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USS Stockdale

USS StockdaleChristening Saturday for USS Stockdale.

Navy destroyer named after Abingdon native.

The USS Stockdale, a guided-missile destroyer, will be commissioned Saturday at Port Hueneme, Calif.

The destroyer is named after Vice Adm. James B. Stockdale, an Abingdon native famous for the 7 years he spent as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War in Hoa Lo Prison, the infamous Hanoi Hilton. According to the Web site for the new destroyer, he was physically tortured no fewer than 15 times. He was kept in solitary confinement, in total darkness, for four years, chained in heavy, abrasive leg irons for two years, malnourished due to a starvation diet, denied medical care and deprived of letters from home in violation of the Geneva Convention.

The ordeal began on Sept. 9, 1965, when then-Commander Stockdale catapulted his A-4E Skyhawk off the flight deck of the U.S.S. Oriskany. Approaching his target, his plane was hit repeatedly with anti-aircraft fire.

“Within seconds, his engine was aflame and all hydraulic control was gone,” according the Web site.

Upon his release in 1973, Stockdale received the Medal of Honor, along with 26 personal combat decorations, including four Silver Star medals.

Stockdale’s wife also is known for her bravery and actions during her husband’s captivity. Sybil Stockdale campaigned for respectful treatment for the families of POWs by founding the League of Families. Sybil Stockdale was presented with the U.S. Navy Department’s Distinguished Public Service Award by the Chief of Naval Operations, the only wife of an active-duty officer ever to be so honored.

The Navy announced in 2006 that the destroyer would be named after the late Vice Adm. Stockdale. Since then, according to the Web site, Sybil Stockdale and her family have kept a close relationship with the ship and crew. The family visited the ship while it was under construction in Maine and during the ship’s christening in May 2008.

The U.S.S. Stockdale’s home port will be San Diego. The newest addition to the U.S. 3rd Fleet’s destroyer force, destroyers like the Stockdale provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities and can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups and underway replenishment groups.

Commander Fred W. Kacher will be the Stockdale’s commanding officer and Lt. Commander Brandon S. Bryan will be executive officer.

“Over the past two years, we have had the privilege of getting to know the Stockdales and they have been wonderful to our ship, which bears the name of their father and grandfather and a genuine American hero. We are so grateful to commander, Third Fleet for allowing us this opportunity to bond with the Stockdale family at sea,” Kacher said.

Stockdale was a member of the class of 1946 at Monmouth College, where the student center was named in his honor in 1989.

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