Next Tuesday is the official publication date of the paperback edition of Leo Thorsness’s Surviving Hell: A POW’s Journey with a new introduction that I contributed to the book. The book is available from Amazon now and maybe even in a bookstore near you as well.
The book is part memoir, recalling the Medal of Honor mission that Col. Thorsness flew as an Air Force pilot during the Vietnam War and the six years he spent as a prisoner of war in what he calls “a Hanoi hellhole.” The book is also part self-help manual for “peopIe going through tough times,” as Leo writes in the Author’s Note that prefaces the text. “Time heals most things, and we are stronger than we think.”
I talked to Leo last month for a few comments that I could use to draw attention to the book for this series. I asked him about the importance of communicating with others to get through tough times. He said that during his first three years of imprisonment he was held in solitary, making communication difficult. “If I wasn’t tied up in stocks,” he said, he would go to the common wall that separated him from a fellow POW.
Using the tap code developed by four of the American prisoners-of-war in 1965, Leo recalled that he would tap out “gbu” (“God bless you”). His neighbor would tap back: “gbugn” (“God bless you, good night”).
“Even though life was bad,” he said, “the message was so meaningful. It gave me strength. I knew I wasn’t alone.”
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