Commissioned via the USAF ROTC program after he graduated in 1959, Mr. Reynolds was a seasoned fighter pilot when he was deployed to Vietnam in 1963; he was shot down on November 28, 1965 while flying an F-105 fighter-bomber, was captured and survived as a POW for seven years. After his repatriation in 1973 he had a distinguished career in the military and later with the Raytheon Company.
The archive we have received can be broken down into three parts: official and non-official correspondence related to his capture and imprisonment (including a dozen or so letters he sent to his parents during his captivity), as well as news clippings and published materials; letters he received after repatriation as a result of the VIVA campaign (see below); and printed epehemera and a small amount of official materials related to his post as air and defense attache at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China from 1984-1988.
One of the most interesting aspects of this archive are the hundreds of letters Reynolds received as a result of the VIVA campaign–from total strangers, even from elementary schoolchildren, expressing support and good wishes, and shared stories. Initially an acronym for Victory in Vietnam Association, VIVA was incorporated in 1967 by a conservative student group who preferred the lectern and the party caucus to the picket line. In 1969 the name was changed to Voices in Vital America, to reposition VIVA’s aims to support the war’s troops and prisoners. The bracelet was the goose that laid the golden egg. In 1972 VIVA took in $3.7 million, much of which was spent on a massive POW/MIA public awareness campaign that included newspaper ads and billboards, tens of millions of buttons, brochures, bumper stickers, and matchbooks, as well as newsletters sent to a mailing list of over 150,000 (there are examples of many of these ephemeral items in the collection).
The collection will soon be processed for research, and is a welcome addition to our archives!