Gathering of Eagles Foundation

Honored as an Eagle in:

2001 2002

Eagle Biography

Jeremiah A. Denton Jr

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 4 years of solitary confinement. In 1966, his name came to the attention of the American public during a forced television interview.

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 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.

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 the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Navy League's John Paul Jones Award for Inspirational Leadership, and the Poverello Medal for exemplary Christian life. He and his wife, Jane, reside in Mobile, Alabama.

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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.

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