William Stark was born in 1930 in Michigan City, Indiana. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 29, 1948, and was trained as a Sonarman. Stark left active duty on June 25, 1952, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration at Stetson University, and upon graduation from Officer Candidate School, was commissioned an Ensign in the Navy on March 1, 1957. Stark next trained as an Air Intelligence Officer and then served on the staffs of Commander, Carrier Division One and Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific from November 1958 to June 1960. After training as a bombardier in the A3D, he made two WestPac deployments aboard USS Hancock as a nuclear weapon delivery bombardier with VAH-4. He was designated in 1962 as the "top of the totem pole" bombardier at NAS Whidbey Island - home port of Heavy Attack in the Pacific Fleet. After earning a MS degree in Management at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, he served as an instructor in Military Law at the Naval Academy from June 1964 to September 1966, and then trained as a Radar Intercept Officer in F-4B Phantoms. Stark began flying combat missions from USS Enterprise in Southeast Asia with VF 96 in February 1967, and he was forced to eject over North Vietnam on May 19, 1967, after his F-4B was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. He was immediately captured and taken as a Prisoner of War. After spending 2,116 days in captivity, CDR Stark was released during Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973. Following extended hospitalization, he completed a tour as an advisor and instructor at the Navy Survival School, attended the University of San Diego School of Law where he earned a Juris Doctor degree in 1975, and then served as Weapons Officer and Executive Officer of the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), from May 1976 to
March 1978. He next served as a Special Plans Officer on the staff of Commander in Chief Pacific. His final assignment was at the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center in San Diego, where he retired as a Captain from the Navy on November 1, 1981. After his retirement, William worked for San Diego Federal Savings & Loan as Manager of the Coronado branch, participated in a sport dive boat operation as a USCG certified Captain of power-driven vessels up to 100 tons, and served as a sworn police officer upon graduation from the San Diego Police Academy in 1986 with the San Diego Harbor Police (primarily, as a patrol boat operator/marine firefighter) until his retirement in May, 1993. Thereafter, he worked thirteen years as a volunteer Investigator for the Coronado Police Department. He presently works as a volunteer Docent aboard the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. William is married to the former Shirley M. Gust of Michigan City, Indiana, and they have one daughter, Susan.
His 1st (of 2) Silver Star Citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while interned as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from 19 to 28 May 1967. His captors, completely ignoring international agreements, subjected him to extreme mental and physical cruelties in an attempt to obtain military information and false confessions for propaganda purposes. Through his resistance to those brutalities, he contributed significantly toward the eventual abandonment of harsh treatment by the North Vietnamese, which was attracting international attention. By his determination, courage, resourcefulness, and devotion to duty, he reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Naval Service and the United States Armed Forces.