In 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 seven years. 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 Committee, 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 7 children and 15 grandchildren.
Jeremiah Denton, Jr. was an accomplished naval pilot serving as a test pilot, flight instructor and squadron commander aboard the USS Enterprise . While leading a flight of 28 aircraft, he was shot down over North Vietnam and spent over 7 years as a POW. During an interview by his captures, he covertly revealed to America that POW's were being tortured by blinking his eyes in Morse code, spelling out "T-O-R-T-U-R-E". Because of his heroism and military service, he received the Navy's highest award, the Navy Cross.