Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Treating Enemy Wounded

Abigail Adams Meets British POWs
    In July 1775, Major General Thomas Gage, commander of British forces occupying Boston, sent thirty marines to guard Tory carpenters repairing a lighthouse near the occupied city.  An American force raided the lighthouse.  One British officer and one British enlisted man perished in the engagement, but the Americans manage to carry off the carpenters and twenty-eight British marines.  
    Four of the British marines were injured in the skirmish.  Doctor Cotton Tufts, a cousin of John Adams, treated the wounded prisoners.  
    The Americans had no losses, until making their escape.  British forces fired at the departing American ships, killing a young man from Rhode Island who manned one of the oars.  Americans buried the lad with military honors.  The wounded British marines, prisoners, asked permission to attend the funeral services for the young America.  
    Abigail Adams, wife John Adams, also attended the funeral.  Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, “I spoke with them. I told them it was very unhappy that they should be obliged to fight their best Friends.”
    Mrs. Adams added, “They said they were sorry--they…express'd gratitude at the kindness they received, said in that they had been deceived, for they were told if they were taken alive, they
would should be Sacrificed by us.”  
    Abigail Adams was glad that Americans showed kindness to captured enemies.  As Mrs. Adams knew, kindness to prisoners was essential for the good of the cause.  As she wrote to her husband on May 18, 1777, “If our cause is just, it will be best supported by justice and righteousness.”   
Treating Enemy Wounded      In the 20th century, Chinese Communist and guerrilla warfare theorist Mao Zedong repeatedly emphasized the advantage of treating enemy wounded.  It works if your enemy sees you releasing well-treated prisoners, including wounded soldiers treated for wounds.  Mao wrote, “This concrete propaganda immediately knocks the bottom out of the enemy propaganda that ‘The Communist bandits will kill everyone and anyone on sight.’”
    During World War II, Mao’s Communist guerrillas in China were not the only combatants treating Japanese prisoners with compassion.  In 1943, Marine Major Sherwood F. Moran described the kindness that effective interrogators should have for Japanese prisoners.  Moran said he and other interrogators were genuinely interested in the care received by a wounded Japanese soldier in American custody.  
    Moran wrote, “This was the prisoner who called out to me when I was leaving after that first interview, ‘Won’t you please come and talk to me
every day.’”  Moran added parenthetically, “And yet people are continually asking us, ‘Are the Japanese prisoners really willing to talk?’”
    For anecdote about George Washington’s concern and civility for a wounded British soldiers at the Battle of Princeton (3 January 1777), please consult the post here.  For two posts dealing with Mao’s emphasis on caring for enemy wounded, please consult the posts, “Parties for Prisoners” and “Dear Syrian Rebels Part 4.”  For Japanese prisoners treated kindly at Camp Tracy, the lxury resort at California’s Byron Hot Springs, please read Rick Lemyre, “Top-Secret World of Camp Tracy,” Discovery Bay Press (Brentwood, Calif.), 28 January 2010, post online January 28, 2010 as “Top Secret World of Camp Tracy Revealed,” http://www.thepress.net/features/history/article_c8235bbf-1efd-5da8-b7cb-d6f72a5d41ed.html?mode=jqm [accessed 15 March 2014] (the previous link, http://www.thepress.net/view/full_story/5689496/article-Secret-world-of-Camp-Tracy-revealed [accessed 25 September 2013], is no longer active.)
    Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 July - 2 August 1775 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/; Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 18 May 1777 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/.  Mao Zedong, “Report of the Jinggangshan Front Committee to the Central Committee,” 28 November 1928, in Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings, 1912-1949: Volume 3: From the Jinggangshan to the Establishment of the Jiangxi Soviets, July 1927-December 1930, ed. Stuart R. Schram (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1995), page 101. For details on Major Sherwood F. Moran's report, “Suggestions for Japanese Interpreters Based on Work in the Field,” please read Stephen Budiansky, “Truth Extraction,” The Atlantic, 1 June 2005, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/06/truth-extraction/303973/.
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