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News ::
Nam PoW Jerry Denton (english)
22 Feb 2003
Some would say that a war was no place for the likes of Comdr. Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., who, after all, was the father of a happy family of seven children. Others would argue that such a background was good preparation for command responsibility and warfare. In any case, the 1946 Naval Academy graduate had approached his career with verve, imagination, and the enthusiastic support of his family. (article 1)
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Some would say that a war was no place for the likes of Comdr. Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., who, after all, was the father of a happy family of seven children. Others would argue that such a background was good preparation for command responsibility and warfare. In any case, the 1946 Naval Academy graduate had approached his career with verve, imagination, and the enthusiastic support of his family. (article 2)
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Some would say that a war was no place for the likes of Comdr. Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., who, after all, was the father of a happy family of seven children. Others would argue that such a background was good preparation for command responsibility and warfare. In any case, the 1946 Naval Academy graduate had approached his career with verve, imagination, and the enthusiastic support of his family. (article 3)
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Some would say that a war was no place for the likes of Comdr. Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., who, after all, was the father of a happy family of seven children. Others would argue that such a background was good preparation for command responsibility and warfare. In any case, the 1946 Naval Academy graduate had approached his career with verve, imagination, and the enthusiastic support of his family. (article 1)
Some would say that a war was no place for the likes of Comdr. Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr., who, after all, was the father of a happy family of seven children. Others would argue that such a background was good preparation for command responsibility and warfare. In any case, the 1946 Naval Academy graduate had approached his career with verve, imagination, and the enthusiastic support of his family. He was shot down on Sunday, July 18, 1965, while leading a twenty­eight­plane strike from the carrier Independence against the heavily defended port facility at Thanh Hoa. He was strongly optimistic by nature, not given to melancholy or self­pity.


Denton had been scheduled formally to assume command of Attack Squadron 75 on Tuesday, the twentieth. In fact, squadron members already were calling him Skipper and laughing hard at his jokes-for example, before the strike that Sunday he had told his pilots that they probably could expect lighter than usual antiaircraft

opposition. He pointed out that the place had been raided so many times in recent days that the North Vietnamese with their limited supply of trucks were bound to have trouble keeping the AA batteries supplied with ammunition. He had not meant this in jest, but the pilots, who were accustomed to storms of AA fire over Thanh Hoa, had taken it that way. As it turned out, Denton had been right. There was only light flak at Thanh Hoa that day, but he was downed. He and his bombardier­navigator, Lt. (j.g.) William M. "Bill" Tschudy, sitting alongside him in their A6 jet Intruder, had parachuted into captivity. They had been taken separately to Hanoi.


Denton had reached Hoa Lo prison as dawn was breaking on July 19, and was taken immediately into interrogation. In Navy survival training he had been instructed that officers who had had advanced schooling in international relations who became prisoners of war could feel free to defend their government's policies. He had only recently completed such advanced training, at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and he launched upon a vigorous defense of the American effort in Vietnam.


His interrogators listened avidly, occasionally interrupting to assure him, "Ah, you talk like a bandit! You talk like Chonson! You talk like Rusk! You talk like Mocknomora!"


He did not understand, at this point, that his captors were delighted with his loquacity; that they could not care less what he said so long as he talked. There would be time enough to persuade him to say the things they wanted the world to hear from him.


The session ended, and he was stashed in New Guy Village Cell #4. Denton whistled loudly, he sang songs, he kept himself and Guarino entertained. The guards kept admonishing him to be silent, kept warning him and Guarino to stop communicating. The two prisoners paid little heed.


Denton was taken to interrogation each day. He was surprised at the kind of rudimentary military information the enemy sought: the number of catapults on his ship, the number of aircraft the ship carried-none of this could be classified top secret. But he would give them nothing. He was worried. He was aware that he was the first A6 pilot to fall into the enemy's hands and feared the Vietnamese might be working their way up to interrogating him on the new aircraft. It occurred to him that his captors might apply more torture than he could take and extract information about the A6. He made up his mind that if this seemed to be happening, he would kill himself. Like Guarino, Denton was a devout Catholic, and the option of suicide was not open to him. However, his position, which he was prepared to defend before the throne of Heaven, was that he would not have committed suicide, but fallen on the field of battle in defense of his country. He found some shards of glass in the New Guy

Village courtyard and secreted them in the latrine area. If need be, he would use them to slash his wrists.

Unable to elicit any response from Guarino, the Shumaker­Harris ,Butler­Peel group turned its attentions to Denton. He found notes to him in the latrine area, asking him to identify and locate himself for them. He discussed it with Guarino. Larry explained that he was highly suspicious of the four, that the fact that they were living together and obviously enjoying life, talking, laughing, and in possession of writing materials seemed ample evidence that they had soldout. "Better not have anything to do with them," he warned Denton. "Larry," Jerry replied, "I think the V may be pulling something on us, trying to divide us. I'm gonna give it a try." Notes wereexchanged, and it was immediately clear that Denton had judged correctly. Guarino was chagrined to learn that the four had each already done a stretch of solitary confinement for their efforts to contact him and was greatly relieved that his judgment had been erroneous. "Don't worry," the group messaged Denton, "only threats so far. No torture."


Smitty Harris, who was desperate for some important news from home, scrawled a large note to Guarino and left it

in the latrine: "For God's Sake, Larry, will you please answer?"


Larry used a burnt matchstick to write a reply: "Smitty, your wife's okay, and the baby boy was born."

Harris was ecstatic. Denton, the senior ranking officer (SRO) in New Guy Village, took command. "Follow the

Code of Conduct," he ordered. "Think about escape. I want a note about it every day, and I want a map of

this camp." He became obsessed with the idea of getting out of the place. At this point Guarino finally told Denton

that he was locked in stocks.


"Oh, Lord!" Denton said. "Do you mean it? You're in stocks?"


"Yeah," said Larry. He was sorry he had told him. Denton was devastated; Larry could almost hear Jerry's morale sinking into the floor.


Denton began working on the metal bar that formed the top of the stocks on his own bed-it was not padlocked. After six days he succeeded in breaking it off. He found a place in the rear wall of his cell, just below the steel frame of the barred window, where he could insert one end of the bar. For days he dug and pried at the window frame. He was just about to tear the whole window assembly out of the wall when he was caught.


Had Denton succeeded, he would have been able to climb through the hole in his wall into the moatlike alley outside. To escape the prison, he would still have had to scale a high wall and cross its wide top, full of imbedded glass and covered with electrical wiring. Had he made it over this wall, he would have found himself in the middle of Hanoi. From here he would somehow have had to make his way across many miles of hostile, densely populated countryside, a Caucasian among millions of Asians, to the sea and the U.S. Seventh Fleet, or to some safe place in neutral Laos. He had no plans for doing any of these things; his plan did not extend beyond tearing a hole in the cell wall; it had not been entirely rational.


ferry admitted this to himself as he lay with his right leg locked in stocks in Cell #3-the damage he had done to the wall in Cell #4 had made it necessary to move him one cell closer to Guarino. But despite his own failure, he wanted everyone to keep thinking and planning on escape. Right now, he had other problems.


"Larry," Jerry asked, "how do you take a crap in those stocks?"


Guarino, who did not know Jerry was now in Cell #3 and in stocks, did not want to sound as though he were feeling sorry for himself. "Ah, heck, that's a long story, Jerry," he said. "You don't want to hear that."

"Yeah, I'm interested," Denton said. "I've been trying to figure it out for three days. How the hell do you do it?"


Guarino went through a laborious explanation of how he had found that with one leg in the stocks he could roll over, get up on his knees, and get his waste bucket under himself. In fact, he had evacuated only once, after he had been in the stocks sixteen days-and only twice since his capture.


Finishing what he felt to be the somewhat degrading explanation, he demanded half­angrily, "What the hell do you want to know that for?"


"Because," Denton admitted, "I've been in these stocks for three days, and I couldn't figure it out."

Guarino laughed. He had not complained, because he had not wanted Denton to think him a weak sister; and

Denton, anxious that Guarino not think him weak, had not wanted to tell him he was in stocks.

See also:
http://www.soft-vision.com/hanoi/
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