40 Days of Honor – Day 15: Colonel Smitty Harris of Tupelo

By Kevin Wood/NEMS Daily Journal

2,871 days. That’s how long Col. Carlyle “Smitty” Harris (USAF) of Tupelo spent as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, much of it in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. Smitty became a POW on April 4, 1965 when his F-105 Thunderchief was shot down by enemy fire. He didn’t come home until February 12, 1973.

Smitty spent eight of his own birthdays in prison, the first just seven days into his imprisonment. But that didn’t bother him that much. What did bother him were the eight anniversaries he missed with his wife, Louise. What hurt him was not being able to see his two daughters, Robin and Carolyn, go from toddlers to young ladies. What crushed him was missing the birth of his youngest son, Lyle.

But for all that bothered him, hurt him, and crushed him, there were three things that sustained him. The first was an unwavering faith in an Almighty God. The second was an undying devotion to the country he loved and the men he was imprisoned with. The last was the sheer will and determination that he would see his family once again.

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