WHY LEARN CODE
SCOUT / MILITARY
WHY IT WORKS
Morse code - Survival War
Some of the most heroic events of World
War II and Viet-nam include the use of Morse code
Admiral Jeremiah Denton
Return With Honor
Destroyer Saved by Morse Code
Admiral Jerimiah Denton
Denton's name first came to the attention of the American
public in 1966, during a television interview arranged by the North Vietnamese
in Hanoi. Prior to the interview, torture and threats of more torture were
applied to intimidate him to "respond properly and politely. " His captors
thought he was softened up sufficiently to give the North Vietnamese their
propaganda line at the interview. During the interview, after the journalist's
recitation of alleged U.S. "war atrocities," Denton was asked about his support
of U.S. policy concerning the war. He replied: "I don't know what is happening
now in Vietnam, because the only news sources I have are North Vietnamese, but
whatever the position of my government is, I believe in it, I support it, and I
will support it as long as I live."
Throughout the interview, while responding to questions and feigning sensitivity
to harsh lighting, Denton blinked his eyes in Morse Code, repeatedly spelling
out a covert message: "T-O-R-T-U-R-E". The interview, which was broadcast on
American television on May 17, 1966, was the first confirmation that American
POWs in Vietnam were being tortured. Denton was released on February 12, 1973,
when he again received international attention as the spokesman for the first
group of POWs returning from Hanoi to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.
Denton was advised that as the senior POW onboard, he might be expected to say
something on behalf of the group upon arrival. As he stepped from the plane,
Denton turned to the microphones and said: "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."
of Actual Interview!
Return with Honor
The masculine film, Return with Honor,
received standing ovations at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
It is now being released around the country. The documentary, a
nonideological then-and-now account of American pilots shot down over
North Vietnam and held as prisoners of war, got the same tearful,
fervent response in other previews in Washington and Los Angeles. Tom
Hanks saw an early video copy and agreed to "present" the film, whose
message has a spiritual kinship to Saving Private Ryan: a reassertion
of the virtues of bravery, fortitude and self-sacrifice.
More than two dozen American airmen shot down over North Vietnam
tell the stories of their captivity; interviewed in front of a black
backdrop, they speak without a trace of swagger or even ego (unheard
of in a gang of fighter pilots). The men are understated, even serene.
Their stories of torture and endurance--one was imprisoned for 8 1/2
years--are intercut with newsreels and astonishing black-and-white
propaganda footage that the Academy Award-winning husband-and-wife
team of Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders found in Vietnamese archives
There in grainy black and white is the young John McCain,
lieutenant commander, U.S.N., shot down in October 1967. In pain, he
mutters to the camera that he loves his wife. McCain--now, of course,
Republican Senator from Arizona and running for President--refused the
early release that the North Vietnamese offered him (his father was
commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific), an act of solidarity that
earned him additional torture.
We see Commander James Stockdale (who would retire as an admiral
and run for Vice President in 1992 with Ross Perot) driven to such
despondency in prison that he attempts suicide. Here is the Navy's
Richard Stratton "playing the Manchurian candidate," he says,
pretending to be brainwashed when paraded before propaganda cameras.
Forced into the same mock show, Commander Jeremiah Denton blinks out
T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse code with his eyelids. Lieut. Paul Galanti
casually displays both middle fingers before the cameras (only to have
the obscene gesture airbrushed out by LIFE magazine).
Torture was regular and excruciating; the middle-aged former
prisoners discuss it with the inspiring matter-of-factness of the
unbroken. A favorite technique, "the Vietnamese rope trick," involved
binding the arms behind the back and rotating them upward until the
shoulders and elbows popped out of their sockets.
What sustained the prisoners in the face of isolation and torture?
They were all officers and aviators, highly trained and intelligent,
the cream of the American military. In extremis, they survived on two
codes--the tap code and the honor code.
Nothing destroys like isolation. The men communicated--and
sustained one another--by tapping through walls. The Hanoi Hilton,
says ex-Air Force pilot Ron Bliss, "sounded like a den of runaway
woodpeckers." The North Vietnamese never mastered the code, which laid
out the alphabet on a simple 5-by-5 grid (omitting K, for which C was
used). They tapped first the line, then the letter in that line. Thus
the letter B would be tap...tap tap. The code flowed so fluently that
the men told one another jokes; kicks on the wall meant a laugh. Every
Sunday, at a coded signal, the men stood and recited the Lord's Prayer
and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Navy Destroyer Saved by
Pladsen told his Morse code story on the website “Ham Radio Tips and
Tales” in response to the FCC announcing that they would drop the
requirement to learn Morse code when getting a HAM operator license.
Glen joined the Navy as a Cryptologic Tech, Maintenance (CTM).
Learning Morse code was part of his training. In 1973 he was
assigned to the Navy destroyer USS William M Wood. His job was to
maintain and repair equipment that had been installed on the
destroyer so operators engaging in code breaking could analyze
various radio transmissions. During his tour the USS Wood
participated in NATO exercises as the “bad guy.” Their ship was
supposed to tail the NATO force as an enemy ship would. When the
fleet sailed off, the USS Wood didn’t because of engine problems.
All communication was lost due to the failure of generators and
they were stranded in shipping lanes. They had absolutely no power
and no other ships nearby to help them or communicate with using
normal communication methods.
Some of the crew, using a
big telescope that was on the bridge, noticed that there was a large
freighter heading directly for them, but they had no way to
communicate with it. Since the power was out there were no lights on
the destroyer, the freighter would not see them. As luck would have
it, another ship patrolled the area. It was a Russian destroyer also
shadowing the fleet. It had been assigned to follow within radar
distance of the other ships but then came back to investigate why
the USS Wood had stayed behind. Using battery powered flashing
lanterns, the crew “talked” to the Russians using Morse code. The
Russian destroyer diverted to the freighter then stayed until the
USS Wood could get its engines going again. Since Morse code is an
international “language” it was possible for the USS Wood commander
to “speak” to the Russian destroyer.
Since the removal of the
requirement to learn Morse code as a requisite to obtaining ham
radio licenses, fewer people have taken the time to develop this
very useful skill. In an age of rapid communication and texting,
who would consider learning it worth their time? However, in
emergency situations, this old-time technology still continues to
play a meaningful part in survival and rescue. A person living
today might hope that he or she would never be confronted with an
urgent situation where communication without advanced technology
would be crucial. However, being prepared in advance will give the
Morse code learner a great sense of security as well as grant him or
her entry into a “new World” of truly international communication.
Join the hundreds of thousands Worldwide
who know and use Morse code!