• Michael Bird

Admiral Jeremiah Denton

In a book on religious instruction called The Catholic’s Manual, by Tilmann Pesch, S.J., Fr. Pesch writes “Man attains both his immediate and ultimate end... by freely conforming his will to the will of his Maker... In order to fill the role allotted to you in this world, it behooves you to be a man of prayer as well as a man of action.”

One man who took these admonitions to heart is the late (1924-2014) Admiral Jeremiah Denton.

Jeremiah Denton was the senior officer on a bombing mission over North Vietnam in July, 1965. His plane was shot down, and he was captured and imprisoned by the North Vietnamese Army. In 1966, his captors put him on television,where he was supposed to criticize his country and tell the press that the prisoners of war were being well treated. Instead, he used the event to express his fidelity to the United States while at the same time blinking out the letters T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse code, thereby alerting US intelligence of the prisoners’ true condition.

Denton spent over 7½ years in Vietnamese prisons and over 4 of these in solitary confinement. In a book he wrote on this experience,called When Hell Was in Session, Denton described being manacled on his hands and feet and then stretched by pulleys until he cried out in agony. He wrote, “I offered myself to God with the admission that I could take no more on my own. Tears ran down my face as I repeated my surrender to Him.” He wrote, “If it hadn’t been for the Rosary, I would have lost my sanity.” Meanwhile, back home in Alabama, his wife and seven children were on their knees praying the Rosary for him and his safe return.

After he returned to U.S. soil,in 1973,he didn’t like what he saw: the “sexual revolution” had occurred, abortion had been legalized, patriotism had decreased and manners had coarsened. He ran for and was elected Senator of Alabama, where he worked to defend the unborn, for prayer in public schools and to promote chastity among teenagers. Years later, when asked how he wanted to be remembered, Denton replied, “As a guy who really did his best for God’s will being done on Earth.”

In 2000, Admiral Denton gave the commencement address at Thomas Aquinas College in California, in which he exhorted the graduates to do whatever they were going to do “for the honor and glory of God.” He challenged them to “take part in restoring His law as the basis of the laws of this country... make some effort to involve yourselves in a specific way in establishing the truth on this issue---in politics, in the courts, in the media, in education, or even by giving a good example as a husband and father or a mother and wife...You must pray desperately, because this situation is slipping by.”

He told them “The mission is to establish the truth... Not enough people have had the guts to try to tell the truth against the loud babble of those liars who want to adopt sin as their way of life and don’t want to be bothered. Too many good guys know the truth, (and I include myself here) but they lack the guts to join the battle, to be embarrassed, to be criticized, and maybe someday to be beat up in the streets or even martyred. Fr. Rutler, in his book A Crisis of Saints makes that point clear. He said there’s a lot of good people around and we all talk about these things over the bridge table or golf, we gripe about what’s going to happen, but we don’t do anything about it. We’re not willing to stand up and take the guff.”

This month we will broadcast an award winning and edifying documentary Jeremiah about Admiral Denton produced by Alabama Public Television. We are most grateful tothem for allowing us to show this superb documentary and encourage viewers to watch it, as it will only be available through the month of June.

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