats on raised sleeping platforms. Their clothes were rolled up each night and used as pillows. Three men slept on one side of the cell and four on the other. Four men could not fit easily so they alternated that fourth man. In each cell area there was an unheard-of separate room for meals with a table and stools, the latrine and bath area. In the beginning, prisoners were allowed into the compound area twice daily for exercise where they could play volleyball, a benefit not experienced at other camps. Additionally, they received much better medical care than any of them had experienced prior to their arrival at Rock Pile. Breakfast was French bread and sugar, while evening meals consisted of bread and boiled vegetables. However, their conditions changed in October 1971.
After the October 1971 escape (and quick recapture) of three of the prisoners (U.S. Army Green Beret Captain Floyd J. “Jim” Thompson—the longest-held American prisoner-of-war—and two civilians captured during the Tet offensive; Lewis Meyer and Cloden Adkins) no one was allowed outside for a year. Their food and medical care declined; no mail was sent or delivered. In December 1971 they complained loudly to the camp commander and conditions improved slightly but they still could not use the outside area. With all that time inside, they began classes in algebra and French and put on a comedy play. After October 1972 they were again allowed time to spend outside. Fruit was added to their diet and the daily cigarette ration was increased.
On 29 January 1973 they were told of the peace agreement. The camp was closed in February 1973 when its’ POWs were moved to Hanoi and placed in the “New Guy” compound to await their repatriation date. For two weeks they received heavy rations of canned ham and mackerel, chowder and loaves of bread, as well as physical examinations. This was a Vietnamese effort to improve their health in anticipation of reuniting them with the other POWs and eventual release.
Rock Pile prisoners included: Frank Cius, Ted Gostas, Donald Rander, Floyd J. “Jim” Thompson and Ben Purcell
Rock Pile civilian prisoners included: Cloden Adkins, Gary Daves, Alexander Henderson, Phil Manhard, Lewis Meyer, Robert Olsen, Russell Page, Thomas Rushton, Richard Spalding, Lawrence Stark, Eugene Weaver and Charles Willis.
Thanks to Scott Dillingham for his research and composition of the above introduction to the “Rockpile POW Camp.”