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General who was held hostage now an example of how to survive

By NANCY MONTGOMERY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 5, 2005

In U.S. military anti-terrorism training currently under way, the American general kidnapped by Italy’s Red Brigades and held captive for six weeks is used as an example both of what to do and what not to do.

He was an exemplary hostage, who “maintained his composure and survived…,” according to the anti-terrorism training materials.

Yet Brig. Gen. James Dozier had been studied for a month by the leftist group before his kidnapping in December 1981. The terrorists considered kidnapping three other U.S. generals but “chose Dozier because his personal security was less rigorous,” the training materials say.

Dozier, now 76, a retired major general and a resident of Fort Myers, Fla., is OK with that.

“I’ve continued to be involved in the dynamics of international terrorism,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I teach hostage avoidance, and hostage survival, if you screw it up like I did.”

Dozier says he erred, along with others, in taking the threat of terrorism too lightly — especially when, as he says, the Red Brigades announced each fall a season of terrorist activity, with the aim of destabilizing the government.

Generals in Naples and Vicenza, Italy, were better protected, he said, living on base or with a security detail. But Dozier, then a brigadier general working for NATO, lived with his wife, Judy, in a penthouse apartment in Verona and had only an armed driver as security.

“Verona had been a backwater for years. ... We didn’t think we were threatened,” Dozier said.

“We were wrong, but we just didn’t take the threat seriously.”

Dozier’s kidnappers, after previously appearing at his door selling soap and reading the water meter — “indicators,” in retrospect, he said — got into the apartment by posing as plumbers. Dozier let them in, and “things went downhill from there,” Dozier said.

Dozier was trucked to an apartment in Padua. His captors made him wear headphones with music playing 24 hours a day. But they weren’t especially vicious, he said.

“They first started out with hard-rock tapes. It was awful,” he said. “I’d argue with the guards, and they’d turn the volume down. Finally, they changed to Gershwin tapes. At least the music was better.”

He and his captors didn’t talk much, he said, but he worked to make them see him as a human being, not just some military-political symbol — something he recommends when he gives talks such as the one he gave in Stuttgart last year for the U.S. Air Force’s Joint Special Operations University.

“There were two things I did: I was continuously asking about my wife; pretty soon they started bringing me news clippings about what she was doing,” Dozier said. “The other thing I did was to make myself a more reliable prisoner.” That meant he made himself predictable so his captors saw him as less threatening.

Dozier didn’t worry too much about being killed because usually the Red Brigades released its captives.

“It’s just like combat,” he said. “You do the best you can, rather than worrying about what’s going to happen.”

After he was freed in a raid carried out by Italy’s caribinieri police, Dozier said, he met with Gen. Frederick Kroesen, U.S. Army Europe commander who himself survived an assassination attempt in Heidelberg, to discuss security.

“The generals were running around carrying machine guns in their cars,” Dozier said. Kroesen was concerned that might lead to trouble.

“We decided it was better to rely on our security details than be John Wayne ourselves,” Dozier said.


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