Mail Sack – James Stockdale


Here is a sample of the letters we received on The James Stockdale – Philosophy story:

From  Andy Elliott,  601XL builder and flyer, Mesa, AZ. (Submitted on 2012/02/07 at 9:11 pm)

“Regarding Admiral Stockdale – I heard Admiral Stockdale speak at a pilot graduation one year when I was a young LT. He was a truly impressive man. I was totally depressed by the performance during the vice-presidential debates, thinking that he should have taken those little men who were his opponents and simply vaporized them with the strength of his character, that they so clearly lacked.  There is a Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership at the USNA.”


From Stu Bryant, Atwater, California
“PP-SEL. and wanna-be homebuilder; the dream remains ALIVE!”  (Submitted on 2012/02/07 at 4:12 am)

“There are just two blogs which consistently have enough substance to be worth my while to follow regularly. Each are penned by men who tend to swim against the current. Who else is bold enough to stray away from the well worn ruts to actually say something both significant & interesting? Both of you are patriots, and both deeply touched (as I have been) by the generation who fought the last world war. Thank you for all you do for the homebuilding cause, but also for your well spoken thoughtful musings of matters /significant/ in general. It is my increasingly curmudgeonly opinion (despite my age being within a couple years of yours) that most live life in the shallowest way possible. I find it refreshing indeed to see someone express something which transcends the merely selfish and comfortable in order to provoke both deeper thought and feeling. Life is wasted if we settle for less! Anyway, this was right on!”


Terry Hand, USMC aviator, wrote:

“I had just checked into the Training Command in Pensacola as a T34C Instructor in early 1987, when the entire Training Command shut down for one day. We all drove over to Mainside Pensacola to attend the Naval Aviation Association’s 1987 Symposium. The morning’s symposium was a discussion of the topic, “The Air War in Vietnam.” I will never forget the moderator’s first question posed to retired Admiral Tom Moorer, who had been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs for much of the Vietnam War in the Mid 1960s. When asked what he had learned from the Air War in Vietnam, Admiral Moorer’s reply was, “I didn’t learn a damn thing about how to conduct an air war in Vietnam. I knew how to conduct an air war. The politician’s just wouldn’t let me.” The cheers just about brought down the house!

The afternoon’s discussion was “The Code of Conduct, and its Effect on POWs”. Admiral Stockdale was one of several members of the discussion. The strength of character of the man was so evident as he spoke, and you knew that he was a man who had walked the walk, and not just talked the talk. His words were strong, heartfelt, genuine, and could be seen as having come from the crucible of his experiences. I had just finished reading his book, In Love and War, and, afterward, I wanted to shake his hand and simply thank him for his sacrifice as well as his words of that day. I was fortunate to shake hands with not only Admiral Stockdale, but his lovely wife Sybil. He spent a good amount of time speaking to myself as well as many other pilots and student pilots. I hung around til the end just to say one last goodbye, and as he walked away, I saw that he walked with such a limp, that I said to myself, “That man truly carries the scars of his service to this country, and bears them with pride and honor. What a man!” I have carried the memory of meeting him for almost 25 years now.

On a slight aside to the story, in the first publication you reference of Admiral Stockdale’s discussion of Stoicism, he mentions that his wingman on one of his cruises was a young Marine Lieutenant Duane Wills. I knew him almost 20 years later as Colonel Wills, and he was my MAU (Marine Amphibious Unit) Commander in 1984 and 1985 while deployed aboard the USS Tarawa in WestPac. I had the privilege of flying with Colonel Wills many times during that deployment, and he was another fine Officer and Aviator. I just did not know until I read that paper that I was only one degree of separation from Admiral Stockdale!

I hope that all of this only serves to motivate you to keep writing of the things that you care about in Aviation, because there are many of us that can and do relate to what you write. Thanks again. Semper Fi”

Note: The time stamps on this web page are in Zulu time (GMT).

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