*In Love and War by Jim and Sybil Stockdale (1990/1984)

This fascinating story, told in two voices, offers a first hand account of Jim and Sybil Stockdale’s eight year separation from the time he was shot down over North Vietnam during the war to the time he finally returned home after the war.  I’ve read a lot of Vietnam literature, but mostly from the perspective of marines on the ground/in the field.  This was an entirely new perspective.  First, we get a real account of the Gulf of Tonkin since Jim was one of the pilots sent out to defend the “atttack” on our carrier.  He saw no attack, only waves on the ocean.  But after that “attack” on an American naval ship, we were suddenly bombing North Vietnam and became mired in that war.  His plane was shot down during the early part of our involvement, and as such, he spent more time in as Prisoner of War than almost anyone else.  He details his many many torture sessions, solitary confinement, and interrogations as well as the incredibly sophisticated communication among American prisoners (using what amounts to current text-speak: abbreviations such as GBU-God Bless You).  Meanwhile, we also get Sybil’s side of the story, from the moment she’s told that he was shot down through her journey forming an advocacy group to represent spouses of POWs and MIAs.  Their group starts as a support group but quickly forms into a lobbying group that will not leave Congress or the President alone about the POW issue. At one point she leads her group to meet with the North Vietnamese government at the French Embassy.  She becomes an amazing organizer, speaker, and antagonizer to our government which frankly doesn’t have an answer or a plan for our POW’s.  This book is not an account of the war in terms of troops, battles, or philosophies; in fact, we get very little about what’s going on as the troop involvement escalates.  Instead, we get one man’s story of the torture he’s living while our government turns the other way and w we one woman’s story of trying to raise a family while advocating for her husband because no one in the  navy seems willing to do it for her.  (non-fiction)

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