Thursday, April 05, 2007

Name, rank, serial number and date of birth

Not to be mean to our gallant British allies or anything , but the Mandarin was stuck in a time warp during the recent captivity of the "heroic" British sailors and marines in Iraq. The time warp was a trip down memory lane to the summer of 1969, when Private Mandarin (not Lieutenant Mandarin yet, that came later) was in basic training at Fort Bragg, NC.

A lot of us had orders for Vietnam at that point, so we were taught that we were expected to do everything humanly possible to avoid capture, including, believe it or not, fighting back unless we were out of bullets or something. If captured, we were expected to reveal only our name, rank, serial number and date of birth. Beyond that, we were to say nothing. We were to resist our captors to the maximum extent possible, and to make every reasonable attempt to escape. Cooperating with our captors in any way, no matter how small, was, as the British say, right out.

Now, the Mandarin was not present when these British sailors and Marines were captured a couple of weeks ago, so his comments are in the realm of the hypothetical, but if we were still in the simpler world of 1969, and if some hypothetical American sailors and Marines had been released after behaving as this lot did in captivity, they would not have been welcomed home as heroes.

They would have been in deep and serious trouble.

Oh, by the way, here is the quaint little litany we had to memorize back then. We also got it on little laminated wallet cards, although we weren't supposed to take our wallets into combat and the Viet Cong would probably have taken them away from us anyway...

It was called the "Military Code of Conduct:"

1. I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

2. I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.

3. If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

4. 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. If 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.

5. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required 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.

6. I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, 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.

Leaving aside whether the war in Iraq satisfies the condition of article 1,
the fighting in defense of our way of life bit, the way the Brits handled themselves seems to have been as the Brits say, a bit dodgy.

But that was then and there. And this is here and now.

Crossposted at Watching Those we Choose.


Blue Girl, Red State said...

My husband and I (both of us looked damn fine in a pickle suit in our day) have been asking one another these very things since the very first video image flickered across the screen.

It was truly disturbing.

opit said...

They were detained near or at the nebulous border of a sovereign state with which hostilities had not been declared. I understood their standing orders precluded the response to which you refer at the time they were taken : due to the lack of interest in starting a war.
Haaretz disappears behind a paid subscription wall : when this story was current I noticed the Israelis were approving of the way the Brits handled the situation. Take that for what you will. Regardless, the head of the British navy stated there was no problem with the conduct of his people. Different strokes.
Interesting the protocol of aggression was so well ingrained in U.S. training in comparison.

The Mandarin said...

Not sure I would characterize a preference for fighting back when attacked as a "protocol of aggression"...