Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale 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. He was tortured fifteen times and put in leg irons for two years. As the highest-ranking naval officer held during the Vietnam War he organized the POWs in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” to provide them with a sense of hope and empowerment. 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.
His books include Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot (1995, Hoover Institution Press), A Vietnam Experience (1984, Hoover Institution Press), Courage Under Fire (1993, Hoover Institution Press) and In Love and War (second revised and updated edition, 1990, U.S. Naval Institute Press), coauthored with his wife, Sybil. In early 1987, a dramatic presentation of In Love and War was viewed by more than 45 million viewers on NBC television.
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.