In times of greatest inhumanity our common humanity becomes most clear. Most Americans today know that our prisoners of war in Vietnam were tortured, but few truly know the extent of cruelty inflicted on these men, or the astounding reserves of strength physical, emotional and spiritual they called upon to survive.
Two Souls Indivisible: The Friendship that Saved Two POWs in Vietnam is the story of two of these men. Major Fred Cherry, a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, and Lt. j.g. Porter Halyburton, a navigator on a Navy fighter, were shot down in separate incidents. The two were made to share a single cell, where Halyburton was ordered to care for the severely injured Cherry. Halyburton was a white Southerner. Cherry was a black man. Knowing vaguely of the racial strife in America at the time, the North Vietnamese captors assumed the arrangement would be psychological torture. The North Vietnamese were wrong.
Hirsch's book chronicles how Cherry and Halyburton broke through barriers of race and prejudice to build bonds of friendship that saw only each other's souls. The reader will alternate between horror at the vicious cruelty of the North Vietnamese, anger at political machinations and betrayal back home, pride in the prisoners themselves, and awe at the amazing resilience of the human spirit.
James S. Hirsch is the author of the best-selling biography Hurricane, about boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (portrayed on film by Denzel Washington). Two Souls Indivisible is no doubt headed for the same acclaim. Powerful, compelling, moving, inspiring and ultimately healing, it deserves a place among the great books about the dark days of the Vietnam War and the men who lived through the greatest darkness of all, trusting that they would one day see home. Howard Shirley's interest in Vietnam stems from his aunt, Jo Ann Jones Shirley, whose brother Bobby M. Jones was shot down over Vietnam in 1972 and has been listed as MIA since 1973.