View Full Version : POWs Speak

04-13-03, 10:39 PM
POWs Speak <br />
Wrong Turn, Sudden Rescue, Darkness Between <br />
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By Peter Baker <br />
Washington Post Foreign Service <br />
Monday, April 14, 2003; Page A01 <br />
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NUMANIYAH, Iraq, April 13 -- The wrong turn...

04-13-03, 10:40 PM
Afraid of hypothermia, Young and Williams emerged from the water at an open plain and made a break for a line of trees about a thousand yards in the distance. But the moon had appeared and farmers armed with rifles spotted them. After warning shots were fired, the two pilots surrendered. "They beat us a little," Williams said. "One of them had a stick. Ron they kicked and beat. They took a knife and put it to my throat."

The farmers tied their hands and blindfolded them, dumped them into a truck and set off for the nearest police station or army base almost as if on parade. Every once in a while, they threw open the door of the truck to display their prize, Williams said. "They would stop and show all these people they had caught Americans."

Captive Targets

Night after night from their cold cells, the prisoners could hear the bombing as their compatriots pummeled Hussein and his government from above. The prisoners found themselves wishing U.S. troops would come and worrying about what would happen when they did.

To make matters worse, they said, the Iraqis moved an artillery gun inside the prison into a nearby room at night, in effect making it a target for U.S. bombs. As the senior soldier in the group, Williams demanded they be moved to a safer location but was rebuffed. The bombs kept seeming to get closer. "At times we could hear the shell casings from the A-10s landing on the buildings we were in," Riley said.

"It busted open my door one night," Young said of the bombing. "I put my hand out and started to open the door but before we could get out the guards came in." In a way, he concluded, it may have been for the best. Had the captives made it past the reasonably disciplined military men holding them, they would have found themselves unarmed on the hostile, war-torn streets of Baghdad. "We had a lot of Republican Guard around us. If we had made it outside, we could have been killed."

Eventually, one night, the prison was rattled by a powerful explosion about 50 yards from the building. The next morning, after 12 to 15 days at the prison, the Americans were bound and moved to another location, the first of what would be many moves.

For the rest of their captivity, as U.S. forces advanced on Baghdad, the prisoners would be moved every few nights. Each jailer seemed desperate to pass off the captives to someone else for fear of the consequences of being discovered by the approaching U.S. troops. The former prisoners said that all told, they stayed at seven or eight places, sometimes government buildings, sometimes private residences.

"We could feel that the whole thing was collapsing," Young said. "We were the bastard children of Iraq. Nobody wanted to hold us."

Some of their captors tried to taunt them. They told Johnson that they had seen her mother on television. They told Hudson the same and took pleasure in telling him that his mother had denounced Bush.

But with each move, the prisoners said, their conditions eased somewhat. They had more opportunities to be together in the same room. Their guards seemed less beholden to the Hussein regime and more sympathetic to their plight. At their final stop, a house near the town of Samarra north of Baghdad, the lower-level guards were police officers rather than Hussein loyalists and they even pooled their own money to buy the Americans food and medicine.

Still, for some of the prisoners, these were among the gloomiest days. As they heard less fighting, Johnson worried that they would never be found by the U.S. troops and that their Iraqi captors would decide to dispose of them.

"I was getting to the point," she said, "where I believed they would have killed us."

Sudden Deliverance

Deliverance came loudly and without warning. Suddenly today at the house in Samarrah the prisoners heard someone kicking in the doors and shouting: "Get down! Get down!"

"I was sitting there," Miller recalled a few hours later. "Next thing I know the Marines are kicking in the door, saying get down on the floor. They said, 'If you're an American, stand up.' We stood up and they hustled us out of there."

By this time, the male prisoners had grown light beards and their shoulders had sagged; in their Iraqi prison pajamas, they could be mistaken for the other side. The Marines had trouble distinguishing Johnson as an American. "At first," she said, "they didn't realize I was American. They said, 'Get down, get down,' and one of them said, 'No, she's American.' "

Johnson, mother of a girl named Janelle who turns 3 next month, was overwhelmed to realize she was saved and would see her daughter again. "I broke down. I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm going home!' "

The Marines, from the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, had been powering up the road toward Tikrit, Hussein's hometown, to eliminate any last remnants of his rule when they were tipped off to the presence of the prisoners in town. Senior officers said some of the Iraqi guards themselves approached the Marines; however, one of the Marines who participated in the raid said they heard from a civilian.

The Americans were whisked from the building and into a helicopter within three minutes, meeting no resistance from the remaining guards. They were flown to the Numaniyah airfield southeast of Baghdad and then put on a C-130 to Kuwait. Just hours after their release, they seemed in a state of shock, still absorbing the fact that their 21-day ordeal had ended.

"We weren't POWs very long," Young noted. "I don't know how the guys in Vietnam made it. I wouldn't have made it."

2003 The Washington Post Company



04-14-03, 01:10 AM
I'm just truely gald the POW's are safe.

"We weren't POWs very long," Young noted. "I don't know how the guys in Vietnam made it. I wouldn't have made it."

It's sad that they had to go through all that crap, but the Marines came to the rescue and I hope that they can just take things one day at a time. Even if they wernt POWs very long it's gotta be scary they stayed strong though and made it through that's a blessing in itself. I have nothing but respect for the military whatever branch you may be in. It's a tough job and people like those POW's do there job's very well.