Book Review: Tap Code by Carlyle S. Harris and Sara W. Berry (Five Stars)


Book Review: Tap Code: The Epic Survival Tale of a Vietnam POW and the Secret Code that Changed Everything by Carlyle S. Harris and Sara W. Berry

(Five Stars)

“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.