On September 9, 1965, Commander Stockdale launched his A-4E Skyhawk off the flight deck of the USS ORISKANY, not knowing it would be his final mission flying over North Vietnam. Upon approaching his target, his plane was riddled with anti-aircraft fire that set his engine aflame within seconds. With no way to maneuver, Stockdale had no choice but to punch out from the aircraft, and he watched as his plane slammed into a rice paddy and exploded in a ball of fire. Recalling the incident years later, Stockdale said, "As I ejected from the plane I broke a bone in my back, but that was only the beginning. I landed in the streets of a small village. A thundering herd was coming down on me. They were going to defend the honor of their town. It was the quarterback sack of the century."
They tore off his clothes and beat him mercilessly. Stockdale suffered a broken leg and a paralyzed arm in the scuffle. A military policeman took Stockdale into custody as a prisoner of war, making him the highest ranking naval officer to be held as a POW in Vietnam.
Stockdale was taken to Hoa Lo Prison - the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" - where he spent the next seven and a half years under brutal conditions. He was physically tortured no fewer than fifteen times with beatings, whippings, and a form of rope torture that caused near-asphyxiation. For four years, he was kept in solitary confinement in total darkness. For two years, he was chained in heavy, abrasive leg irons. In violation of the Geneva Convention he was also starved, denied medical care, and deprived of letters from home.
Through it all, Stockdale's captors offered a promise of better treatment if he would admit that the United States was engaging in criminal behavior against the Vietnamese people. Stockdale refused. He drew strength from principles of stoic philosophy, which teach that a man should accept that which he cannot change, and focus his efforts on that which he can control: his actions and his emotions. Stockdale took these teachings to heart. As the senior officer in the camp, Stockdale was an exemplary leader. He developed a system of covert communication amongst the prisoners that promoted resistance to their captors, unit cohesion and morale. Unable to identify how the prisoners communicated, the prisoners increased punishments against Stockdale, but he continued to fight back by all means available.
When Stockdale was told that he was going to be paraded in front of foreign journalists, he slashed his scalp with a razor and beat his face with a wooden stool. He correctly 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 he won. Convinced of Stockdale's resolve, the Communists ceased trying to extract bogus confessions from him. The torture of American prisoners ended. 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. With 26 personal combat decorations, he was one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the Navy. His awards include four Silver Star medals in addition to the Medal of Honor.
After serving as the President of the Naval War College, Stockdale retired from the Navy in 1978 and embarked on a distinguished academic career. Stockdale served a term as President of the Citadel and fifteen years as a Senior Research Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. In 1992 he ran for office as the vice presidential candidate of the Reform Party with presidential candidate Ross Perot. Though unsuccessful, his campaign was marked by the same integrity and dignity he epitomized throughout his career. Admiral Stockdale and his wife lived peacefully on Coronado Island until his death in 2005.
Current USS Stockdale
USS Stockdale (DDG 106) laid down on August 10, 2006, in Bath, Maine, by the Bath Iron Works Corporation. After sailing around the United States and through the Panama Canal to her homeport in San Diego, USS STOCKDALE was commissioned on April 18, 2009. Commander Fred Kacher was the first to take command of the destroyer.
On November 30, 2010, STOCKDALE departed on her maiden deployment to Southeast Asia. The deployment was a great success, and included visits to Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Cambodia, Guam and Hawaii. In July 2011, the crew received the opportunity to conduct exclusive missile testing off the coast of Hawaii. STOCKDALE and her crew returned safely home on July 22, 2011.
In September 2010 DDG 106 participated in a tactical manuevering exercises, as part of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Carrier Strike Group, off the coast of southern California. In November USS Stockdale departed Naval Base San Diego for her maiden deployment.
In January 2011 The USS Stockdale maneuvered and conducted helicopter operations with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer JS Kurama (DDH 144) during a Passing Exercise (PASSEX). In February the guided missile destroyer participated in Cobra Gold 2011 with the Essex (LHD 2) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). In July USS Stockdale returned to San Diego after an extended eight-month deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility. In September the guided-missile destroyer was off the coast of southern California conducting operations with the USS Carl Vinson CSG.
In January 2012 The Stockdale commenced a two-month Selected Restricted Availability (SRA). In June USS Stockdale pulled into Pearl Harbor for the in-port phase of the multi-national exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012. In November DDG 106 returned to homeport after completing a four-week Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX), in the SOCAL Op. Area, with the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Carrier Strike Group. In December the Stockdale returned to Naval Base San Diego after a week-long underway off the coast of southern California.
In January 2013 USS Stockdale departed Naval Base San Diego for a scheduled Middle East deployment. Later that January DDG 106 completed a three-day Undersea Warfare Exercise (USWEX) 13-1 in the Hawaiian Op. Area with other destroyers from the USS Nimitz CSG Surface Action Group.
1st USS Stockdale
The first USS Stockdale Stockdale-a wooden, side-wheel steamer built in 1863 at West Brownsville, Pa.-was purchased by the Navy on 13 November 1863 at Cincinnati, Ohio, from B. T. Laughlin et al under the name J. T. Stockdale, and commissioned at Cairo, 111., on 26 December 1863, Acting Ensign John Lowrie in command.
Renamed Stockdale (Tinclad No. 42) sometime before 19 January 1864, the gunboat steamed down the Mississippi and joined the West Gulf Blockading Squadron at New Orleans.
Since rumors were then circulating that Confederate ironclads were about to attempt to recapture New Orleans, Stockdale steamed down the Mississippi to reinforce Admiral Farragut's ships in defending that strategic city, and she served in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron through the end of the Civil War. Most of her service was performed in Berwick Bay, Lake Pontchartrain, and other inland waters along the gulf coast.
On 16 May 1864, a landing party from the tinclad gunboat was fired upon by Confederate cavalry at the mouth of the Tchefuncta River. Two officers were captured and one killed before attackers to withdrew. The ship was ordered to Mississippi Sound on 23 July to prepare for the impending attack on Mobile Bay. On the morning of the 5th, while Farragut was leading his squadron into Mobile Bay, Stockdale steamed toward Fort Powell and bombarded that Southern fortress. In the months that followed, Stockdale continued to serve in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron and supported mop-up operations in and around Mobile Bay. On 8 September Stockdale joined an expedition to Salt House Point, Miss. to destroy the extensive Southern salt works. USS Stockdale and USS Randolph crossed the bar and entered the Bon Secours River. The salt works were so extensive that boat crews from the two ships worked all day and into the following afternoon before finishing the destruction. The on the 11th, Stockdale and Randolph went up the Fish River to seize a sawmill engine, some livestock, and 60,000 board feet of lumber. Confederate riflemen fired upon the retiring ships and felled trees ahead of them, but the Union ships broke through the obstructions to safety. On 8 December, Stockdale captured schooner Medora in Mississippi Sound as the blockade runner was attempting to slip to sea laden with cotton.
Stockdale continued to perform various duties into 1865. On 8 March, she began support of active operations against Mobile, Ala., and she continued the duty until the city surrendered on 12 April. After the Civil War ended, Stockdale continued to operate in the Gulf of Mexico until she was decommissioned on 24 August 1865 at New Orleans. She was sold at public auction there on the same day.
2nd USS Stockdale
The second Stockdale (DE-399) was named for Ens. Stockdale. Lewis Stevens Stockdale was born on 20 September 1914 at Anaconda, Mont. and enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve on 9 September 1940 as an apprentice seaman. After serving in the cruiser Quincy (CA-39), Stockdale was appointed midshipman in the Naval Reserve on 17 March 1941 and was commissioned ensign on 12 June 1941. Ensign Stockdale reported to Oklahoma (BB-37) on 19 July 1941 and was killed while serving in that battleship during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. The second Stockdale (DE-399) was named for Ens. Stockdale.
The Stockdale (DE-399) was laid down on 15 July 1942, launched on 22 November 1942 sponsored by Mrs. L. C. Stockdale and commissioned on 31 December 1943 with Lt. Comdr. R. W. Luther, USNR, as the commanding officer.
The escort was assigned to Escort Division 58 and sailed from Norfolk on 24 March 1943 with convoy UGS 37 bound for North Africa. On 11 April the convoy was attacked by the Luftwaffe as it neared Algeria but only damaged one Destroyer Escort. Stockdale escorted two more convoys to the Mediterranean and returned with GUS 51 in early October.
On 22 October 1944, Stockdale began escorting convoys to the United Kingdom and the continent. Between that date and May 1945, she made five round-trip voyages. Her last convoy duty ended at Brooklyn, N. Y. The USS Stockdale arrived at Pearl Harbor on 25 July 1945. USS Stockdale sailed for Honshu, Japan, on 1 September as escort for the carrrier Matanikau (CVE-101). Afterward she operated for a while as a weather station ship. She then searched the Admiralty Islands for missing service personnel, and made strategic bombing surveys at Rabaul, New Britain, before being ordered back to the east coast in January 1946.
Stockdale arrived at Philadelphia, Pa., on 11 February for yard availability prior to inactivation. She arrived at Green Cove Springs, Fla., on 21 March and was assigned to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. Stockdale was decommissioned on 15 June 1946 and was placed out of commission, in reserve, until struck from the Navy list on 1 July 1972.
Stockdale received one battle star for World War II service.