Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

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by Jim Bond Stockdale
     
 

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In describing his seven and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, the late Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale has said: "In that atmosphere of death and hopelessness, stripped of the niceties, the amenities of civilization, my ideas on life and leadership crystallized." Despite torture, intimidation, and isolation, Stockdale fulfilled his

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Overview

In describing his seven and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, the late Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale has said: "In that atmosphere of death and hopelessness, stripped of the niceties, the amenities of civilization, my ideas on life and leadership crystallized." Despite torture, intimidation, and isolation, Stockdale fulfilled his duties as senior officer among the prisoners with intelligence and courage, defining rules of conduct and maintaining morale. He often described the intense pressures of that situation as a "melting" experience, in which preconceived feelings, fears, and bias melt as one comes to realize that, under the gun, you must grow or fail—or, in some cases, grow or die.

This collection of his essays and speeches from the 1980s and 1990s reinforces how that experience formed a lifelong basis for his philosophical thought on issues of character, leadership, integrity, personal and public virtue, and ethics. The selections in this volume all reflect, in one way or another, a central theme: how man can rise with dignity to prevail in the face of adversity.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780817993917
Publisher:
Hoover Institution Press
Publication date:
01/01/1995
Series:
Publication Series, #43
Pages:
245
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.33(h) x 0.99(d)

Meet the Author

Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale served in the navy from 1947 to 1979, beginning as a test pilot and instructor at Patuxent River, Maryland, and spending two years as a graduate student at Stanford University. He became a fighter pilot and was shot down on his second combat tour over North Vietnam, becoming a prisoner of war for eight years, four in solitary confinement. He was tortured fifteen times and put in leg irons for two years. As the highest-ranking naval officer held during the Vietnam War he organized the POWs in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" to provide them with a sense of hope and empowerment. Disabilities from his combat wounds brought about Stockdale’s early retirement, he was the only three-star officer in the history of the navy to wear both aviator wings and the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

His books include Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot (1995, Hoover Institution Press), A Vietnam Experience (1984, Hoover Institution Press), Courage Under Fire (1993, Hoover Institution Press)  and In Love and War (second revised and updated edition, 1990, U.S. Naval Institute Press), coauthored with his wife, Sybil. In early 1987, a dramatic presentation of In Love and War was viewed by more than 45 million viewers on NBC television. 

As a civilian, Jim Stockdale was a college professor, a college president, and a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution. His many and varied writings all converge on the central theme of how man can rise with dignity to prevail in the face of adversity. He died in 2005.

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Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Carl_in_Richland More than 1 year ago
Aristotle wrote words (to the effect) ¿Philosophy is a luxury when life is going well but essential when it is not.¿ This collection of essays, speeches and other writings of Vice Admiral Jim Stockdale are testimony to this observation. Stockdale flew the fighter aircraft that dropped the first bomb on Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin incident (an incident that he questions really occurred) and was also one of the first fighter pilots to be shot down over North Vietnam. In this capacity he became the senior commander of other POWs held in the interrogation facility in Ho Chi Minh City (now Hanoi), North Vietnam. He and the other officers were subject to torture, months of isolation, extended periods in leg shackles and regular beatings during the course of the war. Yet they came out with their dignity intact and self-respect firmly in place. How Stockdale and other POWs survived this unimaginable brutality is the central theme of this book. The explanation Stockdale gives for leadership and his ability to have his men follow him involves his studies of philosophy at Stanford where Prof. Philip Rhinelander introduced him to Aristotle, Whitehead, Hume, Kant and in particular, to Epictetus. It was the voices of these thinkers and others like them that helped Stockdale maintain his sanity and self-respect during his long years of internment. (As an aside, it is interesting to read Stockdale¿s critique of US policy in Southeast Asia. Although he was 100% U.S. Navy, and a proud graduate of Annapolis, this man thought for himself and wasn¿t afraid to ask hard questions, another benefit he credited to his training in philosophy). A short review like this can¿t go into the specific ideas that supported Stockdale. But anyone asking why we need philosophy should read this book. It¿s strong evidence that philosophy does not consist solely of esoteric discussions of interest only to academics. It can be a powerful force for surviving those times when life is at its most difficult.
7734 More than 1 year ago
Admiral Stockdale was an extraordinary man. He tells his tales in a shoot from the hip, no nonsense approach with character and intelligence. Having lived through torture and deprivation for years in a Vietnamese prison, he had to search his soul for a reason to care and he found that reason in his classical education. The Admiral ranges from leadership to maintaining courage under the worst possible conditions and what it takes to survive such a situation. Stockdale found solace in stoicism and the views of Epictetus and he tries to pass those lessons on to those who may one day require them to survive. As a collection of essays and speeches to various audiences, it is difficult to whittle down the book into a few short paragraphs. Suffice it to say that if you have an interest in a no holds barred approach to what it means to be a true leader or what it would take to survive hell, then this book is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago