“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”
Jeremiah Denton died today.
He was 89 years old.
He was also a Senator for Alabama, but that’s not why he is the subject of this post, after all we don’t hold politicians in very high regard here.
No, Jeremiah Denton is being remembered for his time in service in the Navy, and mostly because of the period he spent as a Prisoner Of War courtesy of the North Vietnamese.
In all he spent almost eight years as a POW in North Vietnam (four of them in solitary confinement). He later wrote a book about his experiences, which in turn became a movie.
At the time Denton was US Naval Aviator and was the Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron Seventy-Five aboard the aircraft carrier USS Independence.
On 18 July 1965, while he and Lieutenant Bill Tschudy, his navigator/bombardier, were leading twenty-eight planes on a bombing mission, their jet was hit by enemy fire and the two men ejected over the city of Thanh Hoa in North Vietnam, where they were captured and taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese.
Denton is best known for a 1966 televised press conference in which he was forced to participate as an American POW by his North Vietnamese captors.
During the press conference Denton had the presence of mind to use the opportunity to send a coded message confirming for the first time to the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence and Americans that American POWs were being tortured in North Vietnam.
To send his message Denton repeatedly blinked his eyes in Morse code during the interview, spelling out the word, “T-O-R-T-U-R-E”.
He was also questioned about his support for the U.S. war in Vietnam, to which he replied: “I don’t know what is happening, but whatever the position of my government is, I support it fully. Whatever the position of my government, I believe in it, yes sir. I am a member of that government, and it is my job to support it, and I will as long as I live.”
While a prisoner, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. Denton was later awarded the Navy Cross and several other decorations, mostly for heroism while a prisoner of war.
These days loyalty and initiative are not as valued as they once were, or as they should be. Anyone who had such values during their lifetime is worth remembering.
For those interested you can read more on Wikipedia or do a search on Google.