Lessons from the stoics


“As I glide down toward that little town on my short parachute ride, I’m just about to learn how negligible is my control over my station in life.

“It’s not all up to me. I’m going right now from being the leader of a hundred-plus pilots and a thousand men to being the object of contempt.

“I can hear shouting and pistol shots and whining bullets ripping my parachute canopy and see the fists waving in the street below as my chute hooks a tree but deposits me on the ground in good shape. With two quick-release fastener flips I’m free of the parachute and immediately gang tackled by ten or fifteen town roughnecks I had seen in my peripheral vision, pounding up the road from my right”

It’s 9 September 1965 and seconds earlier Commander James B Stockdale’s A-4 Skyhawk jet had been shot down over North Vietnam. He would spend the next seven and a half years as a prisoner of war at the infamous Hanoi Hilton suffering torture and solitary confinement in appalling conditions. Continue reading