denton“We can add our testimony to that of great heroes like Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov, who have vividly related what Communism is really about.” – Admiral Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr.

World Net Daily Books has republished the classic When Hell Was in Session, the chilling account of Admiral Jeremiah Denton’s almost eight years as a prisoner of war of the North Vietnamese (1965-1973). The book, cowritten with Ed Brandt, was reissued in November 2009 with a new epilogue. A naval aviator, Denton and his navigator Bill Tschudy were shot down over North Vietnam in 1965.

One of America’s greatest heroes, Denton became the face of the prisoners because of two events: he spelled out the word torture in morse code through eye blinks in a North Vietnamese propaganda film; He was also the first POW off the first plane upon their 1973 release. As he stepped off the plane at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, he spoke for all the former prisoners:

We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our Commander-in-Chief and to our nation for this day. God bless America.

“Under difficult circumstances” was an understatement. Denton and his fellow military captives faced extreme torture and brutal beatings because of their insistence on following the military code of conduct and not giving in to their captors. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his hard line defiance against the North Vietnamese propaganda machine and his courageous leadership despite prolonged physical and mental agony.

Denton’s account is more than a record of his imprisonment and torture, it is a deeply spiritual chronicle about his unshakable commitment to America and its ideals. He wonderfully contrasts this with the evils of atheistic communism. It is also a window into his own heart, as he depicts his faith in God despite extreme suffering. Denton spent over four years of his captivity in solitary confinement, with his hands and feet in chains during much of that time. During one heinous torture session Denton declared:

I was nearing despair. I offered myself to God with an admission that I could take no more on my own. Tears ran down my face as I repeated my vow to surrender to Him. Strangely, as soon as I made the vow, a deep feeling of peace settled into my tortured mind and pain-wracked body, and the suffering left me completely. It was the most profound and deeply inspiring moment of my life.

Denton talks about how many of the prisoners embraced their faith and it was what sustained them in their captivity. It has been chronicled on the PowerBlog before in a review of General Robinson Risner’s The Passing of the Night.

The obvious reason that makes this account such a tremendous defense of freedom is because of the extreme price that was paid for defending it. But with words, Denton too is skilled in discussing the rarity of freedom and the significance of the American experiment. The updated epilogue discusses his work with President Ronald Reagan as a United States Senator from Alabama in defeating Marxist dictatorships in Latin America. In 1980 Denton was the first Republican elected to the Senate from Alabama since reconstruction and also the first Roman Catholic. In the new epilogue Denton offers a defense of the founding principles of the nation and laments the moral decay and secularization of America. He calls these factors a situation that is making America’s survival “extremely perilous.”

In his book there is another contrast that depicts his shock about the moral and cultural decline of America. After he left the Navy much of his work has focused on defending religious liberty and working to deliver global humanitarian aid through the Admiral Jeremiah Denton Foundation. 85 years old now, Denton spoke at The National United States Marine Corps Museum in February of this year, where he quoted the Marine mottoSemper Fidelis,” in telling the assembled to stay faithful in the fight for the future of this country.


  • Werner Speer

    Dear Ray
    Thanks for another great review. I will look for and buy Admiral Denton’s book. What men such as Denton and Risner
    endured for our country,should be required reading in the Public School American history courses. However in today’s
    schoools it will not happen.

    Werner

  • Allen Baker

    Another Great Review Ray…

    ADM Jeremiah Denton is an icon among America’s Naval Aviators. As a retired Navy FA-18 pilot with two combat cruises, I can attest to the towering legend that he has become.

    Denton’s dedicated and heroic service to the United States serves as an example not just for Navy fighter pilots, but for all right-thinking Americans to emulate. “When Hell Was in Session” should be required reading for anyone contemplating a career in public service (military or civilian) or running for public office.

    I have ordered the new version. My old copy (signed by then-Senator Denton) was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, along with my signed copy of USAF GEN Robinson Risner’s “Passing of the Night”.

    Americans of all stripes and stations should sit up and heed ADM Denton’s warning about our cultural and moral decay. He has a clearer and deeper understanding of our freedoms than most. Readers of this book will understand why.

    “Zoomie” Sends

  • Sheila Dunbar

    This is a great man, living in our time. If only there could be more Americans with his courage. And just think, he is only half the wonderful story. His wife Jane is the other half. Knowing their story inspires strong feelings of patriotism. The world is grateful he has made the tremendous effort to share the details…..we need to listen closely to his advice for our country. He is exactly right.

  • Hoping for Truth

    It has been a long time since I read this, but I seem to recall that Jane Fonda’s traitorous acts are explained 1st-hand. Per the Snopes DOT com article “Hanoi’d with Jane”, Fonda did NOT provide the captors with slips of paper the POWs slipped to her.
    Did I imagine reading that in Adm Denton’s book?
    Guess I’ll need to buy another copy and figure it out. If someone can cite the incident in either Adm Denton’s or BGen. Risner’s book please reply and/or correct Snopes.