Bill Lawrence served his country for thirty-seven years in a remarkable naval career filled with triumphs and adversities. A naval aviator and test pilot who commanded a fighter squadron in the Vietnam War, he was shot down in combat and held by the North Vietnamese at the notorious Hanoi Hilton prison for six years. During his imprisonment he became a hero among heroes, demonstrating superior qualities of leadership, physical strength, and mental acumen, tap-coding messages to keep his sanity while withstanding solitary confinement and regular torture sessions. Upon release from captivity, Lawrence learned that his wife and the mother of their children had divorced him and remarried.
Although these events had a severe emotional impact on him, he resumed his distinguished naval career, rising swiftly through the ranks, remarrying, and being named to such prestigious positions as Commander of the Third Fleet, Superintendent of the Naval Academy, and Chief of Naval Personnel.
In this autobiography, Lawrence credits much of his resolve and ability to overcome difficulties to his strong and nurturing parents, his youth in Nashville, Tennessee, his experiences at the U.S. Naval Academy (where he served as brigade commander and earned letters in three varsity sports), and to the love and support of his wife Diane.
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William P. Lawrence graduated from the Naval Academy in 1951 and became the first naval aviator to fly twice the speed of sound in a Navy airplane. He was a POW in Vietnam from 1967 to 1973, when he resumed his naval career. Upon retirement from the Navy in 1986, he became chair of naval leadership at the academy and later served as president of the Association of Naval Aviation. He died in December 2005.
Rosario ""Zip"" Rausa, Captain, USN (Ret.), is editor of Wings of Gold magazine and the author or co-author of seven books on aviation-related subjects. A naval aviator for thirty years, he flew 150 combat missions in Vietnam. He has also served as editor of Naval Aviation News and wrote an aviation safety column for the magazine for many years.
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