This book is a tribute to one of the most marvelous men who ever graced this earth and who touched my life in in a personal way. In his story, Col Thorsness, (Leo to those who had the honor to have been stationed in Takhli with him), related how he not only served with valor and without regard to his own safety, actions which earned him the coveted Congressional Medal of Honor, but how he survived under the most horrendous of circumsances. As you read his account of captivity, you are drawn into the realities of his circumstances as he describes in riveting detail the trials he faced and the creativity of his and his fellow prisoners' survival instinces. You cannot help but revel in his partiotism and his profound love of God and country. I was privileged to serve with Leo as his Flight Medical Officer and I knew him from the flight lines and the Officers' Club. Whenever I spoke with him upon his return from combat missions I'd marvel when he would refer to his mission, a mission when he was under attack, as "just another day at the job." I recall the pall that come over the squadron when it was reported that his plan was "hit" and the renewed hope when we heard he and his "gib" successfully "punched out." We were sad to know that he was captured but knew that he had what it took to survive. What happened during that captivity is enshrined in this book, one that should be required reading for every patriot to remind him that his pride in this country is well-placed, and for all others to show them that if it were not for heroes such as Leo, they would not have the liberty to protest as they do. Leo knew that when, in chapter 12, he considered himself, a captive, more free than his captors who lived under a system controlled by a brutal government. This book is a "must read" for all Americans.
This book is written by a true American hero. First Leo Thorsness puts us in the cockpit of his F-105 Thunderchief over North Vietnam on his most memorable missions and makes you feel the G forces as he and Harry Johnson conduct strikes and shoot down two enemy aircraft...an exhilarating experience. This happens when Thorsness extends his time over enemy territory to protect a downed aircrew and nearly runs out of fuel getting home. The mission wins him the Congressional Medal Of Honor.
But exhilaration is dashed a few weeks later when Thorsness and Johnson are shot down. We blast out of the cockpit with Thorsness and experiences his capture. The rest of this book is about being a prisoner of war in Hanoi. While the reader will experience apprehension, fear and anger with this man, you will also experience the will not to be broken and to protect and assist his fellow prisoners. The courage, dedication and patriotism of Thorsness and the other prisoners will fill you with admiration for them and make you proud to be an American.
I have met Leo Thorsness and I can say he is a hero in the truest sense. Not only because of his actions in North Vietnam, but also because of his positive attitude on life, his sense of humor and the fact that he is a genuine gentleman.
Leo Thorsness has been a hero of mine since I first read about his Medal of Honor mission when I was a teenager. I was one of the first to buy the Matthew Waki print "Rendezvous with the Rattlesnake" depicting his MOH mission, and it still hangs on the wall of my study today. Having read the majority of the F-105 biographies, I had been hoping for years that Colonel Thorsness would write one of his own. He finally has, and I was not disappointed.
This book, more concisely than any other, conveys the purpose and mentality of the American pilots in the Vietnam war; more importantly, it details the brutality of the Communist regime that held him prisoner, and the kinship and devotion to God, country, and duty that kept him alive during his horrendous incarceration and torture. The book is short, direct, and earnest, and makes me thankful to live in a country where men of this caliber are willing to defend us despite enormous personal risk, including torture that most of us (thankfully) cannot even begin to comprehend.
I appreciated the revealing details of not only his imprisonment, but his repatriation as well. I was amazed by how he (and the other POW's) adapted to the country and their families after many changes (many for the worse) had occurred during their confinement. I was especially interested in how he responded to the Nixon vs. McGovern debate in the country and within his own household, and refer readers to page 111 for the best and briefest analysis of McGovern's foreign policy faults, a lesson that is doubly important to remember in these times.
Leo Thorsness is a genuine American hero, and this book is everything I had hoped it would be. I recommend it to everyone everywhere, and want to personally thank Colonel Thorsness for his bravery, steadfastness, and morality during times of unimaginable difficulty. I salute you, sir.
It's a man's experiences that are so rarified there's no way to critique it objectively. To go from prairie farm kid to Medal of Honor holder to being tortured and maimed...how does that get anything less than five stars? Not out of "approval" but of sheer respect.
This book caused me to evaluate my sense of place and the human condition. Leo writes with a voice that - for all he's been through - is positive, humble and grateful. Readers will learn of the incredible responsibility Leo took for the safety of downed Air Force pilots on April 19, 1967. His Medal of Honor moment assured due to the gratitude of men he did not leave behind. But readers will also learn of the torture and deprivation thrust on him no more than 11 days later when his F-105 was shot down by a North Vietnamese MIG fighter, sending Leo and "backseater" Harold Johnson into six years of captivity as POWs.
Some fault the book for being a quick read - they shouldn't as the sooner this book leads the reader to new inspiration, the better.
This book is of infinite value especially when read by someone who understand to some extent the mind of a trained military person. I am a retired Canadian Navy Officer and although I have never been a POW, while reading the lines, I nonetheless can identify/ appreciate the absolute dedication of those heroes who survived such ordeal as did the Thorsness gentleman. The book is infinitely descriptive to the point of realism of the inhuman conditions which one can only/barely imagine. The writings, are such that they somewhat instill a virtual realism in the mind of the reader. I highly recomend these readings for any person who wants to develop an understanding of the POW life;it is a most realistic description of life in the hands of the VIETNAM monsters and enemy.
I am retired Air Force and met many of these outstanding men when they attended the Jet Requalification Course, held in San Antonio, shortly after their release. Many had been advised to pass on their experiences to groups (Lions, Kiwanis,etc.)for their own therapy. Never bragging or complaining, just telling how it was. I attended several of these presentations. Col Thorsness hit it right on the head. Brutal, inhuman, humor, and the relentless will of an american to survive. I cried several times. If only we could get more Americans to read it.
The author, Leo Thorsness, is my 2nd cousin and I remember the long years of not knowing if he was killed in the Vietnam War, but not giving up hope. It was sad to read about all the torture he endured, but so proud he was able to keep his dignity intact w/his keen intellect, unbreakable mental discipline and keeping his faith in God, our Heavenly Father.