Grand Rapids, Mich., June 26, 2019 – Decorated Air Force pilot Colonel Carlyle “Smitty” Harris (ret.) has signed with Zondervan Books to publish the untold story of his years spent as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton and other detention camps during the Vietnam War. Tap Code: The Epic Survival Tale of a Vietnam POW and the Secret Code That Changed Everything, written by Harris, now 90 years old, and Sara W. Berry, will release November 5, 2019. World rights were acquired by Acquisitions Editor Andy Rogers.
When 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. For almost eight years, Smitty along with hundreds of other American POWs—including John McCain and George “Bud” Day—suffered torture, solitary confinement and abuse. Before being shot down, Harris by chance learned an old, long-unused WWII communication code, called the Tap Code. Once imprisoned, he remembered the code and covertly taught it to many POWs, who then taught others as it quickly spread throughout the prison and became the most covert way for POWs to communicate without their captors’ knowledge. Simple but effective, the Tap Code quickly became a lifeline to hundreds of airmen during their long internment and ultimately helped change the course of the war.
“The prison’s sixteen-inch masonry walls were designed to isolate prisoners,” writes Col. Lee Ellis (ret), former POW, cellmate and friend of Harris. “Smitty took great risk and through resourcefulness and creativity spread the code that enabled our covert communication… These vital communications lifted our spirits and gave us a united front throughout the camps… Smitty was the code bearer who enabled us to connect and communicate – the two most vital needs of every POW.”
Meanwhile, back home Harris’s wife, Louise, who was eight months pregnant with their third child when he was captured, was raising their children alone, unsure of her husband’s fate. One of the first POW wives of the Vietnam War, she told herself, “if Smitty can do what he is doing right now, I can do this…” She became a role model to many wives, advocating for herself and her children in her husband’s absence. Tap Code shares behind-the-scenes details of American history while weaving in Smitty and Louise’s inspiring story of true love, honor and courage as they endured the hardest circumstances they had ever faced.
Harris received many decorations during his Air Force career, including two Silver Stars, three Legion of Merits, the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Bronze Stars for valor, two Air Medals, two Purple Hearts and two Commendation Medals. Most recently he was awarded the Eagle Award through the Gathering of Eagles Foundation. His tin cup from his days as a POW is now in the Smithsonian. He and his wife, Louise, are surrounded by their large family in Tupelo, Mississippi.
“This is a 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,” says Andy Rogers, acquisitions editor.
Zondervan is a world leading Bible publisher and provider of Christian communications. Zondervan, part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., delivers transformational Christian experiences through its bestselling Bibles, books, curriculum, academic resources and digital products. The Company’s products are sold worldwide and translated into nearly 200 languages. Zondervan offices are located in Grand Rapids, Mich. For additional information, please visit www.zondervan.com.