Then-Cmdr., Jeremiah Denton Jr. was commanding Attack Squadron 75 when his A-6 Intruder was shot down over the North Vietnamese city of Thanh Hóa in 1965, according to a 2014 Navy message noting Denton’s passing.
On May 2, 1966, Denton became the first prisoner of war to raise the alarm to outsiders that North Vietnamese captors were torturing them.
“During an interview with a Japanese media outlet, Denton used Morse code to blink ‘torture,’ confirming that American POWs were being tortured,” the Navy release states. “He suffered severe harassment, intimidation and ruthless treatment, yet he refused to provide military information or be used by the enemy for propaganda purposes.”
Defying the instructions of his guards, when asked by the interviewer about the actions of the U.S. government, Denton voiced strong support for the administration, knowing he would be tortured later.
“I don’t know what is happening, but whatever the position of my government is, I support it — fully," he said. "Whatever the position of my government is, I believe in it. Yes, sir. I’m a member of that government and it is my job to support it, and I will as long as I live.”
Denton was released in 1973 after eight years in captivity and was awarded the Navy Cross.
Back home, Denton became commandant of the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk — now known as Joint Forces Staff College — and later served as a special assistant to the Chief of Naval Education and Training at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida.
He retired from the Navy in 1977 as a rear admiral and was elected to the U.S. Senate three years later.
Denton became the first Republican to be popularly elected in Alabama since the direct elections of senators began in 1913 and the first Republican senator to represent the state since Reconstruction.
The guided-missile destroyer will be built by Huntington Ingalls Industries in Mississippi.