Today’s Quote – Stockdale Paradox

Admiral James Stockdale was a Medal of Honor Recipient who spent seven-and-a-half years in Vietnam’s Hanoi Hilton.

H/T The Epoch Times.

Stockdale was the most senior naval officer held captive in Hanoi, North Vietnam.

As the senior Naval officer, he was one of the primary organizers of prisoner resistance. Tortured routinely and denied medical attention for the severely damaged leg he suffered during capture, Stockdale created and enforced a code of conduct for all prisoners which governed torture, secret communications, and behavior. In the summer of 1969, he was locked in leg irons in a bath stall and routinely tortured and beaten.

When the abuse of American POWs reached a climax in 1969, Stockdale was selected by his captors as a trophy for their propaganda. Knowing that he wouldn’t be paraded if he was disfigured, he cut his own scalp with a razor. When they covered his head with a hat, he beat his own face with a wooden stool, foiling his captors’ plans. During the course of his captivity, due to torture, his leg was broken twice.

After Stockdale found out that several POWs had been tortured to death, he slit his own wrists to show that he would rather die than capitulate to his captors. From that night on, the practice of torturing American POWs stopped in the facility.

Stockdale was one of eleven U.S. military prisoners known as the “Alcatraz Gang”. Because they had been resistance leaders they were separated from other captives and placed in solitary confinement in “Alcatraz”, a special facility in a courtyard behind the North Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense, located about one mile away from Hỏa Lò Prison. In Alcatraz, each of the prisoners was kept in an individual windowless and concrete cell measuring 3 by 9 feet (0.9 by 2.7 m) with a light bulb kept on around the clock, and locked in leg irons each night.

Once, Stockdale had invited Jim Collins, a management scholar, out to lunch. Collins asked Stockdale about how he persevered while in Vietnam.

“I never lost faith in the end of the story,” replied Stockdale. “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Collins then asked about the kinds of people who didn’t make it out of the Hanoi Hilton.

“The optimists,” came the response. And then Stockdale explained.

“Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

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16 Responses to Today’s Quote – Stockdale Paradox

  1. auscitizenmom says:

    A true hero.
    Hm. This can be applied to Trump supporters right now, too.

    Liked by 4 people

    • stella says:

      Yes, it can. Of course we aren’t being tortured (yet).

      Liked by 1 person

    • hoosiertruthfan says:

      Precisely but it’s more comprehensive than that.

      To get our country back on track will not be a short term, done by the next holiday situation. I’ve heard it called hopium on CTH and to be blunt, there’s no magic bullet that will rectify the mess we find ourselves in.

      To reclaim our country and reestablish a connection to our founding principles will take work and time. My prayer is that there are enough of us willing to do the work and take the time.

      Liked by 2 people

      • stella says:

        Exactly the point. I am also tired of those who wonder when their leader will appear to tell them what to do. Some even blame President Trump for not currently “leading the charge”.

        My opinion is that the way back starts on the local level. Any and all of us can contribute in our own communities.

        Liked by 5 people

        • hoosiertruthfan says:

          As a populace we embrace superheroes and Donald Trump was pretty close to one.
          His inability to surround himself with reliable political allies was his kryptonite. To a lesser degree his loyalty did not serve him as well as he deserved ie Rudy Guilliani.

          To be clear, I don’t fault him, I just wish he’d applied the same ruthlessness to his advisors and inner circle as he did on The Apprentice. He was most effective conducting the country’s business as he’d run his businesses. Much less so when he tried to work with the Swamp.

          I will forever be grateful for how he exposed the RINO’s, looney lefties, K Street and the Alphabet agencies for not having the American public’s interests as a priority. It was difficult to live through it but hugely illuminating.
          First rule, know they enemy and golly, they are everywhere.

          Liked by 6 people

      • stella says:

        The Admiral fought and led in prison for 7-1/2 years while being tortured. He never gave up, and just kept on fighting.

        Liked by 2 people

    • auscitizenmom says:

      I want to clarify. I was not really comparing what Trump supporters are going through physically or emotionally right now exactly. What I was actually referring to was the attitude toward the outcome. “I never lost faith in the end of the story,” replied Stockdale.” And, “The optimists,” came the response. And then Stockdale explained.
      “Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

      Liked by 3 people

  2. jeans2nd says:

    Learned in high school the definition of me is a Russian optimist.
    Optimistic that things can always get worse.

    One of the key tenets of being a Christian is knowing we are all strangers in a strange land. Our home is not here.
    While here, it is our duty to help make things better here for all God’s children.

    One suspects Vice Adm Stockdale was a Christian.
    One knows for a fact Vice Admiral Stockdale was a great man – many firsts, never equaled.
    https://www.usna.edu/Ethics/bios/index.php

    Liked by 6 people

  3. hoosiertruthfan says:

    Thank you, Jeans, I really enjoyed reading that.

    I was a very small child when the televised release of the Vietnam POWs happened. I remember hearing my mother sobbing and came out and curled up on the chaise with her.
    She talked me through what was happening and why. She explained why they looked the way they did and why they were so deeply thankful to be back in the United States. I remember at least one kissing the ground.

    I know it shaped my thoughts about patriotism, the lengths some go in their service of our country, the value of the United States and our freedoms.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Pa Hermit says:

      Many young Americans are not required to forfeit a couple years of their life to the benefit of their country. As much as I disliked the draft when I was young, it was a very learning experience that one normally wouldn’t acquire. I wouldn’t trade it for anything today! One could write a long essay on the positives as well as the negatives..

      Liked by 1 person

      • hoosiertruthfan says:

        I just watched a show called “Suffer No Fools” about Walter Williams done a number of years ago.
        Something his stepfather said about military service, “being in the Army is a million dollar experience that you wouldn’t take a million dollars to do again.”

        Thank you for serving. One of my regrets is that I didn’t. I talked it over with my parents and my dad was averse to his only child, a girl, serving. He knew it was rough and tumble and females weren’t all that common in those days.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Pa Hermit says:

          I found the key to be to volunteer for a few extra years to get what I wanted. I wasn’t crazy about going to Vietnam so I enlisted to get out of it. Well as it turned out I volunteered to go after no one in my class would go! Kinda odd how synchronicity works out, no? Thank you kindly for considering serving!

          Liked by 2 people

  4. texan59 says:

    I remember my first exposure to Adm. Stockdale that I recall, was when he was Ross Perot’s VP selection. The poor man was put out front and he appeared to be addled. Only after seeing him put in this unenviable position, did I begin to learn his story. The only thing I knew at the start was that he had been a POW. While I think the acknowledgement by Perot was admirable, I don’t think it was fair to Adm. Stockdale.

    Liked by 3 people

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