Under the Cover of Light: The Extraordinary Story of USAF COL Thomas “Jerry” Curtis’s 7 1/2 -Year Captivity in North Vietnam
In 1965, Col. Thomas “Jerry” Curtis’s helicopter was shot down over North Vietnam. He was immediately captured and spent 7½ years confined in a filthy 5′ x 7′ cell at the notorious Hanoi prison camp. Thousands of miles from home and unable to communicate with his wife and children, Jerry endured months of solitary confinement, suffocating heat, freezing cold, grueling physical and psychological torture, constant hunger, and unimaginable mental duress. And yet, time and again, the Light that darkness cannot overcome became his beacon of hope. Now, for the first time in print, Jerry shares the full story of his 2,703 days in captivity and what he learned about faith, hope, and the indomitable power of the human spirit.
I learned so much in this book. Some astounding and profound things about life and the human spirit. I learned about the vital importance of community, unity, faith, and endurance. I also learned about evil and communism and the smallness of some mens souls.
I learned a few things that angered me, like the fact that all the liberals and hippies who demonstrated anti-war sentiments in the states while POWs languished, starving and suffering at the hands of American enemies, only fueled the intensity of torture and generally unspeakable treatment for the prisoners. The anti-war sentiments caused division in our country and also bolstered the confidence of godless, destructive people who were our enemies. The Vietnamese captors ramped up torture and withheld already starvation rations even more, and repeated to the POWs over loud speakers in the camps all the negative sentiments published and televised by the media to further frighten and beat down their prisoners. The men were mostly depressed while being so oppressed. They lived in filth and darkness of every sort. And yet, they maintained their ranks and faith and survived those harrowing years. Mostly. Some men of course, did not survive.
We fought communism then, and now. The difference that frightens me is that men used to be men. Honor, bravery, courage and faith were more prevalent in our culture. Men and women used to endure and stay loyal to each other and their communities and their country, and most importantly their God. Nowadays I’m not so sure there are many of these types left. Character is forged and hardships may strengthen, but only with purpose and intent of the person.
The men in the camps suffered. We all know that. But did you know they used their minds to keep from going crazy in astounding ways? They had elaborate communication systems worked out in order to stay committed and sane. They knew the value of communication and unity as a means of surviving brutality in those camps, even if they were in solitary confinement. (and they often were). They had in one camp a university without pens and paper or even books. None of which they had access to. They lectured, memorized and taught each other languages, maths, mechanics, history and all sorts of different things. It was a real education even though it wasn’t recorded on paper. They also memorized as much of the Bible as possible. The “living Bible” they called it and so it was in truth. Each man memorized the portions he could and added to the whole. I found such beauty in the midst of such savagery. This book was phenomenal. On par with “Unbroken”. COL Thomas “Jerry” Curtis‘s memoir is a story worth telling, and if so, certainly worth reading.
Jerry Curtis memorized hundreds of prisoner’s names, ranks, and shoot down dates in alphabetical order. He continued to be a soldier even though he was treated less than an animal. He wanted to be able to continue to help the fight in any way he could, as did most of the men. The POW leaders in the camps helped each other to sustain dignity and endure extreme conditions like men.
The men suffered broken bones and other injuries during their shoot downs that were never treated or treated correctly all those years. They all suffered permanent damage in one or many ways, and yet they were heroes until the end. They all agreed “every man has a breaking point” because each one reached his. There is no false bravado in this book. It’s genuine, and it’s very well-written. The authors did a fine job and I commend them for an extraordinary book that should be on every American’s night stand. God bless these men and the wives who waited for them.
How I pray the example in this book and other stories written like it will influence us. Wouldn’t it be beneficial if young people were offered wisdom and knowledge like this in school? Reading such true, real, and inspiring books could only help us. I know many homeschool families like mine, do use books like this in high school for their children. I’m grateful for that.
I received a free copy of this book from the Tyndale House publishers in exchange for an honest and unbiased written review. It was my privilege.