Edward Alan Brudno

United States Air Force
04 June 1940 - 03 June 1973
Quincy, Massachusetts
Panel 05E Line 002

USAF Pilot

Silver Star (2 awards), Legion of Merit, Bronze Star
Alan Brudno

The database page for Edward Alan Brudno

05 April 2004


by his family, friends, and comrades-in-arms.

Shortly after returning home, Captain Brudno was overwhelmed by severe depression. He needed the very best help this country could provide, but none was available. There were stigmas attached to such problems then. He had used up all that he had with which to survive and ended his life to relieve the pain that he could not escape. His death was a wake up call that got the armed services to look for psychological problems, not wait for the POWs to ask for help. Perhaps the most important lesson is that POWs cannot be just released to their families. A lifeline must be maintained with those who kept them alive during those years in captivity - fellow POWs. Perhaps his cellmates could have kept Captain Brudno's head above water until help arrived. That lesson has been learned, but it was too late for him.

22 Mar 2006

From "Beau Geste"

"The love of a man for a woman waxes and wanes like the moon...
But the love for a brother is steadfast as the stars..."

A memorial initiated by his brother,
Robert J. Brudno

Welcome home, Edward Alan Brudno:
Good and faithful soldier
By Joseph L. Galloway
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

WASHINGTON - A debate raging on the Internet has slopped over into public view and public print, and it is a debate that should never have started. It concerns a long-overdue decision by the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense to engrave the name of Air Force Capt. Edward Alan Brudno on the black granite of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

Al Brudno did not die in Vietnam, where he spent seven and a half years in the cells of such North Vietnamese prisons as the Briarpatch, Son Tay and the infamous Hoa Lo Prison - the Hanoi Hilton.

Four months after he came home to a hero's welcome with the other American POWs in 1973, Al Brudno killed himself just one day before his 33rd birthday.

Former POW Orson Swindle, a Marine pilot who is now a member of the Federal Trade Commission, had the cell next to Brudno for more than two years in Son Tay Prison Camp. They "talked" incessantly by tapping on the wall in a code.

"He was very young, very intense, very intelligent," Swindle remembers. "He had a degree in aerospace engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Al Brudno wanted to be an astronaut."

Swindle said Brudno hated his communist captors and constantly searched for ways to thwart them or ridicule them. "He was a little guy so he used guile and cunning to outwit the guards," Swindle added. He was also one of the best at sending hidden messages in the few letters he was permitted to write home.

A year ago Swindle urged Bob Brudno, Al's brother, to ask the Air Force to investigate Al Brudno's death and add his name to the Wall. There was a thorough investigation, and the Air Force found that it had not done right by Al Brudno. He had been cut loose upon his return from Hanoi, without the support or counseling that is now routine for all returning POWs - routine now BECAUSE of Al Brudno's death.

"Al came home with mortal wounds," Swindle says. "His suicide was a result of deep wounds that were both physical and mental. I know of no one more entitled to a place on that Wall than Al Brudno."

The Air Force approved it, and forwarded it to the Department of Defense, which normally accedes to the recommendations of the services and sends the approved name to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund for engraving.

That should have been that. But the executive director of the VVMF and one of the co-founders of the organization that built the memorial, former Army grunt Jan Scruggs, decided to go public with his opposition to adding Brudno's name to the Wall.

Scruggs hit the Internet and in e-mails called the decision of the Air Force "preposterous." He declared that this act would create a "new and broad criteria" and make it necessary to add the names of at least 20,000 other Vietnam veterans who took their own lives after the war.

"This decision by (the Department of Defense) threatens the integrity and historical interpretation of the Wall," Scruggs wrote. He postulated that the act of putting Brudno's name on the memorial would somehow encourage veterans to come and kill themselves there.

Scruggs is wrong, of course. First, there is no change in the criteria. If, upon investigation, one of the services decides to place a name on the wall and the Department of Defense endorses the decision, then it is the VVMF's job - and Jan Scruggs' job - to engrave the name on the Wall. Period.

The name of Edward Alan Brudno DESERVES to be on the Wall, among the 58,335 other American servicemen who either died in Vietnam, or afterward, of their wounds. The names of suicides are already there, if they died in Vietnam. Al Brudno just managed to make it home before he bled out.

Al Brudno took everything the North Vietnamese dished out and beat them at their own game for seven and a half years. He came home to a fine welcome, and the cheers of the crowds, but when the crowds went home and the POW family split up, there was no one there to help him deal with all that he had suffered - the torture, the isolation, the loss of the best part of his youth.

Welcome home, good and faithful soldier. Welcome home.

Used with permission of the writer,
Joseph L. Galloway
Senior military correspondent,
Knight Ridder Newspapers.
Co-author "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young"

and the
Knight Ridder Tribune Service
© 2004

Belatedly, some thanks for Viet vets
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Wednesday, April 06, 2005

WASHINGTON - Johnny finally came marching home again on a rainy day in late March in the town of Quincy, Mass. The town turned out to pay its respects to Edward Alan Brudno and to 47 other hometown sons who made the ultimate sacrifice in a war no one wanted.

Al Brudno was one of the longest-held American prisoners of war during Vietnam: He endured nearly eight years of torture and solitary confinement that began when he was shot down over North Vietnam in October 1965. He was 25 then. He survived to come home with the other POWs who were freed in 1973.

Four months later, the day before his 33rd birthday, Al Brudno took his own life. Last Memorial Day, his brother Bob and his widow, Debby, saw his name join the 58,244 others on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, with four more to be added on Memorial Day.

"The outpouring of respect and honor for my brother some 32 years after he died was extraordinary," Bob Brudno said of the ceremony in Quincy. Brudno said it wasn't too late to welcome his brother home and "it is not too late to welcome those who fought and hold inside the same bitterness that has eaten away at me these many years."

Brudno said the ceremony, held before a standing room-only crowd at the local high school, "was from one small town's heart."

In his own speech at that Quincy celebration, Brudno said, "For a while, I wondered why Alan's story attracted so much attention so many years after his death. I now understand. The war is not over for many who served in Vietnam - not just POWs. Unlike any war before Vietnam and none since, this one offered no glory to those sent in harm's way."

He continued, "Alan's generation, our generation, never got to become the 'greatest generation'. No less brave than those who landed at Normandy, our men were asked to risk their lives for their country and endure the horrors of war, but were denied the thanks and respect of a grateful nation. Today this country truly understands. I am happy that military service is again a noble calling. But for those of us affected by Vietnam directly or indirectly, the pain will never go away."

Brudno said that even as the crowd recognized the service of his brother, "We must keep in mind the debt still owed to so many. We must never, ever blame the war on the warriors again."

He told the hometown crowd how his brother, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was pursuing his dream of becoming an astronaut when he joined the Air Force, had resisted his captors in every way he could.

Al became a past master at the art of double-talk in the 20 letters that got through to his family during his long imprisonment. Intelligence agencies assigned specialists who, with the help of Al's family, decoded the hidden messages. Some contained clues to the names of American POWs the North Vietnamese had never acknowledged they were holding; others confirmed that the POWs were being tortured.

The Air Force acknowledged that Brudno was a Vietnam War casualty just as surely as anyone who caught an enemy bullet in the jungle. A military psychiatrist explained to Bob Brudno how his brother could give up even as he regained his freedom: "He just used up everything he had over those long years in captivity. There was no strength left with which to survive."

By his death, Al Brudno helped save many other lives. The military was shocked and realized that all the other POWs needed counseling and needed help restarting their lives. All the POWs began receiving that help, and it's now standard procedure for all returning American POWs.

It was 40 years ago this month that I landed in South Vietnam and began covering Americans at war in that place. In my four tours, I lived with and marched with soldiers and Marines and counted myself honored to be welcomed as one of them, through good times and bad.

They were fine young men, average age 19, doing their best to do their duty, doing their best to survive to make it home. What they found when they got home was a nation divided, many of their fellow Americans hating the war they had been ordered to fight. Some even hated them. Some called them baby-killers and murderers. Some spat on them and their uniforms.

Bob Brudno is right. This should never ever happen again in the land of the brave and the home of the free. Next time you see a Vietnam veteran, go over and thank him for his service to our country, then watch the tears come to his eyes.

Used with permission of the writer,
Joseph L. Galloway
Senior military correspondent,
Knight Ridder Newspapers.
Co-author "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young"
and the
Knight Ridder Tribune Service
© 2005

A Note from The Virtual Wall

On 27 August 1965 the 68th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, departed George Air Force Base in California for a four month deployment in Southeast Asia, assigned to the 6234th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base. The 68th TFS lost one F-4C with two crewmen aboard during its deployment.

On 18 Oct 1965, one of the 68th TFS' missions was tasked against a bridge near Ha Tinh, abouth 35 miles south of Vinh. Captain Thomas E. Collins, pilot, and 1stLt Edward A. Brudno, copilot, were flying F-4C tail number 64-0730. As Collins rolled in for weapons delivery, his aircraft was hit by antiaircraft fire and became uncontrollable. Collins and Brudno ejected successfully, were immediately captured, and spent the next 88 months in various North Vietnamese prisons. Both men were released with the first group of returning POWs on 12 Feb 1973. What happened afterwards is adequately described in the two articles above.

A decade after Al Brudno's suicide public donations funded construction of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington. Because Captain Brudno did not die during his 7-1/2 years of captivity his name was not engraved on the memorial.

On 02 April 2004 a Department of Defense press release announced that the Air Force had recommended, and the Secretary of Defense approved, the addition of Captain Edward Alan Brudno's name to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. That will happen during the 2004 Memorial Day services at the Wall.

The DoD press release attributes Captain Brudno's death to the fact that

"Brudno endured long-term, severe physical and psychological abuse and torture-related wounds inflicted by the enemy in the defined combat zone - and from the devastating effects of these wounds he succumbed within a short time after his release from captivity."

On 01 June 2005, Captain Brudno was reburied with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery, just as he asked for in his Will.

The Virtual Wall can do no better than to echo journalist Joe Galloway:

"Welcome home, good and faithful soldier.
Welcome home."

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
his brother,
Robert J. Brudno
E-Mail address not available

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 22 Apr 2004
Last updated 03/12/2007