QUANTICO, Va. – Retired Admiral and former U.S. Sen. Jeremiah Denton had some tough words in the mess hall of the National Museum of the Marine Corps, packed with fellow servicemen, including some who spent time with him as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton.
In an emotional speech last night about his newly updated classic work, “When Hell Was in Session,” Denton said he feared the imminent death of the United States of America due to immorality, lack of patriotism and lack of appreciation for the unique form of government bestowed by the country’s founders.
“When Hell Was in Session” was first released in 1976 after Denton’s return from Vietnam where he was held as a prisoner of war for seven years and seven months – much of that time in solitary confinement and enduring torture. The book was re-released in 2009 – updated with Denton’s recollections of what happened upon his return to America, his election to the U.S. Senate and the role he played with Ronald Reagan in ending the Cold War.
Denton, a devout Christian, used his time to exhort his fellow servicemen to rally behind moral issues including bringing abortion to an end and fighting against homosexual marriage. He also criticized the current administration and what he sees as a lack of patriotism on the president’s part.
At the end of his speech, he exclaimed, “Semper Fi!” the motto of the United States Marine Corps, which means “always faithful,” to tell the men in the room to continue to be active in faithful to fight for the future of this country.
During the Vietnam War, Denton served as commanding officer to Attack Squadron 75 aboard the USS Independence. He was shot down on July 18, 1965, while leading an air strike against North Vietnamese stronghold, Thanh Hoa.
During his years in the POW camp, Denton refused to betray his country, at his own expense. He famously blinked Morse code the word “torture” to confirm the atrocious acts that were being committed on imprisoned soldiers during an interview with a foreign journalist.
The event was sponsored by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation which regularly sponsors speeches by former servicemen at the museum.