RIP 07/05/2005

Name: James Bond Stockdale
Rank/Branch: O5/US Navy, pilot
Date of Birth: 23 December 1923
Home City of Record: Abingdon IL
Date of Loss: 09 September 1965
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 193400N 1065800E (WG839635)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4E
Missions: 175+
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
s118.jpg (36261 bytes)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 1990 from one or more of the
following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with
POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.
NETWORK as noted 2023.

Academy of Achievement's biography, photo gallery and exclusive
interview of James Stockdale.

The site is an excellent resource for students and teachers trying to learn
more about James Stockdale. The interview can be found at:


SYNOPSIS: By midsummer 1964 events were taking place in the Gulf of Tonkin
that would lead to the first clash between U.S. and North Vietnamese forces.
In late July the destroyer USS MADDOX, on patrol in the gulf gathering
intelligence, had become the object of communist attention. For two
consecutive days, 31 July-1 August, the MADDOX cruised unencumbered along a
predesignated route off the North Vietnamese coast. In the early morning
hours of 2 August, however, it was learned from intelligence sources of a
possible attack against the destroyer.

The attack by three North Vietnamese P-4 torpedo boats (PT boats)
materialized just after 4:00 p.m. on August 2. The MADDOX fired off three
warning volleys, then opened fire. Four F-8 Crusaders led by Commander James
B. Stockdale from the aircraft carrier USS TICONDEROGA, also took part in
the skirmish. The result of the twenty-minute affair saw one gunboat sunk
and another crippled. The MADDOX, ordered out of the gulf after the incident
concluded, was hit by one 14.5mm shell.

A day later the MADDOX, accompanied by the destroyer USS C. TURNER JOY,
received instructions to reenter the gulf and resume patrol. The USS
CONSTELLATION, on a Hong Kong port visit was ordered to join the TICONDEROGA
stationed at the mouth of the gulf in the South China Sea. The two
destroyers cruised without incident on August 3 and in the daylight hours of
August 4 moved to the middle of the gulf. Parallel to the movements of the
C. TURNER JOY and MADDOX, South Vietnamese gunboats launched attacks on
several North Vietnamese radar installations. The North Vietnamese believed
the U.S. destroyers were connected with these strikes.

At 8:41 p.m. on August 4 both destroyers reportedly picked up
fast-approaching contacts on their radars. Navy documents show the ships
changed course to avoid the unknown vessels, but the contacts continued
intermittently. At 10:39 p.m. when the MADDOX and C. TURNER JOY radars
indicated one enemy vessel had closed to within seven thousand yards, the C.
TURNER JOY was ordered to open fire and the MADDOX soon followed. For the
next several hours, the destroyers, covered by the TICONDEROGA's and the
CONSTELLATION's aircraft, reportedly evaded torpedoes and fired on their

Historians have debated, and will continue to do so, whether the destroyers
were actually ever attacked. Most of the pilots flying that night spotted
nothing. Stockdale, who would later earn the Medal of Honor, stated that a
gunboat attack did not occur. The skipper of the TICONDEROGA's Attack
Squadron 56, Commander Wesley L. McDonald, said he "didn't see anything that
night except the MADDOX and the TURNER JOY."

President Lyndon B. Johnson reacted at once to the supposed attacks on the
MADDOX, ordering retaliatory strikes on strategic points in North Vietnam.
Even as the President spoke to the nation, aircraft from the CONSTELLATION
and TICONDEROGA were airborne and heading for four major PT-boat bases along
the North Vietnamese coast. The area of coverage ranged from a small base at
Quang Khe 50 miles north of the demarcation line between North and South
Vietnam, to the large base at Hon Gai in the north.

On August 5, 1964, Stockdale led a flight of sixteen aircraft from the
TICONDEROGA on the Vinh petroleum storage complex at 1:30 p.m. in response
to the presidential directive to destroy gunboats and supporting facilities
in North Vietnam which the President indicated were used in the attack on
the MADDOX. The results saw 90 percent of the storage facility at Vinh go up
in flames.

Meanwhile, other coordinated attacks were made by aircraft from the
CONSTELLATION on nearby Ben Thuy Naval Base, Quang Khe, Hon Me Island and
Hon Gai's inner harbor. Skyraiders, Skyhawks and F8s bombed and rocketed the
four areas, destroying or damaging an estimated twenty-five PT-boats, more
than half of the North  Vietnamese force.

Air wing command was usually placed in the hands of an individual who had
completed a tour as squadron commander of an attack or fighter unit. The CAG
was typically a better than average pilot with a solid record of
performance, and more than likely he was a pretty fair politician. By
another definition, he'd survived in a profession unforgiving of error.

On his second Vietnam tour, CDR James B. Stockdale was the commander of Air
Wing 16 onboard the USS ORISKANY. He had led the successful strike off the
TICONDEROGA against the petroleum storage facility at Vinh on August 4,
1964. On one mission, he had the canopy blown off his aircraft and had to
ditch in the Gulf of Tonkin where he was rescued. Then on September 9, 1965
flying an A4E Skyhawk, he led another strike mission over North Vietnam.

A major strike had been scheduled against the Thanh Hoa ("Dragon Jaw")
bridge, and the weather was so critical there was a question whether to
launch. Finally the decision was to launch. Halfway through, weather
reconnaissance reported the weather in the target area was zero, and
Stockdale had no choice but to send the aircraft on secondary targets.
Stockdale and his wingman, CDR Wynn Foster, circled the Gulf of Tonkin while
another strike element departed to look for a SAM site at their secondary
target. Had anything been found, Wynn and Stockdale were to join them.

After fifteen minutes or so, the other group came up empty. The group made
the decision to hit a secondary target, a railroad facility near the city of
Thanh Hoa.

CDR Stockdale's aircraft was hit by flak and he ejected, landing in a
village. His wingman saw the parachute go down, but could not see what was
happening to Stockdale on the ground. On a low pass, Foster saw that the
villagers were brutally beating Stockdale. There was nothing he could do.
The village was an unauthorized target. Throughout the rest of the war,
Foster carried the guilt of being unable to do something to help CDR

James Stockdale was captured by the Vietnamese and taken to Hanoi, where he
spent the next seven and one-half years as a prisoner of war. He had briefed
his pilots during the period he was CAG on the ORISKANY that the Code of
Conduct would apply to anyone captured. There had been some dispute about
the validity of the Code in Vietnam, an undeclared war.

American POWs who had flown with Stockdale had no doubt as to what was
expected of them as prisoners. The knowledge, however, was a two-edged
sword--on one hand, the captives were glad to understand the guidelines. On
the other, when they "broke" (which inevitable they did), immense guilt and
shame ensued. Eventually, as they communicated with one another, everyone
understood that they had only to do their best.

It was not possible to resist utterly and survive. A few who cooperated with
the enemy "above and beyond" what was considered appropriate, received
special treatment from their guards in return. These men were despised by
other POWs who were doing their best to adhere to the Code of Conduct. Upon
his return, Jim Stockdale accused two POWs of mutiny. Official charges were
never brought against these men, or any others similarly accused.

During his captivity, Stockdale was considered to be a troublemaker by the
Vietnamese. As a senior officer, Stockdale developed a policy of behavior
for the POWs called "BACK US." The policy provided guidance on such things
as propaganda broadcasts, bowing to guards, and unity, thwarting the
"obedience" the Vietnamese tried to extract from the American POWs. The POWs
were shuffled from one camp to another, many times based on "unsatisfactory"
behavior; many were held long periods in solitary confinement; many were
tortured in "interrogation" sessions.

In early 1969, one of the POWs became ill and was in great pain at a camp
known as Alcatraz, located some ten blocks from the famed Hoa Lo (Hanoi
Hilton). The man was receiving no medical care, and fellow prisoners put the
pressure on. What ensued might be called a prison riot. The efforts did
bring a doctor to the ill POW's cell, although the doctor did nothing to
ease his pain. The next morning, Stockdale organized a forty-eight hour fast
to demand medical attention for the ailing officer. The next evening each
prisoner was interrogated and on the morning of January 27, Stockdale was
taken away to another prison center.

Finally, on February 12, 1973, Jim Stockdale was released from prisoner of
war camps and sent home. In all, 591 Americans were released.

Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing,
prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S.
Government. Many authorities who have examined this largely classified
information are convinced that hundreds of Americans are still held captive
today. These reports are the source of serious distress to many returned
American prisoners. They had a code that no one could honorably return
unless all of the prisoners returned. Not only that code of honor, but the
honor of our country is at stake as long as even one man remains unjustly
held. It's time we brought our men home.


James Stockdale retired from the United States Navy as a Vice Admiral. 


                                Medal of Honor


Rank and organization:  Rear Admiral (then Captain), U.S. Navy.

Place and date: Hoa Lo prison, Hanoi, North  Vietnam,  4 September 1969.

Entered service at: Abingdon,  Ill.

Born: 23 December 1923,  Abingdon, Ill.


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and
beyond the call of duty while senior naval officer in the Prisoner of War
camps North  Vietnam. Recognized by his captors as the leader of the
Prisoners of War resistance to interrogation and in their refusal to
participate in propaganda exploitation, Rear Adm. Stockdale was singled out
for interrogation and attendant torture after he was detected in a covert
communications attempt. Sensing the start of another purge, and aware that
his earlier efforts at self disfiguration to dissuade his captors from
exploiting him for propaganda purposes had resulted in cruel and agonizing
punishment, Rear Adm. Stockdale resolved to make himself a symbol of
resistance regardless of personaI sacrifice.

He deliberately inflicted a near-mortal wound to his person in order to
convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than
capitulate. He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North
Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated in their
employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the Prisoners
of War. By his heroic action, at great peril to himself, he earned the
everlasting gratitude of his fellow prisoners and of his country. Rear Adm.
Stockdale's valiant leadership and extraordinary courage in a hostile
environment sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval


NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

No. 679-05
Jul 05, 2005
Media Contact: (703)697-5131
Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711

Department of the Navy Announces the Death of Retired Vice Adm. James B.

Retired Navy Vice Adm. James B. Stockdale, Medal of Honor recipient, former
Viet Nam prisoner of war (POW), naval aviator and test pilot, academic, and
American hero died today, July 5, 2005, at his home in Coronado, Calif.  He
was 81 years old and had been battling Alzheimer's disease.

Born Dec. 23, 1923 in Abingdon, Ill., and a graduate of the U.S. Naval
Academy Class of 1947, he is best remembered for his extraordinary
leadership as the senior naval officer held in captivity during the Vietnam
War. As commanding officer of Carrier Air Group Sixteen flying from the
aircraft carrier the USS Oriskany, he was shot down while leading a mission
Sept. 9, 1965.

During his 7-year imprisonment, he was tortured numerous times, forced to
wear vise-like heavy leg irons for two years and spent four years in
solitary confinement.  While imprisoned, he organized the prisoner culture
in defiance of regulations forbidding prisoner communication and improvised
a cohesive set of rules governing prisoner behavior.  Codified in the
acronym, BACK U.S. (Unity over Self), these rules gave prisoners a sense of
hope, which many credited with giving them the strength to endure their

Upon his release in 1973, Stockdale's extraordinary heroism became widely
known and he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1976.  A portion of his
citation reads: "Stockdale...deliberately inflicted a near mortal wound to
his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up
his life rather than capitulate.  He was subsequently discovered and revived
by the North Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated
their employment of excessive harassment and torture of all prisoners of

"Vice Adm. Jim Stockdale's legendary leadership and heroic service to the
cause of freedom has been an inspiration to our nation," said Secretary of
the Navy Gordon England.  "His courage and life stand as timeless examples
of the power of faith and the strength of the human spirit.  Our thoughts
are with his devoted family.  America and our Navy are eternally grateful
and will always remember him."

Upon his retirement from naval service, the secretary of the Navy
established the Vice Admiral Stockdale Award for Inspirational Leadership
presented annually in both Pacific and Atlantic Fleets.  Stockdale held 26
combat awards including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three
Distinguished Service Medals, two Purple Hearts and four Silver Star Medals.
He is a member of the Navy's Carrier Hall of Fame, The National Aviation
Hall of Fame and an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test
Pilots.  He held 11 honorary doctoral degrees.

"Our Navy is saddened by the loss of Vice Adm. James B. Stockdale, a giant
among heroes and a patriarch of ethical leadership," said Chief of Naval
Operations Adm. Vern Clark.  "Adm. Stockdale challenged the human limits of
moral courage, physical endurance and intellectual bravery, emerging
victorious as a legendary beacon for all to follow.  Our thoughts and
prayers are with Sybil, his devoted partner in love and life, and the rest
of the Stockdale family."

Stockdale will be honored at a memorial service on board the USS Ronald
Reagan in his hometown of Coronado, Calif.  The service will take place
Saturday, July 16.  He will be buried with full honors at the U.S. Naval
Academy Saturday, July 23.  He is survived by his beloved wife Sybil of
Coronado, Calif., and his four sons: James of Beaver, Pa.; Sidney of
Albuquerque, N.M.; Stanford of Denver, Colo.; Taylor of Claremont, Calif.;
and eight grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions should be made to:

            U.S. Naval Academy Foundation, 291 Wood Rd., Beach Hall,
            Annapolis, Md., 21402, telephone: (410) 295-4116.

            Monmouth College Fund, 700 E. Broadway, Monmouth, Ill., 61462,
            telephone: (309) 457-2316/17

            Stockdale's biography and additional photos are located on the
            following Web site: .

Note to media:

            For more information concerning the memorial service in San
            Diego, Calif., contact Capt. Jacquie Yost at (619) 532-1430.

For information concerning funeral services at the U.S. Naval Academy,
contact Cdr. Rod Gibbons at (410) 293-1521.


Remembering James Stockdale:
His Destiny Made All the Difference

Jul 7, 2005

A truly great man died Tuesday.

In September, 1965, when Cdr. Jim Stockdale was shot down over North
Vietnam, my squadron commanding officer, Cdr. Tex Birdwell -- one of the
toughest men I'd ever known, who'd worked with Stockdale at the Navy Test
Pilot School -- said, "Jim'll do all right, he's the toughest guy I know."
Commander Bill Franke, a contemporary of Stockdale's when shot down, was the
smartest human being I'd ever known. He served on the test pilot faculty
with Stockdale. Franke told me, "Jim is the smartest human being I've ever
known." Those two endorsements say a lot about Jim Stockdale -- a very tough
guy who led others with his intellect......

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense

Jan 12, 2006

New Destroyer Honors Vietnam War POW and Medal of Honor Recipient

The Navy's newest Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer will be named
in honor of Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale (1923-2005), the legendary leader
of American prisoners of war (POWs) during the Vietnam War.

Stockdale was the highest-ranking naval officer ever held as a prisoner of
war in North Vietnam.  His plane was shot down Sept. 9, 1965, while flying
combat missions over North Vietnam.  In recognition of his leadership and
sacrifice he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1976.  Stockdale spent more
than seven years in captivity at prisons in North Vietnam, including time at
the infamous "Hanoi Hilton."  Four years of those years were spent in
solitary confinement.  While imprisoned, Stockdale is credited with
organizing a set of rules to govern the behavior of fellow prisoners of war
and for helping to develop a code for prisoners to communicate with each
other that included tapping on cell walls.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, Stockdale received 26 combat medals and
awards, including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Distinguished
Service Medals, two Purple Hearts and four Silver Stars.  He was also named
to the Aircraft Carrier Hall of Fame, National Aviation Hall of Fame, and
was an honorary member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

His wife, Sybil, helped lead the effort to bring attention to the suffering
of American POWs and to bring them home.  The Stockdales have four sons,
James, Sidney, Stanford and Taylor.  More information on Stockdale is
available at .

The USS Stockdale will be a Flight IIA variant of the Arleigh Burke-class
guided-missile destroyer and will incorporate a helicopter hanger facility
into the original design.  The ship can carry two SH-60B/R Light Airborne
Multipurpose System MK III helicopters.

Guided-missile destroyers operate independently and in conjunction with
carrier battle groups, surface action groups, amphibious groups and
replenishment groups.  More information on the U.S. Navys destroyers is
available at .

From: Stephens LCDR Douglas E
Sent: Thursday, June 29, 2006 11:20 AM
To: ''
Subject: Biographies on Prisoners of War and Missing in Action

As noted on your web site, corrections to biographies need to be forwarded.
Here are corrections to VADM Stockdale's bio:

--   He had 202 missions when he was shot down, not 175.

--  Charges brought on by VADM Stockdale towards the POWs who were
accused of mutiny were indeed charged but then-Secretary of the Navy John
Warner dropped the charges "In the best interests of the Navy."

--  The Admiral developed "BACK-US" which stood for:

      -  Never BOW in public

      -  Stay off the AIR

      -  Never admit to CRIMES

      -  Don't KISS them good-bye (Never thank them for anything)

      -  "US" stood for Unity over Self (Not United States)

--  The Admiral loved Philosophy but he did not have, nor work
towards, a PhD in Philosophy.

--  He had the highest academic standing at the US Naval Academy and,
therefore, was selected to receive the class diplomas from Fleet Admiral
Chester Nimitz.

--  He earned his Master's in International Relations from Stanford,
not Engineering.

--  Admiral Stockdale also had 10 Air Medals that he earned in combat.

      -  He earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, 3 Distinguished Service
Medals, 4 Silver Stars, The Legion of Merit with Combat "V," 10 Air Medals,
2 Bronze Stars with Combat "V" and 2 Purple Hearts.

--  He is a member of the Carrier Aviation Hall of Fame.

--  He is the only 3-star officer in the history of the Navy to earn
the Congressional Medal of Honor and wear aviator wings.

I hope this helps in remembering this great man.


LCDR Doug Stephens, MSC, USN
Director for Administration
UNIT 38450


On Thursday, August 30, 2007 the new main entrance gate to Naval Air Station
North Island, Coronado, CA will be formally dedicated, honoring VAdm James
B. Stockdale ("CAG").

This impressive new $12.4 million gate complex is elaborate, with five lanes
leading into the base to  accomodate 12,000 vehicles and 36,000 personnel
daily. It is to be formally known as the Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale
Gate. Adjacent to a massive flagpole just insde will be a large boulder with
an afixed bas-relief bronze plaque  honoring "CAG" with emphasis on his
leadership as a POW and his Medal of Honor. Leading in from the gate complex
is a long, wide boulevard to be named  Stockdale Road.


More info


Ship's Christening:


Hanoi Jane to vets: get a life

Jane Fonda picked an old scab when she apologized for the infamous 1972 photo of her
atop an anti-aircraft gun in Hanoi. I made one unforgivable mistake when I was in North
Vietnam, and I will go to my grave with this, she told Oprah this month.

We wont argue with that. But if America is looking for a woman whose conviction made
a difference during the Vietnam War, we have a suggestion: Sybil Stockdale, widow of a
hero Admiral James B. Stockdale as well as one in her own right......




Limits of Endurance

Defiant, by Alvin Townley

JAN. 31, 2014

Alvin Townley, the author of books about naval aviation and Eagle Scouts, has written a gripping account of the "Alcatraz Eleven,"
a group of American prisoners of war in North Vietnam who formed a tough core of  heroic resisters despite brutal and relentless
efforts to break them and convert them into fodder for the Communist propaganda machine. Readers of even  passing acquaintance
with the Vietnam War will most likely know of Jeremiah Denton's televised 1966 interview - one of the first glimpses of the life of
United States military pilots who had been shot down and captured. American viewers watched in horror and puzzlement as Denton,
an emaciated, hunched figure dressed in gray prison garb, defiantly telegraphed the word t-o-r-t-u-r-e by blinking out the letters in
Morse code. His brave act was followed by yet more torture, and some time later Vietnamese authorities bundled him along with 10
other men out of the infamous Hanoi Hilton, as Hoa Lo prison in the North Vietnamese capital was known (and where John McCain,
probably the most famous P.O.W. of the war, would be held). The destination of the Eleven was an even filthier hellhole a few miles
away, which they nicknamed Alcatraz....



Sybil Bailey Stockdale, age 90 passed away yesterday, October 10, 2015 in
Coronado, California. She was at peace - without pain or fear. Founder
and first leader of the National League of Families of Prisoners and
Missing in Southeast Asia, she lobbied American politicians, military
and civilian Pentagon leaders, and North Vietnamese negotiators in Paris
on behalf of - and to improve conditions for - those imprisoned in
Vietnam for several years.

Arrangements are yet to be announced. No plans firmed up yet - but when
timing is established, she will be laid to rest next to dad
at the Naval Academy cemetery. Date for a memorial service in Coronado
is being considered.

Thanks for thoughts and prayers. I Envision her running to greet Dad in
much the same way she did 42 years ago at the end of the long cruise.

Jim Stockdale, Jr. Newspaper
Sybil pushed the POW/MIA wives' group to organize formally and together they founded the League of American Families of American Prisoners and ...
From that meeting and under the leadership of Sybil, these heroic women, including my wife, Shirley, formed the National League of POW/MIA ...
Penny Bradbury bought this POW bracelet as an undergraduate at Plattsburgh State University in New York in 1965, the year James Stockdale's plane ...
At home, his wife, Sybil, helped to organize the National League of POW/MIA Families, which most of us know by the black POW/MIA flags flown around the country. James Stockdale was released on February 12th, 1973, and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Ford. Afterwards, he enjoyed a ...