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Report: Army POWs feared they'd be killed

Former prisoners tell newspaper they were treated well overall

Shoshana Johnson being escorted to a plane after her rescue.
Shoshana Johnson being escorted to a plane after her rescue.

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FREED POWS
POW Profile: Edgar Hernandez 
POW Profile: Shoshana Johnson 
POW Profile: James Riley 
POW Profile: Ronald Young 
POW Profile: David Williams 
POW Profile: Joseph Hudson 
POW Profile: Patrick Miller 
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Defense Department video shows U.S. prisoners of war praising the troops who rescued them in Iraq (April 14)
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Families of the seven Americans rescued from Iraqi captivity celebrate after hearing the news of the rescue of their loved ones. (April 14)
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KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait (CNN) -- Seven American POWs rescued by U.S. Marines said they were treated well during their captivity but were constantly afraid they might be killed, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Peter Baker, who accompanied the soldiers on a transport plane from Iraq to Kuwait, said in an interview with CNN that the former POWs told him their days in captivity were filled with speculation and anxiety, though overall they were treated well. They were captured within the first few days of the war.

The seven were discovered Sunday by a group of Marines sent to Samarra, 75 miles [120 kilometers] north of Baghdad, to keep traffic from interfering with tanks headed to battle in Tikrit. When they got there, an Iraqi policeman walked up and asked if they had come for the prisoners. The policeman led the Marines to a nearby building where they found the U.S. soldiers under guard.

Sgt. James Riley, 31; Spc. Shoshana Johnson, 30; Spc. Joseph Hudson, 23; Spc. Edgar Hernandez, 21; and Pfc. Patrick Miller, 23 -- of the Army's 507th Maintenance Company -- along with chief warrant officers Ronald Young Jr., 26; and fellow Apache helicopter pilot David Williams, 30, were put on a helicopter and taken to an air base south of Baghdad, where they were put on a plane for Kuwait City, CNN correspondent Bob Franken reported.

The soldiers of the maintenance company were from the same unit as former POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who was rescued in a commando raid on a hospital last week.

The five from the 507th said they took a wrong turn in southern Iraq on March 23 and ended up in Nasiriya, where they were ambushed by Iraqi troops. Riley, the sergeant, said he felt he had no choice but to surrender his troops, whose weapons had jammed in the dust of the desert.

The soldiers were kicked and beaten when first captured, but the physical abuse subsided, they told Baker, and was replaced by the mental torture of not knowing their fate.

The Apache pilots were captured the following day when they were targeted by small arms fire and landed behind Iraqi lines. They ditched the helicopter, dove into a canal and swam away, but were caught by farmers waiting in a field with assault rifles.

All seven captives were taken to Baghdad, where they stayed about 12 days before they started to be moved every few nights. At one point, a bomb fell 50 yards from their prison.

The Iraqis questioned them, often using blindfolds, about why they were in Iraq.

Johnson, the only woman in the group, said she was treated physically more gently than her male colleagues. The Iraqis told her they had seen her mother in a television news broadcast.

She and two other soldiers were operated on by Iraqi doctors for gunshot wounds, Baker reported.

He said that as American troops got closer to where the POWs were being held, the prisoners felt they had become complication for the Iraqis. They were kept in individual cells initially, but as they began to be moved often, their guards began housing them together.

"They were thrilled to be out," Baker said. He quoted one soldier as saying, "I just kept thinking every morning I'd never seen my wife again."


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