By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
A new Navy warship will be named for Alabama’s Jeremiah Denton, the former U.S. Senator and well-known Vietnam veteran who survived torture as a prisoner of war.
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer announced that a Burke-class guided-missile destroyer will be named in Denton’s honor after it is build at the Ingalls Shipbuilding shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi – roughly 40 miles from Denton’s hometown of Mobile.
Denton was elected to the U.S. Senate for Alabama in 1980 and served for six years. Senator Richard Shelby, who succeeded Denton in the Senate in 1987, praised the decision to honor Denton and said his bravery and service to his country is something to be remembered and cherished.
“Secretary Spencer’s decision to honor Admiral Jeremiah Denton embodies the significant impact of his courageous actions during the Vietnam War,”Shelby said. “Admiral Denton’s patriotism, sacrifice, and noble service to Alabama and our great nation will never be forgotten. He is very worthy of this honor, as his legacy merits this level of recognition.”
According to the Navy, the future USS Jeremiah Denton (DDG 129) will be capable of fighting air, surface, and subsurface battles simultaneously. The vessel will contain a combination of offensive and defensive weapon systems designed to support maritime warfare, including integrated air and missile defense and vertical launch capabilities.
“Admiral Denton’s legacy is an inspiration to all who wear our nation’s uniform,” said Secretary Spencer. “His heroic actions during a defining period in our history have left an indelible mark on our Navy and Marine Corps team and our nation. His service is a shining example for our Sailors and Marines and this ship will continue his legacy for decades to come.”
Denton was a Navy aviator and commander in Vietnam, where he and a number of his other pilots were shot down in enemy territory and taken prisoner at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” torture camp in 1965. They would remain imprisoned for seven and a half years, most of it spent in solitary confinement for Denton to prevent him from leading a resistance among the American prisoners.
When the North Vietnamese paraded the prisoners before cameras for propaganda purposes, Denton famously blinked T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse code to communicate to the world what was happening at the prison camp.
Denton was released and returned home in 1973. He was awarded the Navy Cross for bravery. His book, When Hell Was in Session, documented his time during captivity and was later turned into a film in 1979.
Denton later ran for the U.S. Senate and in 1981 became the first Republican senator from Alabama since Reconstruction. He lived until the age of 90 and died in March 2014.
In 2015, Alabama Public Television filmmaker Mark Fastaso released a documentary titled JEREMIAH , which won an Emmy Award and the Edward R. Murrow Award.