History is full of tales of heroes whose lives are marked by the great hardships they have endured. However, rarely does a man face the same great hardship twice. Author Leo Aime LaBrie tells one such tale in his book, A Double Dose of Hard Luck: The Extraordinary True Story of Two-Time Prisoner of War, Lt. Col. Charles Lee Harrison. Written with Theresa McLaughlin, the short biography relates the double imprisonment of an extraordinary Marine during World War II and the Korean War.
There was nothing in Charles Harrison’s past to indicate his later fate. He was a scrappy Oklahoman who joined the Marines before the Second World War as a way to adventure and character formation. Circumstances sometimes play a major role in molding a man and this was the case of Charles Harrison. He happened to be stationed on Wake Island in 1941 when it was captured by the Japanese.
Some men win great honor by fighting wars, Charles Harrison is honored for waiting out wars in squalid POW camps. He spent almost four years enduring brutal treatment as a Japanese prisoner of war in China and the Japanese homeland. Throughout it all, he was resourceful in finding ways to survive. He learned to speak and read Japanese and was involved in keeping up morale among the troops.
After the war, he could have concluded that he had done enough for his country. However, he chose to spend his life in the Marines. When the Korean War broke out, he was among the first to go to war, landing with MacArthur at Inchon and pushing the communists back. He participated in the brutal fighting at Chosin Reservoir where he was again captured.
This time his six-month imprisonment was shorter but no less difficult. While moving to another camp, the prisoners came under fire and the guards fled. Charles Harrison promptly announced he was going home and led the nineteen-member party back to friendly lines.
Even then, he could have honorably retired from the field. Instead, he stayed on and soon found himself in Vietnam where he engaged in combat but was not captured. He later worked to get himself sent on a second tour of duty but his superior refused his request.
The riveting details of his story make this book an inspiring read. It is a short and simple narrative written by someone who admires this hero and does not want his story to be forgotten. The author also tells the story of his wife and family and the hardships they endured. Published in 2016, the cradle-to-grave biography reveals a man of honor and character, on and off the battlefield. He is also a Catholic role model with great Faith that shines in these times when heroes are so needed.
Lt. Col. Charles Harrison is an example of honor since he manifested great dignity in all the circumstances of his life—even when life seemed to have been doubly unfair to him. Rather than become bitter at his fate, he gave thanks to God, seeing in his double misfortunate that he had become “a better Marine, a better man, and by far a much better American than I would ever have been otherwise.”
Mr. LaBrie and helper Theresa McLaughlin have done a great service bringing this story of honor and courage to light. Those who read the book will become better Americans.