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Why Vietnam POWs Refused This CIA Rescue Mission

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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.


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

    Dr. James B. Stockdale II

    Read Full Bio

    James B. Stockdale II worked for 40 years in public and independent schools as a teacher, counselor, coach, and administrator. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University and received his Ph.D. from Auburn University. Stockdale has served as headmaster at The Latin School of Chicago and Lawrence Country Day School in New York. At the request of the Department of Education, he spent six years as a Distinguished Educator in schools requiring "corrective action." He retired as a public school superintendent in 2012.

    Stockdale spent three months with his father, Vice-Admiral James B. Stockdale, immediately following his return from imprisonment in Vietnam. Stockdale served as his father's aide-de-camp, driver, and editor during the "debrief days." In the years that followed he continued this work as speechwriter and editor. During and since his career in education, Stockdale has written and worked in the areas of politics, psychology, leadership facilitation, and military families. He and his wife Marina have been married for 38 years. They live in Beaver, Pennsylvania, where Marina teaches English, history, theatre, and gifted education and supervises college placement. Their daughter, Elizabeth, is Director of Student Life at the Emery-Weiner School in Houston. Their son, Bond, is Chief Operating Officer of Capital Lending and Finance in Pittsburgh.

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