Military


USS Stockdale (DDG 106)

On January 12, 2006 the Department of Defense announced that DDG hull number 105 would be named in honor of Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale (1923-2005), the legendary leader of American prisoners of war (POWs) during the Vietnam War.

Stockdale is a Flight IIA variant of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer and will incorporate a helicopter hanger facility into the original design. The ship can carry two SH-60B/R Light Airborne Multipurpose System MK III helicopters. Guided-missile destroyers operate independently and in conjunction with carrier battle groups, surface action groups, amphibious groups and replenishment groups.

One of the Naval Academy's own was honored on a blustery but clear Saturday morning, 10 May 2008, as the Navy's newest destroyer, STOCKDALE, was christened in Bath, Maine. The ship named for the late Admiral James B. Stockdale '47, USN (Ret.), is the 30th Aegis Destroyer built by Bath Iron Works and 56th ship in the Arleigh Burke class overall.

The ship is scheduled to set sail from Bath in January 2009. The location and date for the ship's commissioning has yet to be determined, but it will most likely occur in the spring of 2009 [rather than the original schedule of June 2008]. Until DDG-106 is commissioned, its formal title is Pre-commissioning Unit (PCU) STOCKDALE. Once commissioned, the title will change to USS STOCKDALE. The Pre-commissioning Unit administration support facility is located at Northrop Gruman Ship Systems in Bath, Maine. The term PCU, or simply "PRECOMM Unit" or "Unit," also refers to the PCU support facility that houses the offices for the crews of each PCU currently under construction in Bath. For the purposes of the entire Pre-commissioning process, think of the "PRECOMM Unit" or "PCU" as the actual ship in Bath. The ship, commanded by Commander Fred Kacher '90, USN, will be home ported in San Diego, CA, nearby the Stockdale's family home in Coronado, CA.

Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale

DDG 106 honors Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale (1923-2005), the legendary leader of American prisoners of war (POWs) during the Vietnam War.

Stockdale was the highest-ranking naval officer ever held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. On September 9th, 1965 Commander Stockdale was shot down in his A-4E Skyhawk while flying a mission over North Vietnam and taken into captivity for seven and a half years. Stockdale spent more than seven years in captivity at prisons in North Vietnam, including time at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton." Four years of those years were spent in solitary confinement. He was physically tortured no fewer than 15 times. Techniques included beatings, whippings, and near-asphyxiation with ropes. Mental torture was incessant. He was kept in solitary confinement, in total darkness, for four years, chained in heavy, abrasive leg irons for two years, malnourished due to a starvation diet, denied medical care, and deprived of letters from home in violation of the Geneva Convention.

While imprisoned, Stockdale is credited with organizing a set of rules to govern the behavior of fellow prisoners of war and for helping to develop a code for prisoners to communicate with each other that included tapping on cell walls.

Told that he was to be taken "downtown" and paraded in front of foreign journalists, Stockdale slashed his scalp with a razor and beat himself in the face with a wooden stool. He reasoned that his captors would not dare display a prisoner who appeared to have been beaten. When he learned that his fellow prisoners were dying under torture, he slashed his wrists to show their captors that he preferred death to submission. Stockdale literally gambled with his life, and won. Convinced of Stockdale's determination to die rather than cooperate, the Communists ceased trying to extract bogus "confessions" from him. The torture of American prisoners ended, and treatment of all American POWs improved.

His wife, Sybil, helped lead the effort to bring attention to the suffering of American POWs and to bring them home. Her efforts resulted in meetings with Presidents, the Secretary of State and, ultimately, a North Vietnamese delegation in Paris where she demanded her husband's release. For her efforts,Mrs. Stockdale was the only active duty military spouse to receive the Navy Public Service Medal.

Upon his release in 1973, Stockdale's extraordinary heroism became widely known, and he received the Congressional Medal of Honor in the nation's bicentennial year. He was one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the Navy. In addition to the Medal of Honor, Stockdale received 26 combat medals and awards, including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Distinguished Service Medals, two Purple Hearts and four Silver Stars. He was also named to the Aircraft Carrier Hall of Fame, National Aviation Hall of Fame, and was an honorary member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

In 1992 he graciously agreed to a request from his old friend H. Ross Perot to stand with Perot as the vice presidential candidate of the Reform Party, and throughout the campaign he comported himself with the same integrity and dignity that marked his entire career. Together, the Stockdales told their story in a joint memoir, In Love and War. Admiral Stockdale and his wife lived quietly on Coronado Island, off of San Diego, until his death in 2005.



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