Watch The Video Of An American POW In Vietnam Blinking A Desperate Warning In Morse Code On TV
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.
Commander Jeremiah Denton Used His Knowledge Of Morse Code To Convey A Crucial MessageVideo: YouTube
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.
Despite Imminent Torture, Denton Refused To Denounce His Country
In the video, Jeremiah Denton 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 Part Of What Was Known As The 'Alcatraz Gang'Photo: U.S. Air Force photo / US Air Force / Public Domain
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 minuscule windowless cells, the lights turned on at all times. They were tortured this way for 25 months.
This Video Was Not The Only Propaganda Event Denton Took Part InVideo: YouTube
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.
Denton Dealt With Excruciating Torture During His Time As A POWPhoto: US military / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
In 1976, Denton wrote a biography, When Hell Was in Session, detailing his time in Vietnam.
In the book, he graphically describes the torture he was put through:
A special rig was devised for me in my cell... 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.
Of his captors, Denton recalls: "They were in a frenzy... alternating the treatment to increase the pain until I was unable to control myself. I began crying hysterically, blood and tears mingling and running down my cheeks... My only thought was a desire to be free of pain."
Denton Was A Leader, Even Under The Worst Of Circumstances - And He Devised Communication Systems Under The Noses Of The VietnamesePhoto: U.S Military photograph / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
As one of the highest-ranking officers among his fellow prisoners, Denton felt a sense of duty to take charge, and he did so willingly and with force. In a 1973 interview with the New York Times, Denton said, "I put out the policy that they were not to succumb to threats, but must stand up and say no." He continued, "We forced them to be brutal to us."
He also devised systems of communication that the North Vietnamese captors would not pick up on, such as coughs and sneezes; because the men were all in such poor health, the Vietnamese didn't pick up on the discreet communication.