Admiral James Stockdale: A Testament to Stoic Resilience in Captivity

Ricardo Guaderrama Caraveo
2 min readDec 3, 2023
Photo by Eduard Delputte on Unsplash

The Vietnamese captured Admiral James Stockdale during the Vietnam War.

He was an avid reader of Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher. Held prisoner for several years.

Vice Admiral Stockdale served on active duty in the regular Navy for 37 years, most of those years as a fighter pilot aboard aircraft carriers. Shot down on his third combat tour over North Vietnam, he was the senior naval prisoner of war in Hanoi for seven and one-halfyears -tortured 15 times, in solitary confinement for over four years, in leg irons for two.

The admiral has a lecture on Stoicism during his time imprisoned. You can find it here:

Stoicism argues that there is no good and bad, outside of yourself. Now, can you imagine this guy, being tortured, and still thinking about how the act of torture against him is not good or bad, but rather his judgment of it being something bad?

Can you imagine the balls of a person going through that, and still saying that all that happened to him is actually for the better?

In times like this, of great agony, people like the admiral show you that even though things can be pretty rough, you still have in your power the attitude you’re going to choose to face that.

You have the power to choose how you are going to respond to your environment, and also what that environment means to you.