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Surviving Hell: A POW's Journey
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Surviving Hell: A POW's Journey

4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  121 ratings  ·  24 reviews
On April 19, 1967, Air Force Colonel 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 ba ...more
ebook, 160 pages
Published April 1st 2011 by Encounter Books (first published 2008)
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Finished this exciting brief book in almost one sitting. I'm completely blown away by the character of POWs like Lt. Col Thorsness, Col Bud Day and even Sen. McCain. I mean leave the patriotic feelings and military duty out of this, the resilience and endurance of these people is really interesting and amazing. It's a life story, a guide to be stronger & a wonderful insight into the lives of these heroes. This book must be read by every young man and woman in America (or even Canada or other ...more
Incredible story of an Medal of Honor Recipient who spent six year's in the hell of Ho Chi Mihn's Hanoi Hilton in North Vietnam. It's poignant and funny...I cried as I laughed. Having met Colonel Thorsness this summer, I can tell you this book is exactly him. He is the kindness man who will tell you that since returning home to his wife and daughter, he has never had a bad day. Surviving Hell has reminded me what a debt we owe to those who are willing to defend the freedom we take for granted ev ...more
Benjamin Fowler
An excellent read about a situation I knew little about. The author is succint, but writes well. It is not just a fact by fact tour of his imprisonment. A great memoir for those interested in Vietnam POW stories.
Marc Colasanto
Fitting that I read this book on Veteran's Day. What a horrific ordeal our boys endured at the Hanoi Hilton. Toughest SOBs around.
Exceptional read with chilling details of his captivity. I have heard Mr. Thorsness speak in-person and am amazed by the character that defines that men and those who were held captive in the Hanoi Hilton. I highly recommend this book.
Gripping story written by one of the twentieth century's biggest heroes.
I read this over memorial day weekend. It's actually a quick read. The author won the medal of honor for an air action prior to being shot down and captured. He ejected @ 690 miles an hour. Messed up his knees and zippered pockets off his flight suit were blown off.

He discussed being tortured and what it was like being locked up. He takes a surprisingly positive tone that makes it easier to read than some other stories I've read.

He relates some pretty powerful stories of brave men in prison. W
I like how he layed out his whole experience over 6 years in less than 127 pages. He is frank and to the point about what happened but yet puts no blame here nor there. It is a this is what happened story!! Why did I buy it? I had the honor of meeting Col Thorsness at a POW/MIA ceremony in Miles City Montana where he was the speaker. He is a man of honor with out a doubt but yet is still humble. Knowing what I do of him from that meeting, I knew the book was going to be a top notch product and i ...more
Linda Johnson
A stunning account of life as a POW in the "Hanoi Hilton" by one who had grown up in the Walnut Grove area of MN. Leo Thorsness survived 6 years in the worst conditions imaginable where very few positive things ever happened and torture and starvation were the norm. This story speaks to the determination of men trying not only to survive but to maintain their humanity in very inhumane circumstances. Leo is a very humble Viet Nam hero and survivor.
Excellent! Some moments of laugh out loud humor and some teary-eyed spots, this book evokes feelings of pride, disgust, patriotism, and a variety of other emotions. It reads quickly and easily. Leo does not engage in self-pity or self-aggrandizement. He and the other POW's, most of them anyway, were true heroes. This book compares well with Jeremiah Denton's, When Hell was in Session.
Sean Hayden
This book was literally the first complete book I have finished. I enjoyed it a lot. It's about a POW survivor (not a spoiler as the author is the survivor) who tells his 6 year long story and his survival in the Hanoi Hilton during Vietnam. I really enjoyed this book as it really clung to me. The gist of the book was his explanation of what his day to day basis was like.
Andy Anderson
Easy read, heartbreaking to think how long he was held but he survived and was better for it. Good descriptive on prison in Vietnam and flying tactics of he era.
Recently toured the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" POW prison in Hanoi where the official exhibit touts the "humane" treatment that POW's received. Wanted to read a more realistic account so I read this brief book after my visit. Very sobering. Worth reading for anyone with an interest in the war.
Surprisingly bright and uplifting, the book shines light on the evils that happened in Hanoi, but reminds me more of e.e. cummings' The Enormous Room than a wartime memoir.

Bright and uplifting, while still maintaining the evils of Hanoi.
Christina Winch
This is written by a man who was a POW with John McCain in Vietnam. He now lives in Huntsville. Inspiring to read about what these men went thru, fighting to uphold America's values. Sad to hear what mankind inflicts on one another.
This was an interesting book. It is about a medal of honors time in Hanoi Hilton and what he and other prisoners did to survive. I found it a very easy to read and was able to finish it in a few hours.
Susan Kula
Fantastic book. The book gives you the impression that the author is having a one on one conversation with the reader. Gives a very honest of what the life of a POW was like. Story stays with you.
Very good book, though I wish the author would have gone more in-depth about his time there. I did like, however, how he focused on how he survived the endless hours of boredom.
Ryan Jones
I'd like to think this one over a little. I will say that it made me think of Conrad's Heart of Darkness at times. Claustrophobic, moving, gut-wrenching, and real.
Col. Thorsness is an incredible man. His book is a short read. I wish he would have gone into more details, but I respect his humility. God Bless him and all of our POW/MIA.
Dj Fullen
I thought this book was amazing! It didn't describe the gruesome details of his torture but didn't Pollyanna it all up either. Great book by a great story teller.
Jonathan Reed
Great book! Easy read, only took me a total of about 5 hours to read it cover to cover. Gives you a first hand look at the Hell our POW's went through during Vietnam.
What a strong group of men it took to survive the prisons of north Vietnam.
Sam Winter
Short and sweet POWs story
Bobby marked it as to-read
Nov 20, 2015
Matthew Barlow
Matthew Barlow marked it as to-read
Nov 11, 2015
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“During the really tough first couple of years in prison, I felt like the 23rd Psalm was dictated by the Lord specifically for POWs.” 0 likes
“I made a commitment that when I was again free, I would study subjects I knew nothing about.” 0 likes
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