Blinked “Torture” During North Vietnamese Propaganda Broadcast.
By Harold Hutchison
Jeremiah Andrew Denton, Jr., the naval aviator who during his captivity told the world that the North Vietnamese were torturing prisoners of war, passed away today. He was 89 years old.
According to media reports, Denton passed away in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he had been receiving hospice care. After his naval career, during which he reached the rank of rear admiral, Denton served one term in the United States Senate, representing the state of Alabama.
During the seven and a half years he was a prisoner of war, Denton received three awards of the Silver Star. In 1966, Denton blinked the word “torture” during a North Vietnamese propaganda broadcast. Denton also expressed his support for the policies of the United States.
“Forced to attend a press conference with a Japanese correspondent, he blinked out a distress message in Morse Code at the television camera and was understood by United States Naval Intelligence. When this courageous act was reported to the North Vietnamese, he was again subjected to severe brutalities,” the citation for the Navy Cross he received for that action reads.
Denton also received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for his actions as the senior ranking officer in two POW camps, where according to his citation, he “resisted all attempts by the North Vietnamese to use him in causes detrimental to the united States. Through incisive observation and interpretation of North Vietnamese propaganda pronouncements, he perceived a subtle high-level change of policy in the treatment of prisoners. Taking immediate tactical advantage of the enemy's new imposed limitation on reprisals, he directed an increase in resistance posture which resulted in a nearly complete breakdown of enemy demands of prisoners for propaganda gains. Further, he personally directed and led a period of fasting in May 1970, as a method of protest to solitary confinement, and in general to demand better treatment.”
On Denton’s return to the United States, he said, “We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our commander-in-chief and to our nation for this day. God bless America.”