||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2010)|
|United States Senator
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1987
|Preceded by||Donald Stewart|
|Succeeded by||Richard Shelby|
June 15, 1924 |
Mobile, Alabama, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Katherine Jane Maury (1946–2007)|
|Alma mater||Spring Hill College
United States Naval Academy
National Defense University
Naval War College
George Washington University
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star (3)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal (V)
Navy Commendation Medal (V)
Combat Action Ribbon
Prisoner of War Medal
Jeremiah Andrew Denton Jr. (born July 15, 1924) is a retired United States Navy Rear Admiral and a former United States Senator from the state of Alabama. He spent almost eight years as a Prisoner of War (POW) in North Vietnam and later wrote a book which became a film about those experiences.
Denton attended McGill Institute and Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. In June 1943, he entered the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and graduated three years later in the accelerated Class of 1947. His 34-year naval career included service on a variety of ships and on aircraft, including airships (blimps). His principal field of endeavor was naval operations. He also served as a test pilot, flight instructor, and commanding officer of an attack squadron flying the A-6 Intruder.
In 1957, he was credited with revolutionizing naval strategy and tactics for nuclear war as architect of the "Haystack Concept." This strategy called for concealing aircraft carriers from radar by intermingling with commercial shipping and avoiding formations suggestive of a naval fleet. The strategy was simulated in maneuvers and demonstrated effectiveness, allowing two aircraft carrier fleets thirty-five simulated atomic launches before aggressor aircraft and submarines could repel them. He went on to serve on the staff of the Sixth Fleet at the rank of Commander as Fleet Air Defense Officer.
Denton graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College and the Naval War College, where his thesis on international affairs received top honors by earning the prestigious President's Award. In 1964, he received the degree of Master of Arts in International Affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Prisoner of War (POW)
Denton served as United States Naval Aviator during the Vietnam War and was the Commanding Officer (CO) of Attack Squadron Seventy-Five (VA-75) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CVA 62). On 18 July 1965, then-Commander Denton, was leading twenty-eight planes flying an A-6A Intruder (Bureau Number 151577), off the Independence on a bombing mission with Lieutenant Bill Tschudy, his navigator/bombardier. Their jet was shot down over the city of Thanh Hoa in North Vietnam, and they were captured and taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese.
Denton and Tschudy were both held as prisoners of war for almost eight years, four of which were spent in solitary confinement. Denton is best known for the 1966 televised press conference that he was forced into as an American POW by his North Vietnamese captors. He ingeniously used the opportunity to communicate successfully and to confirm for the first time to the U.S. Military (naval intelligence) and Americans that American POWs were being tortured in North Vietnam. He repeatedly blinked his eyes in Morse Code during the interview, spelling out the word, "T-O-R-T-U-R-E". He was also questioned about his support for the U.S. war in Vietnam, to which he 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, I believe in it, yes sir. I am a member of that government, and it is my job to support it, and I will as long as I live." While a prisoner, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. Denton was later awarded the Navy Cross and several other decorations mostly for heroism while a prisoner of war.
Denton was put in the "Hanoi Hilton" and the "Zoo" prison and prison camp and "Little Vegas" and "Alcatraz" prisons. In "Alcatraz", he became part of a group of American POWs known as the "Alcatraz Gang". The group consisted of James Mulligan, George Thomas Coker, George McKnight, James Stockdale, Harry Jenkins, Sam Johnson, Howard Rutledge, Robert Shumaker, Ronald Storz, and Nels Tanner. They were put in "Alcatraz" and solitary confinement to separate them from other POWs because their strong resistance led other POWs in resisting their captors. "Alcatraz" was a special facility in a courtyard behind the North Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense, located about one mile away from Hoa Lo Prison. Each of the American POWs spent day and night in windowless 3 feet by 9 feet cells mostly in irons.
On February 12, 1973, both Denton and Tschudy were released in Hanoi by the North Vietnamese along with numerous other American POWs during Operation Homecoming. Stepping off the jet back home in uniform, Denton said: "We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our Commander-in-Chief and to our nation for this day. God bless America." The speech has a prominent place in the 1987 documentary, Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam.
Denton was hospitalized briefly in the Naval Hospital at Portsmouth, Virginia, and then was assigned to the Naval Air Forces, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. In January 1974, Denton became the commandant of the Armed Forces Staff College (now known as the Joint Forces Staff College). He stepped down as commandant in April 1975 and continued to work at the college until June 1977. He finished his service at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, and retired from the Navy on November 1, 1977 with the rank of Rear Admiral. He wrote his book in 1976, When Hell was in Session, detailing his detention as an American POW in North Vietnam. The book later turned into a movie of the same title which starred Hal Holbrook as Denton. He accepted a position with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) as a consultant to CBN founder and friend, Pat Robertson, from 1978 to 1980. During his time with CBN, both Denton and Robertson repeatedly expressed military support for the Contra forces in El Salvador. In 1981, he founded and chaired the National Forum Foundation.
In 1980, Denton ran as a Republican for a U.S. Senate seat from his home state of Alabama and achieved a surprise victory over Democrat Jim E. Folsom, Jr., who had defeated the incumbent, Donald W. Stewart, in the Democratic primary. In doing so, he became the only retired admiral to be elected to the United States Senate, as well as the first Republican since Reconstruction to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate, and the first Catholic to be elected to statewide office in Alabama. In the U.S. Senate, he compiled a solidly conservative voting record. He was featured in a 1981 article in Time Magazine called, "The Admiral from Alabama".
In 1986, he narrowly lost his bid for reelection to 7th District Congressman Richard Shelby, who later became a Republican in 1994. In 2007, his wife Jane died. They had been married for sixty-one years.
- Angevine, Robert (Spring 2011). "Hiding in Plain Sight: The US Navy and Dispersed Operations Under EMCON 1956-1972". Naval War College Review 64 (2): 80–82. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- "Eyewitness". Archives.gov. Retrieved 2012-11-19.
- Adams, Lorraine. "Perot's Interim Partner Spent 7½ Years As Pow", Dallas Morning News, March 11, 1992. Accessed July 2, 2008. "He was one of the Alcatraz Gang - a group of eleven prisoners of war who were separated because they were leaders of the prisoners' resistance."
- Rochester, Stuart; and Kiley, Frederick. "Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1961–1973", 2007, Naval Institute Press, ISBN 1-59114-738-7, via Google Books, p. 326. Accessed July 8, 2008.
- Stockdale, James B. "George Coker for Beach Schools", letter to The Virginian-Pilot, March 26, 1996.
- Johnston, Laurie (December 18, 1974). "Notes on People, Mao Meets Mobutu in China". The New York Times. Retrieved May 3, 2010. Dec 18, 1974
- Kimberlin, Joanne (2008-11-11). "Our POW's: Locked up for 6 years, he unlocked a spirit inside". The Virginian Pilot (Landmark Communications). pp. 12–13. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- Jones, Matthew (2008-08-13). "Ex-Vietnam War POW a man committed to cooperation | HamptonRoads.com | PilotOnline.com". HamptonRoads.com. Retrieved 2012-11-19.
- Jeremiah Denton at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress[dead link]
- Admiral Jeremiah Denton Foundation[dead link]
- Video of Denton's POW interview from U.S. National Archives — To find this segment specifically, choose Contents > Scenes From Hell > Denton.
|United States Senate|
|United States Senator (Class 3) from Alabama
Served alongside: Howell Heflin