Watch Again

Why Vietnam POWs Refused This CIA Rescue Mission

Watch More
back to video

Why Vietnam POWs Refused This CIA Rescue Mission

Short | 03:49

In May 1972, the CIA launched Operation Thunderhead to rescue escaped American soldiers from a North Vietnamese prison. Here's why James Bond Stockdale and the other "Hanoi Hilton" POWs decided to shut it down.

More About This show

In 1973, 591 American POWs returned home from the Vietnam War, bringing with them harrowing tales of survival. But there was an even more remarkable -- and secret -- story to tell: a feat of incredible spycraft that remained classified for decades...until now. This is the unbelievable story of James Stockdale and his fellow prisoners at the notorious "Hanoi Hilton." Their clandestine communications with U.S. intelligence alerted the CIA and Pentagon to the horrors of the Vietnamese POW camps and prompted a daring, top-secret rescue mission.


  • Michael Mullen
  • Sybil Stockdale
  • Spence Dry
  • Moki Martin
  • Red McDaniel
  • James Bond Stockdale
  • Robert W. Wallace
  • Dr. James B. Stockdale II
  • Danny E. Glenn
  • Michael Mullen

    Michael Mullen

    Read Full Bio

    Michael G. "Mike" Mullen is a retired U.S. Navy Admiral, who served as the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011. He was also a close friend of Vice-Admiral James Bond Stockdale, the naval aviator captured by the North Vietnamese in 1965.

    In 2005, when Stockdale passed away, it was Mullen who delivered his eulogy: "We too often throw the word 'hero' around," he said of his friend and fellow serviceman. "But Vice-Admiral Stockdale was able to put in place a structure that allowed so many of his fellow prisoners to survive, to inspire them with hope and to bring them home."

    On September 30, 2011, Mullen officially retired from the military when his term as Chairman ended.

Return to Video Page