ON-Lion Letter
On April 19, 1967, U.S. Air Force Col. Leo Thorsness was on a mission over North Vietnam when his wingman was shot down by an enemy MiG, which then lined up for a gunnery pass on the two American pilots who had bailed out.  Although his F-105 was not designed for aerial combat, Thorsness engaged the MiG and destroyed it.  Spotting four more MiGs, he fought his way through a barrage of North Vietnamese SAMs to engage them too, shooting down one and driving off the others.

For this, Thorsness was awarded the Medal of Honor.  But, as he recounts in his forthcoming Encounter book Surviving Hell:  A POW's Journey, he didn’t learn about it until years later -- by a "tap code" coming through prison walls -- because on April 30, Thorsness was shot down, captured, and transported to the Hanoi Hilton.

Surviving Hell recounts a six-year captivity marked by hours of brutal torture and days of agonizing boredom, describing how he and other American POWs strove to keep their humanity.  Thrown into solitary confinement for refusing to bow down to his captors, for instance, he disciplined his mind by memorizing long passages of poetry that other prisoners sent him by tap code.

"This book is both an authentic look at the POW experience and also an often amusing account of one man’s way of coping with a brutal captivity," according to U.S. Sen. and presidential candidate John McCain.  "Leo Thorsness, my friend and fellow alumnus of the Hanoi Hilton, shows why the North Vietnamese may have had our bodies but never controlled our soul."

Encounter Books is an activity of Encounter for Culture and Education, a nonprofit group that is substantially supported by The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee.
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