Vice-Admiral Stockdale was on active duty in the regular navy for thirty-seven years. As a fighter pilot aboard an aircraft carrier, Stockdale was shot down on his second combat tour over North Vietnam. As the senior naval prisoner of war officer in Hanoi for eight years, he was tortured fifteen times, put in leg irons for two years, and put in solitary confinement for four years.
During his naval career, his shore duty consisted of three years as a test pilot and test pilot instructor at Patuxent River, Maryland; two years as a graduate student at Stanford University; one year in the Pentagon; and, finally, two years as president of the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
When physical disability from combat wounds brought about Jim Stockdale’s early retirement from military life, he had the distinction of being the only three-star officer in the history of the navy to wear both aviator wings and the Congressional Medal of Honor (CMH). Besides the CMH, his twenty-six combat decorations include two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Distinguished Service Medals, four Silver Star Medals, and two Purple Hearts.
As a civilian, Jim Stockdale was a college professor, a college president, and a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution. His writings have been many and varied, but all converge on the central theme of how man can rise with dignity to prevail in the face of adversity.