Jeremiah Denton was a commander in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War when he was shot down, injured, and then taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese. Denton endured torture and solitary confinement as a POW at the hands of his captors, but he remained incredibly resilient during his almost eight years of captivity. Denton's resilience is most evident in a 1966 televised interview he was forced to partake in by his captors, in which he managed to bravely defend his country while simultaneously blinking the word "torture" in Morse code.
Luckily for Denton and other prisoners of war, the United States picked up on his message, but the Vietnamese did not. Due to his ingenious idea to convey this daring message in an extremely bold way, the United States was able to confirm that the Vietnamese were, in fact, torturing American prisoners of war. Although Denton remained in captivity for many years afterward, his message was crucial in alerting the United States to what was really happening overseas.
Jeremiah Denton Jr., a United States Naval Aviator, was shot down over Vietnam on July 18, 1965. He was captured and kept as a prisoner of war for seven years and seven months - much of this time was spent in solitary confinement. Nearly a year into his imprisonment, Denton was forced to conduct a televised interview with his captors as propaganda.
In this interview, Denton used his knowledge of Morse code to blink the word T-O-R-T-U-R-E, alerting the United States to the fact that American prisoners of war were being tortured by their North Vietnamese captors. Even under extreme duress, Denton was able to communicate vital information using just his eyes.
In the video, Jeremiah Denton bravely refused to speak out against the United States, despite knowing he would be tortured for doing so.
When asked about his opinion of the United States's actions, Denton 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 is, I believe in it—yes sir. I’m a member of that government and it is my job to support it, and I will as long as I live.”
Denton was one of 11 prisoners of war to be held in solitary confinement for two years in Hanoi, Vietnam, because of their resistance to their captors. One of these men, Commander James Stockdale, nicknamed the special facility "Alcatraz." There, Denton and his fellow prisoners underwent special and constant torture because of their resistance. The men were often held down by heavy leg shackles and kept in miniscule, windowless cells, the lights turned on at all times. T
hey were tortured this way for 25 months, when 10 of the men were moved to a different prison facility - the 11th, Ron Storz, died while in "Alcatraz."
On July 6, 1966, around the same time he brilliantly blinked using Morse code to convey a message home to the United States, Denton was forced to partake in a propaganda march called the Hanoi March. This march, propagated by the North Vietnamese army, was meant to both humiliate the American prisoners of war and boost anger on the part of North Vietnamese citizens.
Over 50 prisoners were chained in pairs of two and marched in front of tens of thousands of Vietnamese citizens over a two-mile route. Over the course of the march, the Vietnamese citizens began to beat the prisoners of war, causing terrible injuries.