Intelligence: Name, Rank and Serial Number

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April 16, 2007: Whatever happened to the time-honored soldier's creed of refusing to cooperate with the enemy and, if captured, giving them only your name rank and serial number? In light of the recent incident involving the kidnapping of 15 British Royal Marines and sailors by Iran, military commanders may need to reevaluate their training procedures to make it clear what is expected of personnel if they are in danger of being captured, and if captured, how they should conduct themselves. Many people especially, in Great Britain have expressed concern about the actions of the kidnapped marines and sailors during their 13-day captivity and the inaction that lead to their capture in the first place. It seems apparent to most that the marines and sailors were clearly within their right to defend themselves, as they were performing a lawful search of a suspicious vessel in international waters. They, however, chose to surrender without a fight while their mother ship the HMS Cornwall was ordered to stand by and do nothing. British authorities justified the actions of ship and the boarding party bu pointing out that a state of war does not exist between Great Britain and Iran. Therefore, defending themselves by instigating a firefight with the Iranians would have been inappropriate. The British seemingly decided to surrender now and live to fight, or surrender again, another day.

In defense of the kidnapped sailors and marines, the Iranians did subject them to significant psychological pressure including a mock execution. However they clearly cooperated with the Iranians before the camera and in one case with a written "apology". This leads to the conclusion that the British commanders and government leaders failed these sailors and marines. No one involved seemed prepared for the possibility that the Iranians might attempt a kidnapping, even though in July of 2004 eight other marines and sailors were taken and held for three days. It is also obvious that the captured personnel had woefully inadequate training on how to conduct themselves in captivity.

A U. S. Navy Admiral recently indicated that if the incident had involved American sailors and Marines it would have had a very different ending. That is, Americans would have died fighting died rather than be captured. The Admiral may want to reflect on the incident in April of 2001 when a U. S. Navy EP-3 Aries spy plane was accidentally rammed by a Chinese F-8 fighter plane off the Chinese coast in international airspace. The heavily damaged plane made an emergency landing on the Chinese island of Hainan. Some people suggest that the pilot and crew of that aircraft should have bailed out or ditched in the sea to avoid the aircraft and some of its secret electronic spy gear from falling into the hand on a potential enemy. And then there's the Pueblo incident in 1968, where North Koreans seized a U.S. spy ship in indisputably international waters, and held the crew of 82 for ten months. They still have the ship. And, like the Iranians, the North Koreans forced some of the American sailors to perform for the media. Then again, because of the Pueblo incident, the U.S. Navy has vowed never to let it happen again. -- Tim Spencer

 


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