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Tap Code: The Epic Survival Tale of a Vietnam POW and the Secret Code That Changed Everything

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Tap Code shares never-before-told details of underground operations during the Vietnam War while weaving in an inspiring story of true love, honor, and courage as husband and wife endured the hardest circumstances they had ever faced.   When Air Force pilot Captain Carlyle "Smitty" Harris was shot down over Vietnam on April 4, 1965, he had no idea what horrors awaited him i Tap Code shares never-before-told details of underground operations during the Vietnam War while weaving in an inspiring story of true love, honor, and courage as husband and wife endured the hardest circumstances they had ever faced.   When Air Force pilot Captain Carlyle "Smitty" Harris was shot down over Vietnam on April 4, 1965, he had no idea what horrors awaited him in the infamous Hoa Lo prison--nicknamed the "Hanoi Hilton." Harris was the sixth American POW captured in the air war over North Vietnam, and for the next eight years, Smitty and hundreds of other American POWs--including John McCain and George "Bud" Day--suffered torture, solitary confinement, and abuse.  Their dignity was taken, their wills were challenged, and their bodies were bruised and battered. But in the midst of the struggle, Smitty remembered once learning the Tap Code--an old, long-unused World War II method of communication through tapping on a common water pipe. He covertly taught the code to many POWs, and in turn they taught others.  Simple and effective, the Tap Code quickly spread throughout the prison and became one of the most covert ways for POWs to communicate without their captors' knowledge. It became a lifeline during their internment--a morale booster, a vehicle of unity, and a way to communicate the chain of command--and was instrumental in helping them prevail over a brutal enemy.  Back home, meanwhile, Harris's wife, Louise, raised their three children alone, unsure of her husband's fate. One of the first POW wives of the Vietnam War, she became a role model for many wives, advocating for herself and her children in her husband's absence.  Told through both Smitty's and Louise's voices, Tap Code shares a riveting true story of ingenuity under pressure, strength and dignity in the face of the enemy, the love of family, and the hope, faith, and resolve necessary to endure even the darkest circumstances.


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Tap Code shares never-before-told details of underground operations during the Vietnam War while weaving in an inspiring story of true love, honor, and courage as husband and wife endured the hardest circumstances they had ever faced.   When Air Force pilot Captain Carlyle "Smitty" Harris was shot down over Vietnam on April 4, 1965, he had no idea what horrors awaited him i Tap Code shares never-before-told details of underground operations during the Vietnam War while weaving in an inspiring story of true love, honor, and courage as husband and wife endured the hardest circumstances they had ever faced.   When Air Force pilot Captain Carlyle "Smitty" Harris was shot down over Vietnam on April 4, 1965, he had no idea what horrors awaited him in the infamous Hoa Lo prison--nicknamed the "Hanoi Hilton." Harris was the sixth American POW captured in the air war over North Vietnam, and for the next eight years, Smitty and hundreds of other American POWs--including John McCain and George "Bud" Day--suffered torture, solitary confinement, and abuse.  Their dignity was taken, their wills were challenged, and their bodies were bruised and battered. But in the midst of the struggle, Smitty remembered once learning the Tap Code--an old, long-unused World War II method of communication through tapping on a common water pipe. He covertly taught the code to many POWs, and in turn they taught others.  Simple and effective, the Tap Code quickly spread throughout the prison and became one of the most covert ways for POWs to communicate without their captors' knowledge. It became a lifeline during their internment--a morale booster, a vehicle of unity, and a way to communicate the chain of command--and was instrumental in helping them prevail over a brutal enemy.  Back home, meanwhile, Harris's wife, Louise, raised their three children alone, unsure of her husband's fate. One of the first POW wives of the Vietnam War, she became a role model for many wives, advocating for herself and her children in her husband's absence.  Told through both Smitty's and Louise's voices, Tap Code shares a riveting true story of ingenuity under pressure, strength and dignity in the face of the enemy, the love of family, and the hope, faith, and resolve necessary to endure even the darkest circumstances.

30 review for Tap Code: The Epic Survival Tale of a Vietnam POW and the Secret Code That Changed Everything

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sara Berry

    In full disclosure, I am the co-author of this book. This also means I know first-hand the powerful true story of Col. Smitty Harris' 8 years as a POW in Vietnam. It is a beautiful story of resilience, love, and the power of the human spirit.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    This is my parents story.... our family lived it. Sara W Berry, did an amazing job weaving this story together. It’s a heart -tugging, page turner.... full of messages of struggle, perseverance, faith, and family and love for our Country!!! May God use this book in mighty ways... as an instrument of healing in our broken world.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Thank you to Good reads for this advance readers' copy. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and what a tremendous testimony of courage by Col. Carlyle Smith "Smitty" Harris and for his military service in the Air Force and in Vietnam. I have seen documentaries of Vietnam POW's and the use of the Tap Code and reading about it in this book was very interesting. Despite the beatings and cruel treatment, I admire and respect the courage these men faced. One fascinating fact I forgot to add and didn't kno Thank you to Good reads for this advance readers' copy. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and what a tremendous testimony of courage by Col. Carlyle Smith "Smitty" Harris and for his military service in the Air Force and in Vietnam. I have seen documentaries of Vietnam POW's and the use of the Tap Code and reading about it in this book was very interesting. Despite the beatings and cruel treatment, I admire and respect the courage these men faced. One fascinating fact I forgot to add and didn't know this until I read the book was Col. Harris spent time in eight different prison camps, including the infamous Hanoi Hilton.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erick

    Trump should read this, oh wait can Trump even read? Mr. Bone Spur.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    “I am convinced that there is a reason for all of this. Whatever the reason, I am sure we can use this time to become emotionally and spiritually stronger.” Excerpted from Smitty’s first letter to reach Louise, Sep 1965. Ruminations on the nature of integrity and struggle. Starting with the moment “Smitty" Harris was shot down on April 5, 1965, he and his wife Louise take the reader moment by moment through eight years of combat of a different sort than either imagines they would fight. Treated a “I am convinced that there is a reason for all of this. Whatever the reason, I am sure we can use this time to become emotionally and spiritually stronger.” Excerpted from Smitty’s first letter to reach Louise, Sep 1965. Ruminations on the nature of integrity and struggle. Starting with the moment “Smitty" Harris was shot down on April 5, 1965, he and his wife Louise take the reader moment by moment through eight years of combat of a different sort than either imagines they would fight. Treated as criminals instead of prisoners of war, Harris and hundreds of other POWs (including Vietnamese and Thais) suffered starvation, deprivation, and intense psychological and physical abuse, though their captors tried to not inflict obvious wounds. “If Smitty can do what he is doing right now, I can do this.” Louise A compelling and well-told history. Told in a conversation voice. Folded timeline confuses. Digressions inside digressions. Needed on more proofreading by a new set of eyes. Some paragraphs restate themselves, suggesting multiple edits. References to Claude Watkins repeat background many times. “I knew not one atheist among the POWs, for in the midst of our troubles we sought the mercy of the One higher than we are, and as a whole we were gifted with a measure of grace.” Smitty Smitty and Louise are unapologetic Christians and patriots. They demonstrated how people of faith are equipped to cope, even when they don’t recognize it at the time. “You will never be tested beyond your power to endure.” Louise The tap code is explained and how Harris knew it, taught it, used it, and passed it on. Through it and countless other ingenious methods the POWs communicated and supported each other. “We must remember it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped with the flag. And it is the soldier who allows the protestor to burn the flag.” Smitty, April 11, 2002, Tupelo, MS. “Tap tap, tap tap. Tap, tap tap. Tap tap tap tap, tap tap tap tap tap.” GBU, God bless you.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    I received a free advanced readers copy of this novel as a part of a goodreads giveaway! I have mixed feelings about this book. While I love the story, I do not think it was very well written and the organization at points was a little confusing. To be honest, I found it hard to get through. The later parts of the book got better, but at first I felt like I was reading a bullet point list of Smitty's life and it got monotonous fast. I am a big fan of the show don't tell writing style, and the firs I received a free advanced readers copy of this novel as a part of a goodreads giveaway! I have mixed feelings about this book. While I love the story, I do not think it was very well written and the organization at points was a little confusing. To be honest, I found it hard to get through. The later parts of the book got better, but at first I felt like I was reading a bullet point list of Smitty's life and it got monotonous fast. I am a big fan of the show don't tell writing style, and the first bit was all telling, no showing. Additionally, I think it is funny how the authors explained a couple of times what MIA was, but did not find the need to say what things like beriberi were. The last thing negative I have to say was the jumping back and forth in time was a little confusing. Early on, Smitty says a man named Owl told him about the birth of his son in May 1965. A few chapters later in September 1965, he said word soon came to him that his son was born by squadron mates. I was really confused about this. One good thing I found is I am more familiar with the Japanese and Korean point of view on the Vietnam War, so it was nice to see an American perspective. Also, I did not like Jane Fonda before, and after reading this I really don't like her. Overall, I would give it a 1 star for writing, although the story is good. It detracts from the message too much, making it hard to read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mary Reagan Richardson (mary_reagans_books)

    This is my #1 nonfiction novel of the year! This book tells the amazing story of Captain Smitty Harris's 8 year long imprisonment in a variety of POW camps in North Vietnam. This book is breathtaking because you would think it is fiction. The story reads as if there is no way it is possible, yet it happened. These men endured starvation, mental and physical torture, solitary confinement, and so much more. The strength and resolve of these soldiers is amazing. The Tap Code is the way that these s This is my #1 nonfiction novel of the year! This book tells the amazing story of Captain Smitty Harris's 8 year long imprisonment in a variety of POW camps in North Vietnam. This book is breathtaking because you would think it is fiction. The story reads as if there is no way it is possible, yet it happened. These men endured starvation, mental and physical torture, solitary confinement, and so much more. The strength and resolve of these soldiers is amazing. The Tap Code is the way that these soldiers communicated with each other and were able to keep a united front against their captors. This book is eloquently written and perfectly portrays the heartbreak and pain these soldiers felt. It always portrays the hope they felt because of the communication system they built. The resolve of these soldiers to maintain their code of conduct and return with honor is inspiring. The strength of Louise is inspiring in so many ways. The imagery and story telling is so vivid that you feel everything they feel. I laughed, I cried, I felt despair, I felt hope. Very few books can make you feel real genuine emotion like this one does. I felt a close bond to this book because the town that Smitty and Louise choose to call home, Tupelo, Mississippi, is in my home state and I feel so proud of how Mississippi embraced this family and supported them in their time of need.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Paul Wilson

    I love personal survival stories - UNBROKEN was one of my favs, and this book did not disappoint! Smitty Harris is a true American hero - what he survived while a POW for 8 years is unbelievable. Writer Sara Berry did an amazing job of capturing all of the emotions - before, during and after his imprisonment. I honestly did not know much about the Vietnam War - I was just a young kid unaware of what was going on - I do remember the POW MIA bracelets and it was cool to see how that is a part of S I love personal survival stories - UNBROKEN was one of my favs, and this book did not disappoint! Smitty Harris is a true American hero - what he survived while a POW for 8 years is unbelievable. Writer Sara Berry did an amazing job of capturing all of the emotions - before, during and after his imprisonment. I honestly did not know much about the Vietnam War - I was just a young kid unaware of what was going on - I do remember the POW MIA bracelets and it was cool to see how that is a part of Smitty's story. The tap code is fascinating: what a covert way to communicate to the other prisoners. What I found especially fascinating was how Smitty's wife, and family stayed strong during this 8 years, their marriage survived and thrived after he came home. Louise was a force to be reckoned with - what a character: she took on the DOD multiple times in an effort to be treated fairly and with civility. I can't stop talking about this book to anyone who asks "what's your favorite book you've read lately" - this book is it!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    Great book and much more than a story of survival, this is a story of enduring commitment to fellow soldiers not only survive but thrive in the worst of circumstances. The real story is told from 2 points of view, from Smiitty’s as a POW and from his wife Louise back home she made life normal for her family. Sara Berry does a fabulous job of weaving together 2 storylines, one of endurance and survival and one of a couple who never lost hope and love for one another. Must read this!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joy Kellum

    Excellent read and beautifully written story of two amazing Americans. I knew something about the torture our POWs endured but learned so much more about the importance of communication between our soldiers. Also loved reading about the strength of Smitty’s wife back home raising three children. I highly recommend this book!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Wright

    Great book! Very detailed. I recommend it to everyone. Unbelievable torture, patriotism, friendship, love ,hope and faith.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jeannee

    A powerful story of bravery, patriotism, and loyalty. My admiration of Louise is just as strong as my admiration and appreciation for Smitty.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    Whoa. So glad this couple decided to share their story about what life was like for both of them while he was a POW. I kept wishing I'd read more first-person accounts like this while studying history in school. Also, I basically bawled my way through the last quarter of the book - can only imagine the emotions they were feeling!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    US Air Force Pilot, Smitty Harris was shot down in enemy territory during the Vietnam War/Conflict. He endured almost 8 years of torture and starvation. His wife was 8 months pregnant at the time of his capture. This book is about how Smitty taught the other POW's tap code so they could communicate, stay united and adhere to the military Code of Conduct. It also talks about what his wife dealt with during those 8 long years. At the end of the book, he lists the names of the POW's he spent time w US Air Force Pilot, Smitty Harris was shot down in enemy territory during the Vietnam War/Conflict. He endured almost 8 years of torture and starvation. His wife was 8 months pregnant at the time of his capture. This book is about how Smitty taught the other POW's tap code so they could communicate, stay united and adhere to the military Code of Conduct. It also talks about what his wife dealt with during those 8 long years. At the end of the book, he lists the names of the POW's he spent time with. I looked for the name of Lt. Cmdr. David Hoffman but it wasn't there. He too was a POW of the Vietnam War and I wore a bracelet with his name engraved on it for several years When he came back home, I sent the bracelet to his Mom.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    This book is a realistic picture of a TRUE American hero and the family who daily endured knowing their loved one was a POW during the Vietnam war. Yes, HERO! I don't see how anyone can read the story of the daily torture (mentally and physically) of a POW and not feel like these people are a perfect example of the most perfect reflection of what being an honorable hero means. I have read many first-hand accounts of life endured in a POW camp and found this one to be one of the most beautifully This book is a realistic picture of a TRUE American hero and the family who daily endured knowing their loved one was a POW during the Vietnam war. Yes, HERO! I don't see how anyone can read the story of the daily torture (mentally and physically) of a POW and not feel like these people are a perfect example of the most perfect reflection of what being an honorable hero means. I have read many first-hand accounts of life endured in a POW camp and found this one to be one of the most beautifully written. I am honored to have been able to listen in as these memories were recorded as a way for us to never forget the extent some people went in order to preserve our freedoms. This family endured more than I can comprehend, yet gave a constant example of the powerful strength that faith and family can create an unbreakable bond that will long withstand 8 years of torture. I wish I could directly express my admiration and appreciation to the entire Harris family. They are long overdue much more than can possibly be repaid. Since I can't speak directly to them, I can speak to the ones who read this review. Please read this book. You will not regret it and can never forget it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I think this is a 3.5 for me. Although I found the story pretty interesting, the writing felt very superficial. It seemed the author and his wife focused so much on the their love for each other and how how he and the other POWs remained true to their military calling to the point that interesting details were glossed over. I felt like there should have been more details about day to day life in the camps, the emotions, friendships, etc. There was nothing said about the author’s experiences gett I think this is a 3.5 for me. Although I found the story pretty interesting, the writing felt very superficial. It seemed the author and his wife focused so much on the their love for each other and how how he and the other POWs remained true to their military calling to the point that interesting details were glossed over. I felt like there should have been more details about day to day life in the camps, the emotions, friendships, etc. There was nothing said about the author’s experiences getting know his children after his return and what his family life was like. The focus of the book after his return was on how perfect his life with his wife was, all the POW reunions, speeches and how he kept in touch with his fellow POWs. The middle part of the book was the most interesting. The beginning and end left me wanting more.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joy Kidney

    What an incredible chapter in the lives of a couple separated for nearly eight years because the husband was a POW of the North Vietnamese. Smitty Harris captured when his F-105 Thunderchief was shot down over North Vietnam. Louise Harris was pregnant with their third child, so endured those years as a single parent. Their stories are told chapter by chapter, with the most remarkable episodes endured by the POWs themselves. Even though shuttled from camp to camp, being ill-treated and subjected What an incredible chapter in the lives of a couple separated for nearly eight years because the husband was a POW of the North Vietnamese. Smitty Harris captured when his F-105 Thunderchief was shot down over North Vietnam. Louise Harris was pregnant with their third child, so endured those years as a single parent. Their stories are told chapter by chapter, with the most remarkable episodes endured by the POWs themselves. Even though shuttled from camp to camp, being ill-treated and subjected to incessant propaganda, they learned to communicate in several ways, the most ingenious being the Tap Code that Harris had learned and taught the others. They also adhered to a soldier's Code of Conduct that was noteworthy. Harris relied on his faith in God, in his wife Louise, and in his military training to return home with honor, which was his goal. An exceptionally fulfilling book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Camie

    While this book is very personal to me and I grew up hearing the stories, reading it made it so much more real almost. The book bounces between what Smitty went through as a POW of the Vietnam War and also touches on what his wife, Louise, went through back home. This is clearly a memoir that is well written and allows the reader to experience like Louise, Smitty, their children, and other POW's did. This book is very rich in details so I recommend not zooming through it (as I did the first time While this book is very personal to me and I grew up hearing the stories, reading it made it so much more real almost. The book bounces between what Smitty went through as a POW of the Vietnam War and also touches on what his wife, Louise, went through back home. This is clearly a memoir that is well written and allows the reader to experience like Louise, Smitty, their children, and other POW's did. This book is very rich in details so I recommend not zooming through it (as I did the first time) but slow down and really enjoy the book. I cried like a baby at some parts, and like I said earlier, I grew up hearing this story. Reading this story makes me even more proud to call Smitty and Louise my grandparents.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stan Skrabut

    Tap Code: The Epic Survival Tale of a Vietnam POW and the Secret Code That Changed Everything is an amazing story about survival in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. I am truly fascinated by what man can endure. Tap Code is about Colonel Carlyle “Smitty” Harris and his wife, Louise during his eight years in captivity in Vietnam. I cannot even imagine the pain and suffering he went through. This book provides a glimpse into that experience. Read moRead more Tap Code: The Epic Survival Tale of a Vietnam POW and the Secret Code That Changed Everything is an amazing story about survival in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. I am truly fascinated by what man can endure. Tap Code is about Colonel Carlyle “Smitty” Harris and his wife, Louise during his eight years in captivity in Vietnam. I cannot even imagine the pain and suffering he went through. This book provides a glimpse into that experience. Read moRead more

  20. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    This is a page turner and I read it on flight from Atlanta to Portland. Incredible true story of faith, love and human perseverance! It’s hard to even imagine being tortured and held captive for 8 years while a young wife raises three small children and retains hope that one day they’ll all be reunited again! Sara Berry writes from the heart and you’ll feel the tug of emotions as Smitty Harris inspires the other POW’s and waits to meet his newborn son for the first time. It’s refreshing to read This is a page turner and I read it on flight from Atlanta to Portland. Incredible true story of faith, love and human perseverance! It’s hard to even imagine being tortured and held captive for 8 years while a young wife raises three small children and retains hope that one day they’ll all be reunited again! Sara Berry writes from the heart and you’ll feel the tug of emotions as Smitty Harris inspires the other POW’s and waits to meet his newborn son for the first time. It’s refreshing to read a true love story that inspires faith in God and an undying spirit of patriotism for America! Highly recommend this book!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sallie Belle Howell

    This true story of American hero, Smitty Harris, and his life as a POW is captivating. Harris and wife, Louise, exemplify strength, commitment and hope in unknown circumstances. The faith and hope these two share throughout this journey and life is the key to overcoming the challenges they faced. This book recounts vivid detail of Harris and his time as a POW. The code that helped encourage he and other POWs was taught Harris prior to his mission. Sara Berry, co-author, helps the Harris family s This true story of American hero, Smitty Harris, and his life as a POW is captivating. Harris and wife, Louise, exemplify strength, commitment and hope in unknown circumstances. The faith and hope these two share throughout this journey and life is the key to overcoming the challenges they faced. This book recounts vivid detail of Harris and his time as a POW. The code that helped encourage he and other POWs was taught Harris prior to his mission. Sara Berry, co-author, helps the Harris family share this remarkable story. This book needs to be on everyone’s must read list!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jason Mussett

    I would like to read this. I've always had an interest in the VIETNAM conflict. The plight of U.S. POWs isn't touched upon very often. How do people survive in these conditions? What must their families be going through? Not knowing wether their loved ones are alive or not? If anybody reads this one I would love to know what you think of it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Robert B. Carlsen

    Extraordinary! Tap Code is an outstanding book! It is very well written, informative, and inspirational. As a Vietnam veteran pilot I highly recommend it to all, veteran or non-veteran. Smitty 's story is proof of the capability of strong willed and faith based people to survive extraordinary challenges and conditions, and the critical importance of communication.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katie Thompson

    Such an awesome story! Highly recommend!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Webb

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to everyone involved. A heart touching story - beautifully written.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Angela Roberts

    Just finished this book! Wow! An amazing story!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jack Harris

    Must READ! This book grabs you from the first chapter to the last! Col Harris’ perseverance will inspire and encourage you! Faith, family, Love of Country... it has it all!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hernan Hernandez

    The reader would understand the monumental lack of respect of those saying that the Vietnam POW did not suffer or were captured because of their lack of skills.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vickie

    Thanks to the publisher for an ARC of Tap Code. This is such an amazing story that everyone needs to read. So much respect due!!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    ITS ALL ABOUT THE CODE.

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