NEAR THE IRAQI BORDER, Tuesday -- U.S. forces are building huge, barbed wire compounds to house as many as 20,000 prisoners expected to be captured during the first week of the ground offensive against Iraq.
The austere camps, where military and civilian prisoners wil be processed and where only minimal medical care will be available, were expected to be ready for use as early as yesterday, according to Maj. Gary Kosinuk, operations officer for the Army's 14th Military Police Brigade.
Army commanders are determined to move such large numbers of prisoners away from the front lines quickly so they will not
impede the U.S. drive into Iraq. The United States plans to use a fleet of military trucks, rented buses and other vehicles to ship prisoners hundreds of miles from the battlefield within two days of capture.
"The tempo of the battle is going to be swift," said Major Kosinuk, who is drawing up plans for the handling of prisoners by the Army's 2nd Corps. "If you have a large number of prisoners in the way, it slows down combat power."
Taking care of prisoners will require a huge commitment of resources and manpower by U.S. and allied forces. The Army's 14th MP Brigade, for instance, is expected to handle at least half the prisoners captured by U.S. troops during the early stages of a ground offensive. Fully 50 percent of the MPs deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of the 7th Corps will be assigned to transport and guard prisoners of war.
The temporary camps, which Major Kosinuk said are expected to process "a couple of thousand [prisoners] a day for the first couple of days," are intended to handle many more prisoners as the ground offensive proceeds.
Initially, prisoners will be kept in large open areas hemmed in by barbed wire, where officers, enlisted men and civilians will be segregated. Later, the Army hopes to set up tents and perhaps acquire permanent structures.
WITH U.S. MARINES, EASTERN SAUDI ARABIA -- If truth is war's first casualty, rumor is alive and well.
One of the more persistent rumors is that Saudi King Fahd offered to pay a $1,000 bonus to every Marine in his kingdom but that President Bush turned him down.
"Sure, I'd like to have the money, but if we took it we'd look like wimps," said Lance Cpl. Todd Plesco of East Detroit, Mich. "We'd look like some kind of slaves. The reason we're here is to take back Kuwait from Iraq."
Rumors flourish best in places like the foxhole shared by Corporal Plesco and Lance Cpl. Frank Weller of Pauling, Ohio.
When dawn broke Tuesday, they were manning an outpost on the perimeter of one of the allied forward bases in the desert.
They spent a lonely night, occasionally challenging fellow Marines with a gruff "Who goes there?"
Corporal Plesco, 21, and Corporal Weller, 20, have a lot of time on lonely nights on outpost duty to talk about how they might react when shooting starts.
"I think instinct will just take over, so I don't worry too much about it," said Corporal Plesco, who is engaged to be married.
"I just try not to think about it too much," said Corporal Weller.