Inspiration from Admiral Stockdale

Tim Knight from Slope of Hope's picture

Originally published on Slope of Hope last month, I thought it was worth bringing over here to ZH....

If you're like most Americans, you hadn't heard of James Stockdale until he showed up for the 1992 Vice Presidential debates and made this famous line:

Who am I? Why am I here? (video can be seen here)

Afterwards, he became the butt of jokes and was basically portrayed as a dottering old man. He and Ross Perot captured nearly 20% of the vote, in spite of being a third party ticket, and the nation soon stopped talking about Admiral Stockdale.

0110-stockdaleI hadn't thought of him for years, but last night I happened to trip across an article about the man, and I was amazed. He suffered through unspeakable horrors as a prisoner of war and, in all that time, he showed strength, resolve, and character that I imagine 99.9999% of the population lack. The guy had brass balls, pure and simple, and he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage.

Read on:

Stockdale was held as a prisoner of war in the Hoa Lo prison for the next seven years. Locked in leg irons in a bath stall, he was routinely tortured and beaten. When told by his captors that he was to be paraded in public, Stockdale slit his scalp with a razor to purposely disfigure himself so that his captors could not use him as propaganda. When they covered his head with a hat, he beat himself with a stool until his face was swollen beyond recognition. When Stockdale was discovered with information that could implicate his friends' "black activities", he slit his wrists so they could not torture him into confession.

One can only imagine fellow VP-debate-participant Dan Quayle's behavior in such a circumstance. Once they mussed his hair, it would probably be all over. To continue:

Stockdale was part of a group of about eleven prisoners known as the "Alcatraz Gang": George Thomas Coker, George McKnight, Jeremiah Denton, Harry Jenkins, Sam Johnson, James Mulligan, Howard Rutledge, Robert Shumaker, Ronald Storz and Nels Tanner; which was separated from other captives and placed in solitary confinement for their leadership in resisting their captors. "Alcatraz" was a special facility in a courtyard behind the North Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense, located about one mile away from Hoa Lo Prison. In Alcatraz, each of the eleven men were kept in solitary confinement in cells measuring 3 feet by 9 feet with a light bulb which was kept on around the clock. The men were locked in leg irons each night

What amazed me the most is what Stockdale said in reflection:

"I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade."

Now here's the important part......when asked about who died during captivity, he replied:

"Oh, that's easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."

And then, finally, the most important part of all, which you might want to read ten times to yourself:

"This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

I hope the departed Admiral will forgive me for using his words as an inspiration for traders - - or anyone undergoing a challenge - - but these are some of the most inspiring words I've ever read.

Thank you, Admiral Stockdale, for everything you did. I promise that those old jokes tossed around in the 1990s about you are no longer funny anymore. You were a great man.

Oh, and just to add icing to the cake. His full name, honest to God, was James Bond Stockdale.

What a bad-ass.

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Shizzmoney's picture

I remember when i was a kid how much the MSM shitted all over this guy.

And he didn't deserve it.  Sure, he wasn't a politican who was polished for television, which we now know is how to convince the stupid masses to vote.

Dude was a POW. In a war we shouldn't have fought.  Gets my respect over the last 3 presidents any day of the week from me. 

The Navigator's picture

A true American Patriot - spoke the truth in the 1992 debates and I voted for Perot and Stockcale, was proud to do so.

If this country is to survive, we need men like Stockdale and General Smedley Butler.

Never forget that our military men and women fight for the ideals of this country and our constitution. Nough said.

Semper Paratus, The Navigator

BlackholeDivestment's picture




                                                    666 Sucker


                                            ...and what followed was


                                            a giant sucking sound South 


                                              to a Cayman Island Account 







                                                     IN HELL 



Below Zero's picture


Getting yourself captured does not necessarily make one a good President or Vice President. While I appreciate his personal sacrifice I question his years of silence about the fraud perpetrated upon the American puplic in order to declare war on North Vietnam. He was a primary witness of the hoax of the second Gulf of Tonkin incident instrumental in the US declaring war. He remained silent until the 1990's. Where was his honesty for twenty years? Giving a POW a Medal of Honor for being a POW is highly unusual and is hugely suspect. Did he get it to buy his silence? Why didn't all of the other POW's get one? Here is Stockdale's statement in the 1990's long after the war was over and 50,000 Americans were dead. In the early 1990's, he recounted: I had the best seat in the house to watch that event, and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets--there were no PT boats there...There was nothing but black water and American fire power". Stockdale said his superiors ordered him to keep quiet about this. He later said that while in captivity he was concerned that he would be forced to reveal this "secret" about the Vietnam War. 


Eireann go Brach's picture

Fuck you Below Zero, you would not have lasted 5 minutes as a POW you cowardly cunt!

Below Zero's picture

It is not about getting yourself captured. John McCain did the same thing. Its about NOT getting yourself captured. While I appreciate their service and personal sacrifice becoming a POW does not make anyone qualified for Presidential offices. I don't question their difficult times as a POW. I just don't appreciate their less than honest behavior that was evident later in life. If you see someone planning on committing a mass murder do you keep your mouth shut just because your boss said to? Get a life and get real. By the way McCain did not get a MOH for his capivity. Why is that?

Gringo Viejo's picture

McCain's moniker with fellow prisoners was "The Hanoi Songbird".

Today he's a sitting Senator. There is no justice.

DarthVaderMentor's picture

I met did man several times. I agree with you that becoming a POW should not be a qualification for President. In any case, he was shot down over enemy territory and there was nothing he could do to change the outcome.


On the other hand, the man was among the brightest, honest and gracious, and most tenacious human beings I have ever met. I would say that his behavior in captivity and his graciousness and service afterwards show that he always had his country and service foremost in his mind and he was a trustworthy person, which are sought after Presidential qualities.


I did not vote for him because I did not feel that such a good man like him should soil his reputation by becoming a politician and a figurehead, which is what the position of VP always turns out to be unless the President is killed. 

Below Zero's picture

There are 50,000 DEAD Americans and their still mourning familys and a whole lot more that are disabled that would disagree with you about his honesty. Sometimes we get a chance to make a big difference. Sometimes we don't. He had the chance and he blew it. It took him over 20 years to fess up about the truth and he did not do it very loudly even then. He was one of the few who knew the truth but he then lead the first bombing mission into North Vietnam based on that huge hoax. We don't need people in leadership roles that don't have a moral compass. He failed and many Americans paid with their lives.

Moe Howard's picture

So you contend that if he spoke up, there would not have been a Viet Nam war? Really?

Kennedy thought about pulling out, and got retired. What do you think would happen to some naval officer who tried to make the public aware?

I guess you are unaware that plenty US troops were in country for years, ever since the French bugged out, "training and advising" ARVN troops.

With the French, we supplied EVERYTHING except the warm bodies and field leadership.

Tonkin was just the excuse to move from advising to a indepentent combat role. If it didn't work, TPTB would have come up with another excuse.

You are a very lazy thinker, I suspect.

Below Zero's picture

I don't think that exposing the truth of a pending major crime is lazy thinking. Do you think this country is better off by being lied to on a daily basis by government officials? Can the liars come up with new lies when exposed to complete their agendas? Of course. Maybe they would have told us the North Vietnamese were hiding weapons of mass destruction? Sometimes exposing the truth will stop a crime in progress. Read all about that lazy thinker Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the Pentagon Papers.

DarthVaderMentor's picture

It wasn't that he was less than honest. It was that he was ordered to keep his mouth shut and until he was told otherwise, he actually did. Actually I personally asked him that question and his answer was that he'd gotten a recision from the order from the original commander who had given the order. Why the delay? Other than at the MOH ceremony, he'd not encountered an officer privy to the secret who was senior to him at the time he was sworn to secrecy.

Why did Stockdale get the MOH versus McCain? He was awarded the MOH for his tenacity as a POW. He led a team of POWs who became a perennial problem for the enemy that had captured him. He did this under trying circumstances. He also led men in captivity to continue their resistance to their captors, something that McCain did not do.


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while senior naval officer in the Prisoner of War camps of North Vietnam. Recognized by his captors as the leader in 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. He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated in their employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the Prisoners of War. By his heroic action, at great peril to himself, he earned the everlasting gratitude of his fellow prisoners and of his country. Rear Adm. Stockdale's valiant leadership and extraordinary courage in a hostile environment sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.


McCain, although he bravely endured his captivity, did not do any acts like Stockdale did in the face of his captors. Stockdale was actually recommended for the MOH by other POWs, among them McCain.

laosuwan's picture

You should investigate a little bit more about how many usa presidents and other high ranking officials were ONI like stockdale, before you claim he was an "independent" choice for the voter masses

crzyhun's picture

I voted for HRP and it was a wasted vote that ushered in Billary and the eventual '93 and 2001 bombing of NY. IT is a straight line of causation from 1992 to 2008. What a travesty. We sit with the Radical in Chief and his klack while so much burns around our feet, in our bellies and an ache in our hearts for real men to step up, take names and throw down a path for us. It is up to each and every to get that every decision has consequences.

Paul Bogdanich's picture

It must be very difficult pretending to be a hard person when you have never, ever faced a truly challenging situation in your entire life.  The view from the infantry was that fly boys get what fly boys get.  Go and drop bombs on people anonomously from 20K feet and if they capture you, oh well.  In the infantry nobody gets taken prisoner.  We all lived together or we died together.  The former for me obviously.  Pilots, especially hellicopter pilots are dirt.  Jr. Fly Boys.  Bomb anything without checking.  Reckless.  IMHO    

Moe Howard's picture

I hear what you are saying. People don't understand, they didn't take Infantrymen as prisoners during that war as a rule. They killed them all.

I agree to some extent on what you have said, but of course like everything else there are exception, no absolutes. This man Stockdale could have been an Infantryman.

As for pilots, they are flying truck drivers, nothing more, nothing less. Why some people put them up as romantic or heroic I don't get. Sleeping in a bunk, getting up, putting clean clothes on, eating a hot breakfast, climbing into a nice clean plane, and flying above the battlefield dropping bombs, well, compare that to humping a ruck, eating cold food you packed on your back, practicing water disipline because you can only carry so much, down in the mud and the blood and leeches and weather.

A Infantry private setting out on patrol has more guts than every pilot that ever flew off an aircraft carrier.

snowball777's picture

We're sorry you weren't qualified to fly planes, soldier. Now do you want the air support or not?

Sanksion's picture

Let's hope and prey, that if they drop the bombs, they will drop it on the vietcong.

Milestones's picture

Tyler, thank you for the post--I cringed at Stockdale's T.V. performance not knowing his background. I too voted for Perot anyway.        Milestones 

strannick's picture

What a badass is right. Obama and Romney get accolades, and Admiral James Bond Stockdale gets ridicule. America will get its deserved President Obamney Rombama, and anyone whose head is not completely up their ass will get their gold.

alexwest's picture


in all civilised countries killing of innocent people is CRIME, punished by doing time or probaly death pentalty..

BUT HERE IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT,, YOU CAME IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, for unknown reason, killed some civilians, then got into cell and somehow its HEROIC ACT..

well.. lets reverse situation..

during 60x last century , Vietnamese w/ Russians landed on west shore,
killed some innocent people , then those 'war heroes' were caputured and got into cell..

WAS IT TOO HEROIC ACT AND EXAMPLE FOR 'Inspiration '? or its only heroic if its my fellow americans who killed innocent people in foreign countries?

Hypocrisy is a good word, look it up in the dictionary


non_anon's picture

here is another pol weasal I just learned about that used their military time to spin their image for political office like McCain, JFK and Kerry, oh, and shithead Murtha

Sickles was not court-martialed for insubordination after Gettysburg because he had been wounded, and it was assumed he would stay out of trouble. Furthermore, he was a powerful, politically connected man who would not accept being disciplined without protest and retribution.

steelrules's picture

There was a time not so long ago that the rest of the world looked at the US and saw a nation made of people with this mans honour strength and will to do what's right.

Now the world see over fed cattle being hearded by corruption and greed, I long for a return to the days of US honour. 

lasvegaspersona's picture

Similarly Barry Goldwater, the father of true American Conservatism, was cruely rebuffed even in song (Tom Leher I believe) "O we're the brave young men who wanna go back to nineteen ten....we're Barry's boys.". I was young and sang along, mocking Barry and all the other 'warmongering' conservatives. The media was leftish then as it is leftish now. Young, cool and hip out weighs any serious thought about principles or unintended consequences....only with maturity (at least ageing) and much hind sight do I now see it for what it really was.

Yes_Questions's picture



I can't find it, but Dennis Miller did a really good mini-rant on Stockdale, back in the day.

AN0NYM0US's picture


at the risk of partipating on Slobes first good post (and thereby encouraging him) I think this is what your were looking for

bring back LEo  please


Yes_Questions's picture



Not so much on the links....Thanks for trying.

Malibu's picture

I was a freshman in high school during his run and of course never knew much about his past...just the SNL skits on him.  Wouldn't know it then but years later I ended up attending SERE school which begins in the Admiral Stockdale building, then living in Coronado a few houses down from him.  At the time he was long gone and close to death but they had his books in the local book store and I started reading them.  In addition a few instructors of mine flew with him back in the day and had fantastic stories about them man both as an aviator and a man (good times with the boys kinda thing).  Never heard a bad thing about him.  Between the books and the stories, the Citadel, the Academy (what it used to be)...simply a type of man who doesn't exist anymore.  Gritty and terribly intelligent at the same time.  

If one doesn't know much about him I encourage you to check out his books and his philosophical beliefs.  

q99x2's picture

Ideals are fascinating but how do you explain John McCain?

gtb's picture

Explain McCain?  Hell, that's easy...he's a fucking asshole.  Done.

Muddy1's picture

The same way you explain Jimmy Carter an academy graduate, uh, you don't.

vato poco's picture

Am pretty sure 'McCain as an Academy grad' can be explained by the following sentence: "His dad was CINCPAC".

laughing_swordfish's picture

RE: VizeAdmiral der Amerikanischer KreigsMarine Stockdale:

"Ritter ohne Angst oder Tadel"

("Knight without Fear or Failing")

"Ich habe das Vergnugen und die grosse Ehre der Abstimmung fur die Admirale und Herr Perot in 1992 gehabt."

"Alles haben diese Vorzuglichen vorausgesagten Herren sich Beglibt"

"Es gibt Einen Mann, der lauft, der ein wurdiger Nachfolger zu diesen Grossern Mannern und ist, der heute ihre seitlose Nachtricht weltermacht..."

"Jener Mann ist Ron Paul"....


Laughing Swordfish

KorvettenKapitan der DKM



Chicken_Little's picture

Thanks for reminding us of the Admiral. Both he and Perot ran for office for the good of others unlike our present elected officials who sacrifice others for the good of themselves. Stockdale is one of few true American heros. R.I.P. Admiral, you had the Right Stuff and your service and honor will never be forgotten......

Buck Johnson's picture

I remember hearing and seeing this on television about him and his time as a prisoner.  This man knew the situation well and he didn't confuse it one bit.  He wouldn't play their game and it drove them crazy.  And that last comment about don't confuse optimism with the reality of your situation that you have to deal with.  In regard to the Greek issue, since saturday morning they have been saying a "deal is in reach".  But it's Monday night 7:16pm my time and the deal hasn't been completed yet.  Asia is about to open and then Europe will for TUESDAY.  If this deal was so solid why are they going to the wire with this. 

It's because they put out a statement via a controlled press that things where alright and will work so to not have the situation deteriorate during the weekend.  If they don't come up with a deal by the open of the US or even the UK markets, the markets will go red.

FMR Bankster's picture

Sh*t, don't worry, the will announce a deal. They always do. And in a couple of months there will be another one. And then another. This deal is pretty much the same one they came out with last July.

HomerToeclipper's picture

Stockdale has what men are made of - the rest of us can only hope to read stories of how this man lived.

BTW, I voted for Perot/Stockdale. It was a lost vote, but I knew they knew the story - and oh, how it has come true!

israhole's picture

Tim Knight wrote something very similar years ago, if this isn't verbatim.  ZH better wake up, TK is nothing but a self-promoting hack.

Hey Tim, why don't you break out that article you wrote in 2008, where you and your mom were the only "politically correct" citizens in the "redneck" town where you were raised, thus helping you see the strength in Obama and how proud you were to vote for a black guy?   That was a DOOZY!  LMAO!

Moe Howard's picture

Now that you know something about this man, whom the MSM made fun of, on all their various "comedy" shows, google McCain and the real story about him in Hanoi, and how he is a "favored son" of the MSM.

The MSM can't take a real hero, they must all have feet of clay. If they don't, they must be destroyed.

End Game's picture

Having worked for Perot as a volunteer in both 92 and 96, my sympathies go out to all the supporters of Ron Paul.  The fact that good men are smeared is bad to be sure.  However, the fact that so many listen to the name calling and smears, that it's effective, is the tragedy.

Stepbackfromtheledge's picture

It has been that way since the start of the Republic.  Not much has changed except the speed at which the smears travel.  Of course, on a realtive basis, that is about the same also.

Stepbackfromtheledge's picture

Hey Timmay - when will you start begging readers of ZH to hit the donate button as you do on your own crappy site?  sheesh.

Stepbackfromtheledge's picture

The only way TK gets any positive comments is to post something about an American hero - funny though that he is not following Stockdale's advice:

"This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

How long will it take for TK to figure out that his faith in a bear market is stupid, as it has been for the last freaking 6 years!  I am ready to friggen throw up - Now TK has stooped to patronizing.  Please Tyler, please do not let him post anymore.  He has his own crappy site to post on, don't let him crappify ZH.

AN0NYM0US's picture

It could be worse, imagine if Tyler invited Dennis Kneale to contribute.... then again

Stepbackfromtheledge's picture

Beaker and TK - I wonder who would offset the other - TK's permabearishness or Kneale's permadouchiness.  Oh wait, they are the same element.

bardot63's picture

How could you not give this article a '5'?

AN0NYM0US's picture

the article

or Stockdale

after a disasterous debut Tim had to reach into the archives and recycle a piece about what most here at ZH would consider a hero