Documentary Tells Story of Vietnam War POW’s Secret Message to Escape Hanoi Alive

A new Alabama Public Television project takes an inside look at the life of U.S. Navy Commander Jeremiah Denton. 

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The Vietnam veteran took off from the aircraft carrier USS Independence in July of 1965. He led a 28-plane mission over Thanh Hoa in North Vietnam, but his plane was shot down, leading to seven years in captivity at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.”

Denton was the senior American officer at the prison, so he was forced to take part in a press conference where he had to say that the POWs were being treated well. Cleverly, Denton used the opportunity to blink the letters “T-O-R-T-U-R-E” in Morse code during the press conference.

The  film, “Jeremiah,” tells how this prisoner of war and American hero led the way for Hanoi prisoners to return home. Denton would ultimately return to the states where he went on to become a U.S. senator. The film also shows what life was like back home for Denton’s wife, Jane, who was raising their seven children.

The film includes interviews with his children and prisoners of war, and it shows viewers what life was like inside the prison. Producer Mark Fastoso wanted Americans to see what conditions were like for the POWs. He had a theater designer create small replicas of the prisons.

“I didn’t want to dramatize the torture and the suffering Denton and other POWs faced,” Fastoso said. “The accounts we hear in the interviews tell that story. But I did want people to be able to picture the environment they lived in.”

Watch the full documentary below.

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