Lessons From the Hanoi Hilton by Peter Fretwell and Taylor Baldwin Kiland

In Lessons From the Hanoi Hilton: Six Characteristics of High-Performance Teams (Naval Institute Press, 184 pp., $27.95) Peter Fretwell and Taylor Baldwin Kiland look at the experiences of the U.S. POWs in North Vietnam and come up with six general characteristics that helped many of them survive.

Those characteristics, the authors say, also helped the men after coming home from years of captivity during which nearly all of them were repeatedly tortured physically and emotionally. The authors also report on studies that have shown that the Hanoi Hilton POWs overwhelmingly described their post-war lives as “improved as a result of their POW experience.” 

Although the book describes the actions of many  POWs, Fretwell and Kiland repeatedly turn to James Bond Stockdale. Admiral Stockdale, who received the Medal of Honor for his courageous leadership in the Hanoi Hilton, was shot down on his 200th mission over North Vietnam in 1965 and held until 1973.

Stockdale, who was tortured repeatedly, took the role of commanding officer behind bars. He developed a guiding principle that he and many of the other POWs used based on his study of the Ancient Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus, who preached selflessness, steadfastness to a belief system, and rigorous self discipline.

—Marc Leepson