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How To Survive as a Prisoner of War

How To Survive as a Prisoner of War


War never changes. And one of the things that never changes about
it is that eventually, someone is going to be taken prisoner. While popular media is filled with heroic
tropes of men fighting until their last dying breath, the reality is that surrender of one
force to another happens frequently in combat. What if you end up becoming a POW though? How can you ensure your survival as a prisoner
of war? Surrender in combat is something that’s very
much frowned upon, and yet sometimes surrender is the only logical option. You may think you’re striking a heroic pose
defying the march of an enemy armored column all by yourself with your rifle, but unless
you’ve got some anti-armor backup you’re just going to end up a fine red mist when the enemy
tanks open up on you. This is the thin line that professional soldiers
must tread every day that they are in a combat zone- when is it ok to surrender, and when
should you continue the fight? It may sound heroic to die fighting, but corpses
make for pretty lousy heroes, and in fact sometimes getting yourself killed for a very
stupid ‘one last stand’ can be a pretty pointless waste of your life. Even worse, it can be a significant waste
of resources for your country, who has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in training,
feeding, and equipping you for war. Sometimes, you have to know when to throw
in the towel, and as the old adage goes: live to fight another day. If you die, that’s it, your nation will never
get another use out of you again, but if you survive and manage to escape captivity, well
then you’re back in the war, actually making a difference again. But sometimes not surrendering can be the
right call. Even when supported by overwhelming firepower
against an inferior foe, human beings tend to not like getting shot at, and a stiff,
determined resistance in the face of overwhelming odds has turned the course of many battles. In May of 1918, the war in Europe was taking
a decisively bad turn for the Allies. Russia had collapsed under the weight of the
communist revolution and struck terms with Germany, allowing a great deal of German forces
to be moved from the eastern to the western front. This put huge pressure on the British and
French armies, whom after three years of trench warfare were at their breaking point. Morale had plummeted and the threat of mass
desertions loomed. The Germans were all too aware of this and
thus prepared for a huge aggressive push against the allies using their recently freed up eastern
forces as shock troops. The only hope for the Allies was America’s
recent entry into the war. It had taken six months to train and ship
American forces to Europe, and they were still not at full strength when the Germans began
their advance. To make matters worse, American troops had
not seen combat against a well-disciplined and equipped foe since the War of 1812, and
many doubted the reliability of American troops- none more so than the Germans. Late in May, the Germans smashed into British
and French lines, breaking through the French lines in several places. The German army poured through this gap and
was well on its way to Paris, where it had previously been stopped by a miracle of French
logistics in 1914. This time though the French were exhausted,
and there would be no miracle coming. The only thing standing between Paris, and
France’s defeat, was a few under-strength brigades of American marines. The Americans quickly moved to block the German
advance on Paris, hastily digging shallow foxholes for themselves when suddenly French
forces in full retreat streamed past their position. One French general passed through the Marines
and called out to Marine Captain Lloyd Williams to join them in their retreat. Captain Williams responded with, “Retreat,
hell! We just got here!”. The following day the German army smashed
into the American forces, only to be bloodily repelled. Realizing they had finally met with the Americans,
German commanders ordered their forces to place all pressure possible on the Americans,
hoping to break them early in their first few weeks of the war. If the Americans broke, their demoralized
and exhausted British and French allies would break as well, and Germany could seize victory. Captain William’s response, “Retreat, hell!”,
has itself become an official Marine motto, and as history proved, the Americans did not
retreat, giving time for their allies to regroup and gather their strength. In what is perhaps the single most important
refusal to surrender in the face of overwhelming odds in modern history, Captain Williams and
his Marines ensured that the Allies would win World War I, and shape a future victory
in the second World War. Yet not every fight is a decisive turning
point in history, and sometimes surrender is the only viable option. Inevitably, this means that a soldier will
one day become a POW, and learning how to survive as one is critical. First, it’s important to note that each nation
has its own code of conduct for POWs, and their own goals that soldiers should strive
for while captive. Today we’ll be talking about the United States’
Code of Conduct for POWs, and it’s important to note that in the American military it is
not only expected, but mandated, that POWs continue to resist the enemy as long, and
as effectively as possible, even from captivity. American POWs are expected to attempt to escape
and rejoin friendly forces in order to carry the fight once more, they are not expected
to simply remain put in their prison camps and wait for war’s end or negotiations. That having been said, the American Code of
Conduct for POWs is meant to instill discipline and a sense of purpose in captured soldiers. Maintaining one’s morale and discipline is
not only important for survival, but important for resisting an enemy’s attempts to gather
intelligence which could be used to set back American military forces. Thus the Code of Conduct aims to raise a POW’s
morale and give them a sense of duty and purpose. Article 1 of the CoC states- 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. This article is self-explanatory, and a soldier
should expect that he may be asked to give up his life for his nation- even in captivity. For an American soldier, the fight is not
finished just because you are captured. Article 2 of the CoC states- 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. This article may sound antithetical to our
previous point about choosing when to surrender and when not to, but the important part lies
in the last few words of the article: still have the means to resist. That means that an American soldier is not
to surrender as long as they have the means to resist. Remember our earlier scenario of facing down
a column of tanks with just your trusty rifle? That is not the appropriate means of resistance,
and surrender would be considered honorable. No military commander enjoys wasting lives
needlessly. The battle of Chosin Reservoir in the Korean
War is the perfect example of when surrender is not acceptable. In this battle an American Marine division,
reinforced with smaller UN units, faced off against vastly greater in number Chinese forces. Completely surrounded and overwhelmed by a
ratio of 4 to 1, American Marine Major Oliver P. Smith ordered a fighting withdrawal instead
of the surrender demanded by the Chinese. Though the Chinese forces vastly outnumbered
the UN forces, the UN forces were better equipped and better trained, and ended up inflicting
horrific casualties on the Chinese, effectively reducing the number of divisions they had
in Korea from 30 to 18. As long as an American soldier has the means
to effectively resist the enemy, he is expected to not surrender. Article three states- 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. This article highlights the duty an American
soldier has to continue resisting the enemy, even in capture. It may seem futile to attempt resistance while
as a POW, but providing security for enemy combatants can actually be a huge drain of
resources for the enemy. Every soldier that you force the enemy to
stand guard over you is another soldier that isn’t on the front lines, so even if you fail
to escape your prison camp, simply trying to escape will force the enemy to shift resources
away from the battle. Of course your ultimate aim is escape though,
and then the rejoining of a friendly unit. However, while a POW, an American soldier
is never to accept any form of favors or perks over his fellow prisoners. This is to prevent the enemy from manipulating
a soldier into divulging intelligence, or to allow the enemy to breed resentment amongst
other soldiers and thus destroy the chain of command and spirit of teamwork amongst
POWs. Article four states- 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. The aim of Article Four is to ensure that
the chain of command is unbroken even in captivity. Just because you’re a POW it doesn’t mean
you’re no longer a soldier, and having a strong chain of command can make the act of resistance
much more effective. You are also never to violate the trust of
your fellow prisoners, whether they be American or from another allied nation, and are expected
to work together in your resistance of the enemy. Article Five states- 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. In order to prevent the enemy from exploiting
an American POW for their benefit, or to gain important intelligence, POWs are expected
to never cooperate with the enemy, and to divulge only information useful for administrative
purposes. Cooperating with the enemy in the production
of propaganda is the single most dishonorable act a POW can do, as this lowers morale back
home and might give an enemy domestic or international credibility for their cause which strengthens
their resolve to fight. Famously, some American POWs were exploited
for propaganda purposes during the Korean and Vietnam war, though many of those who
took part took the opportunity to relay secret messages back to friendly forces through the
use of morse code. One prisoner in Vietnam blinked out the word
torture in his false statement, bringing international condemnation against North Vietnam and the
Soviet Union, who supported the nation. Lastly, Article Six states- 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. Article six is meant to keep morale high amongst
POWs, as the experience of being an enemy prisoner of war can be a very trying and stressful
experience. The statement that an American soldier is
fighting for freedom can certainly be questioned in several of America’s recent conflicts,
but when faced with an extremely stressful situation, as well as possible poor treatment
or outright torture, keeping faith in one’s nation is critical to resisting an enemy’s
attempts to gather intelligence or exploit a POW for their own benefit. As with many challenging situations in life,
the ultimate key to survival for a POW is to keep their spirits, and their faith in
their nation, high. Life for a POW can be difficult, and at times
even outright horrible. While most nations abide by the Geneva Conventions
on the treatment of prisoners of war, many Americans have fallen prey to torture and
abuse. Keeping the Code of Conduct however is critical
for survival as a POW, and probably best exemplified by the late American senator John McCain’s
own ordeal in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. There McCain faced torture for months on end,
and yet when offered an early release because of his father’s political status, McCain refused,
knowing that such release would be used as a propaganda tool by the North Vietnamese. Instead he chose to suffer alongside his fellow
inmates until they were released together. McCain not only exemplified the American Code
of Conduct for Prisoners of War, but the most heroic qualities of a soldier. Think you could survive as a Prisoner of War? How would you try to resist? Tell us in the comments! Now go watch our other video “What Is Not
Allowed In War?” As always if you enjoyed this video don’t
forget to Like, Share, and Subscribe for more great content!

100 thoughts on “How To Survive as a Prisoner of War”

  1. I really don’t want to hear an American daying shockingly how many Americans have fallen victim of torture whilst POWs by those which don’t follow the Geneva conventions. Ever heard of water boarding done in a little bay offshore…….
    The infographics channel is so pro America it is insane and they try their best to always fit America in as the hero.

  2. I don't understand how these americans are so hypocrites???
    they are the people who torture peoples and invade other people's countries.And they are talking about honor and freedom.
    pathetic

  3. I injured my low-spine (L4/L5 & L5/S1), blew out the lebrum (cartilage) in my left hip (didn't know for almost 3yrs, due to the sciatica down my left leg from my spine injury!). It cost me my job, my military career and eventually my home. I also fought off thoughts of suicide. It's F#$&ed up that I was let down like that; if we could use a bit of that $600 Billion Military Spending on VETERANS, it would make a HUGE DIFFERENCE! I'm STILL Fighting for my VA+Social Security for help…

  4. I encourage everyone to look up the USS Pueblo incident It is an example of American and adherents to the Code of Conduct by the United States Navy

  5. If you surrender your gonna be beheaded,tortured,malnourished,etc. This is not WWI or WWII. It’s a possible war against terrorist or America’s competition with Russia and its allies

  6. How to survive as a prisoner of war

    Infographics: Gives history lesson, digresses, and doesn’t tell you how to survive

  7. When I was starting to learn about war in school and home, I literally thought that P.O.W actually meant POW!! As in the actual sound pow makes! 🤦🏻‍♀️😬

  8. The smoking snakes, the very definition of "Never surrender".
    3 dudes surrounded by germans, out of ammo, and they still refused to surrender. xD

  9. Infographic: How to survive being a POW?

    Prisoner with me: "Hey you, you're finally awake. You were trying to cross the border right?"

  10. This is why you gotta be a great liar guys…. You can confuse the enemy if you are a great liar…

    Oh also did you guys forget about the Geneva Convention Laws and how POWs are to not be tortured or abused physically / verbally.

  11. war never changes??… didn we fight each other with swords a few hundred years ago…. don't even get me started on strategies

  12. 0:40, I'm sorry but if that Rambo looking guy is indeed Rambo, he won't surrender, that tank is going down, and every shell fired Rambo's way will miss.

  13. What I expected: A guide how to survive as a P.O.W

    What I got: A guide how to act best in the interest of my country as a P.O.W

  14. I don’t 100% agree with your statements here. There were literally millions of dead heroes as a result of WWII alone to ensure that I could have to opportunity to serve my country and have the life I have now.

  15. " by a miracle of French logistics " ? I'd debate whoever wrote that line in person and make them eat these words. Our boys fight shoulder by shoulder with yours in Afghanistan, wasn't any different back then, "miracle".

  16. If these are the rules a U.S. POW is expected to follow, then why do we have the same goals as a potential captor? To answer the question of the video though. I would not survive, I'm pretty sure if I was facing a terrorist group or insurgents I would go out like that Russian Pilot in Syria, I would surrender and as the enemy approached I would pull the pin on a grenade and wait.

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