Kidnap victim of Red Brigades tells his story
Stars and Stripes May 10, 2008
Friday marked the 30th anniversary of the death of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro at the hands of Italy’s infamous Red Brigades terrorist organization.
One of its victims who lived to tell his story was in Naples to talk of his experience.
Retired Maj. Gen. James Dozier’s presentation Friday morning was part of a weeklong course called “Dynamics of International Terrorism.” It was sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School in Florida, where Dozier now serves as an adjunct master professor.
The course gives attendees (primarily security personnel assigned throughout Europe, but also civilians) a global view of past and present terrorist activities and strategies, using real-world events and personal accounts.
Dozier was assigned to a NATO command in Verona when he was kidnapped from his apartment in December 1981 by two gunmen posing as plumbers. They chained up his wife in a utility room. Dozier was bound and stuffed into a trunk with no air vents, then driven to an apartment complex in Padua. He remained chained to a cot in a 6-foot-by-6-foot tent enclosure until rescued by Italian anti-terrorist forces six weeks later.
“For the first week, these guys were on an emotional high,” Dozier recalled. “If I even twitched, they reacted violently. I decided that I would make myself a reliable prisoner.” He did this by establishing a daily routine that put his captors at ease, allowing Dozier to better keep track of his days in captivity and loosely identify his surroundings.
“Once I could listen to the traffic outside, I could tell time. The sounds of traffic told me I was in an urban area somewhere between Verona and Padua,” Dozier said. He gives a great deal of credit to the Italian authorities — for the rescue and for their patience in dismantling the Red Brigades.
“The Italians did something that was pretty difficult to do,” he said. “They successfully rolled up a very sophisticated urban guerrilla organization that used terrorist tactics. They were able to do this without infringing one iota on the civil liberties of the people of Italy,” Dozier said. “No martial law was declared. No constitutional rights were suspended.”
The personal nature of Dozier’s story gave listeners something they won’t get in books, said Master Chief Petty Officer Rebecca Owens of Naval Station Rota.
“What he brings is a personal touch that case studies just can’t capture,” said Owens, who studied the Dozier case years ago. “I have a sense of cautiousness and situational awareness because of people like this.”
This awareness is what Dozier wants listeners to take from the course, in terms of personal survival. “When you’re in a situation like I was, you have to stay focused on the things you can control,” Dozier said. “You can’t let uncertainty be your guide.”