James Bond Stockdale, born on 23 December 1923 in Abingdon, Ill., son of Vernon B. and Mabel E. Stockdale. He excelled in scholarship, music, and athletics as a high school student, and at Knox College, Galesburg, Ill, and at Monmouth College, Ill. Stockdale entered the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md., on 23 June 1943, and graduated and was appointed ensign (an accelerated curriculum because of World War II) on 5 June 1946.
He completed further training at Jacksonville, Fla., through July 1946, and then reported to his first ship, high speed minesweeper Carmick (DMS-33), as her assistant gunnery officer. He transferred to high speed minesweeper Thompson (DMS-38) as her assistant engineer and electrical officer (August 1946-January 1947). He next (January 1947-July 1948) reported to destroyer Charles H. Roan (DD-853) as her communications officer. He married Sybil E. Bailey of East Haven, Conn, in North Branford, Conn., on 28 June 1947. Their union produced four sons: James B., II; Sidney B.; Stanford B.; and Taylor B. He then served as the executive officer of patrol craft, submarine PCS-1392 (July 1948-June 1949).
Stockdale completed flight training at Pensacola, Fla., and at Corpus Christi, Texas (June 1949-September 1950). He was designated a Naval Aviator on 24 September 1950. He accomplished additional training at the Fleet Airborne Electronics Training Unit, Atlantic Fleet, at Norfolk, Va. (October 1950-January 1951). He completed landing signal officer (LSO) training at Carrier Qualification Training Unit 4, Corry Field, Pensacola (January 1951-January 1952), and then carried out his first operational flying assignment as the LSO and safety officer, followed by the flight officer, with Air Antisubmarine Squadron (VS) 27 at Norfolk (January 1952-January 1954). While assigned to the squadron, he familiarized himself with Grumman TBF Avengers and AF Guardians. Stockdale followed these assignments by completing Test Pilot training, and then serving as an instructor at Patuxent River, Md. (January 1954-January 1957).
He then served as the maintenance and operations officer, and flew Vought F8U Crusaders, with Fighter Squadron (VF) 211 at Moffett Field, Calif. (January 1957-March 1959). Stockdale became the Executive Officer of VF-24 at Moffett Field (March 1959-August 1960). He attained a Master of Arts in International Relations at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif. (September 1960-September 1962), and then completed Crusader Replacement Air Group training with VF-124 at Miramar, Calif. (September 1962-February 1963). Stockdale became the executive officer of VF-51 at Miramar (February-September 1963), and then assumed command of the squadron (September 1963-October 1964).
Stockdale led the squadron during combat missions over Southeast Asia. North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats attacked destroyer Maddox (DD-731) in the Gulf of Tonkin on 2 August 1964. The destroyer returned fire and disabled a motor torpedo boat, and aircraft from attack aircraft carrier Ticonderoga (CVA-14) sank the vessel. Adm. Ulysses S. G. Sharp, Jr., Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet, ordered destroyer Turner Joy (DD-951) to close Maddox, but the North Vietnamese disengaged. Maddox and Turner Joy detected apparent multiple radar contacts inbound on 3 August. Despite heavy seas and a moonless and overcast night, lookouts on board Turner Joy spotted two apparent torpedo wakes. Aircraft from Ticonderoga, including Stockdale, flying an F-8E Crusader of VF-51, added to the din while making passes, and Maddox fired starshells for illumination. Turner Joy and the pilots claimed to hit one or more North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats of the 135th Torpedo Boat Group’s 3rd Squadron, but failed to definitely identify contacts or recover wreckage.
On 5 August 1964, Operation Pierce Arrow began: retaliatory carrier strikes ordered by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Attack aircraft carriers Constellation (CVA-64) and Ticonderoga launched 64 bombing sorties against vessels and facilities at five locations along the North Vietnamese coast at Bai Chay, Cua Hoi, Gianh River, and Lach Truong, and petroleum-oil-lubricants storage areas at Vinh. Stockdale led 16 of those aircraft from Ticonderoga, and subsequently received the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). The attacks sank or damaged an estimated 25 vessels, and damaged petroleum stores and storage facilities. Antiaircraft fire shot down two aircraft over Hon Gai. Those clashes led to the Joint Congressional Resolution of 7 August 1964 approving the U.S. actions and escalating U.S. involvement in the war.
Stockdale served as the operations officer of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 12 (October 1964-February 1965), and then became Commander Air Group (CAG) of CVW-16, embarked in attack aircraft carrier Oriskany (CVA-34). He received a Gold Star in lieu of his second award of the DFC for planning and coordinating “a highly successful aerial strike against the petroleum storage area at Nam Dinh, North Vietnam…” on 2 July 1965. Stockdale’s efficient pre-strike planning and scene-of-action coordination contributed “significantly to the destruction of eight petroleum storage tanks and severe damage to associated buildings and equipment…”
Stockdale launched in Old Salt 352, a McDonnell Douglas A-4E Skyhawk (BuNo. 151134), on 9 September 1965. North Vietnamese automatic weapons fire shot him down just after he made a Snakeye bombing attack against a group of railroad cars south of Thanh Hoa, North Vietnam, near 19°34'N, 106°58'E. He ejected and landed with severe injuries, and villagers discovered and beat the pilot and dragged him through the streets. The enemy imprisoned Stockdale at a former French compound on Hoa Lo Street in Hanoi that they converted into a prison, which American prisoners scathingly referred to as the ‘Hanoi Hilton.’ The North Vietnamese subsequently transferred him to a former French jail in north central Hanoi, administered by their Ministry of National Defense but which the Americans derisively dubbed ‘Alcatraz.’
The North Vietnamese repeatedly tortured Stockdale, at times restraining the pilot in heavy leg irons and detaining him in solitary confinement. Stockdale valiantly defied his captors’ attempts to compel him to sign false confessions, and disfigured himself by beating his face black and blue with a mahogany stool. The naval aviator designed a prisoner communication system and a set of rules which gave his fellow prisoners strength and hope.
He later received the Medal of Honor for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty…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 personal 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….”
Stockdale’s wife Sybil worked tirelessly to raise Americans’ awareness of the plight of the prisoners and those missing in action, and she helped form and became the initial national coordinator of the National League of Families of American Prisoners Missing in Southeast Asia, a nonprofit organization that worked on behalf of the men.
Stockdale endured captivity until his release during Operation Homecoming on 12 February 1973. He recovered from his physical injuries while briefly hospitalized at Naval Hospital, San Diego, and then served as Commander Antisubmarine Warfare Wing, Pacific Fleet (January 1974-April 1976). Stockdale next served in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations as Deputy Director of Strategic Plans, Policy, Nuclear Systems, at the Pentagon (April 1976-October 1977), followed by service as President of the Naval War College at Newport, R.I., from October 1977 until his retirement on 1 September 1979. Subsequently, Stockdale served as President of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina (1979-1980). After his depature from the Citadel, he became a fellow of Stanford University's Hoover Institution in 1981, writing and lecturing for the next twelve years, and also chaired the WHite House Fellows program in the administration of President Ronald Reagan.
Following Stockdale’s retirement from naval service, the Secretary of the Navy established the Vice Admiral Stockdale Award for Inspirational Leadership, which is presented annually in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. Stockdale ran as H. Ross Perot’s Vice Presidential Candidate of the Reform Party in 1992. He battled Alzheimer’s disease during his final years. Vice Adm. Stockdale died at the age of 81 at his home in Coronado, Calif., on 5 July 2005, and was interred at the Naval Academy on 23 July.
His decorations include: the Medal of Honor; two Distinguished Flying Crosses; three Distinguished Service Medals; two Purple Hearts; four Silver Stars; two Bronze Stars; and ten Air 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.
(DDG-106: displacement 9,515; length 510'; beam 66'; draft 32'; speed 30 knots; complement 312; armament 1 5-inch, 1 Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) for 96 BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-156 SM-2MR Standards, RIM-161 SM-3 Standard Anti-Ballistic Missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSMs), and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, 2 25 millimeter, 4 .50 caliber machine guns, and 6 Mk 32 torpedo tubes, aircraft 2 Sikorsky SH-60B Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) Mk III Seahawks; class Arleigh Burke)
Stockdale (DDG 106) was laid down on 10 August 2006 at Bath, Maine, by Bath Iron Works; launched on 24 February 2008; sponsored by Mrs. Sybil E. Stockdale, the widow of the late admiral; and commissioned on 18 April 2009 at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, Calif., Cmdr. Frederick W. Kacher in command.
The eagle, a symbol of vigilance and courage, represents Stockdale’s resistance to his captors’ brutality and pressure to use him and his fellow captives as propaganda tools. The eagle also refers also to Stockdale’s award of aviator wings, represented in the crest and his distinction as pilot and instructor. Dark blue represents the Navy; the white of the eagle’s head denotes integrity and idealism. The demi trident refers to leadership and the admiral’s commitment to uphold in captivity the Navy standards of conduct. The silver and scarlet bordure represents the cohesion of sailors under stress and their tradition of sacrifice and courage.
The wings signify Stockdale’s distinction in his award of both aviator wings and the Medal of Honor, and the three stars above and the Celeste blue octagon recalls the medal and the AEGIS-class capabilities of Stockdale (DDG-106). The three stars at the top recall Stockdale’s many combat decorations. The laurel wreath traditionally conveys honor and achievement.
Saltirewise behind the shield a cutlass and a naval officer’s sword points down Proper, representing the crewmembers of the ship.
On a dark blue scroll doubled gold garnished dark blue the motto “Return With Honor” inscribed in gold letters.
Stockdale made her maiden deployment during a voyage to the Western Pacific (November 2010-July 2011). The ship carried out maritime security operations to ensure international freedom of navigation and visited: Guam; Sepangar, Malaysia; Singapore; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Laem Chabang, Thailand; and Chinhae, South Korea.
She took part in Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RimPac) 2012. Forty ships and submarines, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 people, from 22 nations, took part in RimPac 2012 in and around the Hawaiian Islands, principally near the Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands (29 June–3 August).
Stockdale operates with Destroyer Squadron 1 out of San Diego, Calif.
Detailed history under construction.
Mark L. Evans
23 April 2014