THE CODE OF CONDUCT - PART II
By Jorge Maspons
"If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way."
To offer any information or to take part in some action to the detriment of another POW is despicable and not worthy of a soldier; it is also prohibited. Prisoners of war most evade by all means to give any details that would allow enemy forces identify other POW's that may have special value and that could be made to suffer torture and or interrogation by the enemy.
Communication is very important in order to maintain discipline and this is precisely the key for organizing the prisoners' camp and resisting the enemy; it is also the way to survive captivity. This discipline includes personal hygiene and the care of other POW's who may be ill or disable.
Officers as well as NCO's (Non-Commissioned Officers) must continue their obligations exercising authority while in captivity. The senior ranking officer, regardless of which branch of the military must accept command: This responsibility can not be avoided. In case of disability or sickness, then the next ranking POW must assume command. It is imperative that this and any other information be passed down to the entire POW camp, this way everyone will know who represent then before the enemy authorities.
The Geneva Convention Relative to Treatment of Prisoners of War allows for the election of a "prisoners' representative" in the prison camps in times where there is no "commissioned officer." The POW's must know that this representative is only a "spokesman" for the one who is senior or the one with the highest rank. And in case that the prison authorities name their own "POW chain-of-command" all prisoners must do everything possible to observe the principles of Article IV. And just as in the other articles, common sense will tell how the officer in command and the prisoners will carry out their responsibilities.
"When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am require to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause."
When the prisoner of war is questioned, he is only required to give his name, rank, serial number and date of birth. The POW must resist all attempts by the enemy to extract any other information.
The prisoner can communicate with the enemy in such matter as his health and he can write a Geneva Convention card. It is a violation of the Geneva Convention to force the prisoner to give any other information by means of torture. The experiences of our POW's in Korea and Vietnam demonstrated the degree of resistance they were force to show how far the enemy went in its depravation.
The torture perpetrated on our POW's were the most savage that a human being has invented. In these situations it is even more important to have compassion, dedication and motivation among the prisoners in order to survive captivity.
Any statement or confession by a prisoner of war can be used by the enemy as false evidence that such person is a criminal instead of a POW. Some nations have made reservations to the Geneva Convention that a "criminal" does not have the status of a POW and therefore forfeits his protection according to the Convention leaving the door open to jail sentence before coming home.
The best way to "keep the faith" with his fellow prisoners and the nation is to provide as little information as possible to the enemy.
"I will never forget that I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America."
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces are always responsible for their actions. Anyone who is captured has the obligation to resist and to stay loyal to this country, his service and his friends. Upon returning home, the prisoner must be evaluated for his conduct and for the circumstances of his captivity. This is to reward his loyalty and to check for any possible fault. The living conditions of the prisoner and his sufferings will be considered.
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces must remember that their families will be taken care of while they are in captivity. It is very important to talk openly about this possibility with the family before leaving for a foreign land. Life for a POW is hard; it is necessary to have faith, hope and love among the family. These virtues have helped prisoners to resist the enemy and its tortures.
Some final thoughts: During the First and the Second World Wars, the belligerent nations respected the treatment of prisoners of wars in most cases. There were some exceptions but generally speaking, POW's survived captivity in fairly good conditions. Japan was the worst case in the treatment of our prisoners of war. But in the Korean and Vietnam wars, the communists enjoyed themselves greatly in torturing our men.
It is also regrettable that our government forgot and left behind many who never came back. However, the conduct of the men who did returned will always be an inspiration for me and for many.
They are true examples of patriotism, morale, courage and love.
Jorge A. Maspons
Former Staff Sergeant
U.S. Army 1969-1972
Louisiana Air National Guard and USAFR (Retired)