I have to admit, it took an extraordinarily long time for me to get up the courage to read this book. I knew, going in, it was going to be a tough read. It's hard for me to read the horrible things people to do one another, and as a teacher, it's not something I enjoy delving into, but this is a chapter in American history, in North Vietnam's history, that should not be forgotten.
This is a non-fiction biography of navy aviator Jeremiah Denton, who was shot down and captured during the Vietnam War and spent seven and a half years as a prisoner of war of the North Vietnamese.
It is at times gut-wrenching to read what Denton and his fellow prisoners went through at the hands of their North Vietnamese captors, including torture, isolation, starvation and more. At one point, ordered to give a false statement on camera, Denton blinks, in Morse Code, the word -- TORTURE -- for all of horrified America to watch.
The inhumane treatment of the POWs was justified at the time by the fact that America never officially declared war, and thus North Vietnam was not subject to the safeguards afforded POWs in the Geneva Convention.
What gets Denton through is his strong Catholic faith, adhering to the US military command structure, insisting he and his men adhere to The Code of Conduct, and a lot of quick thinking and amazing resiliency.
Denton shows that even the most callous North Vietnamese were, in many ways, adversely affected by what they were ordered to do to prisoners.
In addition, the publisher, Scholastic, offers an excellent free educational guide with three activities, including using the prisoners' tap code, described on page 31, to write messages, as well as 18 comprehension questions.