Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

Author: James Bond Stockdale
ISBN: 978-0-8179-9392-4
Publication Date: 7/19/1995
Pages: 242

In describing his seven and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, the late Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale has said: "In that atmosphere of death and hopelessness, stripped of the niceties, the amenities of civilization, my ideas on life and leadership crystallized." Despite torture, intimidation, and isolation, Stockdale fulfilled his duties as senior officer among the prisoners with intelligence and courage, defining rules of conduct and maintaining morale. He often described the intense pressures of that situation as a "melting" experience, in which preconceived feelings, fears, and bias melt as one comes to realize that, under the gun, you must grow or fail—or, in some cases, grow or die.

This collection of his essays and speeches from the 1980s and 1990s reinforces how that experience formed a lifelong basis for his philosophical thought on issues of character, leadership, integrity, personal and public virtue, and ethics. The selections in this volume all reflect, in one way or another, a central theme: how man can rise with dignity to prevail in the face of adversity.

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 2006 at the age of 81.

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James Bond Stockdale

Vice Admiral James Bond 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.

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