Rear Admiral Jeremiah Denton Jr. was a naval aviator who flew missions over Vietnam with VA-75 in an A-6A Intruder.
He was shot down and captured, beginning years of captivity and torture:
On July 18, 1965, U.S. Navy Comdr. Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., was shot down while leading an air attack on a military installation in North Vietnam. Captured by the North Vietnamese that day, he remained a prisoner of war for seven years and seven months, enduring years of solitary confinement and brutal mistreatment.
On May 2, 1966, as part of a propaganda campaign, the North Vietnamese arranged for him to be interviewed for television by a Japanese reporter. Asked about his views on the actions of the U.S. Government, he strongly affirmed his government’s position, in defiance of his captors’ instructions; he prepared himself for a torture session that was sure to follow.
While speaking on camera, he blinked in Morse code the word “T-O-R-T-U-R-E.” Eventually, the videotape was widely circulated and reviewed by U.S. Naval Intelligence. Denton’s one-word report, delivered in Morse code, was the first clear confirmation received by U.S. Intelligence that American POWs were, in fact, being tortured.
He later speculated that the North Vietnamese did not learn of his blinking message until 1974. The taped interview is among the holdings of the Special Media Archives—Records of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Promoted during his captivity, Captain Denton was released on February 12, 1973. After retiring from the U.S. Navy as a rear admiral, he was elected to the U.S. Senate where he served from 1981 until 1987.
Jeremiah A. Denton Jr., a retired Navy rear admiral and former U.S. senator who survived nearly eight years of captivity in North Vietnamese prisons, and whose public acts of defiance and patriotism came to embody the sacrifices of American POWs in Vietnam, died March 28 at a hospice in Virginia Beach. He was 89.
The cause was complications from a heart ailment, said his son Jim Denton. Adm. Denton was a native of Alabama, where in 1980 he became the state’s first Republican to win election to the Senate since Reconstruction.
This guy, while in captivity, was forced by the NVA to make a couple of propaganda videos. Denton complied, but screwed them over:
In the first, orchestrated by the North Vietnamese as propaganda and broadcast in the United States in 1966, he appeared in his prison uniform and blinked the word “torture” in Morse code — a secret message to U.S. military intelligence for which he later received the Navy Cross.
Later in life, from 1981 to 1987 he was a US Senator from Alabama.