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Tuesday, March 31, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Perot's Interim Partner Spent 7 1/2 Years As Pow

Dallas Morning News

DALLAS - Retired Vice Adm. James Stockdale spent 2,714 days in the Hanoi Hilton, the North Vietnamese prison camp. He was tortured 15 times, in solitary confinement for four years, in leg irons for two years.

"I've had my leg broken twice. It still doesn't bend," Stockdale said. "I can't raise my left arm."

He was a wreck, but his resistance became legendary. And it was perhaps that stubborn determination and Stockdale's harrowing personal history - the subject of books, an NBC movie and the inspiration for the men who served with him - that prompted H. Ross Perot to choose the 5-foot-9 fighter pilot as an interim running mate.

Perot named Stockdale yesterday to meet rules in 28 states that say an independent candidate for president must name a running mate to be considered for a place on the ballot.

The two men's friendship dates to Stockdale's release from Hanoi on Feb. 12, 1973.

"Within two days, I was a personal friend, and we've been friends ever since," Stockdale said yesterday.

During his captivity, the North Vietnamese tried to force Stockdale to make a film telling fellow prisoners to cooperate. Stockdale tried to show their coercion by shaving his head, then using a wooden stool to beat his face.

"Eventually he decided that rather than make this film, he would kill himself. He was willing to give it all up rather than make this film. He broke a window, stabbed himself and cut himself with the glass," said Harry Jenkins, who spent more than seven years as a POW with Stockdale, now 68. His suicide attempt failed; the film was not made.

"He was probably the strongest, most exemplary leader of the whole North Vietnamese POW environment," said George Coker, who also survived imprisonment with Stockdale at the Hoa Lo prison in downtown Hanoi, the so-called Hanoi Hilton.

Stockdale graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with former President Jimmy Carter in 1947.

In graduate school in political science at Stanford University, Stockdale was a serious student of philosophy.

In 1964 as a Navy pilot, Stockdale flew many major missions in the early stages of the Vietnam War. In 1965, his A-4 jet was shot down and he began 7 1/2 years of imprisonment.

He was one of the "Alcatraz Gang" - a group of 11 prisoners of war who were separated because they were leaders of the prisoners' resistance.

Stockdale received the Medal of Honor for his suicide attempt.

He began a career in academia upon his return, serving as president of the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., president of The Citadel in Charleston, S.C., and presently as a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at Stanford University.

He has published numerous books and articles, including his 1984 account of his prisoner-of-war experiences, "In Love and War," written with his wife.

In 1987, NBC made a movie of the book with James Woods playing Stockdale.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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