This is book number 431 in the Hoover Institution Press Publication series.
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.
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.