Prisoner of war
Overview
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war (EPW) is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict. The earliest recorded usage of the phrase is dated 1660.
For most of human history, depending on the culture of the victors, combatants on the losing side in a battle could expect to be either slaughtered or enslaved
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

.
Encyclopedia
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war (EPW) is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict. The earliest recorded usage of the phrase is dated 1660.

Ancient times

For most of human history, depending on the culture of the victors, combatants on the losing side in a battle could expect to be either slaughtered or enslaved
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

. The first Roman gladiator
Gladiator
A gladiator was an armed combatant who entertained audiences in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire in violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals. Some gladiators were volunteers who risked their legal and social standing and their lives by appearing in the...

s were prisoners of war and were named according to their ethnic roots such as Samnite, Thracian and the Gaul (Gallus). Typically, little distinction was made between combatants and civilians, although women and children were more likely to be spared. Sometimes the purpose of a battle, if not a war, was to capture women, a practice known as raptio
Raptio
Raptio is a Latin term referring to the abduction of women, either for marriage or enslavement . In Roman Catholic canon law, raptio refers to the legal prohibition of matrimony if the bride was abducted forcibly...

; the Rape of the Sabines was a large mass abduction by the founders of Rome. Typically women had no rights
Women's rights
Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

, and were held legally as chattel.

In the fourth century AD, the Bishop Acacius of Amida
Acacius of Amida
Saint Acacius was Bishop of Amida, Mesopotamia in AD 400–425, during the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II.-Biography:...

, touched by the plight of Persian prisoners captured in a recent war with the Roman Empire—who were held in his town under appalling conditions and destined for a life of slavery, took the initiative of ransoming them, by selling his church's precious gold and silver vessels, and letting them return to their country. For this he was eventually canonized—which testifies to his act being exceptional.

Likewise the distinction between POW and slave is not always clear. Some Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 captured Europeans and used them as both labourers and bargaining chips; see for example John R. Jewitt
John R. Jewitt
John Rodgers Jewitt was an armourer who entered the historical record with his memoirs about the 28 months he spent as a captive of Maquinna of the Nuu-chah-nulth people on the Pacific Northwest Coast of what is now Canada...

, an Englishman who wrote a memoir about his years as a captive of the Nootka people on the Pacific Northwest
Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is a region in northwestern North America, bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west and, loosely, by the Rocky Mountains on the east. Definitions of the region vary and there is no commonly agreed upon boundary, even among Pacific Northwesterners. A common concept of the...

 Coast from 1802–1805.

Middle Ages and Renaissance

During Childeric
Childeric I
Childeric I was a Merovingian king of the Salian Franks and the father of Clovis.He succeeded his father Merovech as king, traditionally in 457 or 458...

's siege and blockade of Paris in 464, the nun Geneviève
Genevieve
St Genevieve , in Latin Sancta Genovefa, from Germanic keno and wefa , is the patron saint of Paris in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox tradition...

 (later canonised as the city's Patron Saint) pleaded with the Frankish King for the welfare of prisoners of war and met with a favourable response. Later, Clovis I
Clovis I
Clovis Leuthwig was the first King of the Franks to unite all the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the leadership from a group of royal chieftains, to rule by kings, ensuring that the kingship was held by his heirs. He was also the first Catholic King to rule over Gaul . He was the son...

 liberated captives after Genevieve urged him to do so.

In the later Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, a number of religious war
Religious war
A religious war; Latin: bellum sacrum; is a war caused by, or justified by, religious differences. It can involve one state with an established religion against another state with a different religion or a different sect within the same religion, or a religiously motivated group attempting to...

s aimed to not only defeat but eliminate their enemies. In Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 Europe, the extermination of the heretics
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

 or "non-believers" was considered desirable. Examples include the 13th century Albigensian Crusade
Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc...

 and the Northern Crusades
Northern Crusades
The Northern Crusades or Baltic Crusades were crusades undertaken by the Christian kings of Denmark and Sweden, the German Livonian and Teutonic military orders, and their allies against the pagan peoples of Northern Europe around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea...

. When asked by a Crusader how to distinguish between the Catholics and Cathars once they'd taken the city of Béziers
Béziers
Béziers is a town in Languedoc in southern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the Hérault department. Béziers hosts the famous Feria de Béziers, centred around bullfighting, every August. A million visitors are attracted to the five-day event...

, the Papal Legate Arnaud Amalric
Arnaud Amalric
Arnaud Amalric was a Cistercian church leader who took a prominent role in the Albigensian Crusade. He is remembered for allegedly giving advice to a soldier wondering how to distinguish the Catholic friendlies from the Cathar enemies to just "Kill them all...

 famously replied, "Kill them all, God will know His own".

Likewise the inhabitants of conquered cities were frequently massacred during the Crusades
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

 against the Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

s in the 11th and 12th centuries. Noblemen could hope to be ransom
Ransom
Ransom is the practice of holding a prisoner or item to extort money or property to secure their release, or it can refer to the sum of money involved.In an early German law, a similar concept was called bad influence...

ed; their families would have to send to their captors large sums of wealth commensurate with the social status of the captive. Many French prisoners of war were killed during the Battle of Agincourt
Battle of Agincourt
The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory against a numerically superior French army in the Hundred Years' War. The battle occurred on Friday, 25 October 1415 , near modern-day Azincourt, in northern France...

 in 1415. In feudal Japan there was no custom of ransoming prisoners of war, who were for the most part summarily executed.

Every city or town that refused surrender and resisted the Mongols
Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire , initially named as Greater Mongol State was a great empire during the 13th and 14th centuries...

 was subject to destruction. In Termez
Termez
Termez is a city in southern Uzbekistan near the border with Afghanistan.Some link the name of the city to thermos, "hot" in Greek, tracing its name back to Alexander the Great. Others suggest that it came from Sanskrit taramato, meaning "on the river bank". It is the hottest point of Uzbekistan...

, on the Oxus: "all the people, both men and women, were driven out onto the plain, and divided in accordance with their usual custom, then they were all slain". The Aztec
Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

s were constantly at war with neighbouring tribes and groups. The goal of this constant warfare was to collect live prisoners for sacrifice
Human sacrifice
Human sacrifice is the act of killing one or more human beings as part of a religious ritual . Its typology closely parallels the various practices of ritual slaughter of animals and of religious sacrifice in general. Human sacrifice has been practised in various cultures throughout history...

.

For the re-consecration of Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan
Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan
The ' was one of the main temples of the Aztecs in their capital city of Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City. Its architectural style belongs to the late Postclassic period of Mesoamerica...

 in 1487, the Aztecs reported that they sacrificed about 80,400 people over the course of four days. According to Ross Hassing, author of Aztec Warfare, "between 10,000 and 80,400 persons" were sacrificed in the ceremony. In Mayan
Maya civilization
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period The Maya is a Mesoamerican...

 civilization of Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

 more than a thousand years ago, prisoners of war were paraded before the king and his royal cohort and subjected to ritual humiliation and torture.

In pre-Islamic Arabia
Pre-Islamic Arabia
Pre-Islamic Arabia refers to the Arabic civilization which existed in the Arabian Plate before the rise of Islam in the 630s. The study of Pre-Islamic Arabia is important to Islamic studies as it provides the context for the development of Islam.-Studies:...

, upon capture, those captives not executed were made to beg for their subsistence. During the early reforms under Islam
Early reforms under Islam
Many social changes took place under Islam between 610 and 661, including the period of Muhammad's mission and the rule of his four immediate successors who established the Rashidun Caliphate....

, Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 changed this custom and made it the responsibility of the Islamic government to provide food and clothing, on a reasonable basis, to captives, regardless of their religion. If the prisoners were in the custody of a person, then the responsibility was on the individual. He established the rule that prisoners of war must be guarded and not ill-treated, and that after the fighting was over, the prisoners were expected to be either released or ransomed.

The freeing of prisoners in particular was highly recommended as a charitable act. Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 was the first city to have the benevolent code applied. It is misunderstood that the leader of the Muslim force capturing non-Muslim prisoners could choose whether to kill prisoners, to ransom them, to enslave them, or to cut off their hands and feet on alternate sides because this law is applied not to the of wars but instead to people (either Muslims or non-Muslims) who do mischief in the land, gangsters, killers of the people for robbery or raping of women or children. However, Christians who were captured in the Crusades, combatants and noncombatants alike, were sold into slavery if they could not pay a ransom.

Modern times

The 1648 Peace of Westphalia
Peace of Westphalia
The Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October of 1648 in Osnabrück and Münster. These treaties ended the Thirty Years' War in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years' War between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the...

, which ended the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

, established the rule that prisoners of war should be released without ransom at the end of hostilities and that they should be allowed to return to their homelands.

There also evolved the right of parole, French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 for "discourse", in which a captured officer surrendered his sword and gave his word as a gentleman in exchange for privileges. If he swore not to escape, he could gain better accommodations and the freedom of the prison. If he swore to cease hostilities against the nation who held him captive, he could be repatriated or exchanged but could not serve against his former captors in a military capacity.

About 56,000 soldiers died in prisons during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

—almost 10% of all Civil War fatalities. During the 14 months the Camp Sumter, located near Andersonville, Georgia
Andersonville, Georgia
Andersonville is a city in Sumter County, Georgia, United States. The population was 331 at the 2000 census . It is located in the southwest part of the state, about southwest of Macon, Georgia on the Central of Georgia railroad...

, existed, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here. Of these, almost 13,000 (28%) died. At Camp Douglas
Camp Douglas (Chicago)
Camp Douglas, in Chicago, Illinois, was a Union Army prisoner-of-war camp for Confederate soldiers taken prisoner during the American Civil War. It was also a training and detention camp for Union soldiers. The Union Army first used the camp in 1861 as an organizational and training camp for...

 in Chicago, Illinois, 10% of its Confederate prisoners died during one cold winter month; and Elmira Prison
Elmira Prison
Elmira Prison was a prisoner-of-war camp constructed by the Union Army in Elmira, New York, during the American Civil War to house captive Confederate soldiers....

 in New York state, with a death rate of 25%, very nearly equalled that of Andersonville.

During the 19th century, there were increased efforts to improve the treatment and processing of prisoners. The extensive period of conflict during the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 (or American War of Independence) and Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 (1793–1815), followed by the Anglo-American War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

, led to the emergence of a cartel
Cartel
A cartel is a formal agreement among competing firms. It is a formal organization of producers and manufacturers that agree to fix prices, marketing, and production. Cartels usually occur in an oligopolistic industry, where there is a small number of sellers and usually involve homogeneous products...

 system for the exchange of prisoners, even while the belligerents were at war. A cartel was usually arranged by the respective armed service for the exchange of like-ranked personnel. The aim was to achieve a reduction in the number of prisoners held, while at the same time alleviating shortages of skilled personnel in the home country.

Later, as a result of these emerging conventions a number of international conferences were held, starting with the Brussels Conference of 1874, with nations agreeing that it was necessary to prevent inhumane treatment of prisoners and the use of weapons causing unnecessary harm. Although no agreements were immediately ratified by the participating nations, work was continued that resulted in new conventions
Treaty
A treaty is an express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an agreement, protocol, covenant, convention or exchange of letters, among other terms...

 being adopted and becoming recognized as international law
International law
Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

 that specified that prisoners of war be treated humanely and diplomatically.

Hague and Geneva Conventions

Specifically, Chapter II of the Annex to the 1907 Hague Convention
Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
The Hague Conventions were two international treaties negotiated at international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907...

 covered the treatment of prisoners of war in detail. These were further expanded in the Third Geneva Convention
Third Geneva Convention
The Third Geneva Convention, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was first adopted in 1929, but was significantly updated in 1949...

 of 1929, and its revision of 1949.

Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention
Third Geneva Convention
The Third Geneva Convention, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was first adopted in 1929, but was significantly updated in 1949...

 protects captured military personnel
Military personnel
Military personnel is a blanket term used to refer to members of any armed force. Usually, military personnel are divided into branches of service roughly defined by certain circumstances of the deployment of the personnel. Those who serve in a typical large land force are soldiers, making up an...

, some guerrilla
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 fighters and certain civilians. It applies from the moment a prisoner is captured until he or she is released or repatriated. One of the main provisions of the convention makes it illegal to torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 prisoners and states that a prisoner can only be required to give their name, date of birth, rank and service number (if applicable).

However, nation
Nation
A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders. However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government irrespective of their ethnic make-up...

s vary in their dedication to following these laws, and historically the treatment of POWs has varied greatly. During the 20th century, Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 were notorious for atrocities against prisoners during World War II. The German military used the Soviet Union's refusal to sign the Geneva Convention as a reason for not providing the necessities of life to Russian POWs; and the Soviets similarly killed Axis prisoners or used them as slave labor. North Korean and North and South Vietnamese forces routinely killed or mistreated prisoners taken during those conflicts.

Qualifications

To be entitled to prisoner-of-war status, captured service members must be lawful combatants entitled to combatant's privilege—which gives them immunity from punishment for crimes constituting lawful acts of war such as killing enemy troops. To qualify under the Third Geneva Convention, a combatant must have conducted military operations according to the laws and customs of war
Laws of war
The law of war is a body of law concerning acceptable justifications to engage in war and the limits to acceptable wartime conduct...

, be part of a chain of command
Chain of Command
Chain of Command may refer to:* Chain of command, in a military context, the line of authority and responsibility along which orders are passed* "Chain of Command" , the fifth episode of the first season of Beast Wars...

, wear a "fixed distinctive marking, visible from a distance" and bear arms openly.

Thus, uniforms and/or badges are important in determining prisoner-of-war status; and francs-tireurs
Francs-tireurs
Francs-tireurs – literally "free shooters" – was used to describe irregular military formations deployed by France during the early stages of the Franco-Prussian War...

, terrorists
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

, saboteurs
Sabotage
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is...

, mercenaries
Mercenary
A mercenary, is a person who takes part in an armed conflict based on the promise of material compensation rather than having a direct interest in, or a legal obligation to, the conflict itself. A non-conscript professional member of a regular army is not considered to be a mercenary although he...

 and spies
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

 do not qualify. In practice, these criteria are rarely interpreted strictly. Guerrillas, for example, usually do not wear a uniform or carry arms openly, but captured guerrillas are often granted POW status.

The criteria are applied primarily to international armed conflicts; in civil wars, insurgents are often treated as traitors or criminals by government forces, and are sometimes executed. However, in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, both sides treated captured troops as POWs, presumably out of reciprocity
Reciprocity (international relations)
In international relations and treaties, the principle of reciprocity states that favours, benefits, or penalties that are granted by one state to the citizens or legal entities of another, should be returned in kind....

, although the Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

 regarded Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 personnel as separatist rebels. However, guerrillas and other irregular combatants generally cannot expect to receive benefits from both civilian and military status simultaneously.

The United States Military Code of Conduct

The United States Military Code of Conduct
The United States Military Code of Conduct
The Code of the U.S. Fighting Force is a code of conduct that is an "ethical guide" and a United States Department of Defense directive consisting of six articles to members of the U.S. armed forces addressing how U.S. personnel in combat should act when they must "evade capture, resist while a...

 was promulgated in 1955 via Executive Order 10631 under President Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve as a moral code for United States service members who have been taken prisoner. It was created primarily in response to the breakdown of leadership and organization, specifically when US forces were POWs during the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

.

When a military member is taken prisoner, the Code of Conduct reminds them that the chain of command is still in effect (the highest ranking service member eligible for command, regardless of service branch, is in command), and requires them to support their leadership. The Code of Conduct also requires service members to resist giving information beyond identifying themselves, receive special favors or parole, or otherwise provide their enemy captors aid and comfort.

Since the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, the official US military term for enemy POWs is EPW (Enemy Prisoner of War). This name change was introduced in order to distinguish between enemy and US captives.

World War I

During World War I, about 8 million men surrendered and were held in POW camps until the war ended. All nations pledged to follow the Hague rules on fair treatment of prisoners of war, and in general the POWs had a much higher survival rate than their peers who were not captured. Individual surrenders were uncommon; usually a large unit surrendered all its men. At Tannenberg
Battle of Tannenberg (1914)
The Battle of Tannenberg was an engagement between the Russian Empire and the German Empire in the first days of World War I. It was fought by the Russian First and Second Armies against the German Eighth Army between 23 August and 30 August 1914. The battle resulted in the almost complete...

 92,000 Russians surrendered during the battle. When the besieged garrison of Kaunas
Kaunas
Kaunas is the second-largest city in Lithuania and has historically been a leading centre of Lithuanian economic, academic, and cultural life. Kaunas was the biggest city and the center of a powiat in Trakai Voivodeship of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since 1413. During Russian Empire occupation...

 surrendered in 1915, 20,000 Russians became prisoners. Over half the Russian losses were prisoners as a proportion of those captured, wounded or killed. About 3.3 million men became prisoners.

The German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 held 2.5 million prisoners; Russia
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 held 2.9 million, and Britain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 and France
French Third Republic
The French Third Republic was the republican government of France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed due to the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, to 1940, when France was overrun by Nazi Germany during World War II, resulting in the German and Italian occupations of France...

 held about 720,000, mostly gained in the period just before the Armistice
Armistice
An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, but may be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace...

 in 1918. The US held 48,000. The most dangerous moment was the act of surrender, when helpless soldiers were sometimes shot down. Once prisoners reached a POW camp conditions were better (and often much better than in World War II), thanks in part to the efforts of the International Red Cross and inspections by neutral nations.

There was however much harsh treatment of POWs in Germany, as recorded by the American ambassador to Germany (prior to America's entry into the war), James W. Gerard, who published his findings in "My Four Years in Germany". Even worse conditions are reported in the book "Escape of a Princess Pat" by the Canadian George Pearson. It was particularly bad in Russia, where starvation was common for prisoners and civilians alike; roughly 25% of its 2 to 2.4 million POWs died in captivity. Nearly 375,000 of the 500,000 Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war taken by Russians perished in Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

 from smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 and typhus
Typhus
Epidemic typhus is a form of typhus so named because the disease often causes epidemics following wars and natural disasters...

. In Germany food was short but only 5% died.

The Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 often treated prisoners of war poorly. Some 11,800 British soldiers, most of them Indians, became prisoners after the five-month Siege of Kut
Siege of Kut
The siege of Kut Al Amara , was the besieging of 8,000 strong British-Indian garrison in the town of Kut, 100 miles south of Baghdad, by the Ottoman Army. Its known also as 1st Battle of Kut. In 1915, its population was around 6,500...

, in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, in April 1916. Many were weak and starved when they surrendered and 4,250 died in captivity.

During the Sinai and Palestine campaign
Sinai and Palestine Campaign
The Sinai and Palestine Campaigns took place in the Middle Eastern Theatre of World War I. A series of battles were fought between British Empire, German Empire and Ottoman Empire forces from 26 January 1915 to 31 October 1918, when the Armistice of Mudros was signed between the Ottoman Empire and...

 217 Australian and unknown numbers of British, New Zealand and Indian soldiers were captured by Ottoman Empire forces. About 50% of the Australian prisoners were light horsemen including 48 missing believed captured on 1 May 1918 in the Jordan Valley. Australian Flying Corps pilots and observers were captured in the Sinai Peninsula, Palestine and the Levant. One third of all Australian prisoners were captured on Gallipoli including the crew of the submarine AE2 which made a passage through the Dardanelles in 1915. Forced marches and crowded railway journeys preceded years in camps where disease, poor diet and inadequate medical facilities prevailed. About 25 % of other ranks died, many from malnutrition, while only one officer died.

The most curious case came in Russia where the Czechoslovak Legion of Czechoslovak prisoners (from the Austro-Hungarian army): they were released in 1917, armed themselves, briefly culminating into a military and diplomatic force during the Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

.

Release of prisoners

At the end of the war in 1918 there were believed to be 140,000 British prisoners of war in Germany, including 3,000 internees held in neutral Switzerland. The first British prisoners were released and reached Calais
Calais
Calais is a town in Northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's capital is its third-largest city of Arras....

 on 15 November. Plans were made for them to be sent via Dunkirk to Dover
Dover
Dover is a town and major ferry port in the home county of Kent, in South East England. It faces France across the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury; east of Kent's administrative capital Maidstone; and north-east along the coastline from Dungeness and Hastings...

 and a large reception camp was established at Dover capable of housing 40,000 men, which could later be used for demobilisation.

On 13 December 1918 the armistice was extended and the Allies reported that by 9 December 264,000 prisoners had been repatriated. A very large number of these had been released en masse and sent across Allied lines without any food or shelter. This created difficulties for the receiving Allies and many released prisoners died from exhaustion. The released POWs were met by cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 troops and sent back through the lines in lorries to reception centres where they were refitted with boots and clothing and dispatched to the ports in trains.

Upon arrival at the receiving camp the POWs were registered and "boarded" before being dispatched to their own homes. All commissioned officers had to write a report on the circumstances of their capture and to ensure that they had done all they could to avoid capture. Each returning officer and man was given a message from King George V
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

, written in his own hand and reproduced on a lithograph. It read as follows:
While the Allied prisoners were sent home at the end of the war, the same treatment was not granted to Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

 prisoners of the Allies and Russia, many of which had to serve as forced labour, e.g. in France, until 1920. They were released after many approaches by the ICRC to the Allied Supreme Council.

World War II

Niall Ferguson
Niall Ferguson
Niall Campbell Douglas Ferguson is a British historian. His specialty is financial and economic history, particularly hyperinflation and the bond markets, as well as the history of colonialism.....

 tabulated the total death rate for POWs in World War II as follows:
  Percentage of
POWs that Died
Russian POWs held by Germans 57.5%
German POWs held by Russians 35.8%
American POWs held by Japanese 33.0%
German POWs held by Eastern Europeans 32.9%
British POWs held by Japanese 24.8%
British POWs held by Germans 3.5%
German POWs held by French 2.58%
German POWs held by Americans 0.15%
German POWs held by British 0.03%

Empire of Japan


The Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

, which had never signed the Second Geneva Convention of 1929
Geneva Convention (1929)
The Geneva Convention was signed at Geneva, July 27, 1929. Its official name is the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva July 27, 1929. It entered into force 19 June 1931. It is this version of the Geneva Conventions which covered the treatment of prisoners of war...

, also did not treat prisoners of war in accordance with international agreements, including provisions of the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
The Hague Conventions were two international treaties negotiated at international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907...

, either during the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

 or during the Pacific War
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

. Moreover, according to a directive ratified on 5 August 1937 by Hirohito
Hirohito
, posthumously in Japan officially called Emperor Shōwa or , was the 124th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order, reigning from December 25, 1926, until his death in 1989. Although better known outside of Japan by his personal name Hirohito, in Japan he is now referred to...

, the constraints of the Hague Conventions were explicitly removed on Chinese prisoners.

Prisoners of war from China, the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the Philippines held by the Japanese armed forces were subject to murder, beatings, summary punishment, brutal treatment, forced labour
Slavery in Japan
During most of the history of the country, the practice of slavery in Japan involved only indigenous Japanese, as the export and import of slaves was significantly restricted by isolation of the group of islands from other areas of Asia...

, medical experimentation
Unit 731
was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that undertook lethal human experimentation during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. It was responsible for some of the most notorious war crimes carried out by Japanese...

, starvation rations and poor medical treatment. The most notorious use of forced labour was in the construction of the Burma–Thailand Death Railway
Death Railway
The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, the Thailand–Burma Railway and similar names, was a railway between Bangkok, Thailand, and Rangoon, Burma , built by the Empire of Japan during World War II, to support its forces in the Burma campaign.Forced labour was used in its construction...

.

According to the findings of the Tokyo Tribunal
International Military Tribunal for the Far East
The International Military Tribunal for the Far East , also known as the Tokyo Trials, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, or simply the Tribunal, was convened on April 29, 1946, to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for three types of crimes: "Class A" crimes were reserved for those who...

, the death rate of Western prisoners was 27.1%, seven times that of POWs under the Germans and Italians. The death rate of Chinese was much larger. Thus, while 37,583 prisoners from the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and Dominions, 28,500 from Netherlands and 14,473 from the United States were released after the surrender of Japan
Surrender of Japan
The surrender of Japan in 1945 brought hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy was incapable of conducting operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent...

, the number for the Chinese was only 56. After the war, it became clear that there existed a high command order – issued from the War Ministry in Tokyo – to kill all remaining POWs.

No direct access to the POWs was provided to the International Red Cross. Escapes among Caucasian prisoners were almost impossible because of the difficulty of men of Caucasian descent hiding in Asiatic societies.

Allied POW camps and ship-transports were sometimes accidental targets of Allied attacks. The number of deaths which occurred when Japanese "hell ship
Hell Ship
A hell ship is a ship with extremely unpleasant living conditions or with a reputation for cruelty among the crew. It now generally refers to the ships used by the Imperial Japanese Navy to transport Allied prisoners of war out of the Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore during World War II. The...

s"—unmarked transport ships in which POWs were transported in harsh conditions—were attacked by US Navy submarines was particularly high. Gavan Daws has calculated that "of all POWs who died in the Pacific War, one in three was killed on the water by friendly fire". Daves states that 10,800 of the 50,000 POWs shipped by the Japanese were killed at sea while Donald L. Miller states that "approximately 21,000 Allied POWs died at sea, about 19,000 of them killed by friendly fire."

Life in the POW camps was recorded at great risk to themselves by artists such as Jack Bridger Chalker
Jack Bridger Chalker
Jack Bridger Chalker is an artist best known for his work recording the lives of prisoners of war in World War II....

, Philip Meninsky
Philip Meninsky
Philip Meninsky was the son of Bernard Meninsky. Despite an early passion for art, at his father's wish, he initially trained as an accountant, before being called up for National Service....

, Ashley George Old
Ashley George Old
Ashley George Old was an artist best known for documenting the lives of prisoners of war forced to construct the Thailand-Burma railway...

 and Ronald Searle
Ronald Searle
Ronald William Fordham Searle, CBE, RDI, is a British artist and cartoonist, best known as the creator of St Trinian's School. He is also the co-author of the Molesworth series....

. Human hair was often used for brushes, plant juices and blood for paint, and toilet paper as the "canvas". Some of their works were used as evidence in the trials of Japanese war criminals.
Western Allied POWs

Germany and Italy generally treated prisoners from the British Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, France, the USA and other western Allies in accordance with the Geneva Convention (1929)
Geneva Convention (1929)
The Geneva Convention was signed at Geneva, July 27, 1929. Its official name is the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva July 27, 1929. It entered into force 19 June 1931. It is this version of the Geneva Conventions which covered the treatment of prisoners of war...

, which had been signed by these countries. Consequently, western Allied officers were not usually made to work and personnel of lower rank were usually compensated, or not required to work either. The main complaints of western Allied prisoners of war in German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 POW camps—especially during the last two years of the war—concerned shortages of food, although this fate was shared by German personnel and civilians, due to blockade
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

 conditions.

Only a small proportion of western Allied POWs who were Jews—or whom the Nazis believed to be Jewish—were killed as part of the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

 or were subjected to other antisemitic policies. For example, Major Yitzhak Ben-Aharon
Yitzhak Ben-Aharon
Yitzhak Ben-Aharon was an Israeli left-wing politician.He was a Knesset member from the first to the fifth Knessets and in the seventh and eighth, and a former Minister of Transport and General secretary of the Histadrut. The philosopher Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon is his son.-Early life and...

, a Palestinian Jew
Palestinian Jew
A Palestinian Jew is a Jewish inhabitant of Palestine at various points in the region's history . Jews in Palestine prior to the establishment of the State of Israel are more commonly referred to as "Yishuv"...

 who had enlisted in the British Army, and who was captured by the Germans in Greece in 1941, experienced four years of captivity under entirely normal conditions for POWs.

However, a small number of Allied personnel were sent to concentration camps, for a variety of reasons including being Jewish. As the US historian Joseph Robert White put it: "An important exception ... is the sub-camp for U.S. POWs at Berga an der Elster
Berga, Thuringia
Berga/Elster is a town in the district of Greiz, in Thuringia, Germany. It is situated on the river Weiße Elster, 14 km southeast of Gera....

, officially called Arbeitskommando
Arbeitslager
Arbeitslager is a German language word which means labor camp.The German government under Nazism used forced labor extensively, starting in the 1930s but most especially during World War II....

 625
[also known as Stalag IX-B
Stalag IX-B
Stalag IX-B also known as Bad Orb was a World War II German Army POW camp at Wegscheide close to Bad Orb in the province of Hesse, Germany...

]. Berga was the deadliest work detachment for American captives in Germany. 73 men who participated, or 21 percent of the detachment, perished in two months. 80 of the 350 POWs were Jews." Another well-known example was a group of 168 Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n, British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, Canadian
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 and US aviators who were held for two months at Buchenwald concentration camp
Buchenwald concentration camp
Buchenwald concentration camp was a German Nazi concentration camp established on the Ettersberg near Weimar, Germany, in July 1937, one of the first and the largest of the concentration camps on German soil.Camp prisoners from all over Europe and Russia—Jews, non-Jewish Poles and Slovenes,...

; two of the POWS died at Buchenwald. Two possible reasons have been suggested for this incident: German authorities wanted to make an example of Terrorflieger (“terrorist aviators”) and/or these aircrews were classified as spies, because they had been disguised as civilians when they were apprehended.

As Soviet ground forces approached some POW camps in early 1945, German guards forced western Allied POWs to walk
The March (1945)
"The March" refers to a series of death marches during the final stages of the Second World War in Europe. From a total of 257,000 western Allied prisoners of war held in German military prison camps, over 80,000 POWs were forced to march westward across Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany in...

 long distances towards central Germany, often in extreme winter weather conditions. It is estimated that, out of 257,000 POWs, about 80,000 were subject to such marches and up to 3,500 of them died as a result.
Eastern European POWs

Germany did not apply the same standard of treatment to non-western prisoners, especially many Polish
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 and Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 POWs who suffered harsh conditions and died in large numbers while in captivity.

Between 1941 and 1945, the Axis powers took about 5.7 million Soviet prisoners. About one million of them were released during the war, in that their status changed but they remained under German authority. A little over 500,000 either escaped or were liberated by the Red Army. Some 930,000 more were found alive in camps after the war. The remaining 3.3 million prisoners (57.5% of the total captured) died during their captivity. Between the launching of Operation Barbarossa in the summer of 1941 and the following spring, 2.8 million of the 3.2 million Soviet prisoners taken died while in German hands. According to Russian military historian General Grigoriy Krivosheyev, 4.6 million Soviet prisoners were taken by the Axis powers, of which 1.8 million were found alive in camps after the war and 318,770 were released by the Axis during the war and were then drafted into the Soviet armed forces again. By comparison, 8,348 Western Allied prisoners died in German camps during 1939–45 (3.5% of the 232,000 total).

An official justification used by the Germans for this policy was that the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention. This was not legally justifiable, however, as under article 82 of the Geneva Convention (1929)
Geneva Convention (1929)
The Geneva Convention was signed at Geneva, July 27, 1929. Its official name is the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva July 27, 1929. It entered into force 19 June 1931. It is this version of the Geneva Conventions which covered the treatment of prisoners of war...

, signatory countries had to give POWs of all signatory and non-signatory countries the rights assigned by the convention. Beevor indicates that about one month after the German invasion in 1941 an offer was made by the USSR for a reciprocal adherence to the Hague conventions
Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
The Hague Conventions were two international treaties negotiated at international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907...

. This 'note' was left unanswered by Third Reich officials. In contrast, Tolstoy
Nikolai Tolstoy
Count Nikolai Dmitrievich Tolstoy-Miloslavsky is an Anglo-Russian historian and author who writes under the name Nikolai Tolstoy. A member of the prominent Tolstoy family, he is of part Russian descent and is the stepson of the author Patrick O'Brian...

 discusses that the German Government as well as the International Red Cross made several efforts to regulate reciprocal treatment of prisoners until early 1942, but received no answers from the Soviet side. Further, the Soviets took a harsh position towards captured Soviet soldiers as they expected each soldier to fight to the death and automatically excluded any prisoner from the "Russian community". Some Soviet POWs and forced labourers transported to Nazi Germany were, on their return to the USSR, treated as traitors and sent to gulag
Gulag
The Gulag was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems. While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of...

 prison camps. The remainder were barred from all but the most menial jobs.

Treatment of POWs by the Soviet Union


Germans, Romanians, Italians, Hungarians, Finns

According to some sources, the Soviets captured 3.5 million Axis servicemen (excluding Japanese) of which more than a million died. One specific example of the tragic fate of the German POWs was after the Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

, during which the Soviets captured 91,000 German troops, many already starved and ill, of whom only 5,000 survived the war.

German soldiers were for many years after the war kept as forced labour. The last German POWs (those who were sentenced for war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

s, sometimes without sufficient reasons) were released by the Soviets in 1955, only after Joseph Stalin had died. At least 54,000 Italian POWs died in Russia, with a mortality rate of 84.5%.

The Poles

As a result of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939
Soviet invasion of Poland (1939)
The 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland was a Soviet military operation that started without a formal declaration of war on 17 September 1939, during the early stages of World War II. Sixteen days after Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the west, the Soviet Union did so from the east...

, hundreds of thousands of Polish soldiers became prisoners of war in the Soviet Union
Polish prisoners of war in the Soviet Union (after 1939)
As a result of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, hundreds of thousands of Polish soldiers became prisoners of war in the Soviet Union. Many of them were executed; over 20,000 Polish military personnel and civilians perished in the Katyn massacre....

. Thousands of them were executed; over 20,000 Polish military personnel and civilians perished in the Katyn massacre
Katyn massacre
The Katyn massacre, also known as the Katyn Forest massacre , was a mass execution of Polish nationals carried out by the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs , the Soviet secret police, in April and May 1940. The massacre was prompted by Lavrentiy Beria's proposal to execute all members of...

. Out of Anders' 80,000 evacuees from Soviet Union gathered in the United Kingdom only 310 volunteered to return to Poland in 1947.

Out of the 230,000 Polish prisoners of war taken by the Soviet army, only 82,000 survived.

Japanese

With the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in 1945 Japanese soldiers became prisoners in the Soviet Union, where they, just as other Axis POWs, had to remain as labour for several years.

The Americans

As the Soviet Union entered into German territory during the later stages of the war, Soviet troops in some cases overran German camps containing US POWs. Allegations have been made that some of these POWs were never repatriated, instead they were allegedly sent to the USSR to be used as bargaining chips.

Treatment of POWs by the Allies

Germans


During the war the armies of Allied nations such as the US, UK, Canada and Australia were ordered to treat Axis prisoners strictly in accordance with the Geneva Convention (1929)
Geneva Convention (1929)
The Geneva Convention was signed at Geneva, July 27, 1929. Its official name is the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva July 27, 1929. It entered into force 19 June 1931. It is this version of the Geneva Conventions which covered the treatment of prisoners of war...

. Some breaches of the Convention took place, however. According to Stephen E. Ambrose, of the roughly 1,000 US combat veterans that he had interviewed, roughly one-third told him they had seen US troops kill German prisoners.

Towards the end of the war in Europe, as large numbers of Axis soldiers surrendered, the US created the designation of Disarmed Enemy Forces
Disarmed Enemy Forces
Disarmed Enemy Forces , and—less commonly—Surrendered Enemy Forces, was a U.S. designation, both for soldiers who surrendered to an adversary after hostilities ended, and for those previously surrendered POWs who were held in camps in occupied German territory at that time. It is mainly referenced...

 (DEF) so as not to treat prisoners as POWs. A lot of these soldiers were kept in open fields in various Rheinwiesenlager
Rheinwiesenlager
The Rheinwiesenlager , official name Prisoner of War Temporary Enclosures , were a group of about 19 transit camps for holding about one million German POWs after World War II from spring until late summer 1945...

s. Controversy has arisen about how Eisenhower managed these prisoners (see Other Losses).

After the surrender of Germany in May 1945, the POW status of the German prisoners was in many cases maintained, and they were for several years used as forced labour in countries such as the UK and France. Many died when forced to clear minefields in Norway, France etc.; "by September 1945 it was estimated by the French authorities that two thousand prisoners were being maimed and killed each month in accidents"

In 1946 the UK had more than 400,000 German prisoners, many had been transferred from POW camps in the US and Canada. Many of these were for over three years after the German surrender used as forced labour, as a form of "reparations". "The POWs referred to themselves as 'slave labour', with some justice." Their emotional state was worsened "from the anxiety and hope of the first half of 1946 to the depression and nihilism of 1948." A public debate ensued in the UK, where words such as "forced labour", "slaves", "slave labour" were increasingly used in the media and in the House of Commons. In 1947 the Ministry of agriculture argued against rapid repatriation of working German prisoners, since by then they made up 25 percent of the land workforce, and they wanted to use them also in 1948.

The "London Cage
London Cage
The "London Cage" was a MI19 prisoner of war facility during and immediately after World War II that was subject to frequent allegations of torture...

", an MI19
MI19
MI19 was a division of the British Directorate of Military Intelligence, part of the War Office. In World War II it was responsible for obtaining information from enemy prisoners of war.It was originally created in December 1940 as MI9a, a sub-section of MI9...

 prisoner of war facility in the UK used for interrogating prisoners before they were sent to prison camps during and immediately after World War II, was subject to allegations of torture.

After the German surrender, the International Red Cross was prohibited from providing aid such as food or visiting prisoner camps in Germany. However, after making approaches to the Allies in the autumn of 1945 it was allowed to investigate the camps in the British and French occupation zones of Germany, as well as to provide relief to the prisoners held there. On February 4, 1946, the Red Cross was permitted to visit and assist prisoners also in the US occupation zone of Germany, although only with very small quantities of food. "During their visits, the delegates observed that German prisoners of war were often detained in appalling conditions. They drew the attention of the authorities to this fact, and gradually succeeded in getting some improvements made".

The Allies also shipped POWs between them, with for example 6,000 German officers transferred from Western Allied camps to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp
Sachsenhausen concentration camp
Sachsenhausen or Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May, 1945. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the structure was used as an NKVD...

 that now was under Soviet Union administration. The US also shipped 740,000 German POWs as forced labourers to France from where newspaper reports told of very bad treatment. Judge Robert H. Jackson
Robert H. Jackson
Robert Houghwout Jackson was United States Attorney General and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court . He was also the chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials...

, Chief US prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....

, in October 1945 told US President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 that the Allies themselves:
"have done or are doing some of the very things we are prosecuting the Germans for. The French are so violating the Geneva Convention in the treatment of prisoners of war that our command is taking back prisoners sent to them. We are prosecuting plunder and our Allies are practicing it."

Hungarians

Hungarians became POWs of the Western Allies, some of these were just as the Germans used as forced labour in France after the cessation of hostilities.

Japanese

Although thousands of Japanese were taken prisoner, most fought until they were killed or committed suicide. Of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers present at the beginning of the Battle of Iwo Jima
Battle of Iwo Jima
The Battle of Iwo Jima , or Operation Detachment, was a major battle in which the United States fought for and captured the island of Iwo Jima from the Empire of Japan. The U.S...

, over 20,000 were killed and only 216 were taken prisoner. Of the 30,000 Japanese troops that defended Saipan
Saipan
Saipan is the largest island of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands , a chain of 15 tropical islands belonging to the Marianas archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean with a total area of . The 2000 census population was 62,392...

, less than 1,000 remained alive at battle's end. Japanese prisoners sent to camps fared well; however, some Japanese were killed when trying to surrender or were massacred just after they had surrendered (see Allied war crimes during World War II in the Pacific). Some Japanese prisoners in POW camps died at their own hands, either directly or by attacking guards with the intention of forcing the guards to kill them. In some instances, Japanese prisoners were tortured by a variety of methods. A method of torture used by the Chinese National Revolutionary Army
National Revolutionary Army
The National Revolutionary Army , pre-1928 sometimes shortened to 革命軍 or Revolutionary Army and between 1928-1947 as 國軍 or National Army was the Military Arm of the Kuomintang from 1925 until 1947, as well as the national army of the Republic of China during the KMT's period of party rule...

 (NRA) included suspending the prisoner by the neck in a wooden cage until they died. In very rare cases, some were beheaded by sword, and a severed head was once used as a soccer ball by Chinese National Revolutionary Army (NRA) soldiers.

After the war many Japanese were kept on as Japanese Surrendered Personnel
Japanese Surrendered Personnel
Japanese Surrendered Personnel is a designation for captive Japanese soldiers...

 until mid-1947 and used as forced labour doing menial tasks, while 35,000 were kept on in arms within their wartime military organisation and under their own officers and used in combat alongside British troops seeking to suppress the independence movements in the Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Netherlands government in 1800....

 and French Indochina
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

.

Italians

In 1943 Italy overthrew the Dictator Mussolini, and became a co-belligerent with the Allies. This did not mean any change in status for Italian POWs however, since due to the labour shortages in the UK and the USA they were retained as POWs there.

Cossacks

On 11 February 1945, at the conclusion of the Yalta Conference
Yalta Conference
The Yalta Conference, sometimes called the Crimea Conference and codenamed the Argonaut Conference, held February 4–11, 1945, was the wartime meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, represented by President Franklin D...

, the United States and the United Kingdom signed a Repatriation Agreement with the USSR. The interpretation of this Agreement resulted in the forcible repatriation of all Russians (Operation Keelhaul
Operation Keelhaul
Operation Keelhaul was carried out in Northern Italy by British and American forces to repatriate Soviet Armed Forces POWs of the Nazis to the Soviet Union between August 14, 1946 and May 9, 1947...

) regardless of their wishes. The forced repatriation operations took place in 1945-1947.

Transfers between the Allies

The United States handed over 740,000 German prisoners to France, a signatory of the Geneva Convention. The Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention. According to Edward Peterson the U.S. chose to hand over several hundred thousand German prisoners to the Soviet Union in May 1945 as a "gesture of friendship". U.S. forces also refused to accept the surrender of German troops attempting to surrender to them in Saxony
Saxony
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

 and Bohemia
Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

, and handed them over to the Soviet Union instead. It is also known that 6000 German officers were sent from camps in the West to the Soviets, who put them in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp
Sachsenhausen concentration camp
Sachsenhausen or Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May, 1945. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the structure was used as an NKVD...

 which at the time was one of the NKVD special camp
NKVD special camps
NKVD special camps were NKVD-run late and post-World War II internment camps in the Soviet-occupied parts of Germany and areas east of the Oder-Neisse line. The short-lived camps east of the line were subsequently transferred to the Soviet occupation zone, where they were set up by the Soviet...

 and from which it is known that there were transfers further east to Siberia.

Post World War II

The North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

ns have a reputation for severely mistreating prisoners of war (see Crimes against POWs).

Of about 16,500 French soldiers who fought at Dien Bien Phu
Battle of Dien Bien Phu
The Battle of Dien Bien Phu was the climactic confrontation of the First Indochina War between the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps and Viet Minh communist revolutionaries. The battle occurred between March and May 1954 and culminated in a comprehensive French defeat that...

, more than 3,000 were killed in battle, while almost all of the 11,721 men taken prisoner died in the hands of the Viet Minh
Viet Minh
Việt Minh was a national independence coalition formed at Pac Bo on May 19, 1941. The Việt Minh initially formed to seek independence for Vietnam from the French Empire. When the Japanese occupation began, the Việt Minh opposed Japan with support from the United States and the Republic of China...

 on death marches to distant POW camps, and in those camps in the last three months of the war.

The Vietcong and North Vietnamese captured many United States service members
United States armed forces
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...

 as prisoners of war during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, who suffered from mistreatment and torture during the war. Some American prisoners were held in the prison called the Hanoi Hilton
Hanoi Hilton
Hỏa Lò Prison, later sarcastically known to American prisoners of war as the "Hanoi Hilton", was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the Vietnam War....

. Communist Vietnamese held in custody by South Vietnamese
South Vietnam
South Vietnam was a state which governed southern Vietnam until 1975. It received international recognition in 1950 as the "State of Vietnam" and later as the "Republic of Vietnam" . Its capital was Saigon...

 and American forces claimed they were treated badly.

Regardless of regulations determining treatment to prisoners, violations of their rights continue to be reported. Many cases of POW massacres have been reported in recent times, including October 13 massacre
October 13 massacre
The October 13 Massacre took place on October 13, 1990, during the final moments of the Lebanese Civil War.- Background :After months of skirmishes, the Syrian Army and Lebanese militias then aligned with Damascus stormed the holdout of the military government of East Beirut, led by Gen...

 in Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 by Syrian forces and June 1990 massacre in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

.

During the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 in 1991, American, British, Italian and Kuwaiti POWs (mostly crew members of downed aircraft and special forces) were tortured by the Iraqi secret police. An American military doctor, Major Rhonda Cornum
Rhonda Cornum
US Army Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum, Ph.D., M.D. is the Director of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness in the Army G-3/5/7.As a flight surgeon with the 229th Attack Helicopter Regiment, then-Major Cornum was aboard a Black Hawk helicopter on a search and rescue mission, looking for a downed F-16...

, a 37-year-old flight surgeon captured when her Blackhawk UH-60 was shot down, was also subjected to sexual abuse.

During the 1990s Yugoslav Wars
Yugoslav wars
The Yugoslav Wars were a series of wars, fought throughout the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995. The wars were complex: characterized by bitter ethnic conflicts among the peoples of the former Yugoslavia, mostly between Serbs on the one side and Croats and Bosniaks on the other; but also...

, Serb paramilitary forces supported by JNA forces killed POWs at Vukovar
Vukovar massacre
The Vukovar massacre, also known as Vukovar hospital massacre or simply Ovčara, was a war crime that took place between November 20 and November 21, 1991 near the city of Vukovar, a mixed Croat/Serb community in northeastern Croatia...

 and Škarbrnja
Škabrnja massacre
Škabrnja massacre was a war crime committed by Serb Army forces during the Croatian War of Independence. On November 18, 1991, Serb paramilitaries, supported by the JNA, captured the village of Škabrnja and killed 25 Prisoners of war and 61 civilians over the next several days.-Before the...

 while Bosnian Serb forces killed POWs at Srebrenica
Srebrenica massacre
The Srebrenica massacre, also known as the Srebrenica genocide, refers to the July 1995 killing, during the Bosnian War, of more than 8,000 Bosniaks , mainly men and boys, in and around the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, by units of the Army of Republika Srpska under the command of...

.

In 2001, there were reports that India had actually taken two prisoners during the Sino-Indian War
Sino-Indian War
The Sino-Indian War , also known as the Sino-Indian Border Conflict , was a war between China and India that occurred in 1962. A disputed Himalayan border was the main pretext for war, but other issues played a role. There had been a series of violent border incidents after the 1959 Tibetan...

, Yang Chen and Shih Liang. The two were imprisoned as spies for three years before being interned in a mental asylum in Ranchi
Ranchi
-Climate:Ranchi has a humid subtropical climate. However, due to its position and the forests around the city, it is known for its pleasant climate. Its climate is the primary reason why Ranchi was once the summer capital of the undivided State of Bihar...

, where they spent the next 38 years under a special prisoner status. The last prisoners of Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988) were exchanged in 2003.

Numbers of POWs

This is a list of nations with the highest number of POWs since the start of World War II, listed in descending order. These are also the highest numbers in any war since the Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
Geneva Convention (1929)
The Geneva Convention was signed at Geneva, July 27, 1929. Its official name is the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva July 27, 1929. It entered into force 19 June 1931. It is this version of the Geneva Conventions which covered the treatment of prisoners of war...

 entered into force on 19 June 1931. The USSR had not signed the Geneva convention.
Armies Number of POW held in captivity by the enemy Name of conflict
 Soviet Union 4–5.7 million taken by Germany (2.7–3.3 million died in German POW camps) World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 (Total)
 Nazi Germany
  • 3,127,380 taken by USSR (474,967 died in captivity) (according to an other source 1.094.250 died in captivity (35,8 %))
  • 3,630,000 taken by the United Kingdom
  • 3,100,000 taken by the United States
  • 937,000 taken by France
  • unknown number in Yugoslavia, Poland, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark (the death rate for German prisoners of war was highest in Yugoslavia with over 50%)
  • 1.3 million unknown
World War II
 Early Modern France 1,800,000 taken by Germany World War II
 Poland 675,000 (420,000 taken by Germany; 240,000 taken by the Soviets in 1939; 15,000 taken by Germany in Warsaw in 1944) Invasion of Poland, and Warsaw Uprising
Warsaw Uprising
The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation by the Polish resistance Home Army , to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany. The rebellion was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces...

 United Kingdom ~200,000 (135,000 taken in Europe, does not include Pacific or Commonwealth figures) World War II
 United States ~130,000 (95,532 taken by Germany) World War II
 Pakistan 90,368 taken by India. Later released by India in accordance with the Simla Agreement. Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 was a military conflict between India and Pakistan. Indian, Bangladeshi and international sources consider the beginning of the war to be Operation Chengiz Khan, Pakistan's December 3, 1971 pre-emptive strike on 11 Indian airbases...

 Iraq ~175,000 taken by Coalition of the Gulf War
Coalition of the Gulf War
The Coalition of the Gulf War were the countries officially opposed to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait during the 1990 / 1991 Persian Gulf War.-Coalition by number of military personnel:-United States:*Norman Schwarzkopf*Colin Powell*Calvin Waller...

Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...


See also

  • KIA
    Killed in action
    Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

     – Killed In Action
  • MIA
    Missing in action
    Missing in action is a casualty Category assigned under the Status of Missing to armed services personnel who are reported missing during active service. They may have been killed, wounded, become a prisoner of war, or deserted. If deceased, neither their remains nor grave can be positively...

     – Missing In Action
  • WIA
    Wounded in action
    Wounded in action describes soldiers who have been wounded while fighting in a combat zone during war time, but have not been killed. Typically it implies that they are temporarily or permanently incapable of bearing arms or continuing to fight....

     – Wounded in action
  • 13th Psychological Operations Battalion (Enemy Prisoner of War)
    13th Psychological Operations Battalion
    The 13th Psychological Operations Battalion was a unit of the United States Army...

  • 1952 POW olympics
    1952 POW olympics
    The 1952 POW "olympics" were held November 1952 in Pyuktong, North Korea. This was an event put on by the North Korean Army with the help of Chinese volunteers. They put these games on to show that prisoners of war were treated with respect and care. This may have been a propaganda effort, but this...

  • American Revolution prisoners of war
  • British prison ships (New York)
  • Civilian Internee
    Civilian Internee
    Civilian Internee is a special status of a prisoner under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Civilian Internees are civilians who are detained by a party to a war for security reasons...

  • Camps for Russian prisoners and internees in Poland (1919–1924)
  • Disarmed Enemy Forces
    Disarmed Enemy Forces
    Disarmed Enemy Forces , and—less commonly—Surrendered Enemy Forces, was a U.S. designation, both for soldiers who surrendered to an adversary after hostilities ended, and for those previously surrendered POWs who were held in camps in occupied German territory at that time. It is mainly referenced...

  • Soviet POWs in German captivity
  • Geneva Convention
  • German Prisoners of War in the United States
    German prisoners of war in the United States
    German prisoners of war in the United States were members of the German military interned in the United States as prisoners of war during World War I and World War II...

  • Illegal combatant
  • Italian military internees
    Italian military internees
    Italian military internees was the official name given by Germany to the Italian soldiers captured, rounded up and deported in the territories of the Third Reich in Operation Achse in the days immediately following the Armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces .After disarmament by the...


  • Korean War POWs detained in North Korea
    Korean War POWs detained in North Korea
    "Korean War POWs Detained in North Korea" refer to the tens of thousands of South Korean soldiers who were captured by the North Korean and Chinese forces during the Korean War but were not returned during the prisoner exchanges under the 1953 Armistice Agreement...

  • Laws of war
    Laws of war
    The law of war is a body of law concerning acceptable justifications to engage in war and the limits to acceptable wartime conduct...

  • List of notable prisoners of war
  • List of prisoner-of-war escapes
  • Military Chaplain#Noncombatant status
  • Polish prisoners of war in the Soviet Union (after 1939)
    Polish prisoners of war in the Soviet Union (after 1939)
    As a result of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, hundreds of thousands of Polish soldiers became prisoners of war in the Soviet Union. Many of them were executed; over 20,000 Polish military personnel and civilians perished in the Katyn massacre....

  • Postal censorship
    Postal censorship
    Postal censorship is the inspection or examination of mail, most often by governments. It can include opening, reading and total or selective obliteration of letters and their contents, as well as covers, postcards, parcels and other postal packets. Postal censorship takes place primarily but not...

  • Prisoner of war mail
  • Prison escape
    Prison escape
    A prison escape or prison break is the act of an inmate leaving prison through unofficial or illegal ways. Normally, when this occurs, an effort is made on the part of authorities to recapture them and return them to their original detainers...

  • Prisoner-of-war camp
    Prisoner-of-war camp
    A prisoner-of-war camp is a site for the containment of combatants captured by their enemy in time of war, and is similar to an internment camp which is used for civilian populations. A prisoner of war is generally a soldier, sailor, or airman who is imprisoned by an enemy power during or...

  • Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts Project (RULAC)
    Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts Project (RULAC)
    The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts Project is an initiative of the to support the application and implementation of the international law of armed conflict.-Overview:...

  • Thomas E. "Tom" Walsh, Sr.
  • The United States Military Code of Conduct
    The United States Military Code of Conduct
    The Code of the U.S. Fighting Force is a code of conduct that is an "ethical guide" and a United States Department of Defense directive consisting of six articles to members of the U.S. armed forces addressing how U.S. personnel in combat should act when they must "evade capture, resist while a...

  • War crime
    War crime
    War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

  • World War II Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion
    World War II Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion
    World War II Radio Heroes: Letters of Compassion is a book by psychologist Lisa Spahr, co-authored with Austin Camacho, that recounts her personal investigation of the activities of shortwave radio listeners who notified families of captured U.S. military personnel of their status as prisoners of...


Movies
  • 1971
    1971 (film)
    1971 is a 2007 Hindi war film directed by Amrit Sagar, and written by Piyush Mishra and Amrit Sagar, based on a true story of prisoners of war after the Indo-Pak war of 1971. The film features an ensemble cast of Manoj Bajpai, Ravi Kishan, Piyush Mishra, Deepak Dobriyal and others...

  • Andersonville
    Andersonville (film)
    Andersonville is a film directed by John Frankenheimer about a group of Union soldiers during the American Civil War who are captured by the Confederates and sent to an infamous Confederate prison camp....

  • Another Time, Another Place (1983 film)
    Another Time, Another Place (1983 film)
    Another Time, Another Place is a 1983 British drama film directed by Michael Radford and starring Phyllis Logan, Giovanni Mauriello and Denise Coffey...

  • As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me
    As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me
    As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me is a 2001 film about German World War II prisoner of war Clemens Forell's escape from a Siberian Gulag in Russia back to Germany. It is based on the eponymous book written by Josef Martin Bauer...

     [German: So weit die Füße tragen]
  • Blood Oath
    Blood Oath (film)
    Blood Oath is a 1990 Australian feature film, known in some countries as Prisoners of the Sun. The film is based on the real-life trial of Japanese soldiers for war crimes committed against Allied prisoners of war on the island of Ambon, in the Netherlands East Indies , such as the Laha massacre of...

  • The Bridge on the River Kwai
    The Bridge on the River Kwai
    The Bridge on the River Kwai is a 1957 British World War II film by David Lean based on The Bridge over the River Kwai by French writer Pierre Boulle. The film is a work of fiction but borrows the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942–43 for its historical setting. It stars William...

  • The Brylcreem Boys
    The Brylcreem Boys
    The Brylcreem Boys is a 1998 film directed and co-written by Terence Ryan about the extraordinary neutrality arrangements pertaining to Ireland during World War II, by the Éamon de Valera government...

  • The Colditz Story
    The Colditz Story
    The Colditz Story is a 1955 prisoner of war film starring John Mills and Eric Portman and directed by Guy Hamilton.It is based on the book written by P.R...

  • Danger Within
    Danger Within
    Danger Within is a 1959 British war film set in a prisoner of war camp in northern Italy during the summer of 1943.-Plot:After a clever escape plan fails, the escape committee, led by Lieutenant Colonel David Baird suspects that there is an informer in their ranks...

  • The Deerhunter
  • Empire of the Sun
    Empire of the Sun (film)
    Empire of the Sun is a 1987 American coming of age war film based on J. G. Ballard's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. Steven Spielberg directed the film, which stars Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, and Nigel Havers...

  • Escape to Athena
    Escape to Athena
    Escape to Athena is a British adventure war film released in 1979, directed by George Pan Cosmatos and produced by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment. The international cast included many well-known actors of the 1970s, including Roger Moore, Telly Savalas and Elliott Gould.The film is set during the...

  • Faith of My Fathers
    Faith of My Fathers (film)
    Faith of My Fathers is a 2005 American television film, directed by Peter Markle. Based on the 1999 memoir of the same name by United States Senator and former United States Navy aviator John McCain , it aired on A&E Network on Memorial Day, May 30, 2005.Filmed in Louisiana, Faith of My...

  • Grand Illusion
  • The Great Escape
    The Great Escape (film)
    The Great Escape is a 1963 American film about an escape by Allied prisoners of war from a German POW camp during World War II, starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard Attenborough...

  • The Great Raid
    The Great Raid
    The Great Raid is a 2005 war film about the Raid at Cabanatuan, adapted from William Breuer's book of the same name. It tells the story of the January 1945 liberation of the Cabanatuan Prison Camp on the Philippine island of Luzon during World War II. It is directed by John Dahl and stars Benjamin...

  • Hanoi Hilton
  • Hart's War
    Hart's War
    Hart's War is a 2002 film about a World War II prisoner of war based on the novel by John Katzenbach starring Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard and Marcel Iureş...

  • King Rat
  • Life Is Beautiful
    Life Is Beautiful
    Life Is Beautiful is a 1997 Italian film which tells the story of a Jewish Italian, Guido Orefice , who must employ his fertile imagination to help his family during their internment in a Nazi concentration camp.At the 71st Academy Awards in 1999, Benigni won the Academy Award for Best Actor and...


  • The McKenzie Break
    The McKenzie Break
    The McKenzie Break is a 1970 British war drama film directed by Lamont Johnson, starring Brian Keith as Jack Connor, an intelligence officer investigating recent disturbances at a German prisoner of war camp in Scotland...

  • Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
    Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
    Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is a 1983 film directed by Nagisa Oshima, produced by Jeremy Thomas and starring Jack Thompson, David Bowie, Tom Conti, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Yuya Uchida, and Takeshi Kitano.It was written by Oshima and Paul Mayersberg and based on Laurens van der Post's experiences...

  • Missing in Action
    Missing in Action (film)
    Missing in Action is a 1984 action B-movie directed by Joseph Zito and starring Chuck Norris. It is set in the context of the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue. Colonel Braddock, who escaped a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp 10 years earlier, returns to Vietnam to find American soldiers listed as missing...

  • The One That Got Away
  • The Purple Heart
    The Purple Heart
    The Purple Heart is a 1944 American war film directed by Lewis Milestone.It is a dramatization of the trial of a number of US airmen by the Japanese during the Second World War...

  • Prisoner of War (there are several films of this title available here)
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II
    Rambo: First Blood Part II
    Rambo: First Blood Part II is a 1985 action film. A sequel to 1982's First Blood, it is the second installment in the Rambo series starring Sylvester Stallone, who reprises his role as Vietnam veteran John Rambo...

  • Rescue Dawn
    Rescue Dawn
    Rescue Dawn is a 2007 war drama film directed by Werner Herzog, based on an adapted screenplay written from his acclaimed 1997 documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly...

  • Schindler's List
    Schindler's List
    Schindler's List is a 1993 American film about Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. The film was directed by Steven Spielberg, and based on the novel Schindler's Ark...

  • Stalag 17
    Stalag 17
    Stalag 17 is a 1953 war film which tells the story of a group of American airmen held in a German World War II prisoner of war camp, who come to suspect that one of their number is a traitor...

  • Summer of My German Soldier
    Summer of My German Soldier (TV film)
    Summer Of My German Soldier is a 1978 made-for-TV movie based on the novel of the same name written by Bette Greene. It stars Kristy McNichol as a Jewish-American girl and Bruce Davison as the German prisoner of war whom she befriends.-Plot:...

  • Tea with Mussolini
    Tea with Mussolini
    Tea with Mussolini is a 1999 British-Italian semi-autobiographical film directed by Franco Zeffirelli, telling the story of young Italian boy Luca's upbringing by a circle of English and American women, before and during World War II.-Plot:...

  • Texas 46
  • To End All Wars
    To End All Wars
    To End All Wars is a 2001 war film starring Robert Carlyle, Kiefer Sutherland and Sakae Kimura and directed by David L. Cunningham.- Storyline :...

  • Uncommon Valor
    Uncommon Valor
    Uncommon Valor is a 1983 action/war film written by Joe Gayton and directed by Ted Kotcheff, about a Marine officer who puts together a team to try to rescue his son, who he believes is among those still held in Laos after the Vietnam War...

  • Von Ryan's Express
    Von Ryan's Express
    Von Ryan's Express is a 1965 World War II adventure film starring Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard, based on a novel by David Westheimer, and directed by Mark Robson.-Plot:...

  • The Pianist
  • The Walking Dead (1995 film)
    The Walking Dead (1995 film)
    The Walking Dead is a 1995 war film written and directed by Preston A. Whitmore II starring Allen Payne, Joe Morton and Eddie Griffin. The film depicts the lives of five marines who are all assigned to rescue to a group of POWs during the Vietnam War in 1972. It opened to poor reviews and low box...

  • The Wooden Horse
    The Wooden Horse
    The Wooden Horse is a 1950 British Second World War war film starring Leo Genn, Anthony Steel and David Tomlinson and directed by Jack Lee. It is based on the book of the same name by Eric Williams, who also wrote the screenplay....


Songs
  • "Prisoners of War"
  • "Captured" by Malevolent Creation
    Malevolent Creation
    Malevolent Creation is a death metal band originally hailing from Buffalo, New York. Moving to Florida in 1987, they became a part of the emergent local death metal scene, landing a deal with Roadrunner Records...

  • "Take No Prisoners
    Rust in Peace
    Rust in Peace is the fourth studio album by American heavy metal band Megadeth. Released on September 24, 1990, it was the third Megadeth album distributed through Capitol Records. The album was the band's only collaboration with record producer Mike Clink who was the first producer to...

    " by Megadeth
    Megadeth
    Megadeth is an American heavy metal band from Los Angeles, California which was formed in 1983 by guitarist/vocalist Dave Mustaine, bassist Dave Ellefson and guitarist Greg Handevidt, following Mustaine's expulsion from Metallica. The band has since released 13 studio albums, three live albums, two...


Further reading

  • Roger DEVAUX : Treize Qu'ils Etaient: Life of the French prisoners of war at the peasants of low Bavaria (1939–1945) — Mémoires et Cultures—2007—ISBN 2-916062-51-3
  • Robert C. Doyle. The Enemy in Our Hands: America's Treatment of Prisoners of War From the Revolution to the War on Terror (University Press of Kentucky, 2010); 468 pages; Sources include American soldiers' own narratives of their experiences guarding POWs.
  • Pierre Gascar, Histoire de la captivité des Français en Allemagne (1939–1945), Éditions Gallimard, France, 1967 - ISBN 2070226867.
  • McGowran OBE, Tom, Beyond the Bamboo Screen: Scottish Prisoners of War under the Japanese. 1999. Cualann Press Ltd
  • Arnold Krammer, 'Nazi Prisoners of War in America 1979 Stein & Day; 1991, 1996 Scarborough House. ISBN 0-8128-8561-9.
  • Bob Moore,& Kent Fedorowich eds., Prisoners of War and Their Captors in World War II, Berg Press, Oxford, UK, 1997.
  • David Rolf, Prisoners of the Reich, Germany's Captives, 1939–1945, 1998.
  • Scheipers, Sibylle Prisoners and Detainees in War , European History Online
    European History Online
    European History Online is an academic website that publishes articles on the history of Europe between the period of 1450 and 1950 according to the principle of open access. EGO is issued by the Institute of European History in Mainz in cooperation with the Center for Digital Humanities in Trier ...

    , Mainz: Institute of European History, 2011, retrieved: November 16, 2011.
  • Paul J. Springer. America's Captives: Treatment of POWs From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (University Press of Kansas; 2010); 278 pages; Argues that the US military has failed to incorporate lessons on POW policy from each successive conflict.
  • Richard D. Wiggers, "The United States and the Denial of Prisoner of War (POW) Status at the End of the Second World War", Militargeschichtliche Mitteilungen 52 (1993) pp. 91–94.
  • Winton, Andrew, Open Road to Faraway: Escapes from Nazi POW Camps 1941–1945. 2001. Cualann Press Ltd.
  • Harris, Justin Michael. "American Soldiers and POW Killing in the European Theater of World War II" http://ecommons.txstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1011&context=histtad

Primary sources

  • The stories of several American fighter pilots, shot down over North Vietnam are the focus of American Film Foundation
    American Film Foundation
    The American Film Foundation is an award-winning production company based in Southern California. The foundation is headed by Terry Sanders and Freida Lee Mock who have combined to create more than 60 documentary and feature films....

    's 1999 documentary Return with Honor
    Return with Honor
    Return with Honor is a 1999 documentary film about American prisoners of war in the Vietnam War. Among those profiled is Senator John McCain. It is narrated by Tom Hanks....

    , presented by Tom Hanks
    Tom Hanks
    Thomas Jeffrey "Tom" Hanks is an American actor, producer, writer, and director. Hanks worked in television and family-friendly comedies, gaining wide notice in 1988's Big, before achieving success as a dramatic actor in several notable roles, including Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia, the title...

    .
  • Lewis H. Carlson, WE WERE EACH OTHER'S PRISONERS: An Oral History of World War II American and German Prisoners of War, 1st Edition.; 1997, BasicBooks (HarperCollins, Inc).ISBN 0-465-09120-2.
  • Peter Dennis, Jeffrey Grey, Ewan Morris, Robin Prior with Jean Bou : The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History 2nd edition (Melbourne: Oxford University Press Australia & New Zealand, 2008) oclc 489040963.
  • H.S. Gullett, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18, Vol. VII The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine 10th edition (Sydney: Angus & Robinson, 1941) oclc 220900153.
  • Alfred James Passfield, The Escape Artist: An WW2 Australian prisoner's chronicle of life in German POW camps and his eight escape attempts, 1984 Artlook Books Western Australia. ISBN 0 86445 047 8.
  • Rivett, Rohan D. (1946). Behind Bamboo. Sydney: Angus & Robertson. Republished by Penguin, 1992; ISBN 0-14-014925-2.
  • George G. Lewis and John Mewha, History of prisoner of war utilization by the United States Army, 1776–1945; Dept. of the Army, 1955.
  • Vetter, Hal, Mutine at Koje Island; Charles Tuttle Company, Vermont, 1965.
  • Jin, Ha, War Trash: A novel; Pantheon, 2004. ISBN 978-0-375-42276-8.
  • Sean Longden
    Sean Longden
    Sean Longden is an author and historian who specialises in previously untold stories from World War II , mostly sourced from interviews with veterans...

    , Hitler's British Slaves. First Published Arris Books, 2006. Second Edition, Constable Robinson, 2007.

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