Former POWs describe abuse by the Iraqis U.S. prisoners of Iraqis deny they were tortured.

March 15, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Former U.S. prisoners-of-war said yesterday that Iraqi interrogators hit their captives in several cases and administered repeated shocks to an Air Force pilot by wrapping electrical wires around his ears and chin.

The captured U.S. servicemen scraped calendars into the walls of their cells, prayed, paced for miles in their solitary confinement, and played "little mental games" to overcome what one former POW called the "loneliness and uncertainty of not knowing what was going on," they said during their first encounter with the press since their release from captivity.

But although one of the returnees, Marine Capt. Russell A.C. Sanborn, called his captivity "a terrifying experience," the group described more mental anguish than physical cruelty at the hands of Iraqi forces.

"It's very difficult when you lose your freedom," said Marine Capt. Michael C. Berryman, the pilot of an AV-8B Harrier attack jet. "Especially as Americans, you don't realize what you have 'til you lose it."

U.S. aviators who submitted to televised Iraqi interviews said yesterday they hoped to use the broadcasts for positive purposes. Marine Lt. Col. Clifford Acree, of Oceanside, Calif., the commanding officer of a Marine air squadron who was pictured in videotapes, said he wanted to relay crucial intelligence to allied forces in his interviews -- that in spite of the near-disappearance of Iraqi surface-to-air missiles as a threat, the weapons were still being used effectively and had brought down his plane.

Lt. Lawrence R. Slade, a back-seater in a downed F-14 Tomcat, said that while he "was certainly worried how it would look," he submitted to being videotaped so that American authorities and his family would know he was alive.

Navy Lt. Jeffrey N. Zaun, who in the Iraqi tapes made statements critical of the United States, described how his bruised and lacerated face came to be shown on televisions around the world. Most of the damage was suffered as he ejected from his A-6 Intruder.

After being "a little bit slapped around" and bloodying his own nose to avoid being put before the camera, Zaun said he was brought to a television studio and was "told . . . five questions they were going to ask, then they told me what my answers were going to be."

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