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Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot (Hoover Institution Press Publication) 0th Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0817993917
ISBN-10: 0817993916
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Editorial Reviews


"No fair-minded reader can depart these pages without deep admirations for Stockdale and for the stoic philosophy he propounds...This is a book to be read, pondered, and cherished."

"It is difficult to do justice to this important, informative, and well-documented book. It is a monument to scholarship." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale served in the navy from 1947 to 1979, beginning as a test pilot and instructor at Patuxent River, Maryland, and spending two years as a graduate student at Stanford University. He became a fighter pilot and was shot down on his second combat tour over North Vietnam, becoming a prisoner of war for eight years, four in solitary confinement. He was tortured fifteen times and put in leg irons for two years. As the highest-ranking naval officer held during the Vietnam War he organized the POWs in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" to provide them with a sense of hope and empowerment. Disabilities from his combat wounds brought about Stockdale’s early retirement, he was the only three-star officer in the history of the navy to wear both aviator wings and the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

His books include Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot (1995, Hoover Institution Press), A Vietnam Experience (1984, Hoover Institution Press), Courage Under Fire (1993, Hoover Institution Press)  and In Love and War (second revised and updated edition, 1990, U.S. Naval Institute Press), coauthored with his wife, Sybil. In early 1987, a dramatic presentation of In Love and War was viewed by more than 45 million viewers on NBC television. 

As a civilian, Jim Stockdale was a college professor, a college president, and a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution. His many and varied writings all converge on the central theme of how man can rise with dignity to prevail in the face of adversity. He died in 2005.


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Product Details

  • Series: Hoover Institution Press Publication (Book 431)
  • Hardcover: 241 pages
  • Publisher: Hoover Institution Press (July 31, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0817993916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817993917
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,311,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was introduced to Epictetus and his follower Marcus Aurelius (yes, the Emperor from Gladiator the movie!) in the book by Tom Wolfe: "A Man In Full". Briefly , in this Dickensian style novel, one of the characters with a hard luck life and misunderstood personality comes across "meditations" by Marcus Aurelius (yes he DID exist) and this inspires him quite profoundly and empowers him, the effects of which reveberate through the rest of the novel. Intrigued I bought meditations and then the original stoic text: "Handbook" by Epictetus. The introductions of both refer to this book by Admiral Stockdale. The philosophy stunned me with its insights into OUR challenges that we face everyday in our careers, relationships and friendships. But to REALLY see how powerful this philosophy is, is to read this book. Our trials and tribulatons of urban life are nothing compared to Admiral Stockdale's experience of being a POW for several years, tortured and humiliated during the Vietnam war. The insights of how epictetus helped in his (successful) effort to survive & thrive, make this philosphy come "alive" beyond mere "deep words" and UNREALISTIC conclusions that most of us believe philosophy is. If you thought that, read this. If philosophy could make a "gungho" fighter pilot get through what he did, imagine just how REAL it must be.
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Format: Paperback
I do not normally choose to read a book based on the author's resume', but Stockdale's credentials (retired thirty-three year U.S. Navy Vice Admiral (3-stars), spent over seven years as the highest ranking U.S. prisoner of war (POW) in Vietnam, Medal of Honor recipient, 1992 Reform Party vice presidential candidate, president of the Naval War College and the Citadel, holder of eleven honorary doctoral degrees, experimental test pilot, author, professor), compelled me to read his book. I am very glad I followed my gut instincts, for Stockdale wrote one of the best thought-provoking books about life, character, and leadership that I have ever read.

This book is a collection of essays, speeches, and articles by Stockdale (and one by a Stockdale friend and colleague) about his many and diverse experiences and how they have influenced his personal philosophies about life, character, and leadership. Many of his key points are repeated throughout the book, but the different purposes and audiences for the essays, speeches, and articles prevented those key points from becoming stale.

Stockdale's key points included, but were not limited to: character is demonstrated under pressure; his POW experience was the defining event in his life, a blessing (that I believe most non-POWs (like myself) will have trouble understanding or appreciating); the value of an education in philosophic classics (i.e. Stoicism, Epictetus, the Enchiridion, etc.); his first-hand accounts of the events leading up to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which officially began our involvement in the Vietnam War (I was surprised); how the lack of character and integrity in senior U.S. leadership prolonged the Vietnam War and ultimately led to defeat and betrayal; and how Vietnam's U.S.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I do not waste my time reviewing marginal books. I thought long and hard before writing this review. It is presumptuous to comment on the life and thoughts of this man. But it is also compelling to encourage its readership by the broadest possible audience....especially our young people. It is especially relevant today, circa early 2008, as America decides on a President.

This is perhaps the most intellectually and emotionally charged book I have read. And yet Admiral Stockdale was a quiet, humble man. As previous reviewers have commented, there is a wealth of material: ethics, history, drama...but I focus on the introspection he demands of America, especially in choosing leaders that send our young men and women into harms was...and, at times, into 7 and-a-half years of constant torture.

Do not presume to think you know the substance of this book. I assure you, you will be proven wrong. The book is brutal. Yes, it does describe the torture and underground resistance - the ordeal and triumph American POWs. And that is more than useful for several generations of Americans who came to maturity when we, as a Nation, preferred to ignore a government's duplicity and, in many instances, stupidity in the conduct of war and national affairs.

The book is critical of the government. What? A Vice Admiral and holder of the Medal of Honor being critical of the government? Damn right! So pay attention. This is not a criticism based on emotion or a "why didn't you help me" cry. It's a demand...nothing less...that elected officials exhibit character. Character is unambiguous. You want an example...it is simple: It is not what you believe in. It is how you act.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Stockdale mixes philosophy with his hard-earned wisdom as a POW in this incredible, honest inspiring book. Better than 99% of all self-help books. Read it, live it.
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