Eagle Profile

Carlyle “Smitty” Harris was born April 11, 1929 in Parkersburg, W. Va. and grew up in Maryland. He enlisted in the United States Air Force on January 2, 1951, before commissioning as a second lieutenant and earning his pilot wings in 1953.  In March of 1965, he began flying combat missions in the F-105 Thunderchief over Southeast Asia.  On April 4, 1965 during an Operation Rolling Thunder mission targeting the Thanh Hoa Bridge in North Vietnam, Harris’s aircraft was struck by anti-aircraft fire forcing him to eject.  He was captured immediately and remained in captivity for 2,871 days, spending most of this period in the Hanoi Hilton.  Remembering a conversation, he had with an instructor at survival school about a tap code the Royal Air Force POWs used in WWII, Harris taught four other POWs the code.  The use of the code spread as POWs transferred prisons or moved in and out of cells and solitary confinement.  Harris was released and returned home during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973.

Years Honored:

2019 Lithograph

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