Jeremiah Denton, the downed Navy pilot who was paraded before television cameras by the Viet Cong and confirmed U.S. suspicions of prisoner maltreatment during the Vietnam War by blinking out the word “torture” in Morse code, has died. He was 89.Denton, a former U.S. senator from Alabama, died Friday in Virginia Beach, Va. He had been in failing health for several years, a grandson, Edward Denton, said in confirming his death.From 1965 to 1973, Denton was held at the “Hanoi Hilton” and several other infamous Vietnamese prisons.Systematically starved, beaten and humiliated, he was among the first U.S. prisoners freed, declaring as he stepped from a plane at Clark Air Field in the Philippines on Feb. 12, 1973: “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.”A conservative and a war hero, he became the first Republican elected to the Senate from Alabama in more than a century. Taking office in 1981, he was known for his uncompromising stands on defense and social issues, including abortion, adultery and homosexuality.“He has kept his distance from the rolling carnival of legislative deal-making as if convinced that contact would taint his beliefs with shadows,” the National Journal said in 1986.
Exsenator POW who blinked torture dies at 89