fbpx Skip to content

The Epic 60-Year Survival Story of One Couple (Col. Smitty + Louise Harris ep. 210)

Smitty and Louise Harris

John O’Leary welcomes Col. Smitty Harris + his wife Louise to the Live Inspired Podcast to share their enduring love story 60 years in the making.

Colonel Carlyle Smith “Smitty” Harris spent 2,871 days (that’s nearly 8 years!) as Vietnam POW. At the same time, his beautiful bride Louise was courageously raising three young children while becoming an advocate and role model.

Today, Smitty + Louise take us on a 60-year journey that’s packed with love, but also the horrors of a North Vietnam prison and how a forgotten military code changed everything.

If you’re looking for a story of forgiveness from a decorated war hero or a romantic love story filled with drive, sacrifice and compassion, you’re going to love today’s episode.

Subscribe & listen on Apple Podcasts, SpotifyStitcher, Google Play, iHeartRadio or listen here:


  • Smitty + Louise have been married for over 60 years.
  • On April 4, 1965, Smitty became the sixth POW captured in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
  • For nearly 8 years, Smitty and hundreds of other American POWs, including John McCain and George “Bud” Day, suffered torture, solitary confinement and abuse at the infamous Hoa Lo prison, nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton.”
  • Louise returned to America to raise her three young children and went on to become an advocate + role model for the other wives of the POWs.
  • Smitty lost about 20% of his body weight, bringing him to about 90 pounds.
  • Miracles presented themselves: Smitty and his fellow POWs learned that their faith was stronger, their resistance to the enemy would continue and strength to continue.
  • Tap code is a way to communicate letter-by-letter using taps or knocks using this chart below, and gave them strength and unity, even allowing them to have weekly church service.
  •  Tap code
  • Smitty’s tin drinking cup is in the Smithsonian Institute.
  • “Hi Jane, it’s Tarzan.” The first words that Smitty spoke to Louise after his time as a POW, proving their love hadn’t missed a beat.
  • “You will never be tested beyond your power to endure.”
  • Get a copy of Smitty Harris’ Tap Code here.

If today’s story inspired you, you’ll love our Military + First Responders Playlist. This specially curated list includes Capitan Charlie Plumb. Listen to the Military + First Responders Playlist here.


1. What is the best book you’ve ever read? Louise: The Bible, and  Losing Cooper by J.J. Jasper.

2. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today? Smitty: I’ve always been inquisitive, optimistic and a risk-taker, but I also had a deep abiding love of God and I still have that today.

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be? Louise: Letter from Smitty and the three pastel portraits of our children.

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? Smitty: Louise, and I talk with her every day and enjoy doing so.

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Louise: “You will never be tested beyond your power to endure.”

6. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? Smitty: Make the same decisions you made because you’ll have a blessed and wonderful life.

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? Louise: I am profoundly grateful for every single day. I have been truly blessed. Smitty: I am the most fortunate man I know. My health is good, my attitude towards life and God is good.


Did you enjoy today’s episode? Subscribe, rate + review on Apple Podcasts!

Live Inspired with John daily on FacebookTwitterYouTubeLinkedInPinterest, Instagram+ get his Monday Motivation email.

2 replies on “The Epic 60-Year Survival Story of One Couple (Col. Smitty + Louise Harris ep. 210)”

What a beautiful, inspiring story! Thank you, John, as always, for sharing this amazing podcast! Thank you, Smitty & Louise, for opening your hearts to tell it! May you all be blessed today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *