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The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Contents Page
The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Semper Quarens - Always Looking

Blinking Morse

In an episode of the darkly humorous, and currently much in vogue, Scandinavian crime series, the Bridge, a character remotely sent the details of his location by blinking morse code into a live video feed.

Jeremiah Denton today

Jeremiah Denton today

Truth and Fiction

At this point the Inquisition would have been tripping balls
In the TV series this scant information helps the police track the victim’s location, and in doing so, by degrees, close in on his tormentor. The character in question is a retired merchant seaman, who remembers the code and uses it.

Art is following life here. And the truth is just as compelling as any atmospheric Scandinavian noir.

Jeremiah Denton being held captive

Jeremiah Denton being held captive

Enter Jeremiah Denton

Jeremiah Denton is a former Republican Party senator and retired Rear Admiral from Alabama. He is now aged 87, and fought in Vietnam when younger. He displayed incredible toughness and resolve in situations he would doubtless have preferred never to have been in, although it probably later bolstered his political career.

Denton entered the US Navy during World War 2, going on to serve in many capacities of naval aviation. He specialised in atomic weapons delivery strategies and international politics. All in all he was a very accomplished aviator and military strategist.

This was why, on 18th July 1965, he found himself commanding a bombing mission of 28 planes over North Vietnam. But great personal ability doesn’t stop enemy weapons bringing your plane crashing out of the sky. He and his navigator were shot down and captured.

Steely Resolve

This is the beginning of the period when Mr Denton would need to use all his initiative and determination. He was held for 8 years, half of which was in solitary confinement. This would be enough to break most of us. At this point the Inquisition, for example, would be tripping balls.

But then Jeremiah got his chance. He was trundled in before assembled news cameras. The world was watching.

He was questioned on television. Those watching saw how he had been broken. He had an awful nervousness about the face.

But the more astute viewers saw that he was blinking in morse; all this while answering questions! They spelled it out:
T – O – R – T – U – R – E

The spoken answers were not, as might be expected of someone transmitting in two formats at once, curt. He responded when asked what he thought of US interventions in the far east, “I don’t know what is happening, but whatever the position of my government is, I support it fully. Whatever the position of my government, I believe in it, yes sir. I am a member of that government, and it is my job to support it, and I will as long as I live.”

Have a look for yourself:

Denton addressing crowds on his return from captivity

Denton addressing crowds on his return from captivity

Note: As usual our American cousins choose to make our lives more difficult. Along with their arcane spelling idioms, and absurd loyalty to imperial measurements they also have (had?) their own form of morse. The international version is shown here:

The Inquisition in Morse Code

The Inquisition in Morse Code

Wikipedia entry on Jeremiah Denton
The Bridge’s IMDB entry
Scandinavian noir list
More on Scandinavian noir
Yet more on Scandinavian noir
Nordic noir on Twitter
Learn Morse Code in a minute (so they hyperbolically claim)
A more promising Morse resource. download the software and learn away.
In-depth about Morse Code
This is fun – text to morse player (does not work in all browsers)

This article was posted by on Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 at 15:39.
It is archived in America, History, Media, Wild Places and tagged , , , , .

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