Medal of Honor awarded to A-4 Skyhawk Pilots in Vietnam Conflict
Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale, U.S.N. (retired).
Admiral Stockdale (then a Commander), was the Commander of Carrier Air Wing 16, on board the carrier USS Oriskany (CVA-34), when he flew on a mission with Attack Squadron 163 on September 9, 1965. On that mission, Commander Stockdale's A-4E Skyhawk, BuNo. 151134, was hit by enemy AAA fire and he was forced to eject from the aircraft over enemy territory. He was captured by the North Vietnamese and imprisoned for 7½ years, during which he suffered hideous torture, horrible abuse, debasement, and starvation. Promoted to the rank of Captain in absentia while a Prisoner of War, Stockdale was released from captivity at war's end in early 1973. Subsequently, he was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral, and then to Vice Admiral, the rank in which he retired from active duty. In 1992, Admiral Stockdale was a candidate for Vice-President of the United States of America.
Rank and organization: Rear Admiral (then Captain), of U.S. Navy Attack Squadron 163, operating from the USS Oriskany (CVA-34)
Place and date: Hoa Lo prison, Hanoi, North Vietnam, 3 September 1969
Entered Service at: Abingdon, Illinois
Born: 23 December 1923, Abingdon, Illinois.
For conspicous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while senior naval officer in the Prisoner of War camps of North Vietnam.
Recognized by his captors as the leader in the Prisoners' of War resistance to interrogation and in their refusal to participate in propaganda exploitation, Rear Admiral Stockdale was singled out for interrogation and attendant torture after he was detected in a covert communications attempt.
Sensing the start of another purge, and aware that his earlier efforts at self dis-figuration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes had resulted in cruel and agonizing punishment, Rear Admiral Stockdale resolved to make himself a symbol of resistance regardless of personal sacrifice. He deliberately inflicted a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate. He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese, who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated in their employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the Prisoners of War.
By his heroic action, at great peril to himself, he earned the everlasting gratitude of his fellow prisoners and of his country. Rear Admiral Stockdale's valiant leadership and extraordinary courage in a hostile environment sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Retired VADM James B. Stockdale passed away July 6, 2005.
"A truly great man died this week. In September 1965, when CDR Jim Stockdale was shot down
over North Vietnam, my squadron commanding officer, Commander Tex Birdwell, one of the
toughest men I'd ever known, who'd known Stockdale at the Navy Test Pilot School, said,
Jim'll do all right, he's the toughest guy I know. Commander Bill Franke, a contemporary
of Stockdale's when shot down, was the smartest human being I'd ever known. He served
on the test pilot faculty with Jim Stockdale. Bill Franke told me, Jim is the smartest
human being I've ever known. Those two endorsements - from the toughest and smartest
men I've ever known say a lot about Jim Stockdale. A very tough guy who led others with his intellect.
CAG (Commander of the Air Group) was the last of a breed and one of the great bargains
Uncle Sam received in exchange for his Annapolis education. A brilliant man, Stockdale
excelled in the primarily engineering curriculum of the Academy class of 1947. Stockdale
ended up flying fighters, earning an MS in Engineering, and becoming head of academics
at the Navy Test Pilot School where his students included the three Navy and one Marine
But it wasn't the tailhook carrier Navy that excited Jim Stockdale the most. Working
toward his doctorate in philosophy, he studied the classics under Stanfords renowned
Philip Rhinelander and became fascinated with the stoics. Particularly in Epictetuss
The Enchiridion Stockdale found his raison dêtre as a leader of men in a POW environment.
His nearly eight years in a communist prison with frequent torture, solitary confinement
and endless mind games played by his captors made him stronger. He would later tell
audiences that he believes his whole life directed him to be the inspirational leader
for the 600 military POWs in Vietnam. He got through nearly five years of solitary
confinement convinced that it was his purpose to be there.
Stockdale's 2,713 days of leadership in isolation resulted in promotions to admiral and
general, selections for choice assignments and a plethora of medals for the men he inspired.
He was personally awarded the Medal of Honor in large part for refusing to be exploited
by being forced to order Americans to violate their Code of Conduct.
His brief foray into politics as the reluctant vice presidential candidate for Ross
Perot in 1992 didnt work out but one of the memorable moments of the campaign was
the Vice Presidential debate with Dan Quayle, Al Gore and Admiral Stockdale. The pundits
had a field day with the geezer against the hip, one-thought-equals-one-clever-bumper sticker
Quayle and Gore. Admiral Stockdale looked at the camera and asked, Why am I here? Neither
Quayle, Gore, the press nor the viewers understood what he was saying. But those of us
who served with him in Hanoi did.
He was imploring the spirit of Epictetus to wisk him away from these buffoons back to
his destiny. Leading men under very difficult circumstances. A job, in his world,
according to Epictetus for which he was destined his entire life."
This tribute to VADM James Stockdale was provided by member Paul Galanti, who served under CAG Stockdale in Hanoi during his POW years.
Captain Michael J. Estocin, USN.
Rank and organization: Captain (then Lieutenant Commander), of U.S. Navy Attack Squadron 192, operating from the USS Ticonderoga (CVA14)
Place and date: Haiphong, North Vietnam, 20 and 26 April 1967
Entered Service at: Akron, Ohio
Born: 27 April 1931, Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania
For conspicous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 20 and 26 April 1967 as an A-4 Skyhawk pilot in Attack Squadron One Hundred Ninty-two embarked in USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14).
Leading a three plane flight in support of a coordinated strike against two thermal power plants in Haiphong, North Viet Nam, on 20 April 1967, Captain (then Lieutenant Commander) Estocin provided continuous warnings to the strike group leaders of the surface-to-air missile (SAM) threats, and personally neutralized three SAM sites. Although his aircraft was severely damaged by an exploding missile, he re-entered the target area and relentlessly prosecuted a Shrike attack in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire. With less than five minutes fuel remaining he departed the target area and commenced in-flight refueling which continued for over 100 miles. Three miles aft of Ticonderoga, and without enough fuel for a second landing approach, he disengaged from the tanker and executed a precise approach to a fiery arrested landing.
On 26 April 1967, in the support of a coordinated strike against the vital fuel facilities in Haiphong, Estocin led an attack on a threatening SAM site, during which his Skyhawk was seriously damaged by an exploding SAM missile; nevertheless, he regained control of his burning Skyhawk and courageously launched his Shrike missiles before departing the area.
By his inspiring courage and unswerving devotion to duty in the face of grave personal danger, Captain Estocin upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Dueling with SAMs was not ‘choice duty’ and those aviators who performed this mission braved fierce odds. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Michael J. Estocin, of VA-192’s ‘Golden Dragons’. On 20 April 1967, Estocin was flying an ant-SAM (Iron Hand) mission from the Ticonderoga against thermal power-plants at Haiphong. Providing continuous SAM warnings to other members of the strike group, he personally neutralized three SAM sites. Estocin’s A-4E received extensive damage, but he elected to remain over the target area and made another Shrike attack, all the while receiving heavy flak fire. Depleting his ordnance, the Skyhawk pilot managed to return the crippled plane safely to the Ticonderoga.
Six days later, on another strike against Haiphong, Estocin once again pitted himself against the deadly missiles. Hit by an exploding SAM, he managed to retain control of his now burning aircraft to launch his Shrikes. Engulfed in the fireball of a detonating SAM, Estocin’s Skyhawk was seen to commence four of five aileron rolls in a 45 degree nose-down attitude. Recovering, Estocin called he had a fire-warning light and headed for the safety of the sea with fire streaming behind his aircraft. However, before he could reach this haven, the stricken A-4 once again began a series of rapid rolls disappearing inverted into the under-cast at 3,500 ft. Listed as MIA, Estocin was declared dead after the war and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Mike Estocin is remembered on "The Wall" panel 18E row 092.
A-4E Memorial to Mike Estocin at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California.
Mike at NAS Cubi Point shortly before being shot-down.
26 APR 1967: Webmaster Emeritus on Mike Estocin's original official status.
On April 26, 1967, Lieutenant Commander Michael Estocin crashed in A-4E Skyhawk NM 208, Bureau Number 151073, as the result of a SAM hit; Lieutenant Commander Michael Estocin died (KIA) in that same crash on April 26, 1967. This is documented by witness Commander John B. Nichols and related in his book "On Yankee Station: The Naval Air War over Vietnam," pages 62 to 65. The action is also reported in many other books such as "The Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club" by Rene J. Francillon. Other Naval Aviators also witnessed the shoot-down and are, without exception, positive Mike was killed at that time.
The Ticonderoga CVA-14 combat cruise departed San Diego, California on 15 October 1966, and returned 29 May 1967. Lieutenant Commander Michael Estocin was based aboard the Ticonderoga until his shoot-down. The Ticonderoga reported "In-chop" on 27 October 1966, and "Out-chop" 22 May 1967.
The following were the combat line periods:
13 November to 16 December 1966
04 January to 04 February 1967
15 February to 15 March 1967
29 March to 28 April 1967
Several U. S. Government on-line databases, including the VA, report incorrect information about Mike Estocin. Such as the report: Tour of duty began 4/26/67; Causality was on 10/11/77 in North Vietnam; Hostile died captured. THIS DATABASE INFORMATION IS INCORRECT.
The Navy reported many pilots whose bodies were not recovered MIA "Missing in Action." The MIA matter and record should have been closed and updated at the end of the war and has not been for unknown political reasons.
Vietnam combat pilots are offended and outraged by the continuation of the conclusion of Estocin's survival, capture and death in prison some ten years later. This is outrageous fiction and conjecture; it is not based on any fact! Webmaster Emeritus, Bud Southworth.