VIETNAM POW’s VISIT PCU STOCKDALE
By PCU Stockdale’s Public Affairs Office
NORFOLK, Va. – Precommissioning unit (PCU) Stockdale (DDG 106) welcomed four former Vietnam prisoners-of-war (POW) aboard the ship during a port visit in Norfolk, Va., Feb. 13-14.
Retired Navy Capt. Richard Mulligan and retired Air Force Colonel George McKnight, two members of the “Alcatraz Gang,” were accompanied by Rear Adm. Mark Fox, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 10, Feb. 13 on board the guided missile cruiser bearing the name of their leader while in captivity: Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale. The following day, two additional Alcatraz Gang members, Rear retired Navy Rear Adm. Robert Shumaker and retired Navy Cmdr. George Coker, joined Mulligan for an additional tour of the ship led by PCU Stockdale’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Fred Kacher.
“It is a pleasure to be able to show these American Heroes the ship named for their close friend and leader in Vietnam, Adm. Stockdale,” said Kacher. “We have been fortunate to build a close relationship with the Alcatraz Gang, and by knowing those who served with Stockdale during his finest hour, we feel even more connected to the incredible leader who is our ship’s namesake.”
Highlights of the tour included the ship’s Combat Information Center, where the guests appreciated the many technological advances the Navy has made since the Vietnam era; the bridge where each POW had an opportunity to sit in the Captain’s Chair; and the wardroom, where unique memorabilia items are displayed in the ship’s wardroom. Historical items comprise a picture of Adm. Stockdale preparing for a flight aboard USS Midway (CV 41) in 1959 that was donated by Adm. Stockdale’s family and a print of Stockdale in his F-8 Crusader leading an air raid on the oil fields at Vinh in North Vietnam.
The “Alcatraz Gang” is a name given to eleven American service members held in captivity in the Hoa Loa Prison, where Adm. Stockdale spent seven-and-a-half years in confinement during the Vietnam War. The Alcatraz Gang, led by Adm. Stockdale was responsible for the uniting of the other prisoners in resistance against their captors and eventually earning their freedom. They came to be known as the “Alcatraz Gang” after being separated from the general population at Hoa Loa due to their active resistance, leadership, and reputation as “die-hards.”
PCU Stockdale departed Bath Iron Works in Maine Feb. 6 destined for her new homeport of San Diego. PCU Stockdale will be placed in commission in Ventura County, Calif., April 18 in an event where more than 100 Vietnam POWs are expected to attend as special guests.
The ship’s sponsor is Mrs. Sybil Stockdale, widow of the late Adm. Stockdale, who courageously led a public awareness campaign of the plight of the POWs during her husband’s captivity.