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Vintage San Diego: Our Father, the Hero

Coronado, February, 1973


Stockdale greeted by sons (left to right) Jim, Stanford, and Taylor, and wife, Sybil (behind) upon his return to Coronado. His fourth son, Sid, reunited with his father later that day.

By the Numbers

7.5 - Years Stockdale was in Hoa Lo prison

1967 - Stockdale's first letter to Sybil

26 - Stockdale's personal combat decorations, including a Medal of Honor

1 - Brick salvaged from Hoa Lo prison now on display in the Stockdale Tribute

80,716 - number of active duty Navy and Marine Corps personnel in San Diego County

240,000 - number of veterans in San Diego County in 2014

1992 - Year Stockdale became Ross Perot's vice presidential running mate

One of the most highly decorated officials in the history of the U.S. Navy, late Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale moved to Coronado in 1962 to take command of Fighter Squadron 51 at Naval Air Station Miramar. He was deployed to Vietnam in 1964, where his plane was shot down on September 9, 1965.

Captured and incarcerated in Hoa Lo prison, infamously dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton,” Stockdale endured solitary confinement, iron leg shackles, and physical torture. At the time, the U.S. government allegedly asked military families to keep mum on POW mistreatment, claiming that bad press would lead to even harsher conditions. But Stockdale relayed the horrors—including names of fellow POWs and North Vietnamese strategies—through coded letters sent to his wife, Sybil. She organized the National League of POW/MIA Families, making the information public and forcing the U.S. government to publicly acknowledge the mistreatment. A league campaign targeting the North Vietnamese delegation at the Paris peace talks even led to improved conditions for their POWs.

Stockdale was released and returned to Coronado in 1973, when he was reunited with his family (above). The new Stockdale Tribute at the Dick Laub NTC Command Center in Liberty Station commemorates the 50th anniversary of his fated “Shoot Down Day.”

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