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March 12, 2004

An American Hero's Views on Kerry

Before his captivity, Jeremiah Denton believed in God. But after surviving nearly eight years of torture, beatings, isolation and starvation at the hands of the North Vietnamese, Denton knew there was a God. Denton, a retired Navy rear admiral, former Alabama senator and ex-prisoner of war, was in Fayetteville this week, where he met with an international humanitarian aid advisory group that bears his name. He toured Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base and talked with groups about the principles he believes made America great.

An unbreakable, unshakable belief in those principles -- patriotism, love of country, belief in God -- allowed Denton to endure the unendurable. "War is violence. War is hell," he said. "But when the alternative is worse, we must go to war." Liberating people from enslavement is worth the price of war, to Denton. He has paid dearly for his beliefs.

Thursday evening, Denton, who is 73, retired to his quarters on post and tried to rest up before leaving for a dinner party. Denton is a stately man, with prominent eyebrows and a ready smile. He had been battling a touch of the flu all week. But it takes more than the flu bug to crumble Jerry Denton. Life's inconveniences are gravy, he says. Here is why.

On July 18, 1965, Denton, then 41, was leading a group of 28 aircraft from the USS Independence on an attack on enemy installations near Thanh Hoa. He was shot down into the Ma River and captured by the North Vietnamese. He wouldn't see his wife, Jane, his seven children or his homeland for the next seven years and eight months. Four of those years he spent in solitary confinement. "They tortured us from '65 to October of '69," Denton said in a tone most people use when talking about the weather. "Four full years. That was a tough time."

During a 1966 televised interview, 10 months after his capture, millions of Americans watched as Denton, who had refused to give in to threats of torture, looked into the camera and said he would support whatever the position his government took. "I support it, and I will as long as I live," Denton had said. Denton's captors didn't take kindly to losing face. Denton would pay for his remarks with his blood. During the same interview, Denton blinked his eyes in Morse code and spelled out the word "torture." It was the first time U.S. intelligence was able to confirm suspicions that American POWs were being mistreated in Vietnam.

During his captivity, Denton stayed in prisons and prison camps nicknamed the "The Hanoi Hilton" and "The Zoo." The worst place Denton stayed was a prison named "Alcatraz." It was reserved for American captives who were considered rebels and instigators, dangerous because of their strong will and ability to influence others. In the eyes of the North Vietnamese, strong men like Denton needed to be broken.

When Denton recalls his trials in Vietnam, his eyes are often closed. For two and a half years, he spent 17 to 18 hours a day in irons. Alone, in a coffin-sized cell, he had to remain on a 47-inch-by-47-inch square during the day. It was just long enough to walk two paces. At night, he slept on a stone slab. "It wasn't the Hilton," Denton said. There were no windows. Just a 10-watt bulb, roaches and spiders the size of tarantulas. "Jesus was with me all the time," said Denton, who is a devout Catholic. His proudest moment was conquering his claustrophobia. Denton said during that time, he was in an "extremely intellectual and spiritual state." He said it is amazing what the mind can accomplish, if given the opportunity.

He once derived the formula for centrifugal force in his head, something he couldn’t do with pencil and paper at the U.S. Naval Academy. Although the other captives had designated Denton "president of the optimist club," there were times he prayed to die. He didn't want to -- couldn't -- endure another minute of despair. Once, when Denton refused to tell guards how the Americans communicated with each other, he was tortured for 10 days and nights. By the 10th night, he couldn't think anymore. He couldn’t pray anymore.

Denton surrendered. Not to the guards, but to God. "It was a total surrender," he said. "If there was anymore to do, you will do it," he told God. "That instant, I felt zero pain," he said. "I felt the greatest comfort and reassurance in life that I haven’t felt since."

When Denton talks to groups around the country, he tells them that patriotism can motivate men to perform for their country, but only prayer can provide the strength for the kind of performance required in prison camps. Denton also found strength in his fellow captives. The Americans were forbidden to communicate with each other. But that didn’t stop them. They communicated in Morse code and other number-based codes they devised and transmitted through blinks, coughs, sneezes, taps on the wall and even sweeps of a broom.

"I experienced what I couldn't imagine human nature was capable of," Denton said. "I witnessed what my comrades could rise to. Self-discipline, compassion, a realization there is a God." He also experienced periodic compassion from the North Vietnamese. Sometimes the guards would weep as they tortured him.
One experience, he will never forget. Denton kept a cross, fashioned out of broom straws, hidden in a propaganda booklet in his cell. The cross was a gift from another prisoner. When a guard found the cross, he shredded it. Spat on it. Struck Denton in the face. Threw what was left of the cross on the floor and ground his heel into it. "It was the only thing I owned," Denton said.

Later, when Denton returned to his cell, he began to tear up the propaganda booklet. He felt a lump in the book. He opened it. "Inside there was another cross, made infinitely better than the other one my buddy had made," Denton said. When the guard tore up the cross, two Vietnamese workers saw what happened and fashioned him a new cross. "They could have been tortured for what they did," Denton said.

This story is from a 1998 article in the Fayetteville Observer-Times. I wanted you to have some background on this remarkable man, who lived on the street behind us when I was in high school. He retired from the Navy and went on to serve as a US Senator, and he has some choice words about his fellow Senator, John Kerry:

When Kerry joined me in the Senate, I already knew about his record of defamatory remarks and behavior criticizing U.S. policy in Vietnam and the conduct of our military personnel there. I had learned in North Vietnamese prisons how much harm such statements caused. To me, his remarks and behavior amounted to giving aid and comfort to our Vietnamese and Soviet enemies. So I was not surprised when his subsequent overall voting pattern in the Senate was consistently detrimental to our national security.
Considering his demonstrated popularity during the Democratic primaries, I earnestly hope the American people will soberly consider Kerry's qualifications for the presidency in light of his position and record on both our cultural war at home and on national security issues. To put it bluntly, John Kerry exemplifies the very reasons that I switched to the Republican Party. Like the majority in his political party, he has proven by his words and actions that his list of priorities -- his ideas on what most needs to be done to improve this country -- are almost opposite to my own.

Thanks to Purple Raider for sending the link to this article.

The next time Kerry raises his Vietnam service, I hope you will contrast his record with the record of Admiral Jeremiah Denton - a man who refused to betray his country despite seven years of torture and hardship. Senator Kerry's feet had no sooner touched American soil than he was accusing his fellow soldiers of unspeakable atrocities and war crimes. Yet he would have you believe that his service somehow uniquely qualifies him to lead this country. Admiral Denton, the Vietnam Vets against John Kerry, and POW/MIA Families against John Kerry disagree.

- Cassandra

March 12, 2004 at 03:50 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Thanks Cass and Purple Raider, I remember reading about Denton, but I admit I had forgotten about him. I am at a loss for words for Admiral Denton.

Posted by: Pile On at Mar 13, 2004 10:21:03 AM

All the folks at www.realheroesvoices.com agree 100% with you and we will be doing something about it by educating America via Radio and TV spots. The American people must know the truth.

Posted by: Stan at Mar 15, 2004 5:25:46 PM

I can't help but respect Admiral Denton for his courage and commitment. He has proven himself to be a hero in more than one arena. His charitable work. military, and civil contributions are admirable. However, that does not give his every opinion the weight of absolute truth. His partisan attack on Kerry is based on life threatening personal experiences that have warped his world view. The world is bigger than one man's experiences. I am wary of leaders that over simplify our complex world.
The war on terrorism is not a real war anymore than was the war on poverty or the war on drugs. It is an excuse to consolidate power and ram through hidden agendas by playing on our fears. We can't fight a war on terrorism with conventional means. That path leads to more terrorism and the loss of our liberties. John Kerry understands that far better than does Admiral Denton.
Don't be fooled by charges of giving comfort to the enemy when opposing Republican policy. The real enemy is simplistic obedient thinking and narrow minded prejudice. The culture war he refers to is very real. But it is not evil vs good or Christian values vs the sinners. The Culture war is all about tolerance vs intolerance. It is about narrow minded self righteousness vs open minded discovery. When you ask yourself, what would Jesus do, remember he preached love and forgiveness. "He that is without sin, may cast the first stone."

Posted by: Dale Adcock at Jul 7, 2004 10:03:43 AM

Dale, I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed man.

Since you quote the Bible, might I suggest the 10 Commandments. There is one in there, perhaps you've heard of it, THOU SHALT NOT STEAL.

You and your fellow class-envying Communists are all the same. Blame the corporations for the fact that you have no money, conviently forgetting that you have to work to earn money.

People like you are really getting on my nerves.

Posted by: purple raider at Jul 7, 2004 11:47:29 AM

Dale,

Jesus did say that. He also told the person about to be stoned to death to go and sin no more. I guess your selective quotation liberal interpretation omitted that part with the help of the elipses "..."

Posted by: KJ at Jul 7, 2004 12:19:46 PM

I'm not going to waste a rock on you, Dale.

Posted by: spd rdr at Jul 7, 2004 1:25:29 PM

Tollerence doesn't mean acceptance.

Tollerating/loving sinners is good. Tollerating/loving sin is not.

What does one do with tollerance and "open minded discovery" after looking at something open mindedly and discoverying that there is right and wrong, good and evil, and terrorists who must die?

Posted by: KJ at Jul 7, 2004 1:49:59 PM

Well whaddaya know??....Now we got people in this "joint" rollin' em'in pages from the Bible and smokin' em'.

Oh, and KJ--- If your 3 yr. old wants to ride her tricycle on the interstate or wants to play with a bunch of rattlesnakes who are YOU to not let her?? How can you call yourself loving?

"John Kerry understands that far better than does Admiral Denton"

Comparing the two on ANY level isn't much different from spitting in Admiral Dentons face! Given Kerry's true colors (including purple)--putting him in Admiral Denton's place as a POW--I'd place some BIG bucks on Kerry turning traitor. Sorry, but among other things, his actions after Nam give weight to that "speculation".

Posted by: C K Cat at Jul 7, 2004 2:26:36 PM

Miss Cat: I don't think Kerry's true color is purple, might I suggest a bright canary yellow!

Posted by: purple raider at Jul 7, 2004 3:33:38 PM

ooooo Purple, sorry!

No insult intended toward you AND what happens to be my favorite color. I was implying his mostly "ill gotten" purple awards.
[which is, in part, why I prefer to use his middle names: Fraudulent and Fakin', on a rotation basis.(`:]

His yellow biking spandex comes to mind. How apropos. He seems to have alot of costumes for his "all the world's his stage" appearances, doesn't he?

Posted by: C K Cat at Jul 7, 2004 4:15:40 PM

"The Culture war is all about tolerance vs intolerance. It is about narrow minded self righteousness vs open minded discovery. When you ask yourself, what would Jesus do, remember he preached love and forgiveness. "He that is without sin, may cast the first stone."'

If you want to learn which side of the political spectrum practices tolerance, study a little history.

As for being self-righteous, which is the party with the strongest tradition of wanting to regulate just about every facet of our lives?

When a where did Jesus preach suicide?

I fully understand your view on Adm. Denton. Yes, fully. A true hero should shut up while a fake hero roars. By the way, what does Kerry stand for?

Tell the family members of the people who died on 9/11 that the war on terror is not a real war. Not that you have to worry, somebody else's child will be fighting it.

I would like to say more, but whatever it is I have to say would have me lowering myself to your level, Dale. Please, take your cliche filled tripe where it would be appreciated. I know the Dem sites would have me blocked out within five minutes of making a comment in the room. So much for open mindedness from the party of the left.

Posted by: RIslander at Aug 11, 2004 2:15:27 AM

I get so weary of people who tell me how complex things are. There really, really is right and wrong and we are hard-wired to know the difference. If you introduce enough complexity and surround yourself with like-minded folks you may be able to convince yourself otherwise.

Posted by: Acme at Aug 23, 2004 9:41:06 PM

Dale said:

However, that does not give his every opinion the weight of absolute truth. His partisan attack on Kerry is based on life threatening personal experiences that have warped his world view. The world is bigger than one man's experiences. I am wary of leaders that over simplify our complex world.

I say: ok, so no one is allowed to bring up john mccain's opinion of the ad anymore. And having a warped world view based on life threatening experiences is exactly what is wrong with kerry, on many issues. And I assume you don't want our leaders to attempt to make our complex world more simple? generally the more simple an issue becomes the easier it is to see which side of it you find yourself on. No fair claiming soundbytes or slogans as proof, either. Thats just politics and news. the logic you display is atrocious. It's no wonder you're willing to vote for kerry.

Posted by: M@ at Aug 24, 2004 8:14:11 AM

Dale: You are a Dumb F---. I hope that is clear. A hero should be modest, not film his record. A hero should tell the truth, always, not just when it makes him look good. A leader needs to lead by example to inspire people to do what needs doing even when they do not want to. Aleader needs to be honest.

Kerry lied about his VN action when it was convienent. He lied about atrocities in VN when he KNEW they were wrong, and if he didn't lie and he committed attrocities, by his own confession, then he is a felon and unfit to be president.

Posted by: maps at Aug 24, 2004 12:06:52 PM


It is the hypocrisy of what Kerry is doing that galls me, and the gallantry of the SBVFT
that is so heroic.

I wouldn't waste a stone on Dale either, because he fails to understand that Kerry is a big internationalist and seeks to enslave the US via the UN and his unknown world leaders who are his supporters. This is the most frightening thing about his campaign...not what he has lied about, which can be proved a lie, but what he hasn't said about his international contacts.

Tolerating/loving a REFORMED sinner is good.
Kerry is neither reformed nor tolerable.

Posted by: L aFemme Crickita at Aug 24, 2004 12:50:01 PM

Crickita: I would make a one clarification. Jesus told us to love even unrepentant sinners, but not to love the sin. That in no way means I have to tolerate/love his views/policies, which are abhorrent to me.

Posted by: Masked Menace at Aug 24, 2004 1:14:48 PM

Masked Menace,
You mean I have to love Kerry too? Icky.

Posted by: La Femme Crickita at Aug 24, 2004 2:10:10 PM

Well...not that kinda love anyway! Ewwww!

Posted by: Masked Menace at Aug 24, 2004 2:53:17 PM

I am an Air Force vet. Vietnam and the 2 Gulf Wars. I have never done anything truly heroic. I take the Senior NCO Creed to heart. I believe in "Fly, Fight and WIN!" I spent last year in the desert. I left my wife and children to serve. I went and joined my daughter. My daughter is there now again, for the fourth time. The John Kerry situation has brought back a lot of issues that I have kept hidden. I have had the honor of serving and we were permitted to win. That has meant more to me than I can say. The history of the world created by our unceremonious political removal from Vietnam is documented, but not well portrayed. We were portrayed by John Kerry, and it coated us with his slime. That he is even being considered as Commander In Chief just makes my skin crawl. The same people that spit on us when we came home are his core supporters. This time around, they feel the politically correct necessity to say they support our troops, but oppose the war. Lip service only. They lie. They hate anyone who loves this country enough to actually stand up to protect it. My heart goes out to the people who have lost loved ones. I know it must be hard. But to betray what they stood for because of your hurt is wrong. Good people died in Vietnam, Iraq and in all wars. To be quick to surrender in their memory is to betray them, and betray your country. Protest all you want before the war is waged. Once the war has begun, it is time to truly support our troops by permitting them to fight and win. To be permitted to only fight and die and have the country change course only leaves our military, and our homeland more vulnerable. The consequences of pulling out of Vietnam were enormous, but would pale in comparison to pulling out of Iraq. Terrorists have struck on our home soil. They are betting that we will lose our nerve, thanks to Somalia and Vietnam. The greatest military in the history of mankind can be totally undermined by cowards back home. It doesn't take courage to spout anti military and anti American garbage to a frothing ignorant crowd. It can actually get you the easy babes of the "movement". What would the world look like if we had been given the opportunity to win in Vietnam? Without Jane "Hanoi Jane" Fonda and John Kerry and the communist sympathizers undermining us? 2 1/2 million Cambodians would be alive. Untold South Vietnamese would not have been murdered. We would not have to approach every skirmish wondering whether the "Peace in our time" crowd would succeed in undermining us. Does anyone think we gained respect because we abandoned Vietnam? We lost respect. We provided future enemies with an exploitable weakness. If we had never entered Vietnam, nobody would have cared. But to go and quit is the worst. We can never let it happen again. The untold story of the first Gulf War was the influence of those hard-core Vietnam vets that remained. In their hearts was NO QUIT! WE WILL NOT let that happen again! They could finally feel the sun shine on them again. The darkness of Vietnam will always be with them, but they could finally find peace. Not so for the vets that were not part of it. I served stateside for the first Gulf War. My older brother, also a Vietnam vet, went. I was denied the opportunity. My reserve unit was not called up. I was requested by the active duty, but was held by my unit. That is one reason why this one is personal. I did go. I thought maybe I was too old, but I was called this time. I made my experience count. I am proud to have had the opportunity. If the John Kerry crowd wins, we bail and America loses. It will all be for naught once again. Would I go again? In a heartbeat. It is that important. To "spare" us, and suffer a terrible attack on our home soil would be the ultimate injustice. We are doing the right thing. We have good people willing to sacrifice everything. Everyone I talked to in Iraq would gladly extend indefinitely if it would assure victory. Vigilant was more than a word. We may be a little too PC, but it will only help us in history if we win. If we abandon our troops mission, and bring them home, it may save their lives, but only at the expense of many innocent victims. We are trained and equipped to fight. It is our job. We have begun; we MUST be permitted to finish. Vietnam vets don't want to bash Kerry. We have all tried very hard to put it behind us. John Kerry burned and branded us. He caused us to fight and die without the valor of winning. He married nice rich women and had a nice comfy life in the Senate. So be it, was our feelings. It is over. But by making his self-serving service his prime reason for being qualified to be president, he has awakened us. Painfully awakened us. We were disgraced, but we were never weak. We are old now, but we still have heart. Our battle cry is "NEVER AGAIN!" The greatly abused sleeping giant is awake again, and forced to make a stand. My sleepless nights have returned. What was deeply buried is now deeply felt. We stood up during Vietnam. Our service was not supported. They were wrong then. They are wrong now. History has been hijacked. What should have been was undermined. WE were undermined. This time we are home, and we can make a difference. We do not have to be ashamed any longer. Our mission is now to make sure that what happened to our generation NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN! We must stand up and be counted one more time. This is our battle, and we must win. The change during Vietnam happened while we were over there. We had no influence. This time, we are here. We have an obligation to support our troops. Not with cowardly lip service, but with action. We need to make ourselves heard, and we need to make a difference. Our country needs us once again. Most important...VOTE! Have our voices heard! Our country needs our experience, knowledge and ability one more time. We can no longer hide our loyalty to our great country. Stand up and be counted! Write, talk to friends and family. Let them know how you feel. Permit our troops to win this one. "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this any more!" Your country needs your service one more time. After we win, you can finally truly sleep. You will have accomplished your mission and won your war! I am proud of all of us. Stand up. Be proud! WELCOME HOME!

Posted by: Dave at Aug 25, 2004 12:59:36 AM

Masked Menace,
You are truly named. What an innuendo.
I was so nauseated I threw up my Vicadin.

Posted by: La Femme Crickita at Aug 25, 2004 8:08:54 AM

"The war on terrorism is not a real war anymore than was the war on poverty or the war on drugs. It is an excuse to consolidate power and ram through hidden agendas by playing on our fears." -- Dale

So, the 9/11 attack that killed 3,000 non-combatant civilians was no more real than the so-called "war on poverty", or "war on drugs"? Oh, I suppose you are going to recite the typical conspiracy theories.

"The culture war he refers to is very real. But it is not evil vs good or Christian values vs the sinners. The Culture war is all about tolerance vs intolerance. It is about narrow minded self righteousness vs open minded discovery." -- Dale

I am not a particualrly religious person. The narrow-mindedness and self-righteousness is all on the side of the terrorist organizations and their partner states whose goal is to subjugate the rest of us to their twisted world view. The very people who you seem to think deserve our "tolerance" want nothing less than to saw your head off with a rusty steak knife.

Posted by: C-141 Crew Dog at Jul 27, 2006 2:49:19 PM

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Posted by: LeOgAhEr at Jun 1, 2007 6:50:41 AM

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