US prisoner of war blinked out chilling message in morse code when forced to answer questions in propaganda broadcast

Daisy Phillipson

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US prisoner of war blinked out chilling message in morse code when forced to answer questions in propaganda broadcast

Featured Image Credit: Audie Murphy American Legend/YouTube

After being captured as a prisoner in the Vietnam War, a US military officer sent out a bold message to the world – using only his eyes.

Jeremiah Denton was one of many prisoners of war (POW), but he remains a renowned hero for his defiance against his captors.

While being held in a North Vietnam POW camp called the Zoo, which he endured for almost eight years, Denton was forced to take part in a propaganda news segment designed to show that prison guards weren't breaking an human rights laws.

But despite telling reporters that he received 'adequate food, clothing and medical care', his eyes told a different story:

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The chilling message wasn't the only act of bravery Denton demonstrated in the 1966 news segment.

As well as taking the risk of using morse code to convey the truth, he also expressed his support for the US government.

"I don't know what is happening but whatever the position of my government is, I support it," he said.

"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."

In case you're unfamiliar with morse code, Denton used the communication method to spell out the word 'torture'.

His statement was made despite knowing he would be tortured once the camera stopped rolling.

Jeremiah Denton was locked up and tortured for seven and a half years. Credit: Creative Commons
Jeremiah Denton was locked up and tortured for seven and a half years. Credit: Creative Commons

Denton served as a US Naval Aviator during the Vietnam War, having previously graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College and the Naval War College.

In 1965, he had been leading a twenty-eight aircraft bombing mission in North Vietnam when his A-6A Intruder jet was shot down by enemy forces near Hanoi.

Denton and his bombardier Bill Tschudy were forced to eject from their aircraft and parachute to the ground, only to then be captured and imprisoned.

This made him one of the earliest and highest-ranking officers to be taken prisoner in the northern region of the communist country.

The American soldier's defiance never wavered, despite the fact that he was kept in various POW camps for seven and a half years - four of which were spent in solitary confinement, locked in a tiny cell with no windows.

In a 1979 interview with the LA Times, Denton opened up about the torture he endured while locked behind bars.

"They beat you with fists and fan belts," he said.

"They warmed you up and threatened you with death. Then they really got serious and gave you something called the rope trick."

Hundreds of US troops were held captive as POWs. Credit: Creative Commons
Hundreds of US troops were held captive as POWs. Credit: Creative Commons

He explained that the rope trick saw officers using ropes to cut off the circulation in his limbs, leaving him with no feeling in his fingertips and suffering from painful muscle spasms.

In 1973, both Denton and Tschudy were released as part of Operation Homecoming, which saw the return of 591 American POWs who had been held by North Vietnam.

The operation followed the Paris Peace Accords which ended the US's involvement in the horrific years-long conflict.

Denton went on to serve as the US Senator representing Alabama from 1981 to 1987, and passed away in 2014 aged 89.

Topics: News, World News, US News, Military

Daisy Phillipson
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