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VADM J.B. Stockdale

James Bond Stockdale
Dec 23,1923 - Jul 5,2005
Place of birth:

Other work:
   Abingdon, Illinois
Vice Admiral
Vietnam War
Medal of Honor
Silver Star (4)
U.S. Vice Presidential
candidate (1992)

Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale (December 23, 1923 – July 5, 2005) was one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the United States Navy. Shot down over enemy territory in 1965, Stockdale was the highest ranking naval officer held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He was released in 1973. He was awarded 26 personal combat decorations, including the Medal of Honor and four Silver Stars.

Stockdale led the U.S. air squadron during the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident. During the late 1970s, he served as President of the Naval War College. Stockdale is also remembered as a Vice Presidential candidate in the 1992 election, on Ross Perot's independent ticket.

Early life and career

Stockdale was born in Abingdon, Illinois. During World War II, he attended the Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1947. Stockdale always spoke with great love and respect about his father who went to great lengths to get him into Annapolis. Stockdale promised his dad he would be the best midshipman at the Naval Academy and always thought of this promise when he became a prisoner. About his time at the Naval Academy, he would later say "[Plebe] year of education under stress was of great personal survival value to me."

Shortly after graduating, Stockdale reported to Pensacola, Florida, for flight training. In 1954, Stockdale was accepted into the Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland. Among his classmates there was John Glenn. Stockdale was always interested in philosophy and returned to Stanford University to continue his education in 1960. He was awarded a master's degree two years later. He shone so much in academics, his superiors urged him to get a doctorate and become an academic. Stockdale preferred the life of a fighter pilot, but later credited philosophy with helping him cope as a prisoner of war.

Vietnam War

Gulf of Tonkin Incident

On August 4, 1964, squadron commander Stockdale was one of the US pilots flying overhead during the second alleged attack of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident; unlike the first attack, this one is believed to have been a false alarm. In the early 1990s, he recounted: "[I] had the best seat in the house to watch that event, and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets—there were no PT boats there.... There was nothing there but black water and American fire power." Stockdale said his superiors ordered him to keep quiet about this. After he was captured, this knowledge threw a burden upon him. He later said he was concerned that his captors would eventually force him to reveal that he knew this terrible secret about the Vietnam War.

Prisoner of war

On a mission over North Vietnam on September 9, 1965, Stockdale ejected from his A-4E Skyhawk, which had been disabled from anti-aircraft fire. Stockdale parachuted into a small village, where he was severely beaten and taken into custody.

He was held as a prisoner of war in the Hoa Lo prison for the next seven years. Locked in leg irons in a bath stall, he was routinely tortured and beaten. When told by his captors that he was to be paraded in public, Stockdale slit his scalp with a razor to purposely disfigure himself so that his captors could not use him as propaganda. When they covered his head with a hat, Stockdale beat himself with a stool until his face was swollen beyond recognition. He told them in no uncertain terms that they would never use him. When Stockdale heard that other prisoners were dying under the torture, he slit his wrists and told them that he preferred death to submission.

Little did Stockdale know that the actions of his wife, Mrs. Sybil Stockdale, had a tremendous impact on how the North Vietnamese reacted to these acts of self-mutilation in 1969. Early in her husband's captivity she organized The League of American Families of POW's and MIA's, with other wives of servicemen who were in similar circumstance. By 1968 she and her organization, which called for the President and the U.S. Congress to publicly acknowledge the mistreatment of the POW's (something that they had never done even though they had evidence of gross mistreatment), was finally getting the attention of the American press and consequently the attention of the North Vietnamese. Mrs. Stockdale personally made these demands known at The Paris Peace Talks and private comments made to her by the head of the Vietnamese delegation there indicated concern that her organization might catch the attention of the American public, something the North Vietnamese knew could turn the tide against them. The result couldn't have been more fortunate for James Stockdale at the very time he slit his wrists. The Vietnamese now understood that they had no choice but to end their program of brutal torture or else they would be exposed internationally for their gross acts of cruelty, something that would completely derail their propaganda program which had so successfully convinced the American press and public that the prisoners were well treated.

Return to the United States

Stockdale was released as a prisoner of war on February 12, 1973. His shoulders had been wrenched from their sockets, his leg shattered by angry villagers and a torturer, and his back broken. But he had refused to capitulate. [1]

He received the Medal of Honor in 1976. Stockdale filed charges against two other officers whom he felt had given aid and comfort to the enemy. However, the Navy Department took no action and merely retired these men.

Debilitated by his captivity and mistreatment, Stockdale could hardly walk or even stand upright upon his return to the U.S. The Navy, out of respect for his courage, kept him on the active list, steadily promoting him over the next few years before permitting him to retire as a vice admiral. He completed his career by serving as President of the Naval War College, from October 13, 1977 until August 22, 1979.

Civilian academic career and writings

After his retirement in 1979, he became the president of The Citadel in South Carolina. He left The Citadel to become a fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in 1981. During the following two decades, Stockdale wrote a number of books both on his experiences during the Vietnam War and afterwards, and on philosophy. With his articulate frankness, as well as his heroism and status as the highest-ranking Vietnam POW, Stockdale attained tremendous credibility among Vietnam veterans.

His best known work is In Love and War: the Story of a Family's Ordeal and Sacrifice During the Vietnam War, co-written with his wife Sybil and published in 1984. It is a compilation of love letters he sent to his wife while he was a captured POW. It was later made into an NBC television movie, watched by 45 million people.

Final years

Stockdale retired to Coronado, California, as he slowly succumbed to Alzheimer's disease. He died from the mind-debilitating illness on July 5, 2005. Stockdale's funeral service was held at the Naval Academy Chapel and he was buried at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery.

A luxury suite at the Loews Annapolis Hotel, the hotel where Perot announced his candidacy, was named in his honor.

In January 2006, the Navy announced that a ship would be named for him. Quotes

* This Article copied from Wikipedia.  See there for more information on his civilian and Vice Presidential Career