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The Battle Behind the Wire

The Battle Behind the Wire: U.S. Prisoner and Detainee Operations from World War II to Iraq

Cheryl Benard
Edward O’Connell
Cathryn Quantic Thurston
Andres Villamizar
Elvira N. Loredo
Thomas Sullivan
Jeremiah Goulka
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 126
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  • Book Info
    The Battle Behind the Wire
    Book Description:

    This report finds parallels in U.S. prisoner and detainee operations in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq: underestimation of the number to be held, hasty scrambling for resources, and inadequate doctrine and policy. Later, attempts to educate and influence prisoners and detainees are often made. The authors recommend that detailed doctrine should be in place prior to detention and that detainees should be interviewed when first detained.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-5194-3
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  9. CHAPTER ONE The Recurring Importance of Prisoner and Detainee Operations
    (pp. 1-4)

    In the course of military actions following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, detainees and how to manage them have been increasingly controversial topics for U.S., allied, Middle Eastern, and other policymakers and publics. “Guantanamo Bay” and “Abu Ghraib” became provocative shorthand terms for examples of how detainee operations could go wrong if clear and current doctrine did not exist.

    In many ways, the problems at Abu Ghraib stemmed from a failure within high-level policy circles in Washington to plan sufficiently for detainee operations—i.e., a failure to anticipate the need to detain large numbers of...

  10. CHAPTER TWO U.S. Programs for German Prisoners in World War II
    (pp. 5-16)

    World War II, a conventional conflict, and the prisoners taken during it differ from more-recent conflicts and their prisoners or detainees. Yet there are parallels between prisoner operations in World War II and those of subsequent conflicts.

    More specifically, three initial misjudgments in handling German prisoners have recurred over time. While eventually corrected in World War II, they adversely affected U.S. interests and detainee operations both then and in subsequent conflicts.

    Military planners underestimated the number of prisoners the Allies would take and the speed at which they would take them. It is difficult to explain this oversight, given the...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Korean War Prisoner Programs
    (pp. 17-32)

    The Korean War began when North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel and attacked South Korea in late June 1950. Given that the sudden start of the war caught the United States by surprise, the need for handling large numbers of prisoners from the conflict was unanticipated. Sudden, dramatic shifts in the course of the war further complicated the challenge of handling prisoners.

    The United States had few resources on site for handling Korean War prisoners. Even though the U.S. and Allied forces had designed, built, and implemented successful prisoner camps and reeducation programs less than a decade earlier for...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Prisoner and Detainee Operations in Vietnam
    (pp. 33-48)

    Even though the U.S. and Allied forces had designed, built, and implemented prisoner camps and reeducation programs during World War II and the Korean War, many of the lessons learned from managing prisoners in the earlier conflicts were not immediately transferred to the Vietnam conflict. In Vietnam, the U.S. military faced many of the same challenges it had in the past, including

    lack of initial planning for handling massive numbers of prisoners

    inability to correctly identify prisoners as communists, anticommunists, civilians, or insurgents

    lack of cultural, sociological, political, and economic understanding of enemy prisoners

    difficulty of applying the 1949 Geneva...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Detainee Operations in Iraq
    (pp. 49-82)

    The preceding chapters have outlined prisoner and detainee operations in a variety of circumstances, each with lessons for the conflicts of today. German prisoners in World War II were taken in a conventional conflict and trained to have a role in the reconstruction of their homeland. This occurred despite some misgivings that the German “national character” could not be adapted to democracy. Korean War prisoners were taken in a civil war and trained to develop basic skills that could serve them in a democratic society. Vietnam War prisoners and detainees were taken in a conflict involving conventional and unconventional forces,...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Conclusions and Recommendations
    (pp. 83-92)

    U.S. forces have generally treated POW and detainee operations as an afterthought, a perhaps inevitable but largely inconvenient collateral effect of military conflict. Such operations would be better considered as a central part of the successful prosecution of a conflict, particularly a counterinsurgency.

    Determining how to gain knowledge from, hold, question, influence, and release captured adversaries ought to be viewed as an important component of military tactics and doctrine. The mechanisms for doing so should be a standard part of any war plan and should evolve as necessary over time. Failure to recognize this has many negative consequences.

    The typical...

  15. APPENDIX The Legal Source of MNF-I’s Authority to Intern for Security Reasons
    (pp. 93-96)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 97-102)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 103-103)