Captain Gerald Coffee

Captain Gerald Coffee

  • 7-Year  POW Survivor
  • Recipient of  Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross & many other decorations
  • One of the nation’s top inspirational speakers

Travels from Oahu, Hawaii

Keynote Fee: Based on geographic location of conference. Please contact us for specifics.
*Travel and related expenses are included in his fee.


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, One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War.

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, Captain Coffee 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 Jerry Coffee has been considered one of the nation’s top speakers, addressing thousands each year domestically and abroad.

In his compelling message of going beyond survival, Captain Coffee draws not only from insights derived during his prison experience, but also from  experiences since then:  studying at UC Berkeley and the prestigious National Defense University in Washington, D.C., serving in various Navy command and staff assignments, authoring books, writing a weekly political column, and interacting with hundreds of America’s corporations, 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 Speakers Association’s highest rating of CSP and membership in the Speakers 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 an award-winning play, Prisoner. In early 2012 he was a guest movie reviewer on the Military Channel show, “An Officer and a Movie.”


Beyond Survival

In his talk, “Beyond Survival”, Captain J Coffee gives a moving account of his incredible experience from capture to ultimate release.  His faith – in himself, others, his country, and God – was the key to turning an unbelievably difficult, potentially devastating experience into an opportunity for personal growth.  Captain  Coffee is an inspiring example of the power of the human spirit to survive and triumph over the most adverse circumstances.  His story conveys a positive message that we each have the potential to survive any ordeal, overcome any obstacle, or achieve any goal. After hearing him, those in the audience will look at their challenges and adversities in a totally different way.

Captain Coffee tailors his presentation to his audiences and can focus on a number of topics including leadership, teamwork, mastering change, and overcoming adversity. 


“ Captain Coffee’s presentation captured the hearts of all 2,000 EAPA members.  He certainly made us look good.  His message is not only for the moment, but for the long haul.”  Sylvia A. Straub, Ph.D., CAE, COO, Employee Assistance Professional Assn., Inc.

“I spend time during the presentation looking at the audience… the audience was completely mesmerized… not a yawn, not a quick look at the watch, not a drifting glance… You could hear a pin drop (even on carpet!)”  Brenda C. Park,Director, Dealership Div., Teleco, Inc.       

“I have been with the Association for 20 years, and I have never seen a speaker have the full undivided attention of the audience for their entire presentation.  Captain Coffee has been our most dynamic speaker to date.”  Kelly Hipp, Dir., Professional Relations   American Optometric Assn.

“This conference was filled with exceptional events, but I must say that our time with Captain Coffee was the highlight of the conference.  He is truly a gifted speaker and many points that he made will stay with us for life!” Stanhope A. Kelly, President Wachovia Corporation

“I think during this time in America and during these tough economic times as well, Captain Coffee’s inspirational story really struck a wonderful chord with them.  His mix of humor and seriousness to get across his message across made for a great close to our Opening General Session and I appreciate everything that he did both onsite and before the meeting to tailor his speech to our group.” Eleanor G Baird, CMP Director of Meetings & Exhibits  NTCA

“Your presentation hit home with our team in an unpredictable way.  Now I know personally why you have been honored as one of America’s best.” William J. Hannigan President, Business Communication Services, Southwestern Bell