Served With Honor
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 Tuesday, 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, IL., 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,
During his more that seven 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 ordeal.
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
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
"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, California. The service
will take place Saturday, July 16. He will be buried with full
honors at the U.S. Naval Academy Saturday, July 23rd. He is
survived by his beloved wife Sybil of Coronado, CA, and his four
sons: James of Beaver, PA; Sidney of Albuquerque, NM; Stanford of
Denver, CO; Taylor of Claremont, CA; and eight grandchildren.