History Podcasts

Release of U.S. POWs begins

Release of U.S. POWs begins


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

The release of U.S. POWs begins in Hanoi as part of the Paris peace settlement. POWs began when North Vietnam released 142 of 591 U.S. prisoners at Hanoi’s Gia Lam Airport. Part of what was called Operation Homecoming, the first 20 POWs arrived to a hero’s welcome at Travis Air Force Base in California on February 14. Operation Homecoming was completed on March 29, 1973, when the last of 591 U.S. prisoners were released and returned to the United States.


Release of U.S. POWs begins - HISTORY

T he Germans were hardly the genial hosts, whether you were a POW during World War I or World War II. There was severe punishment for escape attempts, there were meager rations and drafty bunkhouses, and there were irregular deliveries of packages from the Red Cross. Much of the ill treatment was based on deprivation as World War II dragged on, it became clear to every POW that the Third Reich’s resources were being stretched thin, its attentions increasingly diverted from taking care of its prisoners. War’s end brought a curious reversal: Nazi prison guards begging to be taken in by their former captives, in fear of advancing and vengeful Russian troops..

"Things I Must Do on Return Home. I. Get Married & Start Family. II. Try to get in touch with other members of my crew."

Milton Stern’s memoir of life in a German POW camp begins with a series of lists (Foods I Want to Eat, Books I Wish to Acquire), continues with vivid descriptions of his year in captivity, and concludes with poems he composed in the stalag. Here and in his video interview, he details his fears of being set apart from the other prisoners as a Jew, but by the time he was captured, the Germans appeared too distracted by the advancing Allies and Russians to worry about him.

"Thanks for the memory/Of days we had to stay/In Stalag Luft 1-A/The cabbage stew that had to do/Till Red Cross Parcel day. "
-- Milton M. Stern

"The thought of ever becoming a prisoner of war had never previously entered my mind. "

". saying, 'It'll never happen to me,' is so foolish."

"December 24. No food or water. Locked in all day. Sang carols and prayed."

"Some of the guys preferred a smoke to something to eat."

"I hated to face the reality that I was about to undergo a drastic change in my 'life style'."

"It seems mine was the death room, each new patient brought in being very sick, no one surviving. "

" . we were on our 22nd bomb mission . only needed 25 to go home. "


Vietnam War POWs and MIAs

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

On January 27, 1973, the Paris Peace Accords were signed, officially bringing to an end the American war in Vietnam. One of the prerequisites for and provisions of the accords was the return of all U.S. prisoners of war (POWs). On February 12 the first of 591 U.S. military and civilian POWs were released in Hanoi and flown directly to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. A year later, in the State of the Union address, Pres. Richard M. Nixon told the American people that “all our troops have returned from Southeast Asia—and they have returned with honor.”

At the same time, many Americans were starting to question whether in fact all POWs had been released. The Vietnam POW issue became a major controversy prompting congressional investigations, partisan politics, the production of major motion pictures (e.g., Uncommon Valor [1983], Rambo: First Blood Part II [1985]), and the formation of a number of POW organizations (e.g., the National League of POW/MIA Families). In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll taken in 1991, 69 percent of the American people believed that U.S. POWs were still being held in Indochina, and 52 percent had concluded that the government was derelict in not securing their release. The uproar over POWs caused the Senate to form the Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, chaired by Democrat John Kerry (a candidate for president in the 2004 election) and including several other veterans of the war, among them Republican John McCain (a candidate in the 2008 presidential election). The controversy was fed by reported live sightings and photographs of Americans held in captivity. Investigations revealed that the photographs were phony, and the sightings could not be verified. Indeed, no credible evidence was ever provided to substantiate the claim that American POWs continued to languish in Vietnam after the signing of the peace accords. Nevertheless, the POW issue remained significant.

The Vietnam POW/MIA issue is unique for a number of reasons. The Vietnam War was the first war the United States lost. As a consequence, after the war it was impossible for the United States to search the battlefields for remains of its dead and missing. Because North Vietnam was never occupied, it was impossible to search prisons and cemeteries there. In addition, North Vietnam shared a common border with the People’s Republic of China, and it had close ties with the Soviet Union unknown numbers of POWs may have been taken to both of those countries. Finally, much of Vietnam is covered with dense jungle the geography, terrain, and climate make it exceedingly difficult to find and recover remains. All of those factors damaged recovery efforts and precluded a comprehensive, accurate accounting. Nevertheless, on July 11, 1995, the United States extended diplomatic recognition to Vietnam—an act that gave Americans greater access to the country.


Barbary Wars, 1801–1805 and 1815–1816

The Barbary States were a collection of North African states, many of which practiced state-supported piracy in order to exact tribute from weaker Atlantic powers. Morocco was an independent kingdom, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli owed a loose allegiance to the Ottoman Empire. The United States fought two separate wars with Tripoli (1801–1805) and Algiers (1815–1816), although at other times it preferred to pay tribute to obtain the release of captives held in the Barbary States.

The practice of state-supported piracy and ransoming of captives was not wholly unusual for its time. Many European states commissioned privateers to attack each others’ shipping and also participated in the transatlantic slave trade. The two major European powers, Great Britain and France, found it expedient to encourage the Barbary States’ policy and pay tribute to them, as it allowed their merchant shipping an increased share of the Mediterranean trade, and Barbary leaders chose not to challenge the superior British or French navies.


Allied POWs

American POWs (prisoners of war) of World War II endured everything from hunger and disease, to beatings and sudden death. During the war, a number of nations throughout the world ignored the provisions of the Geneva Convention and ginned up incarceration rules of their own. Soldiers were placed into many types of POW camps, but they all offered the same basic day-to-day life. Japanese POW camps POW camps in the Pacific were some of the worst in the war. In addition to military personnel, the Japanese incarcerated colonial civilians living in the area before the beginning of the war. The soldiers and others were given mats to sleep on and a diet of rice, vegetables, and (rarely) meat or fish. It was rare that fat appeared in their diet, and they were always hungry. Most of the men subsisted on barley, green stew and seaweed stew. They suffered from malnutrition, ulcers and cholera. The Japanese camps were surrounded with Barbed Wire and high wooden fences. Armed guards in towers watched over the prisoners, and any man who tried to escape was shot. Some of the Japanese captors believed that it was expedient to demonstrate their superiority over the Americans by executing 10 men for one man`s attempt to escape. The POWS in the Pacific theater were forced to learn Japanese, and when it was time for roll call, they had to recite their I.D. number in that language. If a prisoner did not know it, he would receive a beating. The prisoners also had to work many hard, long hours, laboring in places that ranged from mines, fields, and factories, to shipyards and railroads. One of the most notorious projects was the Burma-Thailand railway. Some 61,000 men were sent to work on it, and they were forced to build the 260-mile railroad all day long, 10 straight days, with only one day off. That railroad was built completely by hand and was by far the hardest job the Japanese put them through. Of all the men who worked on the railway, 13,000 died. German POW camps In Germany, the POW facilities varied from camps just for officers, to camps specifically for men in the navy. Each new soldier and civilian captured was processed through a Dulag (transit camp) where they were required to give their name, rank and serial number according to the Geneva Convention. The Germans took it one step further, however, and used tricky questioning to try to get information out of the Americans. After the men went through the Dulag, they were herded onto trains and shipped to the POW camps. The most well-known camps were Marlags, Oflags, and Stalags:


Contents

For most of human history, depending on the culture of the victors, enemy combatants on the losing side in a battle who had surrendered and been taken as prisoners of war could expect to be either slaughtered or enslaved. [2] Early Roman gladiators could be prisoners of war, categorised according to their ethnic roots as Samnites, Thracians, and Gauls (Galli). [3] Homer's Iliad describes Greek and Trojan soldiers offering rewards of wealth to opposing forces who have defeated them on the battlefield in exchange for mercy, but their offers are not always accepted see Lycaon for example.

Typically, victors made little distinction between enemy combatants and enemy civilians, although they were more likely to spare women and children. Sometimes the purpose of a battle, if not of a war, was to capture women, a practice known as raptio the Rape of the Sabines involved, according to tradition, a large mass-abduction by the founders of Rome. Typically women had no rights, and were held legally as chattels. [ citation needed ] [4] [ need quotation to verify ]

In the fourth century AD, Bishop Acacius of Amida, touched by the plight of Persian prisoners captured in a recent war with the Roman Empire, who were held in his town under appalling conditions and destined for a life of slavery, took the initiative in ransoming them by selling his church's precious gold and silver vessels and letting them return to their country. For this he was eventually canonized. [5]

According to legend, during Childeric's siege and blockade of Paris in 464 the nun Geneviève (later canonised as the city's patron saint) pleaded with the Frankish king for the welfare of prisoners of war and met with a favourable response. Later, Clovis I ( r . 481–511 ) liberated captives after Genevieve urged him to do so. [6]

King Henry V's English army killed many French prisoners-of-war after the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. [7] This was done in retaliation for the French killing of the boys and other non-combatants handling the baggage and equipment of the army, and because the French were attacking again and Henry was afraid that they would break through and free the prisoners to fight again.

In the later Middle Ages a number of religious wars aimed to not only defeat but also to eliminate enemies. Authorities in Christian Europe often considered the extermination of heretics and heathens desirable. Examples of such wars include the 13th-century Albigensian Crusade in Languedoc and the Northern Crusades in the Baltic region. [8] When asked by a Crusader how to distinguish between the Catholics and Cathars following the projected capture (1209) of the city of Béziers, the Papal Legate Arnaud Amalric allegedly replied, "Kill them all, God will know His own". [b]

Likewise, the inhabitants of conquered cities were frequently massacred during Christians' Crusades against Muslims in the 11th and 12th centuries. Noblemen could hope to be ransomed their families would have to send to their captors large sums of wealth commensurate with the social status of the captive.

Feudal Japan had no custom of ransoming prisoners of war, who could expect for the most part summary execution. [9]

In the 13th century the expanding Mongol Empire famously distinguished between cities or towns that surrendered (where the population was spared but required to support the conquering Mongol army) and those that resisted (in which case the city was ransacked and destroyed, and all the population killed). In Termez, on the Oxus: "all the people, both men and women, were driven out onto the plain, and divided in accordance with their usual custom, then they were all slain". [10]

The Aztecs warred constantly with neighbouring tribes and groups, aiming to collect live prisoners for sacrifice. [11] For the re-consecration of Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487, "between 10,000 and 80,400 persons" were sacrificed. [12] [13]

During the early Muslim conquests of 622–750, Muslims routinely captured large numbers of prisoners. Aside from those who converted, most were ransomed or enslaved. [14] [15] Christians captured during the Crusades were usually either killed or sold into slavery if they could not pay a ransom. [16] During his lifetime (c. 570 -632), Muhammad made it the responsibility of the Islamic government to provide food and clothing, on a reasonable basis, to captives, regardless of their religion however if the prisoners were in the custody of a person, then the responsibility was on the individual. [17] The freeing of prisoners was highly recommended [ by whom? ] as a charitable act. [18] On certain occasions where Muhammad felt the enemy had broken a treaty with the Muslims he endorsed the mass execution of male prisoners who participated in battles, as in the case of the Banu Qurayza in 627. The Muslims divided up the females and children of those executed as ghanima (spoils of war). [19] [ date missing ]

In Europe, the treatment of prisoners of war became increasingly centralized, in the time period between the 16th and late 18th century. Whereas prisoners of war had previously been regarded as the private property of the captor, captured enemy soldiers became increasingly regarded as the property of the state. The European states strived to exert increasing control over all stages of captivity, from the question of who would be attributed the status of prisoner of war to their eventual release. The act of surrender was regulated so that it, ideally, should be legitimized by officers, who negotiated the surrender of their whole unit. [20] Soldiers whose style of fighting did not conform to the battle line tactics of regular European armies, such as Cossacks and Croats, were often denied the status of prisoners of war. [21]

In line with this development the treatment of prisoners of war became increasingly regulated in interactional treaties, particularly in the form of the so called cartel system, which regulated how the exchange of prisoners would be carried out between warring states. [22] Another such treaty was the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years' War. This treaty established the rule that prisoners of war should be released without ransom at the end of hostilities and that they should be allowed to return to their homelands. [23]

There also evolved the right of parole, French for "discourse", in which a captured officer surrendered his sword and gave his word as a gentleman in exchange for privileges. If he swore not to escape, he could gain better accommodations and the freedom of the prison. If he swore to cease hostilities against the nation who held him captive, he could be repatriated or exchanged but could not serve against his former captors in a military capacity.

European settlers captured in North America Edit

Early historical narratives of captured European settlers, including perspectives of literate women captured by the indigenous peoples of North America, exist in some number. The writings of Mary Rowlandson, captured in the chaotic fighting of King Philip's War, are an example. Such narratives enjoyed some popularity, spawning a genre of the captivity narrative, and had lasting influence on the body of early American literature, most notably through the legacy of James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans. Some Native Americans continued to capture Europeans and use them both as labourers and bargaining chips into the 19th century see for example John R. Jewitt, a sailor who wrote a memoir about his years as a captive of the Nootka people on the Pacific Northwest coast from 1802 to 1805.

French Revolutionary wars and Napoleonic wars Edit

The earliest known purposely built prisoner-of-war camp was established at Norman Cross, England in 1797 to house the increasing number of prisoners from the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. [24] The average prison population was about 5,500 men. The lowest number recorded was 3,300 in October 1804 and 6,272 on 10 April 1810 was the highest number of prisoners recorded in any official document. Norman Cross Prison was intended to be a model depot providing the most humane treatment of prisoners of war. The British government went to great lengths to provide food of a quality at least equal to that available to locals. The senior officer from each quadrangle was permitted to inspect the food as it was delivered to the prison to ensure it was of sufficient quality. Despite the generous supply and quality of food, some prisoners died of starvation after gambling away their rations. Most of the men held in the prison were low-ranking soldiers and sailors, including midshipmen and junior officers, with a small number of privateers. About 100 senior officers and some civilians "of good social standing", mainly passengers on captured ships and the wives of some officers, were given parole d'honneur outside the prison, mainly in Peterborough although some further afield in Northampton, Plymouth, Melrose and Abergavenny. They were afforded the courtesy of their rank within English society. During the Battle of Leipzig both sides used the city's cemetery as a lazaret and prisoner camp for around 6000 POWs who lived in the burial vaults and used the coffins for firewood. Food was scarce and prisoners resorted to eating horses, cats, dogs or even human flesh. The bad conditions inside the graveyard contributed to a city-wide epidemic after the battle. [25] [26]

Prisoner exchanges Edit

The extensive period of conflict during the American Revolutionary War and Napoleonic Wars (1793–1815), followed by the Anglo-American War of 1812, led to the emergence of a cartel system for the exchange of prisoners, even while the belligerents were at war. A cartel was usually arranged by the respective armed service for the exchange of like-ranked personnel. The aim was to achieve a reduction in the number of prisoners held, while at the same time alleviating shortages of skilled personnel in the home country.

American Civil War Edit

At the start of the civil war a system of paroles operated. Captives agreed not to fight until they were officially exchanged. Meanwhile, they were held in camps run by their own army where they were paid but not allowed to perform any military duties. [27] The system of exchanges collapsed in 1863 when the Confederacy refused to exchange black prisoners. In the late summer of 1864, a year after the Dix–Hill Cartel was suspended Confederate officials approached Union General Benjamin Butler, Union Commissioner of Exchange, about resuming the cartel and including the black prisoners. Butler contacted Grant for guidance on the issue, and Grant responded to Butler on 18 August 1864 with his now famous statement. He rejected the offer, stating in essence, that the Union could afford to leave their men in captivity, the Confederacy could not. [28] After that about 56,000 of the 409,000 POWs died in prisons during the American Civil War, accounting for nearly 10% of the conflict's fatalities. [29] Of the 45,000 Union prisoners of war confined in Camp Sumter, located near Andersonville, Georgia, 13,000 (28%) died. [30] At Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois, 10% of its Confederate prisoners died during one cold winter month and Elmira Prison in New York state, with a death rate of 25% (2,963), nearly equalled that of Andersonville. [31]

Amelioration Edit

During the 19th century, there were increased efforts to improve the treatment and processing of prisoners. As a result of these emerging conventions, a number of international conferences were held, starting with the Brussels Conference of 1874, with nations agreeing that it was necessary to prevent inhumane treatment of prisoners and the use of weapons causing unnecessary harm. Although no agreements were immediately ratified by the participating nations, work was continued that resulted in new conventions being adopted and becoming recognized as international law that specified that prisoners of war be treated humanely and diplomatically.

Hague and Geneva Conventions Edit

Chapter II of the Annex to the 1907 Hague Convention IV – The Laws and Customs of War on Land covered the treatment of prisoners of war in detail. These provisions were further expanded in the 1929 Geneva Convention on the Prisoners of War and were largely revised in the Third Geneva Convention in 1949.

Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention protects captured military personnel, some guerrilla fighters, and certain civilians. It applies from the moment a prisoner is captured until he or she is released or repatriated. One of the main provisions of the convention makes it illegal to torture prisoners and states that a prisoner can only be required to give their name, date of birth, rank and service number (if applicable).

The ICRC has a special role to play, with regards to international humanitarian law, in restoring and maintaining family contact in times of war, in particular concerning the right of prisoners of war and internees to send and receive letters and cards (Geneva Convention (GC) III, art.71 and GC IV, art.107).

However, nations vary in their dedication to following these laws, and historically the treatment of POWs has varied greatly. During World War II, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany (towards Soviet POWs and Western Allied commandos) were notorious for atrocities against prisoners of war. The German military used the Soviet Union's refusal to sign the Geneva Convention as a reason for not providing the necessities of life to Soviet POWs and the Soviets also used Axis prisoners as forced labour. The Germans also routinely executed British and American commandos captured behind German lines per the Commando Order. North Korean and North and South Vietnamese forces [32] routinely killed or mistreated prisoners taken during those conflicts.

Qualifications Edit

To be entitled to prisoner-of-war status, captured persons must be lawful combatants entitled to combatant's privilege—which gives them immunity from punishment for crimes constituting lawful acts of war such as killing enemy combatants. To qualify under the Third Geneva Convention, a combatant must be part of a chain of command, wear a "fixed distinctive marking, visible from a distance", bear arms openly, and have conducted military operations according to the laws and customs of war. (The Convention recognizes a few other groups as well, such as "[i]nhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units".)

Thus, uniforms and badges are important in determining prisoner-of-war status under the Third Geneva Convention. Under Additional Protocol I, the requirement of a distinctive marking is no longer included. francs-tireurs, militias, insurgents, terrorists, saboteurs, mercenaries, and spies generally do not qualify because they do not fulfill the criteria of Additional Protocol 1. Therefore, they fall under the category of unlawful combatants, or more properly they are not combatants. Captured soldiers who do not get prisoner of war status are still protected like civilians under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The criteria are applied primarily to international armed conflicts. The application of prisoner of war status in non-international armed conflicts like civil wars is guided by Additional Protocol II, but insurgents are often treated as traitors, terrorists or criminals by government forces and are sometimes executed on spot or tortured. However, in the American Civil War, both sides treated captured troops as POWs presumably out of reciprocity, although the Union regarded Confederate personnel as separatist rebels. However, guerrillas and other irregular combatants generally cannot expect to receive benefits from both civilian and military status simultaneously.

Rights Edit

Under the Third Geneva Convention, prisoners of war (POW) must be:

  • Treated humanely with respect for their persons and their honor
  • Able to inform their next of kin and the International Committee of the Red Cross of their capture
  • Allowed to communicate regularly with relatives and receive packages
  • Given adequate food, clothing, housing, and medical attention
  • Paid for work done and not forced to do work that is dangerous, unhealthy, or degrading
  • Released quickly after conflicts end
  • Not compelled to give any information except for name, age, rank, and service number [33]

In addition, if wounded or sick on the battlefield, the prisoner will receive help from the International Committee of the Red Cross. [34]

When a country is responsible for breaches of prisoner of war rights, those accountable will be punished accordingly. An example of this is the Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials. German and Japanese military commanders were prosecuted for preparing and initiating a war of aggression, murder, ill treatment, and deportation of individuals, and genocide during World War II. [35] Most were executed or sentenced to life in prison for their crimes.

U.S. Code of Conduct and terminology Edit

The United States Military Code of Conduct was promulgated in 1955 via Executive Order 10631 under President Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve as a moral code for United States service members who have been taken prisoner. It was created primarily in response to the breakdown of leadership and organization, specifically when U.S. forces were POWs during the Korean War.

When a military member is taken prisoner, the Code of Conduct reminds them that the chain of command is still in effect (the highest ranking service member eligible for command, regardless of service branch, is in command), and requires them to support their leadership. The Code of Conduct also requires service members to resist giving information to the enemy (beyond identifying themselves, that is, "name, rank, serial number"), receiving special favors or parole, or otherwise providing their enemy captors aid and comfort.

Since the Vietnam War, the official U.S. military term for enemy POWs is EPW (Enemy Prisoner of War). This name change was introduced in order to distinguish between enemy and U.S. captives. [36] [37]

In 2000, the U.S. military replaced the designation "Prisoner of War" for captured American personnel with "Missing-Captured". A January 2008 directive states that the reasoning behind this is since "Prisoner of War" is the international legal recognized status for such people there is no need for any individual country to follow suit. This change remains relatively unknown even among experts in the field and "Prisoner of War" remains widely used in the Pentagon which has a "POW/Missing Personnel Office" and awards the Prisoner of War Medal. [38] [39]

During World War I, about eight million men surrendered and were held in POW camps until the war ended. All nations pledged to follow the Hague rules on fair treatment of prisoners of war, and in general the POWs had a much higher survival rate than their peers who were not captured. [40] Individual surrenders were uncommon usually a large unit surrendered all its men. At Tannenberg 92,000 Russians surrendered during the battle. When the besieged garrison of Kaunas surrendered in 1915, 20,000 Russians became prisoners. Over half the Russian losses were prisoners as a proportion of those captured, wounded or killed. About 3.3 million men became prisoners. [41]

The German Empire held 2.5 million prisoners Russia held 2.9 million, and Britain and France held about 720,000, mostly gained in the period just before the Armistice in 1918. The US held 48,000. The most dangerous moment for POWs was the act of surrender, when helpless soldiers were sometimes mistakenly shot down. Once prisoners reached a POW camp conditions were better (and often much better than in World War II), thanks in part to the efforts of the International Red Cross and inspections by neutral nations.

There was however much harsh treatment of POWs in Germany, as recorded by the American ambassador to Germany (prior to America's entry into the war), James W. Gerard, who published his findings in "My Four Years in Germany". Even worse conditions are reported in the book "Escape of a Princess Pat" by the Canadian George Pearson. It was particularly bad in Russia, where starvation was common for prisoners and civilians alike a quarter of the over 2 million POWs held there died. [42] Nearly 375,000 of the 500,000 Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war taken by Russians perished in Siberia from smallpox and typhus. [43] In Germany, food was short, but only 5% died. [44]

The Ottoman Empire often treated prisoners of war poorly. Some 11,800 British soldiers, most of them Indians, became prisoners after the five-month Siege of Kut, in Mesopotamia, in April 1916. Many were weak and starved when they surrendered and 4,250 died in captivity. [45]

During the Sinai and Palestine campaign 217 Australian and unknown numbers of British, New Zealand and Indian soldiers were captured by Ottoman forces. About 50% of the Australian prisoners were light horsemen including 48 missing believed captured on 1 May 1918 in the Jordan Valley. Australian Flying Corps pilots and observers were captured in the Sinai Peninsula, Palestine and the Levant. One third of all Australian prisoners were captured on Gallipoli including the crew of the submarine AE2 which made a passage through the Dardanelles in 1915. Forced marches and crowded railway journeys preceded years in camps where disease, poor diet and inadequate medical facilities prevailed. About 25% of other ranks died, many from malnutrition, while only one officer died. [46] [47]

The most curious case came in Russia where the Czechoslovak Legion of Czechoslovak prisoners (from the Austro-Hungarian army): they were released in 1917, armed themselves, briefly culminating into a military and diplomatic force during the Russian Civil War.

Release of prisoners Edit

At the end of the war in 1918 there were believed to be 140,000 British prisoners of war in Germany, including thousands of internees held in neutral Switzerland. [48] The first British prisoners were released and reached Calais on 15 November. Plans were made for them to be sent via Dunkirk to Dover and a large reception camp was established at Dover capable of housing 40,000 men, which could later be used for demobilisation.

On 13 December 1918, the armistice was extended and the Allies reported that by 9 December 264,000 prisoners had been repatriated. A very large number of these had been released en masse and sent across Allied lines without any food or shelter. This created difficulties for the receiving Allies and many released prisoners died from exhaustion. The released POWs were met by cavalry troops and sent back through the lines in lorries to reception centres where they were refitted with boots and clothing and dispatched to the ports in trains.

Upon arrival at the receiving camp the POWs were registered and "boarded" before being dispatched to their own homes. All commissioned officers had to write a report on the circumstances of their capture and to ensure that they had done all they could to avoid capture. Each returning officer and man was given a message from King George V, written in his own hand and reproduced on a lithograph. It read as follows: [49]

The Queen joins me in welcoming you on your release from the miseries & hardships, which you have endured with so much patience and courage.

During these many months of trial, the early rescue of our gallant Officers & Men from the cruelties of their captivity has been uppermost in our thoughts.

We are thankful that this longed for day has arrived, & that back in the old Country you will be able once more to enjoy the happiness of a home & to see good days among those who anxiously look for your return.

George R.I.

While the Allied prisoners were sent home at the end of the war, the same treatment was not granted to Central Powers prisoners of the Allies and Russia, many of whom had to serve as forced labour, e.g. in France, until 1920. They were released after many approaches by the ICRC to the Allied Supreme Council. [50]

Historian Niall Ferguson, in addition to figures from Keith Lowe, tabulated the total death rate for POWs in World War II as follows: [51] [52]

Percentage of
POWs that Died
USSR POWs held by Germans 57.5%
German POWs held by Yugoslavs 41.2%
German POWs held by USSR 35.8%
American POWs held by Japanese 33.0%
American POWs held by Germans 1.19%
German POWs held by Eastern Europeans 32.9%
British POWs held by Japanese 24.8%
German POWs held by Czechoslovaks 5.0%
British POWs held by Germans 3.5%
German POWs held by French 2.58%
German POWs held by Americans 0.15%
German POWs held by British 0.03%

Treatment of POWs by the Axis Edit

Empire of Japan Edit

The Empire of Japan, which had signed but never ratified the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, [53] did not treat prisoners of war in accordance with international agreements, including provisions of the Hague Conventions, either during the Second Sino-Japanese War or during the Pacific War, because the Japanese viewed surrender as dishonorable. Moreover, according to a directive ratified on 5 August 1937 by Hirohito, the constraints of the Hague Conventions were explicitly removed on Chinese prisoners. [54]

Prisoners of war from China, United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the Philippines held by Japanese imperial armed forces were subject to murder, beatings, summary punishment, brutal treatment, forced labour, medical experimentation, starvation rations, poor medical treatment and cannibalism. [55] [56] The most notorious use of forced labour was in the construction of the Burma–Thailand Death Railway. After 20 March 1943, the Imperial Navy was under orders to execute all prisoners taken at sea. [ citation needed ]

After the Armistice of Cassibile, Italian soldiers and civilians in East Asia were taken as prisoners by Japanese armed forces and subject to the same conditions as other POWs. [57]

According to the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal, the death rate of Western prisoners was 27.1%, seven times that of POWs under the Germans and Italians. [58] The death rate of Chinese was much higher. Thus, while 37,583 prisoners from the United Kingdom, Commonwealth, and Dominions, 28,500 from the Netherlands, and 14,473 from the United States were released after the surrender of Japan, the number for the Chinese was only 56. [59] The 27,465 United States Army and United States Army Air Forces POWs in the Pacific Theater had a 40.4% death rate. [60] The War Ministry in Tokyo issued an order at the end of the war to kill all surviving POWs. [61]

No direct access to the POWs was provided to the International Red Cross. Escapes among Caucasian prisoners were almost impossible because of the difficulty of men of Caucasian descent hiding in Asiatic societies. [62]

Allied POW camps and ship-transports were sometimes accidental targets of Allied attacks. The number of deaths which occurred when Japanese "hell ships"—unmarked transport ships in which POWs were transported in harsh conditions—were attacked by U.S. Navy submarines was particularly high. Gavan Daws has calculated that "of all POWs who died in the Pacific War, one in three was killed on the water by friendly fire". [63] Daves states that 10,800 of the 50,000 POWs shipped by the Japanese were killed at sea [64] while Donald L. Miller states that "approximately 21,000 Allied POWs died at sea, about 19,000 of them killed by friendly fire." [65]

Life in the POW camps was recorded at great risk to themselves by artists such as Jack Bridger Chalker, Philip Meninsky, Ashley George Old, and Ronald Searle. Human hair was often used for brushes, plant juices and blood for paint, and toilet paper as the "canvas". Some of their works were used as evidence in the trials of Japanese war criminals.

Female prisoners (detainees) at Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore, bravely recorded their defiance in seemingly harmless prison quilt embroidery. [66]

Research into the conditions of the camps has been conducted by The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. [67]

Troops of the Suffolk Regiment surrendering to the Japanese, 1942

Many US and Filipino POWs died as a result of the Bataan Death March, in May 1942

Water colour sketch of "Dusty" Rhodes by Ashley George Old

Australian and Dutch POWs at Tarsau, Thailand in 1943

U.S. Navy nurses rescued from Los Baños Internment Camp, March 1945

Allied prisoners of war at Aomori camp near Yokohama, Japan waving flags of the United States, Great Britain, and the Netherlands in August 1945.

Malnourished Australian POWs forced to work at the Aso mining company, August 1945.

POW art depicting Cabanatuan prison camp, produced in 1946

Australian POW Leonard Siffleet captured at New Guinea moments before his execution with a Japanese shin gunto sword in 1943.

Captured soldiers of the British Indian Army executed by the Japanese.

Germany Edit

French soldiers Edit

After the French armies surrendered in summer 1940, Germany seized two million French prisoners of war and sent them to camps in Germany. About one third were released on various terms. Of the remainder, the officers and non-commissioned officers were kept in camps and did not work. The privates were sent out to work. About half of them worked for German agriculture, where food supplies were adequate and controls were lenient. The others worked in factories or mines, where conditions were much harsher. [68]

Western Allies' POWs Edit

Germany and Italy generally treated prisoners from the British Empire and Commonwealth, France, the U.S., and other western Allies in accordance with the Geneva Convention, which had been signed by these countries. [69] Consequently, western Allied officers were not usually made to work and some personnel of lower rank were usually compensated, or not required to work either. The main complaints of western Allied prisoners of war in German POW camps—especially during the last two years of the war—concerned shortages of food.

Only a small proportion of western Allied POWs who were Jews—or whom the Nazis believed to be Jewish—were killed as part of the Holocaust or were subjected to other antisemitic policies. [ dubious – discuss ] [ citation needed ] For example, Major Yitzhak Ben-Aharon, a Palestinian Jew who had enlisted in the British Army, and who was captured by the Germans in Greece in 1941, experienced four years of captivity under entirely normal conditions for POWs. [70]

However, a small number of Allied personnel were sent to concentration camps, for a variety of reasons including being Jewish. [71] As the US historian Joseph Robert White put it: "An important exception . is the sub-camp for U.S. POWs at Berga an der Elster, officially called Arbeitskommando 625 [also known as Stalag IX-B]. Berga was the deadliest work detachment for American captives in Germany. 73 men who participated, or 21 percent of the detachment, perished in two months. 80 of the 350 POWs were Jews." [ citation needed ] Another well-known example was a group of 168 Australian, British, Canadian, New Zealand and US aviators who were held for two months at Buchenwald concentration camp [72] two of the POWs died at Buchenwald. Two possible reasons have been suggested for this incident: German authorities wanted to make an example of Terrorflieger ("terrorist aviators") or these aircrews were classified as spies, because they had been disguised as civilians or enemy soldiers when they were apprehended.

Information on conditions in the stalags is contradictory depending on the source. Some American POWs claimed the Germans were victims of circumstance and did the best they could, while others accused their captors of brutalities and forced labour. In any case, the prison camps were miserable places where food rations were meager and conditions squalid. One American admitted "The only difference between the stalags and concentration camps was that we weren't gassed or shot in the former. I do not recall a single act of compassion or mercy on the part of the Germans." Typical meals consisted of a bread slice and watery potato soup which, however, was still more substantial than what Soviet POWs or concentration camp inmates received. Another prisoner stated that "The German plan was to keep us alive, yet weakened enough that we wouldn't attempt escape." [73]

As Soviet ground forces approached some POW camps in early 1945, German guards forced western Allied POWs to walk long distances towards central Germany, often in extreme winter weather conditions. [74] It is estimated that, out of 257,000 POWs, about 80,000 were subject to such marches and up to 3,500 of them died as a result. [75]

Italian POWs Edit

In September 1943 after the Armistice, Italian officers and soldiers that in many places waited for clear superior orders were arrested by Germans and Italian fascists and taken to German internment camps in Germany or Eastern Europe, where they were held for the duration of World War II. The International Red Cross could do nothing for them, as they were not regarded as POWs, but the prisoners held the status of "military internees". Treatment of the prisoners was generally poor. The author Giovannino Guareschi was among those interned and wrote about this time in his life. The book was translated and published as My Secret Diary. He wrote about the hungers of semi-starvation, the casual murder of individual prisoners by guards and how, when they were released (now from a German camp), they found a deserted German town filled with foodstuffs that they (with other released prisoners) ate. [ citation needed ] . It is estimated that of the 700,000 Italians taken prisoner by the Germans, around 40,000 died in detention and more than 13,000 lost their lives during the transportation from the Greek islands to the mainland. [76]

Eastern European POWs Edit

Germany did not apply the same standard of treatment to non-western prisoners, especially many Polish and Soviet POWs who suffered harsh conditions and died in large numbers while in captivity.

Between 1941 and 1945 the Axis powers took about 5.7 million Soviet prisoners. About one million of them were released during the war, in that their status changed but they remained under German authority. A little over 500,000 either escaped or were liberated by the Red Army. Some 930,000 more were found alive in camps after the war. The remaining 3.3 million prisoners (57.5% of the total captured) died during their captivity. [78] Between the launching of Operation Barbarossa in the summer of 1941 and the following spring, 2.8 million of the 3.2 million Soviet prisoners taken died while in German hands. [79] According to Russian military historian General Grigoriy Krivosheyev, the Axis powers took 4.6 million Soviet prisoners, of whom 1.8 million were found alive in camps after the war and 318,770 were released by the Axis during the war and were then drafted into the Soviet armed forces again. [80] By comparison, 8,348 Western Allied prisoners died in German camps during 1939–45 (3.5% of the 232,000 total). [81]

The Germans officially justified their policy on the grounds that the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention. Legally, however, under article 82 of the Geneva Convention, signatory countries had to give POWs of all signatory and non-signatory countries the rights assigned by the convention. [82] Shortly after the German invasion in 1941, the USSR made Berlin an offer of a reciprocal adherence to the Hague Conventions. Third Reich officials left the Soviet "note" unanswered. [83] [84] In contrast, Nikolai Tolstoy recounts that the German Government – as well as the International Red Cross – made several efforts to regulate reciprocal treatment of prisoners until early 1942, but received no answers from the Soviet side. [85] Further, the Soviets took a harsh position towards captured Soviet soldiers, as they expected each soldier to fight to the death, and automatically excluded any prisoner from the "Russian community". [86] [ need quotation to verify ]

Some Soviet POWs and forced labourers whom the Germans had transported to Nazi Germany were, on their return to the USSR, treated as traitors and sent to gulag prison-camps.

Treatment of POWs by the Soviet Union Edit

Germans, Romanians, Italians, Hungarians, Finns Edit

According to some sources, the Soviets captured 3.5 million Axis servicemen (excluding Japanese), of which more than a million died. [87] One specific example is that of the German POWs after the Battle of Stalingrad, where the Soviets captured 91,000 German troops in total (completely exhausted, starving and sick), of whom only 5,000 survived the captivity.

German soldiers were kept as forced labour for many years after the war. The last German POWs like Erich Hartmann, the highest-scoring fighter ace in the history of aerial warfare, who had been declared guilty of war crimes but without due process, were not released by the Soviets until 1955, two years after Stalin died. [88]

Polish Edit

As a result of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, hundreds of thousands of Polish soldiers became prisoners of war in the Soviet Union. Thousands were executed over 20,000 Polish military personnel and civilians perished in the Katyn massacre. [89] Out of Anders' 80,000 evacuees from the Soviet Union in the United Kingdom, only 310 volunteered to return to Poland in 1947. [90]

Of the 230,000 Polish prisoners of war taken by the Soviet army, only 82,000 survived. [91]

Japanese Edit

After the Soviet–Japanese War, 560,000 to 760,000 Japanese prisoners of war were captured by the Soviet Union. The prisoners were captured in Manchuria, Korea, South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, then sent to work as forced labour in the Soviet Union and Mongolia. [92] An estimated 60,000 to 347,000 of these Japanese prisoners of war died in captivity. [93] [94] [95] [96]

Americans Edit

Stories that circulated during the Cold War claimed 23,000 Americans held in German POW camps had been seized by the Soviets and never been repatriated. The claims had been perpetuated after the release of people like John H. Noble. Careful scholarly studies demonstrated that this was a myth based on the misinterpretation of a telegram about Soviet prisoners held in Italy. [97]

Treatment of POWs by the Western Allies Edit

Germans Edit

During the war, the armies of Western Allied nations such as Australia, Canada, the UK and the US [98] were given orders to treat Axis prisoners strictly in accordance with the Geneva Convention. [99] Some breaches of the Convention took place, however. According to Stephen E. Ambrose, of the roughly 1,000 US combat veterans he had interviewed, only one admitted to shooting a prisoner, saying he "felt remorse, but would do it again". However, one-third of interviewees told him they had seen fellow US troops kill German prisoners. [100]

In Britain, German prisoners, particularly higher-ranked officers, were housed in luxurious buildings where listening devices were installed. A considerable amount of military intelligence was gained from eavesdropping on what the officers believed were private casual conversations. Much of the listening was carried out by German refugees, in many cases Jews. The work of these refugees in contributing to the Allied victory was declassified over half a century later. [101]

In February 1944, 59.7% of POWs in America were employed. This relatively low percentage was due to problems setting wages that would not compete against those of non-prisoners, to union opposition, as well as concerns about security, sabotage, and escape. Given national manpower shortages, citizens and employers resented the idle prisoners, and efforts were made to decentralize the camps and reduce security enough that more prisoners could work. By the end of May 1944, POW employment was at 72.8%, and by late April 1945 it had risen to 91.3%. The sector that made the most use of POW workers was agriculture. There was more demand than supply of prisoners throughout the war, and 14,000 POW repatriations were delayed in 1946 so prisoners could be used in the spring farming seasons, mostly to thin and block sugar beets in the west. While some in Congress wanted to extend POW labour beyond June 1946, President Truman rejected this, leading to the end of the program. [102]

Towards the end of the war in Europe, as large numbers of Axis soldiers surrendered, the US created the designation of Disarmed Enemy Forces (DEF) so as not to treat prisoners as POWs. A lot of these soldiers were kept in open fields in makeshift camps in the Rhine valley (Rheinwiesenlager). Controversy has arisen about how Eisenhower managed these prisoners. [103] (see Other Losses).

After the surrender of Germany in May 1945, the POW status of the German prisoners was in many cases maintained, and they were for several years used as public labourers in countries such as the UK and France. Many died when forced to clear minefields in countries such as Norway and France. "By September 1945 it was estimated by the French authorities that two thousand prisoners were being maimed and killed each month in accidents". [104] [105]

In 1946, the UK held over 400,000 German POWs, many having been transferred from POW camps in the US and Canada. They were employed as labourers to compensate for the lack of manpower in Britain, as a form of war reparation. [106] [107] A public debate ensued in the U.K. over the treatment of German prisoners of war, with many in Britain comparing the treatment to the POWs to slave labour. [108] In 1947, the Ministry of Agriculture argued against repatriation of working German prisoners, since by then they made up 25 percent of the land workforce, and it wanted to continue having them work in the UK until 1948. [108]

The "London Cage", an MI19 prisoner of war facility in London used during and immediately after the war to interrogate prisoners before sending them to prison camps, was subject to allegations of torture. [109]

After the German surrender, the International Red Cross was prohibited from providing aid, such as food or prisoner visits, to POW camps in Germany. However, after making appeals to the Allies in the autumn of 1945, the Red Cross was allowed to investigate the camps in the British and French occupation zones of Germany, as well as providing relief to the prisoners held there. [110] On 4 February 1946, the Red Cross was also permitted to visit and assist prisoners in the US occupation zone of Germany, although only with very small quantities of food. "During their visits, the delegates observed that German prisoners of war were often detained in appalling conditions. They drew the attention of the authorities to this fact, and gradually succeeded in getting some improvements made". [110]

POWs were also transferred among the Allies, with for example 6,000 German officers transferred from Western Allied camps to the Soviets and subsequently imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, at the time one of the NKVD special camps. [111] [112] [113] Although the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention, the U.S. chose to hand over several hundred thousand German prisoners to the Soviet Union in May 1945 as a "gesture of friendship". [114] U.S. forces also refused to accept the surrender of German troops attempting to surrender to them in Saxony and Bohemia, and handed them over to the Soviet Union instead. [115]

The United States handed over 740,000 German prisoners to France, which was a Geneva Convention signatory but which used them as forced labourers. Newspapers reported that the POWs were being mistreated Judge Robert H. Jackson, chief US prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials, told US President Harry S Truman in October 1945 that the Allies themselves:

have done or are doing some of the very things we are prosecuting the Germans for. The French are so violating the Geneva Convention in the treatment of prisoners of war that our command is taking back prisoners sent to them. We are prosecuting plunder and our Allies are practicing it. [116] [117]

Hungarians Edit

Hungarians became POWs of the Western Allies. Some of these were, like the Germans, used as forced labour in France after the cessation of hostilities. [118] After the war, Hungarian POWs were handed over to the Soviets and transported to the Soviet Union for forced labour. Such forced Hungarian labour by the USSR is often referred to as malenkij robot—little work. András Toma, a Hungarian soldier taken prisoner by the Red Army in 1944, was discovered in a Russian psychiatric hospital in 2000. He was likely the last prisoner of war from World War II to be repatriated. [119]

Japanese Edit

Although thousands of Japanese servicemembers were taken prisoner, most fought until they were killed or committed suicide. Of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers present at the beginning of the Battle of Iwo Jima, over 20,000 were killed and only 216 were taken prisoner. [120] Of the 30,000 Japanese troops that defended Saipan, fewer than 1,000 remained alive at battle's end. [121] Japanese prisoners sent to camps fared well however, some were killed when attempting to surrender or were massacred [122] just after doing so (see Allied war crimes during World War II in the Pacific). In some instances, Japanese prisoners were tortured through a variety of methods. [123] A method of torture used by the Chinese National Revolutionary Army (NRA) included suspending prisoners by the neck in wooden cages until they died. [124] In very rare cases, some were beheaded by sword, and a severed head was once used as a football by Chinese National Revolutionary Army (NRA) soldiers. [125]

After the war, many Japanese POWs were kept on as Japanese Surrendered Personnel until mid-1947 by the Allies. The JSP were used until 1947 for labour purposes, such as road maintenance, recovering corpses for reburial, cleaning, and preparing farmland. Early tasks also included repairing airfields damaged by Allied bombing during the war and maintaining law and order until the arrival of Allied forces in the region. Many of the prisoners were also pressed into combat as extra troops due to a lack of Allied manpower.

Italians Edit

In 1943, Italy overthrew Mussolini and became an Allied co-belligerent. This did not change the status of many Italian POWs, retained in Australia, the UK and US due to labour shortages. [126]

After Italy surrendered to the Allies and declared war on Germany, the United States initially made plans to send Italian POWs back to fight Germany. Ultimately though, the government decided instead to loosen POW work requirements prohibiting Italian prisoners from carrying out war-related work. About 34,000 Italian POWs were active in 1944 and 1945 on 66 US military installations, performing support roles such as quartermaster, repair, and engineering work. [102]

Cossacks Edit

On 11 February 1945, at the conclusion of the Yalta Conference, the United States and United Kingdom signed a Repatriation Agreement with the USSR. [127] The interpretation of this agreement resulted in the forcible repatriation of all Soviets (Operation Keelhaul) regardless of their wishes. The forced repatriation operations took place in 1945–1947. [128]

Post-World War II Edit

During the Korean War, the North Koreans developed a reputation for severely mistreating prisoners of war (see Treatment of POWs by North Korean and Chinese forces). Their POWs were housed in three camps, according to their potential usefulness to the North Korean army. Peace camps and reform camps were for POWs that were either sympathetic to the cause or who had valued skills that could be useful to the North Korean military these enemy soldiers were indoctrinated and sometimes conscripted into the North Korean army. While POWs in peace camps were reportedly treated with more consideration, [129] regular prisoners of war were usually treated very poorly.

The 1952 Inter-Camp POW Olympics were held from 15 to 27 November 1952 in Pyuktong, North Korea. The Chinese hoped to gain worldwide publicity, and while some prisoners refused to participate, some 500 POWs of eleven nationalities took part. [130] They came from all the North Korean prison camps and competed in football, baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball, track and field, soccer, gymnastics, and boxing. [130] For the POWs, this was also an opportunity to meet with friends from other camps. The prisoners had their own photographers, announcers, and even reporters, who after each day's competition published a newspaper, the "Olympic Roundup". [131]

At the end of the First Indochina War, of the 11,721 French soldiers taken prisoner after the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and led by the Viet Minh on death marches to distant POW camps, only 3,290 were repatriated four months later. [132]

During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army took many United States servicemembers as prisoners of war and subjected them to mistreatment and torture. Some American prisoners were held in the prison known to US POWs as the Hanoi Hilton.

Communist Vietnamese held in custody by South Vietnamese and American forces were also tortured and badly treated. [32] After the war, millions of South Vietnamese servicemen and government workers were sent to "re-education" camps, where many perished.

As in previous conflicts, speculation existed, without evidence, that a handful of American pilots captured during the Korean and Vietnam wars were transferred to the Soviet Union and never repatriated. [133] [134] [135]

Regardless of regulations determining treatment of prisoners, violations of their rights continue to be reported. Many cases of POW massacres have been reported in recent times, including 13 October massacre in Lebanon by Syrian forces and June 1990 massacre in Sri Lanka.

Indian intervention in the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971 led to the third Indo-Pakistan war, which ended in Indian victory and over 90,000 Pakistani POWs.

In 1982, during the Falklands War, prisoners were well-treated in general by both sides, with military commanders dispatching enemy prisoners back to their homelands in record time. [136]

In 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, American, British, Italian, and Kuwaiti POWs (mostly crew members of downed aircraft and special forces) were tortured by the Iraqi secret police. An American military doctor, Major Rhonda Cornum, a 37-year-old flight surgeon captured when her Blackhawk UH-60 was shot down, was also subjected to sexual abuse. [137]

During the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, Serb paramilitary forces supported by JNA forces killed POWs at Vukovar and Škarbrnja, while Bosnian Serb forces killed POWs at Srebrenica. A large number of surviving Croatian or Bosnian POWs described the conditions in serbian concentration camps as similar to those in Germany in World War 2, including regular beatings, torture and random executions.

In 2001, reports emerged concerning two POWs that India had taken during the Sino-Indian War, Yang Chen and Shih Liang. The two were imprisoned as spies for three years before being interned in a mental asylum in Ranchi, where they spent the following 38 years under a special prisoner status. [138]

The last prisoners of the 1980-1988 Iran–Iraq War were exchanged in 2003. [139]

This section lists nations with the highest number of POWs since the start of World War II and ranked by descending order. These are also the highest numbers in any war since the Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War entered into force on 19 June 1931. The USSR had not signed the Geneva convention. [140]


The American POWs Still Waiting for an Apology From Japan 70 Years Later

K athy Holcomb put her hand on the wall of a crumbling factory building in the central Japanese city of Yokkaichi and envisioned her father touching the same spot during his years as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II.

Like thousands of American POWs, her father was made to labor under slave-like conditions in Japan&rsquos war industry. Four of every 10 American prisoners died of starvation, illness or abuse.

Now, the survivors, their families and supporters are demanding an apology from the companies that operated those camps and profited from POW labor. Those include some of Japan&rsquos best-known corporate giants.

&ldquoMy father never really forgave the Japanese. He never understood the cruelty or the constant physical abuse,&rdquo said Holcomb. Her father, Harold Vick, was a tank crewman who was captured in the Philippines in the early days of World War II. He died several years ago.

&ldquoIf he could have come here himself&mdashif he could have heard them apologize and acknowledge what was done to him&mdashit might have helped give him a sense of closure,&rdquo she said.

The campaign for an apology comes as Japan&rsquos political leadership is pushing a revisionist view of wartime history. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier this year sent a message of support to a memorial service that honored convicted war criminals&mdashincluding some who were executed by the Allies for abuse of POWs.

The treatment of American and allied prisoners by the Japanese is one of the abiding horrors of World War II. Prisoners were routinely beaten, starved and abused and forced to work in mines and war-related factories in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. Of the 27,000 Americans taken prisoner by the Japanese, a shocking 40 percent died in captivity, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service. That compares with just one percent of American prisoners who died in German POW camps.

The Japanese government issued a formal apology to American POWs in 2009 and started a &ldquoPOW Friendship and Remembrance&rdquo program a year later. That program brings a small group of American POWs and family members to Japan each year to meet with officials and private citizens and, in some cases, visit the sites where POWs were held.

More than 60 companies used POW labor during the war, usually paying Japan&rsquos Imperial Army a fee for the privilege, and using company employees as supplemental guards and jailers, according to the US-Japan Dialogue on POWs, a non-profit support organization based in California.

Surviving POWs and advocates have been pressing for apologies from more than a dozen companies, including some of Japan&rsquos largest. But so far, only one&mdasha chemical manufacturer based in Yokkaichi, near Nagoya&mdashhas done so.

Akira Kobayashi, managing executive officer of Ishihara Sangyo, said using POW labor was &ldquoone of the dark episodes&rdquo in the company&rsquos past. Issuing an apology in 2010 was &ldquothe right thing to do,&rdquo he said.

&ldquoWhat we are doing here today is not only to honor your father, but it&rsquos also for future generations, to try to bring our two countries closer together,&rdquo Kobayashi told Holcomb during an emotional meeting at the company headquarters this week.

The 1952 Treaty of Peace with Japan provided for modest compensation payments to former POWs. That money came from Japanese assets seized in the United States and elsewhere outside Japan. But U.S. and Japanese courts have ruled that the treaty explicitly prevents American POWs from seeking additional damages from either the Japanese government or private citizens. A handful of lawsuits filed in California against Mitsubishi Corp., Nippon Steel and other companies that used POW labor during the war were dismissed by federal courts in 2004.

The U.S. government is at least partly at fault for failing to ensure that POWs abused by the Japanese were treated the same as those by the Germans, said Linda Goetz Holmes. She is a former member of the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Records Interagency Working Group, and author of Unjust Enrichment: American POWs Under the Rising Sun.

&ldquoGerman companies long ago apologized to those who worked as slave laborers, and additional compensation was paid either by the companies or the German government, &ldquo she said. &ldquoBut when it came to Japan, our State Department said &lsquoOh no, this will interfere with our foreign relations.&rsquo&rdquo

But financial compensation is not the point, said 94-year-old Lester Tenney, a former POW and head of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, a POW support group.

&ldquoOur legal fight has never been about money. It has been about honor, dignity and responsibility,&rdquo Tenney said in an email interview from his home near San Diego.

&ldquoThe companies that enslaved thousands of Americans, and failed to provide them with the very basic necessities of life should, once and for all, come forward and apologize for the cruelties that were handed out,&rdquo said Tenney. He was taken prisoner in the Philippines and spent more than two years laboring in a coalmine in southern Japan.

Advocates have asked more than a dozen Japanese companies that used POW labor during the war to apologize. But so far, only Ishihara Sangyo has responded, said Kinue Tokudome, founder and executive director of the US-Japan Dialogue. Given the political climate in Japan, that may not be surprising.

Abe is a staunch conservative who in the past has questioned Japan&rsquos war responsibility. In April, he provided a message that was read aloud during a memorial service honoring about 1,180 convicted war criminals. Those include more than 130 Japanese who were tried and executed for crimes related to the abuse of American POWs, according to Tokudome.

In the message, Abe referred to the war criminals as &ldquomartyrs who staked their souls to become the foundation of their nation.”

Tenney said Abe&rsquos message is &ldquodisgraceful&rdquo and ignores the truth.

The treatment of POWs is not widely discussed in Japan. But that could change later this year, when the film Unbroken is scheduled for release in the United States.

That film, directed A-lister Angelina Jolie, traces the brutal treatment of Louis Zamperini in Japanese prison camps and his fight for survival. A star of the 1936 U.S. Olympic team, Zamperini was captured after his Army Air Force bomber crashed in the Pacific Ocean in May 1943.

The movie is based on the best-selling book of the same name. That book, released in 2010, was denounced on right-wing websites here as anti-Japanese propaganda. A release date for the film in Japan has not been fixed.

The issue of POW treatment by the Japanese is unlikely to go away, says Holcomb. She said her father was haunted by his prison experience and suffered daily from injuries he received while working at what was then a copper refinery&mdashinjuries that were never properly treated.

Holcomb said she decided to visit the Ishihara Sangyo plant after moving to South Korea earlier this year. The facility still has some of the same roads, buildings and dock facilities as when her father was held here officials allowed her to tour the plant and to visit a small shrine dedicated to the POWs and others who died during the war. She said the visit helped bring closure for her, but that others are still suffering.

&ldquoThis isn&rsquot going to end even when all of the former POWs pass away. Their children and grandchildren have heard the stories, and have lived with the stories, and they haven&rsquot forgotten. This isn&rsquot about money. It&rsquos about acknowledging what was done to these men.&rdquo


Minsk Group Co-Chairs Call for release of all POWs and Peaceful Resolution of Armenia-Azerbaijan Boarder Issues

The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, Stephane Visconti of France, and Andrew Schofer of the United States of America) released the following statement today:

The Co-Chairs held consultations with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer and UN High Commissioner of Refugees Filipino Grandi in Geneva 27 and 28 May. The Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson in Office (PRCiO) Andrzej Kasprzyk also participated in the meetings. The Co-Chairs take note of the reported detention of six Armenian soldiers on May 27 and call for the release of all prisoners of war and other detainees on an all for all basis. The Co-Chairs underscore the obligation to treat detainees in accordance with international humanitarian law. The Co-Chairs strongly urge the sides to lift all restrictions on humanitarian access to Nagorno-Karabakh immediately, and call on the sides to implement in full the commitments they undertook under the November 9 ceasefire declaration.

The Co-Chairs also note with concern several recent reports of incidents on the non-demarcated Armenia-Azerbaijan border. The use or threat of force to resolve border disputes is not acceptable. We call on both sides to take immediate steps, including the relocation of troops, to de-escalate the situation and to begin negotiations to delimitate and demarcate the border peacefully. The Co-Chairs stand ready to assist in facilitating this process.

Having in mind the terms of their OSCE mandate and the aspirations of all the people of the region for a stable, peaceful, and prosperous future, the Co-Chairs again call on the sides to reengage under their auspices at the earliest opportunity.

1 comment

What is the Minsk going to do if Azrbaijan doesn’t release the POW or if they mistreat them or if they execute them?


Prisoner of war

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Prisoner of war (POW), any person captured or interned by a belligerent power during war. In the strictest sense it is applied only to members of regularly organized armed forces, but by broader definition it has also included guerrillas, civilians who take up arms against an enemy openly, or noncombatants associated with a military force.

In the early history of warfare there was no recognition of a status of prisoner of war, for the defeated enemy was either killed or enslaved by the victor. The women, children, and elders of the defeated tribe or nation were frequently disposed of in similar fashion. The captive, whether or not an active belligerent, was completely at the mercy of his captor, and if the prisoner survived the battlefield, his existence was dependent upon such factors as the availability of food and his usefulness to his captor. If permitted to live, the prisoner was considered by his captor to be merely a piece of movable property, a chattel. During religious wars, it was generally considered a virtue to put nonbelievers to death, but in the time of the campaigns of Julius Caesar a captive could, under certain circumstances, become a freedman within the Roman Empire.

As warfare changed, so did the treatment afforded captives and members of defeated nations or tribes. Enslavement of enemy soldiers in Europe declined during the Middle Ages, but ransoming was widely practiced and continued even as late as the 17th century. Civilians in the defeated community were only infrequently taken prisoner, for as captives they were sometimes a burden upon the victor. Further, as they were not combatants it was considered neither just nor necessary to take them prisoner. The development of the use of the mercenary soldier also tended to create a slightly more tolerant climate for a prisoner, for the victor in one battle knew that he might be the vanquished in the next.

In the 16th and early 17th centuries some European political and legal philosophers expressed their thoughts about the amelioration of the effects of capture upon prisoners. The most famous of these, Hugo Grotius, stated in his De jure belli ac pacis (1625 On the Law of War and Peace) that victors had the right to enslave their enemies, but he advocated exchange and ransom instead. The idea was generally taking hold that in war no destruction of life or property beyond that necessary to decide the conflict was sanctioned. The Treaty of Westphalia (1648), which released prisoners without ransom, is generally taken as marking the end of the era of widespread enslavement of prisoners of war.

In the 18th century a new attitude of morality in the law of nations, or international law, had a profound effect upon the problem of prisoners of war. The French political philosopher Montesquieu in his L’Esprit des lois (1748 The Spirit of Laws) wrote that the only right in war that the captor had over a prisoner was to prevent him from doing harm. The captive was no longer to be treated as a piece of property to be disposed of at the whim of the victor but was merely to be removed from the fight. Other writers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Emerich de Vattel, expanded on the same theme and developed what might be called the quarantine theory for the disposition of prisoners. From this point on the treatment of prisoners generally improved.

By the mid-19th century it was clear that a definite body of principles for the treatment of war prisoners was being generally recognized in the Western world. But observance of the principles in the American Civil War (1861–65) and in the Franco-German War (1870–71) left much to be desired, and numerous attempts were made in the latter half of the century to improve the lot of wounded soldiers and of prisoners. In 1874 a conference at Brussels prepared a declaration relative to prisoners of war, but it was not ratified. In 1899 and again in 1907 international conferences at The Hague drew up rules of conduct that gained some recognition in international law. During World War I, however, when POWs were numbered in the millions, there were many charges on both sides that the rules were not being faithfully observed. Soon after the war the nations of the world gathered at Geneva to devise the Convention of 1929, which before the outbreak of World War II was ratified by France, Germany, Great Britain, the United States, and many other nations, but not by Japan or the Soviet Union.

During World War II millions of persons were taken prisoner under widely varying circumstances and experienced treatment that ranged from excellent to barbaric. The United States and Great Britain generally maintained the standards set by the Hague and Geneva conventions in their treatment of Axis POWs. Germany treated its British, French, and American prisoners comparatively well but treated Soviet, Polish, and other Slavic POWs with genocidal severity. Of about 5,700,000 Red Army soldiers captured by the Germans, only about 2,000,000 survived the war more than 2,000,000 of the 3,800,000 Soviet troops captured during the German invasion in 1941 were simply allowed to starve to death. The Soviets replied in kind and consigned hundreds of thousands of German POWs to the labour camps of the Gulag, where most of them died. The Japanese treated their British, American, and Australian POWs harshly, and only about 60 percent of these POWs survived the war. After the war, international war crimes trials were held in Germany and Japan, based on the concept that acts committed in violation of the fundamental principles of the laws of war were punishable as war crimes.


The History of Parole

Parole is a form of community supervision used in the U.S. and Texas state corrections system:

Parole is derived from the French word, parol, and means word of honor. The word recalls prisoners of war who promised not to fight in a current conflict if the captor released them.

It’s unclear how the original idea now applies to an early release of offenders. The first official use of the concept of “early release from prison” in the country is credited to Samuel G. Howe in Boston during the 19 th century. Before that, programs involving pardons were used to achieve similar outcomes. Indeed, parole was considered a “conditional pardon” until 1938 in some states.

This article provides a short history of parole in the United States and the state of Texas.

Parole in the United States

Parole controls in the U.S. are intended to encompass incarceration and provide the necessary tools to protect members of the community into which the offender is conditionally released:

  • The offender receives a formal and written number of supervisory conditions. A supervision officer is assigned to monitor the offender’s behavior and social progress in the community.
  • An offender must avoid committing new crimes on parole. Violation of the offender’s supervision conditions may result in his or her return to jail or prison.

United States History of Parole

In 1907, New York was first to implement a parole system:

  • In 1942, all states in that nation as well as the federal government used parole systems.
  • Thereafter, release via parole increased and reached a national high in 1977. At that time, approximately 72 percent of offenders were released on parole.
  • Parole trends caught national attention as several paroled felons committed high-profile offenses. Citizens asked questions about parole’s effectiveness to rehabilitate offenders and to protect society.

Opponents of parole argued that sentencing of offenders gave too much power to the judiciary branch’s sentencing judges and appointed parole boards in the executive branch. They argued that the current system undercut the legislative branch charged with enforcing the law:

  • To address this issue, states started to pass more determinate sentencing statutes to curtail discretion of the judiciary and to establish required, fixed sentences for specific crimes.
  • In addition, some of the states reduced parole boards’ power and set objective criteria in place, e.g. point systems used in granting early releases from prison.
  • Simultaneously, parole officers’ roles in some states shifted from social worker to enforcement agent.

The United States Congress was dismayed about the federal paroles system by the 1980s:

  • Democrats expressed concerns about racial bias in board decisions.
  • Republicans believed that parole was granted too often.

The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 removed the possibility of parole in federal institutions. Instead, federal prisons implemented the point system in which those prisons meeting disciplinary standards and specific educational goals earn good time and opportunities to reduce their prison sentences.

Dual trends towards truth in sentencing and standardizations of parole release gave way to post-release supervision of parolees.

More prisoners today serve determinate, fixed sentences to be followed by a monitoring period in the community. Importantly, this fact obscures the differences in state policies. For instance, California had almost 120,000 parolees in the same year that Maine released 31 parolees.

History of Parole in Texas

The first laws concerning parole were enacted by Texas’ Legislature in the early 20 th century. The law empowered the Texas Board of Prison Commissions as well as the Board of Pardons’ Advisors (with the governor’s authorization) to make regulations and rules needed to release certain prisoners and protect members of the community:

  • In 1905, Texas prisoners who served a minimum of two years or 25 percent of their incarceration terms were parole-eligible if the offender 1) was a first-time offender and 2) hadn’t been convicted of certain offenses.
  • In 1911, the Texas Legislature passed laws that enabled the Board of Prison Commissions by itself to make regulations and rules (with the governor’s authorization) regarding parole of prisoners. The law stated that prisoners with good behavior might be parole-eligible after serving the minimum term for the crime/conviction. In addition, a supervisor or parole agent was to be in place to inform the state concerning parolees’ conduct in society. Note: The supervision system did not exist when this legislation was passed.
  • In 1913, the Texas governor was provided with the singular power to grant parole of prisoners. Although the Board of Prison Commissioners continued to establish regulations and rules by which prisoners might be paroled, the governor was required to approve them.
  • In 1929, the Texas Board of Pardons Advisors was revamped by the state legislature. An additional third member was added to create the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Pardons and Paroles were empowered to recommend certain prisoners for parole to the state governor and to provide advice regarding matters of clemency. At that time, parole 1) applied to individuals who hadn’t been convicted of any offense punishable by incarceration in a state penitentiary.
  • In 1930, the prior restriction was removed. Only inmates who had previously served time in prison were not eligible for parole in Texas.
  • In 1936, an amendment to the state constitution gave authority to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend certain paroles. The Texas governor had the right to make any act of clemency. The governor also had the power to grant a 30-day reprieve of capital punishment without input from Pardons and Paroles. The governor had the singular authority to revoke paroles and/or conditional pardons. This amendment is often considered as the birth of the Texas parole system.
Early Texas parole system

At this time, parole was available only if Pardons and Paroles opined that the prisoner was compatible with the society’s welfare. It was authorized:

  • To make terms and conditions of parole and to provide the parolee with a formal written copy of these T&Cs
  • The parolee wasn’t required to secure employment to be paroled. Importantly, though, if the parolee was offered a job, he was required to accept it.
  • The parolee couldn’t leave Texas without obtaining prior consent from Pardons and Paroles.
  • The state required the parolee to provide for any dependents, “abandon evil associates and ways,” and make restitution for the crime.
  • After release from the penitentiary, the parolee was provided with a suit of clothes, underwear, five dollars, and a one-way rail pass to the place of the conviction.

Parole officers weren’t a part of the Texas justice system yet. However, a supervisor of the parolee was identified. He maintained records for the state about parolees and was required to report to the governor if 1) the parolee returned to criminal ways or 2) violated any T&Cs of parole.

Returning the parolee to prison

At that point, the governor could decide to issue a warrant and to retake the parolee:

  • When the offender was returned to prison, Pardons and Paroles held a hearing to review the parole violations.
  • If it determined the parolee violated the T&Cs of parole, he was required to serve the remainder of the maximum sentence from the date of delinquency.
  • Time on parole was considered time served on the sentence until the revocation of parole.
  • Violators who committed new offenses on parole were required to serve any time remaining on the original sentence before they began serving the new sentence.
Voluntary parole boards
  • In 1937, the Texas governor wanted to form voluntary parole boards consisting of those people charged with supervising parolees without payment from the state.
  • Before this date, rigorous supervision of parolees wasn’t possible. The law allowed for a single supervisor of parolees. Two hundred forty-two counties out of 254 in the state of Texas selected voluntary parole supervisors. These individuals helped parolees to obtain employment and reported on their progress and behavior.
  • In 1947, the 50 th Legislature enacted the Adult Probation & Parole Law. It created the necessary framework for today’s parole operations in Texas. Before passage of the law, parolees released from prison were the beneficiaries of executive clemency and were considered “executive paroles” or “conditional pardons.”
  • Volunteer parole boards continued to supervise individuals pardoned or paroled. No new funds were committed for the operation.
Texas parole changes through the years

Texas’ parole system has changed over the years, culminating in the current Board of Pardons and Paroles with seven board members and 14 state commissioners.

Before September 1, 1989, the Board was responsible for parole supervision system operations as well as parole decisions.

The Texas Legislature merged the Texas Department of Corrections, the Texas Adult Probation Commission, and the Board of Pardons and Paroles into the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) that year. Although the Board kept its authority to make parole decisions, the Parole Division of the TDCJ took up some parole-related responsibilities.

Today, the Director of the Parole Division is appointed by TDCJ’s Executive Director. He or she is responsible for operations and administration of the division.

Parole Supervisions Systems Today

Millions of people are supervised under U.S. criminal justice systems. About a third of these individuals are incarcerated in federal, state, and local institutions.

About 70 percent of these supervised individuals are supervised by the parole system. Historically, about two percent of the country’s populace (324 million people) is supervised by federal or state parole boards. This means that state and federal parole boards supervise approximately 6.5 million people.

Contact an Experienced Parole Lawyer in Texas

The history of parole in the United States and Texas shows the importance of your behavior and willingness to obey national and state laws. You have legal rights under the U.S. Constitution and the state of Texas. An experienced parole attorney at your side will protect them.

If you or someone you care about is facing a criminal charge, is parole-eligible, or the subject of alleged parole violations, it’s important to contact a criminal defense lawyer with Texas parole experience. An attorney with the combination of these critical skills may affect the outcome of your case.

Contact The Law Office of Greg Tsioros in Houston to schedule an initial case review now at 832-752-5972.


Watch the video: THE LAST OF US. The Beginning. KA-POW Plays (May 2022).