Gerald Coffee

  • Vietnam POW
  • Author of Beyond Survival: Building On Hard Times

Vietnam POW and author of Beyond Survival: Building On Hard Times. Gerald Coffee's speech tells a story of human survival - not just a story of Vietnam survival. He focuses on the "hero" inside all of us and shows how each of us can overcome the obstacles to our success. Captain Coffee draws from his personal life experiences -- including 28 years as a Naval Officer and pilot, seven of which as a P.O.W. in the Communist prisons of North Vietnam to impart a timeless and life-changing message of faith; in self, one another, country and God. With empathy and humor he provides a truly uplifting experience.


Gerald Coffee headshot
Past Hosts Include:
  • SunAmerica
Rave Reviews About Gerald Coffee as a Speaker
His thoughtful presentation hit the mark again for this audience. I would strongly recommend Captain Coffee to other organizations who are dealing with challenging times, change, or simply looking for a great inspirational speaker. Even though SunAmerica Securities and Sentra Spelman conduct the same business, the two cultures are fairly different. Gerald's message was tailored perfectly to meet both audiences expectations and needs. Several representatives stated that when Gerald shared his unique experiences and outlook on life it made them rethink their own perspective on their personal situations and thanked us repeatedly for bringing him to the National Education Conference. This is exactly the type of response I want to hear from my group when a keynote speaker is finished with their presentation. I love the fact that his presentation was thought

Talks & Conversations with Gerald Coffee
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Beyond Survival: Building on Hard Times

This incredibly unique presentation is truly one of a kind, and continues to have universal and timeless appeal for audiences of all ages and all sectors of corporate and “association” America. Based upon Captain Gerald Coffee’s credibility earned from seven years as a Prisoner of War in North Vietn ...

This incredibly unique presentation is truly one of a kind, and continues to have universal and timeless appeal for audiences of all ages and all sectors of corporate and “association” America. Based upon Captain Gerald Coffee’s credibility earned from seven years as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam, his theme of Faith (in self, one another, our country, and in God) is embraced even more so in our current wartime environment with it’s uncertainty, frustration, and fear. Constantly updated with current issues and anecdotes, Beyond Survival continues to focus upon Leadership, Communications, Teamwork, Loyalty, and the role of Patriotic and Spiritual Values in our lives. It also provides Perspective and Hope for these troubling times, and is frequently characterized as a “Gift” from an organization’s leaders to their people.


Born in Modesto, California, Gerald “Jerry” Coffee joined the Navy in 1957 after graduating from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis as an F-8 Crusader pilot, Jerry was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for  flying low level reconnaissance missions over Cuba, taking the photos ultimately used by the United States U.N. ambassador to prove the existence of Soviet missiles there. He was featured in the 2007 History Channel series The Man, The Moment, and the Machine, recounting his photo recon exploits during that dangerous time in U.S. history.  His daring mission is also documented in Michael Dobb’s book (p. 119), One Minute to Midnight Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War... (2008 Alfred A. Knofe Publishing).

In February of 1966, while flying combat missions over North Vietnam, his RA5-C reconnaissance jet was downed by enemy fire.  He parachuted safely but was captured immediately. For the next seven years he was held as a POW in the Communist prisons of North Vietnam. After his repatriation in February, 1973, Jerry returned to operational duties.  He retired from active duty in the Navy after 28 years of service.

His military decorations include the Silver Star, two awards of the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Bronze Stars, the Air Medal, two Purple Hearts, and the Vietnam Service Medal with 13 stars.

For the past 20 years, Captain Gerald Coffee, has been considered one of the nation’s top speakers, addressing thousands each year across a broad spectrum of corporate America and to international groups as well.

In his message of going beyond survival, Jerry draws not only from insights derived during his prison experience, but also from   experiences since then:  earning a Masters Degree in political science from Cal-Berkeley, studying at the prestigious National Defense University in Washington, D.C., Navy command and staff assignments, authoring books, writing a weekly political column, and his continuing interaction with hundreds of America’s corporations and associations, military units, civic groups and schools as a professional speaker.

In a poll of corporate meeting planners, Captain Coffee has been named one of America’s Top Ten Speakers. And, the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table selected him as one of its top twelve most popular, highest-rated, main platform speakers for the past 20 years.

He holds the National Speaker’s Association’s highest rating of CSP and membership in the Speaker’s Hall of Fame (CPAE).

His numerous civilian awards include the George Washington Honor Medal from the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge and the Honolulu Chapter of the Navy League American Patriot Award.

Captain Coffee is a highly respected commentator on current political and military issues, seeing most challenges in terms of opportunities yet to be seized by heroic leadership. He has appeared on Larry King Live (twice), Talk Back Live, NBC news, and numerous radio and TV talk shows. His best selling book, Beyond Survival, was also condensed by Readers Digest, is in its fifth printing. His story was also made into the award-winning play, Prisoner. In early 2012 he will be a guest movie reviewer on the Military Channel show, An Officer and a Movie.

Jerry and his wife, Susan, a journalist, reside in Aiea, Hawaii.  Between them they have 6 adult children, 9 grandchildren and 2 yellow Labs.  Their lanai overlooks Pearl Harbor and is directly across from Camp Smith where a giant American flag dedicated to America’s POWs and MIAs waves 24/7.