NOTAM 04-2014 (Denton)

Golden Eagle NOTAM
RADM Jeremiah A. Denton, USN, (Ret)
Golden Eagle Emeritus


Dear Golden eagles,

It is my sad duty to inform you that RADM Jeremiah A. Denton, USN (Ret), 89, made his Last take-Off on 28 March 2014. He is survived by his second wife, Mary Belle Bordone (his first wife, Kathryn, predeceased him in 2007); four sons, William, Donald, James, and Michael; two daughters, Madeleine Doat and Mary Beth Hutton; fourteen grandchildren and six great grandchildren.  Details regarding services will be forwarded via separate correspondence.

Admiral Denton was born in Mobile, Alabama on 15 July 1924, one of three sons of Jeremiah and Irene Steele Denton. He attended a parochial high school, and after graduating in 1942, he studied at Spring Hill College in Mobile. In 1943 he entered the US Naval Academy and graduated with honors in engineering in 1946. His first assignment following graduation was aboard the USS Valley Forge ( CV-45). In 1948 he underwent Lighter-Than-Air training with ZP-2 which was followed by a two year assignment with that squadron as the Tactics Officer. In 1952-53 he received his fixed wing training. Over the next decade he served as a flight instructor, test pilot, and XO/CO of VA-75 flying the A-1H Skyraider. In 1964 after a tour under instruction at the Naval War College he reported to VA-42 for training in the A-6A. In 1965 he received orders to the Air Wing SEVEN Staff as Operations Officer. It was in that assignment where he had flown daily with VA-75 embarked on USS Independence ( CV- 62 ) that he was shot down on 18 July 1965 near the Thanh Hoa Bridge on his 12th mission over North Vietnam.

What occurred over the subsequent seven years and seven months and what Admiral Denton had to endure as a POW were the stuff of legend. His experience has been graphically chronicled in numerous newspaper articles, books, and films  which describe in agonizing detail the hardships, depravation, torture, sacrifice, starvation, and loneliness that made up his life for those long years in captivity, four of which were spent in solitary confinement. To say that he survived with honor is an understatement. As we look at the historical record, we are awestruck that anyone could have endured the privation and extreme conditions that were his lot and still be able to maintain total commitment to God and his Country. Others did, as we know, but they were enabled to withstand the assaults of their captors and their abysmal living conditions because of the example set by senior leaders like Admiral Denton. He and other senior officers maintained discipline and the chain of command as illustrated by a statement Admiral Denton made following his return from captivity. “I put out the policy that they were not to succumb to threats, but must stand up and say no.”  Evidence of the strength of his will was clearly evident during the now famous TV interview while he was a POW when he signaled the word “T-O-R-T-U-R-E” by using Morse code when he blinked his eyes. When his captors discovered this ruse, they beat him un- mercifully.

For his conspicuous gallantry, leadership, and bravery under the most demanding conditions he was awarded the Navy Cross. Other combat awards include three silver stars, the DFC, five Bronze Stars, and two Air Medals.

Following his repatriation Admiral Denton served as the Commandant of the Armed Forces Staff College and on the staff of Chief, Naval Education and Training. He retired from active duty in 1977, and in 1980 was elected to the Senate of the United States representing the State of Alabama where again he served the Nation until 1986. After the Senate he was appointed to serve as the Chairman, Presidential Commission on Merchant Marine.

He called himself “an average product of Middle America”, but we know him as a war hero who was devoted to his Catholic faith, to his country, and to his family and one who stood tall during a time of extreme hardship. He remains a shining example for us all. He will be missed.


In sadness, Fred Lewis-Pilot