Cover image for Two souls indivisible : the friendship that saved two POWs in Vietnam
Two souls indivisible : the friendship that saved two POWs in Vietnam
Hirsch, James S.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
Physical Description:
274 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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DS559.4 .H57 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DS559.4 .H57 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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James Hirsch recounts one of the great friendships of the twentieth century forged in one of the most horrific settings that century produced--a North Vietnamese POW camp its inmates called the Zoo. One prisoner, Fred Cherry, was a pioneering air force pilot and the first black officer captured by the North Vietnamese. The other, a young navy flier named Porter Halyburton, was a racist southerner who doubted that a black man could even be a pilot. Their captors threw them into the same fetid cell, believing that their antipathy toward each other would break them both. But Cherry and Halyburton overcame their initial suspicions and saved each other's lives.
When Halyburton first saw him, Cherry was a wreck. One arm, damaged in his plane crash, hung uselessly at his side. He hadn't bathed in weeks, and he could barely walk. In his own mind, Cherry was steeling himself for death. Halyburton was also weakening, emotionally battered from the interrogations and isolation that his sheltered life had not prepared him for. He had to learn how to endure, or he would become one of the incoherent wraiths who haunted the Zoo.
Halyburton and Cherry became legendary among fellow POWs for the singular friendship that enabled them to overcome prodigious suffering and unspeakable torture. Hirsch weaves through this account a surprising, sometimes shocking view of the toll these men's captivity took on their loved ones. While Cherry's family was sundered by his absence, Halyburton's bond with his wife, Marty, endured and deepened. We see her receive the news of her husband's death, and we share her mingled elation and fear when she later learns that he is in fact alive and imprisoned. We also witness her unlikely rise to a leading role in the battle to bring the POWs home.
Often inspiring, sometimes heartbreaking, Two Souls Indivisible shows how trust and hope can cheat death, and how good people can achieve greatness in hellish circumstances.

Author Notes

James S. Hirsch is a former reporter for the "New York Times" & the "Wall Street Journal." He lives in Needham, Massachusetts.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Dozens of men held prisoner by the North Vietnamese were brutally tortured physically and emotionally for years on end. Among them were Fred Cherry, an air force F-104 fighter-bomber pilot and the highest-ranking black POW, and Porter Halyburton, a white navy F-4 Phantom jet navigator from North Carolina. Cherry, who was severely wounded when he was shot down near Hanoi in October 1965, was tortured as his captors tried, without success, to coerce him into signing antiwar statements urging black servicemen to give up the fight. Cherry would not have survived his ordeal without the care he received from Halyburton, whom the North Vietnamese placed in Cherry's cell in an effort to foster enmity between the two. Halyburton cleaned Cherry's wounds, bathed him when Cherry was too weak to move and did other yeoman, life-saving work for nearly eight months. This amazing story of courage, friendship and dedication to ideals was told briefly in Wallace Terry's excellent oral history, Bloods (1984). It is related here in depth and exceptionally well by Hirsch (Hurricane), a former Wall Street Journal and New York Times reporter. Hirsch has crafted a well-researched, cleanly and clearly written account that chronicles Cherry and Halyburton's lives before and after the war, but concentrates on their day-to-day struggles in Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton, from 1965 to 1973. This is a compelling story told compellingly well. Agent, Todd Shuster. Author tour. (May 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

How the first black officer captured by the North Vietnamese and a well-to-do white Southerner helped each other survive a vicious POW camp called the Zoo. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1 Better Place, Worse PlaceBetter place, worse place. Eagle slammed the notebook closed and gave the young American prisoner of war an ultimatum: talk to him and be taken to a camp where he could be with his buddies or refuse to cooperate and be taken to a place where he would suffer. Captured only a few days earlier, U.S. Navy Lieutenant (junior grade) Porter Halyburton didnt know the consequences if he continued to withhold military information. He was already locked inside North Vietnams notorious Hoa Lo Prison, dubbed the Hanoi Hilton by the Americans, a forbidding trapezoidal structure with thick outer walls topped by barbed wire and jagged glass. Years of urine, blood, and vomit permeated the rotting crevices. The food included chicken feet and bread so moldy that it had begun to ferment. Even the prisons name suggested its hellishness Hoa Lo (pronounced wa-low) means fiery furnace in Vietnamese. Whatever was worse would certainly be terrible, Halyburton thought, but still not as abhorrent as assisting the enemy. At twenty-four, Halyburton was one of the younger American POWs in Vietnam. His six-foot frame, short brown hair, and wholesome good looks fit the prototype of the dashing fighter jock, whose love of danger and combat had been immortalized in .lm and literature. But Halyburton was also introspective and artistic, the product of a small college town that had nurtured his intellectual and creative pursuits. He wrote poems, carved wooden statues, and read widely on history and culture. He was also a family man, having married his college sweetheart. The couples baby daughter was born four weeks before he left for Vietnam. He was lucky to be alive. On October 17, 1965, his F-4 Phantom jet was shot down forty miles northeast of Hanoi, killing the pilot in a fiery explosion. Halyburton, the backseat navigator, ejected without injury. Among many combat aviators, it was an article of faith that they would rather die instantly in a crash than be caught by the enemy. Halyburton believed otherwise, but he soon realized that the price of survival would be high. Immediately after his capture he was sent to Hoa Lo, where his cell, seven feet by six, had a boarded window, a single dim light bulb, and a concrete bed with leg irons. Cockroaches darted through the cells, and rats, some over a foot long, prowled the premises, lending evidence to a postwar POW study that noted, After sundown, rats and mice literally took over North Vietnam. Scribbled across the faded whitewashed walls were Vietnamese letters, but so too was something more comforting the name of an American, Ron Storz. Halyburton wasnt isolated or completely deprived; he could whisper to Americans in adjoining cells and was allowed to shower. Interrogations became a part of daily life: he was questioned by Colonel Nam, a gray-haired Vietnamese commander called Eagle for his authoritarian manner. Using passable English, he offered Halyburton the carrot or the stick. It was his c Excerpted from Two Souls Indivisible: The Friendship That Saved Two POWs in Vietnam by James S. Hirsch All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

1 "Better Place, Worse Place"p. 1
2 One More Roundp. 11
3 On Targetp. 21
4 Hanoi's Welcomep. 30
5 The Independencep. 45
6 "No Chutes Observed"p. 53
7 Strangers in the Cellp. 73
8 No Ordinary Prisonerp. 101
9 The Hanoi Marchp. 134
10 The Home Frontp. 145
11 "Unspeakable Agony of the Soul"p. 154
12 Change in Statusp. 179
13 The Good Lifep. 190
14 Divergent Paths at Homep. 207
15 Operation Homecomingp. 221
Epiloguep. 246
Sourcesp. 255
Acknowledgmentsp. 260
Indexp. 263