American POWs in the 2003 invasion of Iraq

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US Marine Corps M1A1 in Iraq, 2003

The 2003 invasion of Iraq, which lasted from March 20 – May 1, 2003, resulted in a small number of American and Coalition POWs.

507th's wrong turn[edit]

A majority of the prisoners of war were captured from the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company when a convoy of vehicles got lost and entered the Iraqi-held town of Nasiriyah on March 23, 2003. The 507th supported actual combat troops, but were not combat troops themselves, and were therefore ill equipped and ill trained for fighting. As a result of this the 507th quickly surrendered after all their weapons jammed. The following soldiers were captured by Iraqi forces:

Capture[edit]

When they surrendered, they feared the worst. Miller held out little hope for mercy. "I thought they were going to kill me," he said. "That was the first thing I asked when they captured me: 'Are you going to kill me?' They said no. . . . I still didn't believe them."[1]

Iraqi TV Interview[edit]

Soon after their capture, Jessica Lynch was taken to an Iraqi hospital due to her serious injuries. The other five POWs did not know about Lynch surviving until after they were released. After their capture, the five remaining members of the ambushed 507th would become famous as bloody and beaten. They were then interviewed by Iraq TV, and the footage was shown world wide by Al Jazeera. In the interview, Private First Class Patrick Miller was asked why he came to Iraq; his reply was "I come to fix broke stuff." Asked if he came to shoot Iraqis, he answered, "No, I come to shoot only if I am shot at. They don't bother me, I don't bother them." [2]

Two More Makes Eight[edit]

On March 24, they were joined by Chief Warrant Officers David Williams, 31, and Ronald Young Jr., 26, whose Apache chopper, from the 1-227 Helicopter Attack Battalion, had been shot down in central Iraq that day.

Relocation[edit]

The prisoners were taken to Baghdad, where they were isolated in separate cells of a drab prison with concrete walls and a tin roof. As American troops got closer, the soldiers were shuffled from building to building. The Iraqi captors worked feverishly to stay one step ahead of the advancing units.

Rescue[edit]

As it became clear that the war was over for the Iraqis, some of their captors approached a Marine unit from the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Delta Co., 3rd Platoon which was a part of Task Force Tripoli that had been pushing up toward Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown. A Marine battalion was sent to check on the intelligence and found the seven POWs with a confused Iraqi guard unit, whose officers had fled.

On April 13, 2003, 21 days after the 507th members were captured, the 3rd Light Armored Recon Marines burst in on the Iraqi guards who gave up without a fight. Ordering everyone on the floor, a Marine gave an order to "stand up if you're American!" Given dirty prison clothes and fed little food, the prisoners lost a lot of weight and with their garb, and beards they looked like Iraqis. "At first," Spc. Shoshana Johnson remembers that, "they didn't realize I was American. They said, 'Get down, get down,' and one of them said, 'No, she's American.' "[3]

Within hours, the seven were on their way to Kuwait International Airport inside a Marine Corps KC-130 transport plane, the first stop before the United States. Amid sobs, cheers and laughter, they told their stories to two reporters accompanying them on the flight. "I broke down. I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm home,'" Johnson said.[1]

War crimes[edit]

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Iraqi Saddam Fedayeen irregular forces were involved in executing several Coalition prisoners of war.

Sergeant Donald Walters was initially reported to have been killed in the March 23 ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company. However, witnesses later reported that they had seen Walters being guarded by several Fedayeen in front of a building. Forensics work later found Walters' blood in front of the building and blood spatter suggesting he died from two gunshot wounds to the back at close range. This led the Army to conclude that Walters had been executed after being captured.[4]

Jessica Lynch was reportedly raped and sodomized by Iraqi forces. This has been disputed.

Also on March 23, a British Army engineering unit made a wrong turn near the town of Az Zubayr, which was still held by Iraqi forces. The unit was ambushed and Sapper Luke Allsopp and Staff Sergeant Simon Cullingworth became separated from the rest. Both were captured and executed by Iraqi forces. In 2006, a video of Allsopp lying on the ground surrounded by Iraqi irregular forces was discovered.[5]

Marine Sergeant Fernando Padilla-Ramirez was reported missing from his supply unit after an ambush north of Nasiriyah on March 28. His body was later dragged through the streets of Ash Shatrah and hung in the town square. His body was later taken down and buried by sympathetic locals. His body was discovered by American forces on April 10.[6][7][8]

In addition, the showing of captured soldiers on television, as was done with some of the captured soldiers of the 507th Maintenance Company, was a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b CNN (Monday, April 14, 2003 Posted: 1:23 PM EDT (1723 GMT)). "Former POW: 'We were like Custer'". Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  2. ^ AP (Posted March 24, 2003 1:03 AM Updated March 24, 2003 4:36 PM). "Iraq puts captive troops on TV". USA Today. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  3. ^ Peter Baker, Washington Post (April 14, 2003). "Freedom for 7 American POWs". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  4. ^ Status changed for soldier killed in Iraq: Investigation shows POW was murdered - CNN
  5. ^ Soldier killed in convoy ambush 'was alive for four hours surrounded by mob' - The Telegraph
  6. ^ "Invasion: Into the breach". Azcentral.com. 2006-08-04. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  7. ^ http://www.defenselink.mil/Releases/Release.aspx?ReleaseID=3750
  8. ^ Wright 2004, p. 228

Further reading[edit]

  • Wright, Evan (2004), Generation Kill, Berkley Publishing Group ISBN 0-399-15193-1
  • Lowry, Richard S. (2006), Marines in the Garden of Eden, Berkley Publishing Group ISBN 0-425-21529-6