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Former P.O.W. Stockdale to return to Vietnam
STANFORD -- The last time Admiral James Stockdale saw Vietnam was in 1973, after he was released from the Hanoi prison where he had endured nearly eight torture-filled years as a prisoner of war.
Now, Stockdale plans to return to Vietnam this December, as a faculty member of the Indochina College, organized by the Stanford Alumni Association's Travel/Study program.
On a journey to places with such once-familiar names as Da Nang, Hue, Haiphong and Hanoi, Stockdale will lecture on the origins of the war (including the much-disputed Gulf of Tonkin incident that triggered U.S. involvement), the underground network that U.S. prisoners developed to combat isolation and torture, and his own philosophical development.
Stockdale said he has had other opportunities to return to Vietnam but has been "in no hurry to go." He agreed to the Stanford program, he said, because he finds the itinerary interesting and because he prefers to return "as a tourist and not some kind of official guest."
Stockdale said that perhaps the most interesting part of the trip for him will be cruising through the Gulf of Tonkin.
"I was present in those very waters in 1964 when the Vietnam War was triggered," Stockdale said.
He will lecture on "the event that never happened," an alleged attack on a U.S. naval craft by North Vietnamese PT boats. Stockdale said he was flying overhead and never saw any PT boats.
Although he spent eight years in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison, four of them in solitary confinement, Stockdale said he only saw Hanoi once - from the windows of a bus taking him and other American prisoners of war to the airport the morning they were released. Before that, he said, he had been blindfolded whenever he was taken out of the prison.
In 1981, Stockdale, who served 37 years in the Navy, joined Stanford's Hoover Institution as a senior research fellow. He is a student of the Stoic philosophers, and focuses much of his research and writing on how humans can overcome adversity with dignity.
In 1992, he ran for vice president of the United States with independent presidential candidate Ross Perot.
Joining Stockdale on the travel program will be his wife, Sybil, who will discuss her national campaign to keep the prisoners of war in the national consciousness during her husband's long captivity. Sybil Stockdale founded the National League of Families of American Prisoners Missing in Southeast Asia. Together, the Stockdales wrote In Love and War, a book about their experiences that was made into a television film.
Also scheduled as a faculty member is Charles C. Hill, who was mission coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon from 1970-73 and later was chief of staff of the U.S. State Department and executive aide to Secretary of State George Shultz.
Clark and Arlene Neher, Stanford alumni whose work focuses on Southeast Asia, also will lecture. Clark Neher is chairman of the political science department at Northern Illinois University.
The Indochina College will be conducted aboard the Aurora II, and will travel from Singapore through Cambodia and Vietnam to Hong Kong. Stops will include Phnom Penh, Angkor, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Da Nang, Hue, Haiphong and Hanoi.
For more information, call the Travel/Study Program at (415) 725-1093. Participants do not need to be members of the Alumni Association, but priority will be given to members.
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