Cultural Revolutions

James B. Stockdale, R.I.P.

The death of Adm. James Stockdale on July 5 robs America of one of the best men of our time.  A soldier and a patriot, Admiral Stockdale also possessed the kind of inquiring mind and thirst for virtue that is the mark of a true philosopher.

Born and raised in Illinois, Stockdale attended Monmouth College before receiving an appointment to the Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1946.  As a Navy pilot, he flew virtually every kind of airplane they had in the 1950’s.  Graduating from the Test Pilot School, he rose to become a squadron commander in Vietnam.  Shot down in 1965 and suffering from a broken bone in his back, Stockdale was beaten mercilessly and imprisoned for seven years, four of them spent in solitary confinement, and was repeatedly tortured.

Upon his release, Stockdale received the Congressional Medal of Honor and campaigned tirelessly on behalf of POWs and their families.  He served briefly as president of the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina.  In solitary confinement, he had time to think about the ethics of the military profession, and the fruits of that thinking, combined with his careful reading of Stoic philosophers, resulted in several books of essays.  In Love and War, his memoir of the Vietnam War years (cowritten with his wife, Sibyl), was widely read and turned into a creditable made-for-television film, improbably starring James...

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