Cmdr. Jeremiah A. Denton Jr Vietnam POW dies

Discussion in 'OFF-Topic / Misc.' started by mikewint, Mar 29, 2014.

  1. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    #1 mikewint, Mar 29, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2014
    LEST WE FORGET
    The prisoner of war had been tortured for 10 months and beaten repeatedly by his North Vietnamese captors in recent days, and there were threats of more if he did not respond properly when the propaganda broadcast began. Haggard but gritty, Cmdr. Jeremiah A. Denton Jr. slumped in a chair before the television cameras.
    Pretending to be blinded by the spotlights, he began blinking — seemingly random spasms and tics. He answered interrogators’ questions with a trace of defiance, knowing he would be beaten again and again, but hoping that America would detect his secret message in Morse code.
    To a question about American “war atrocities,” the captured pilot said: “I don’t know what is happening in Vietnam because the only news sources I have are North Vietnamese. But whatever the position of my government is, I believe in it, I support it, and I will support it as long as I live.”
    The North Vietnamese, who lost face, were even more outraged when they learned that Commander Denton, in the Japanese-taped interview broadcast on American television on May 17, 1966, had blinked out “T-O-R-T-U-R-E.” It was the first confirmation that American prisoners of war were being subjected to atrocities during the Vietnam War.
    The commander was beaten all night.
    Mr. Denton, who returned home after seven years as a prisoner and became a rear admiral and a United States senator from Alabama, died on Friday at Sentara Hospice House in Virginia Beach, his son, Jeremiah A. Denton 3rd, said. He was 89.
    On July 18, 1965, Commander Denton, leading a squadron of 28 A-6 Intruder attack jets and flying his 12th mission over North Vietnam, took off from the aircraft carrier Independence in the South China Sea. His bombardier-navigator was Lt. Bill Tschudy, and the target was a complex of military warehouses at Thanh Hoa, 75 miles south of Hanoi
    As he came in over the heavily defended Thanh Hoa Bridge on the Ma River, antiaircraft batteries opened up. Shells riddled the Intruder, knocking out its sophisticated guidance system. The aircraft went into a tailspin, and pain shot through the commander’s left thigh; a tendon had ruptured as he desperately tried to regain control, but it was hopeless. The fliers bailed out and were captured.
    “Dazed and bleeding as I was, my principal emotion was fury,” Mr. Denton recalled. “I was mad as hell at being shot down, and even angrier at being captured.”
    Over the next seven years and seven months, Commander Denton was held in various prison camps, including the notorious “Hanoi Hilton,” and endured beatings, starvation, torture and more than four years of solitary confinement, including periodic detentions in coffin-like boxes. He and other officers nevertheless maintained a chain of command and a measure of discipline among the prisoners.
    His ordeal in Vietnam was graphically chronicled in a 1976 memoir written with Ed Brandt, “When Hell Was in Session,” and made into a 1979 NBC television movie starring Hal Holbrook and Eva Marie Saint.
    In the book, he described an ordeal under torture. “A special rig was devised for me in my cell,” he recalled. “I was placed in a sitting position on a pallet, with my hands tightly cuffed behind my back and my feet flat against the wall. Shackles were put on my ankles, with open ends down, and an iron bar was pushed through the eyelets of the shackles.
    “The iron bar was tied to the pallet and the shackles in such a way that when the rope was drawn over a pulley arrangement, the bar would cut into the backs of my legs, gradually turning them into a swollen, bloody mess. The pulley was used daily to increase the pressure, and the iron bar began to eat through the Achilles tendons on the backs of my ankles. For five more days and nights I remained in the rig.”
    Denton died at a hospice facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia, from a heart ailment at age 89, his family said.
     

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