The P.O.W. Who Blinked a Message To the World



From 1965 to 1973, Jeremiah Denton, a Navy pilot, was held during the Vietnam War at the famous Hanoi Hilton. With leg injuries he suffered after ejecting from his stricken plane, Denton was dragged from a muddy riverbank by Viet Cong soldiers and was paraded through the streets. That was the start of an unrelenting ordeal that would continue for years. He was held in isolation for four years, often in a pitch-black cell that was crawling with rats and roaches. His beatings opened wounds that festered in pools of sewage. At the start of one 3-day torture session, guards tied his arms behind his back so tightly that his elbows touched. Yet, Denton refused to confess to alleged American war crimes or reveal even basic details of U.S. military operations. Thinking they had broken him, Denton’s captors allowed a Japanese TV reporter to interview him on May 2, 1966. The blinding floodlights made him blink, and suddenly he realized he could blink a message by using Morse code. Blinking the word T-O-R-T-U-R-E, his impromptu blinks silently told the world that prisoners were being tortured and not to believe what he was saying. When the enemy discovered what he had done, he was beaten all night. On February 12, 1973, Denton and was released in Hanoi by the North Vietnamese, along with numerous other American POWs, during Operation Homecoming. Denton went on to found the Coalition for Decency, an organization committed to stemming the tide of American moral degradation. He died in 2014 at the age of 89.