|WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Retired Vice Adm. James Stockdale, a former prisoner of war and Ross Perot's running
mate for president in 1992, died Tuesday at 81, the Navy announced.
Stockdale received the Medal of Honor
for resisting his North Vietnamese captors.
Stockdale, who had battled Alzheimer's disease for several years, died at his home in Coronado,
California, a statement from the Navy Department said.
A political unknown, Stockdale became the butt of jokes after he opened the 1992 vice presidential debate
by asking, "Who am I? Why am I here?"
"The questions were relevant in terms of the evening's purpose, which was to introduce myself and let the
American people know where I was coming from," he wrote in 1995. "But I also chose them for their broader
relevance to my life: I am a philosopher."
Stockdale said his study of the Roman Stoic philosopher Epictetus helped him endure more than seven years
as a prisoner of war after his A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over North Vietnam.
He was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military medal for valor, in 1976 for his efforts
to organize fellow American prisoners to resist their guards.
Stockdale "deliberately inflicted 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 Medal of Honor citation reads.
"He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese, who, convinced of his indomitable
spirit, abated in their employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the prisoners of war."
Stockdale was born December 23, 1923, in Abingdon, Illinois, and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in
1947. He is survived by his wife, Sybil, and four sons.
Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, called Stockdale "a giant among heroes and a patriarch of
"Admiral Stockdale challenged the human limits of moral courage, physical endurance and intellectual
bravery, emerging victorious as a legendary beacon for all to follow," Clark said in a news release.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Sybil, his devoted partner in love and life, and the rest of the