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Tuesday 21 September |
The Feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle

RIP Jeremiah Denton

Simcha Fisher - published on 03/29/14

PIC Jeremiah Denton

Denton was the American POW who famously spelled out “T-O-R-T-U-R-E” in Morse code with his eyelids when he was forced to be part of a Vietnamese propaganda film. According to the New York Times:

Commander Denton was held in various prison camps, including the notorious “Hanoi Hilton,” and endured beatings, starvation, torture and more than four years of solitary confinement, including periodic detentions in coffinlike boxes. He and other officers nevertheless maintained a chain of command and a measure of discipline among the prisoners. “I put out the policy that they were not to succumb to threats, but must stand up and say no,” he told The New York Times in 1973. “Figuratively speaking, we now began to lie on the railroad tracks hoping that the sheer bulk of our bodies would slow down the train. We forced them to be brutal to us.”

The commander was often punished for urging others to resist. He also devised ways for prisoners to communicate by signs or numbers, tapping on a wall or coughing signals in a sequence.

I don’t know much about his post-war career as a senator; but I read his war memoirWhen Hell Was In Session as a teenager, and was struck by how compassionate he was toward the soldiers who did break under torture.  A very strong man, but not merciless.  Jeremiah Denton was a Catholic with seven children. Eternal rest grant unto him, o Lord.

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