Saturday, May 10, 2008

USS Stockdale DDG-106

Sybil Stockdale, widow of Vice Admiral James Stockdale, center, joined by granddaughter Elizabeth Stockdale, left, and assisted by Jim Favreau, of Bath Iron Works, right, releases a bottle to christen the Arleigh Burke Class destroyer Stockdale, Saturday, May 10, 2008 at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. (AP Photo/Joel Page)
Admiral Stockdale just before he was shot down.
Maine shipyard christens destroyer named for Vietnam POW
By JERRY HARKAVY – 3 hours ago
BATH, Maine (AP) — The Navy's newest guided missile destroyer was christened Saturday with the name of a fighter pilot who spent 7 1/2 years in captivity in North Vietnam, received the Medal of Honor and served as presidential candidate Ross Perot's running mate.
Four Medal of Honor recipients and seven former prisoners of war attended the ceremony at Bath Iron Works that marked a milestone in construction of the 9,200-ton ship named for Vice Adm. James Stockdale.
Stockdale's widow, Sybil, who suffers from Parkinson's disease and uses a wheelchair, let loose a champagne bottle propelled by rope that swung across the Stockdale's bow. On the second try, the bottle exploded, the band broke into "Anchors Aweigh" and red, white and blue streamers filled the air.
Stockdale, who died nearly three years ago at age 81, flew 201 carrier-based missions before being shot down in 1965, becoming the highest-ranking naval officer captured during the war. His endurance under torture and years of solitary confinement during his captivity in Hanoi became the stuff of legend. After his release in 1973, he received 26 combat decorations, including the Medal of Honor.
Sybil Stockdale, who founded an organization to draw the public's attention to the plight of American POWs in Southeast Asia, was accompanied at the ceremony by the couple's four sons.
Although James Stockdale is perhaps best known for his 1992 run as Perot's vice presidential nominee, the family remembers the campaign as a minor footnote to a distinguished military and academic career.
The brief foray in politics was actually a fluke, said Stockdale's son, Sidney. His father came to know Perot through his work with Sybil Stockdale at the League of American Families of POWs and MIAs. James Stockdale agreed to serve as a stand-in on Perot's presidential ticket. But after Perot dropped out of the race, then changed his mind and got back in, there was no time to line up a replacement.
A far more significant aspect of Stockdale's life was his study of the philosophy of Stoicism, particularly the writings of the Roman scholar Epictetus, his son said. The philosophy, which emphasizes the value of fortitude and self-control, served Stockdale well by providing him strength during his years in captivity, his son said.
"He was subject to the control of the people who held him, but there were things he could do to maintain his honor and control himself," he said. Stockdale established clandestine methods of communication, set up rules to guide POWs and thereby empowered himself and his fellow Americans against an enemy with absolute control over their lives, his son said.
Stockdale was a friend of author Tom Wolfe, who was fascinated by his research into Stoicism and was inspired to make the ancient philosophy a central theme of his 1998 best-seller, "A Man in Full," Sidney Stockdale said.
After retiring from the Navy in 1979, James Stockdale served as president of The Citadel and later became a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He wrote several books, including his 1984 autobiography "In Love and War," co-written with his wife, which became a made-for-television movie.
The new destroyer's motto is "Return with Honor"
Admiral Stockdale Model of Honor citation
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.
Streamers are released following the christening of the Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer Stockdale (DDG-106) Saturday, May 10, 2008 at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. The ship was named after Vice Admiral James Stockdale, the fighter pilot who spent 7 1/2 years in captivity in North Vietnam, received the Medal of Honor and served as presidential candidate Ross Perot's running mate. (AP Photo/Joel Page)


Ken Adams said...

Thanks for highlighting this, Maggie. Real heroes like ADM Stockdale get far too little attention.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful occasion. Who were the four Medal of Honor recipients and seven POWs in attendance?