Shamefulness Contrasted with Heroism

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 5 months ago

From the Daily Mail:

The youngest of the Iranian hostages has been accused of embarrassing the Royal Navy after pictures emerged of him apparently poking fun at their ordeal while drunk.

Arthur Batchelor – who has already been condemned for selling his story – and the 14 other captured sailors and Marines have been on two weeks’ compassionate leave following their ordeal last month.

Instead of quietly recuperating, however, 20-year-old Batchelor was caught on camera at a nightclub in Plymouth staging a tasteless re-enactment of his treatment.

The Operator Mechanic said he had cried himself to sleep after his Iranian captors likened him to Mr Bean and stole his iPod.

But pictures taken by the club DJ show him blindfolded with a tea-towel and laughing as a friend pretends to hold him at gunpoint.

Another shows the 5ft 2in tall crewman pulling a face while a reveller holds a toy rifle under his chin.

In a third, he is seen wearing a nightie while he poses with three girls.

From Power Line (h/t Roger Barnett), we read this inspiring story of heroism that serves as a contrast to the pusillanimous behavior described above:

The recent episode of the British hostages in Iran brought to mind the late Adm. James Stockdale. He spent seven years in Hoa Lo Prison, a.k.a. the Hanoi Hilton. For his valor and leadership while captive he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Though tortured 15 times, though kept in leg irons for two years, though held in solitary confinement for four, he would not aid his captors. Refusing to be paraded in front of foreign journalists, he slashed his scalp with a razor blade and beat his face with a wooden stool, rendering impossible that disgrace. Few are capable of such feats of will — Admiral Stockdale was a student of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus — and we could probably not have expected such bravery from the British sailors and marines. Yet we must remember the standards our greatest warriors have set if we are to prevail in this and coming wars.

Extending Stockdale’s story, The New York Sun gives us this:

On the morning of the day he died, it has been said of a few individuals over the years, he was the greatest man alive, and among Americans this could well be said of Admiral James Stockdale, who died Tuesday at the age of 81. He won the Medal of Honor for his leadership of the American prisoners of war held in Hanoi during the years of the Vietnam War, and his death, coming as America is in the early years of a new war, offers much about which to think.

The Medal of Honor, which is impossible to alloy, is usually awarded for acts that disclose the courage of an individual in a few split seconds – in the time it takes to save the lives of one’s comrades by throwing oneself on a grenade, say, or by leaping from a foxhole to attack an enemy machine-gun nest. Such medals are worth no less for the fact that the character that won them was glimpsed in an instant.

Admiral Stockdale’s courage, however, was disclosed over and over again, and was sustained for the entire span of the seven and a half years he spent in the infamous prison known as the Hanoi Hilton and other dungeons, where he was held four years in solitary confinement and two with his legs clamped in irons. He was a prisoner of one of the most savage enemies America has ever fought. It was Stockdale who invented the code prisoners used to communicate, and he told other prisoners, as Los Angeles Times put it, to defy their captors at every turn and never act like helpless captives.

The Medal of Honor citation refers to Stockdale’s efforts at “self-disfiguration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes.” In plain English, what he did was use a wooden stool to beat his face to a pulp so he couldn’t be used in an enemy film. One reason that he is so admired by his fellow prisoners is that, when he inflicted what the citation calls “a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate,” the enemy backed off in its torture and harassment of other Americans it was holding.

May God grant to America men like Stockdale.



  • Pingback: postpolitical » Whitehall Fashionistas()

  • http://johnlaski.com Dr. John Laski

    To be clear there are few in our generation (baby-boomers) who will rise as high in stature and dignity as Admiral James Stockdale. It was my high honor to serve under him at the Naval War College in Newport, RI. The stark contrast of a well appointed office befitting both the rank and the man, stood in glaring contrast to the chipped and somewhat mangled cup on the corner of his desk, from the “Hanoi Hilton.” He never forgot, nor I would argue, should we. His message is perhaps “selflessness” … that rare ability to recognize that there is something beyond self that needs to be served. His service to others was evidenced on a daily basis … and I will long remember in the far corners of my thoughts the darkened figure of a tall man, walking the streets around Simms Hall, at 0500 on those cold a foggy Newport mornings.

    A true hero in every sense … Godspeed Admiral!

    Dr. John Laski (formerly, TD2 Laski, USN)


You are currently reading "Shamefulness Contrasted with Heroism", entry #498 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Heroism and was published April 22nd, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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