The decade that followed James Stockdale's seven and a half years in a North Vietnamese prison saw his life take a number of different turns, from a stay in a navy hospital in San Diego to president of a civilian college to his appointment as a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution. In this collection of essays he offers his thoughts on his imprisonment. Describing the horrors of his treatment as a prisoner of war, Stockdale tells how he discovered firsthand the capabilities and limitations of the human spirit in such a situation. As the senior officer in confinement he had what he humbly describes as 'the easiest leadership job in the world: to maintain the organization, resistance, and spirit of ten of the finest men I have ever known.' His reflections on his wartime prison experience and the reasons for his survival form the basis of the writings reprinted here. In subject matter ranging from methods of communication in prison to military ethics to the principles of leadership, the thirty-four selections contained in this volume are a unique record of what Stockdale calls a 'melting experience' - a pressure-packed existence that forces one to grow. Retired Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, a Hoover Institution fellow from 1981 to 1996, was Ross Perot's 1992 presidential running mate and a recipient of the Medal of Honor after enduring seven and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. He died in 2005 at the age of 81.
Vice Admiral Stockdale, a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, served in the navy from 1947 to 1979, beginning as a test pilot and instructor at Patuxent River, Maryland, and spending two years as a graduate student at Stanford University. He became a fighter pilot and was shot down on his second combat tour over North Vietnam, becoming a prisoner of war for eight years, four in solitary confinement. The highest-ranking naval officer held during the Vietnam War, he was tortured fifteen times and put in leg irons for two years. Disabilities from his combat wounds brought about Stockdale's early retirement, he was the only three-star officer in the history of the navy to wear both aviator wings and the Congressional Medal of Honor. As a civilian, Jim Stockdale was a college professor, a college president, and a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution. His many and varied writings all converge on the central theme of how man can rise with dignity to prevail in the face of adversity. He died in 2005.