Eagle Profile

Prayer and covert communication were the biggest weapons we had,” declared Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., former prisoner of war. Born in Mobile, Alabama in 1924, Denton attended McGill Institute and Spring Hill College. In 1946, Denton received his commission from the U.S. Naval Academy and soon entered pilot training. Early in his career he served as a flight instructor and test pilot, and in 1957 was credited with revolutionizing naval strategy and tactics for nuclear war as architect of the “Haystack Concept.” A graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College, Denton served on the Sixth Fleet staff and later commanded Attack Squadron (VA) 75, the “Sunday Punchers,” flying the Douglas A-1 Skyraider.

After graduating from Naval War College and earning a Master of Arts in International Affairs from George Washington University, he was selected to command VA-75 again, this time during the transition to the Grumman A-6 Intruder. On 18 July 1965, 3 days before he was scheduled to assume command, Denton was leading a group of 28 aircraft from the USS Independence near the Thanh Hoa bridge in North Vietnam when he was shot down and captured. He spent the next 7 years and 7 months as a prisoner of war, frequently serving as the senior-ranking American officer in various camps and becoming the first U.S. military captive subjected to four years of solitary confinement. In 1966, his name came to the attention of the American public during a forced television interview by the North Vietnamese which was broadcasted on American television. While being questioned, he blinked his eyes in Morse code, repeatedly spelling out the covert message “T-O-R-T-U-R-E”.

Tortured to condemn his country, he defied his captors by publicly supporting his government during the interview while covertly revealing that American POWs in Vietnam were being tortured. Denton was released on 12 February 1973 and later chronicled his experience in his 1976 book, When Hell Was in Session. Denton was released and promoted to rear admiral in April 1973. Denton retired from the Navy in 1977 as a Rear Admiral following 34 years of service. Returning to his home state, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 1980, becoming the first retired flag officer ever voted into that august body. While in office, he established the acclaimed Denton Program, authorizing space-available military transportation and worldwide delivery of humanitarian aid. The Denton Program was responsible for transporting over 20 million pounds of critical equipment and supplies to needy people throughout the world.

In 1983, he founded the National Forum Foundation, which now oversees TRANSFORM, a unique humanitarian aid delivery system, and “One Nation Under God,” a program devoted to rededicating our nation to that original concept. Denton’s many military and civilian decorations and awards include: ┬áthe Navy Cross, three Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, two purple hearts, the Navy League’s John Paul Jones Award for Inspirational Leadership, and the Poverello Medal for exemplary Christian life.

Years Honored: ,


2001 Lithograph
2002 Lithograph

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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.

On 18 July 1965, Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., was shot down and captured by North Vietnamese troops. He earned national attention during a 1966 television interview arranged by his captors. Despite the application and explicit threats of torture to ensure "proper and polite response" to questioning, Denton remained steadfast in his allegiance to the U.S., and repeatedly blinked his eyes in Morse code, spelling out a covert message: "T-O-R-T-U-R-E." Denton's heroism and leadership earned him the U.S. Navy's highest award, the Navy Cross.