05/21/04 — Perspective: Famous POW’s view of Kerry

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Perspective: Famous POW’s view of Kerry

Adm. Jeremiah Denton, who later served as a United States senator, was the senior U.S. prisoner of war at the “Hanoi Hilton” and perhaps the most memorable hero of the Vietnam War.

He was imprisoned for more than seven years, four years in solitary confinement.

It was Denton who was hauled from his prison cell and paraded before television cameras by his North Vietnamese captors in 1966. The event was carried on American television.

During the interview, Denton — seemingly suffering from some affliction — kept blinking his eyes erratically. But his blinking was not so erratic to Naval intelligence experts.

The prisoner was blinking in Morse Code! And his message was: “T-O-R-T-U-R-E.”

It was the first real indication to the free world of what was happening to our downed pilots and other captives held by the North Vietnamese.

In 1973, Jeremiah A. Denton Jr. led a contingent of fellow prisoners off an Air Force C-141 to freedom.

His experiences were chronicled later in the book and movie series “When Hell Was in Session.”

The holder of the Navy Cross, three Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Purple Hearts, Jeremiah Denton undoubtedly has every reason to be a very religious person — which he is. Consequently, he probably holds no personal animosity toward fellow Sen. John Kerry, also a decorated Navy veteran of Vietnam.

But his feelings toward John Kerry’s views — today and during the last part of the Vietnam War — were offered recently in an “op-ed” piece in the Mobile, Ala., Register.

Here are some excerpts:

“When Kerry joined me in the Senate, I already knew about his record of defamatory remarks and behavior criticizing U.S. policy in Vietnam and the conduct of our military people there. I had learned in North Vietnamese prison camps how much harm such statements caused. (Emphasis added.)

“To me, his remarks and behavior amounted to giving aid and comfort to our Vietnamese and Soviet enemies. I was not surprised when his subsequent overall voting pattern in the Senate was consistently detrimental to our national security.

“Considering his demonstrated popularity during the Democratic primaries, I earnestly hope the American people will soberly consider Kerry’s qualifications for the presidency in light of his position and record on both our cultural war at home and on national security issues.”

Later in the article, Denton said, “To put it bluntly, John Kerry exemplifies the very reasons that I switched to the Republican Party.

On national security, he said Kerry represents “a fatal weakness in the Democratic Party.”

The Cold War, in Denton’s view, would never have been won under Democratic Party leadership.

“It was not Johnson and Carter and the Democrats; it was Nixon, Reagan and George Bush and the Republicans who led us to victory in the Cold War,” he concluded.

The admiral’s words must strike a chord with many across our land. And perhaps they will generate some self-examination by the Democratic Party itself concerning its apparent choice for president. John Kerry certainly earned the right to voice his views on the Vietnam War. But as a veteran he might have refined his remarks in deference to their adverse effect on the well-being of men who had been in torturous captivity for years.

Instead, Kerry found himself singing in the choir with Jane Fonda.

Published in Editorials on May 21, 2004 12:38 PM