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If you like James Stockdale's story, you might also like:
Tom Clancy,
David Halberstam,
Daniel Inouye,
Colin Powell,
Fred Smith,
Michael Thornton,
Norman Schwarzkopf
and Neil Sheehan

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The Vietnam War

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James Stockdale
 
James Stockdale
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James Stockdale Interview (page: 3 / 9)

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  James Stockdale

We read that during a torture session you went through, you heard the message tapped out: "God bless you, James Stockdale."

James Stockdale: It was in '67. We were still in Hoa Lo prison before we were exiled and there were a lot of cell blocks. I was in leg irons in a bath stall and I had been in there for several days and that night a guard came in, unlocked the leg irons, grabbed my arm, took me around the corner into an open area and beat the hell out of me. And the prisoners knew it was me because of my limp.


When he was beating me up, he was being heard by about 200 Americans who were living in cells three deep all around that area, and it was dark. And that was when I was brought out. They were getting me put back in the bath stall and somebody had a wet towel and he was snapping it. The people would think "That's his bath towel and he's just doing it." But he said "G." G, okay? Dom-dom-dom-dom, that's G. "B," dom-dom-dom: B. Oh, no. "GB," dom, dom, dom, dom, dom, dom, dom, "U." "G-B-U-J-S." So I got more -- I was more moved by that than many other things. Almost more than anything else because there half of the prison crowd knew that I was out there getting beat up.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance


And it stood for?

James Stockdale: God bless you, Jim Stockdale.

Were you tortured a lot?

James Stockdale: Yeah, I think more than anybody else. About half way through the first months, the camp reorganized itself. They weren't sure the war was going to last, but it came down from on high, "Pull no punches."


They got a couple of teams of torture guards and they had a special procedure. And the way it was done was to get a long iron bar and shackle your legs to it, and then the man on the back would start weaving ropes through your arms to bend them backwards. And then they -- getting as much leverage as he could -- what they're doing is shutting off the blood circulation in your upper body. And then he would push, he would bend you double and stand on your back and he would pull from this angle, giving him better leverage, and then he would find--you know, it's about over when you feel the heel of his foot in your--back of your head and he put your nose right on the cement and there you are. You're encased in ropes. Your blood is not circulating. You're in pain and you're in claustrophobia.

[ Key to Success ] Courage


Now there's only two ways to go. You can die or you can submit.


Submit. And I did that 15 times, and I don't think anybody had that many before. I had about five within one real short period. But when we looked at the -- we knew -- now this took about 45 minutes to go through all this and get all that blood stopped. And we knew we had eight guys that died in the ropes. And then later when some books came out we know we had over a dozen, because these were guys that were put in those ropes even before they got into the prison. They were just in the anteway when they were taken in. So that was what we were living with.


So sometimes when you submitted you gave them information, but it was never what they wanted, was it?

James Stockdale: No. You've got to be an actor. Every move you make, you've got to have it conform to an imaginary man you've made up in your mind, particularly with the senior people. They had no idea who I really was.

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This page last revised on Feb 07, 2008 13:35 EDT