1973, Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., walked off an Air Force C-141 aircraft
to freedom after being held captive in North Vietnam for more than
Born in 1924 in Mobile
Alabama, Denton graduated from the United States Naval Academy in
1946. In June 1965, he was assigned to Attack Squadron 75 on the USS
Independence flying the Grumman A-6 Intruder. On 18 July 1965, while
pulling up after leading a bombing attack on enemy installations near
Thanh Hoa, he was shot down and captured by North Vietnamese troops.
While held prisoner, Denton became the first American subjected to
four years of solitary confinement.
In 1966, during a television
interview by the North Vietnamese and broadcast on American television,
Denton gained national attention when, while being questioned, he
blinked his eyes in Morse code, repeatedly spelling out the covert
message “T-O-R-T-U-R-E”. During his captivity he frequently
served as the senior American military officer in numerous camps in
and around Hanoi. On 12 February 1973, Denton was released and promoted
to rear admiral in April 1973.
In 1976 Denton’s
Vietnam experience was chronicled in the book “When Hell Was
In Session”, and in an NBC movie of the same title, which won
the 1979 Peabody Award. In 1979 Denton retired from the Navy as Commandant
of the Armed Forces Staff College and returned to Mobile, Alabama.
During his 34 years of military service, he received numerous awards
and honors, to include: the Navy Cross, three Silver Stars, the Distinguished
Flying Cross, and two Purple Hearts. In November 1980, Denton became
the first retired flag officer ever elected to the U.S. Senate.
Some of his major committee
assignments included: the Judiciary Cmmittee, the Armed Services Committee,
and the Veterans Affairs Committee. In 1983, Denton founded the National
Forum Foundation dedicated to the concept of One Nation Under God,
the institution of the family, welfare reform, and peacekeeping and
humanitarian affairs. In 1987, he was appointed by President Ronald
Reagan to be Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Merchant Marine
and Defense. Among many other legislative accomplishments, Denton
established the highly acclaimed international aid program known as
The Denton Program, responsible for transporting over 20 million pounds
of critical equipment and supplies to needy people throughout the
world Denton currently serves as President of the National Forum Foundation
and lectures on national and international affairs. He and his wife
Jane reside in Mobile, Alabama. They have seven children and 15 grandchildren.
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