Article 5 of the United States Military Code of Conduct

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When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause. (Article V)

When questioned, a POW is required by the Geneva Conventions and the CoC and is permitted by the UCMJ, to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. Under the Geneva Conventions, the enemy has no right to try to force a POW to provide any additional information.

However, it is unrealistic to expect a POW to remain confined for years reciting only name, rank, service number, and date of birth. There are many POW camp situations in which certain types of conversation with the enemy are permitted.

Prisoner of War Guidelines

For example, a POW is allowed, but not required by the CoC, the UCMJ, or the Geneva Conventions, to fill out a Geneva Conventions "capture card," to write letters home and to communicate with captors on matters of camp administration and health and welfare.

The senior POW is required to represent fellow POWs in matters of camp administration, health, welfare, and grievances. However, POWs must constantly bear in mind that the enemy has often viewed POWs as valuable sources of military information and propaganda that they can use to further their war effort.

Accordingly, each POW must exercise great caution when completing a "capture card," when engaging in authorized communication with the captor, and when writing letters.

A POW must resist, avoid, or evade, even when physically and mentally coerced, all enemy efforts to secure statements or actions that may further the enemy's cause.

What to Avoid

Examples of statements or actions POWs should resist include giving oral or written confessions; making propaganda recordings and broadcast appeals to other POWs to comply with improper captor demands; appealing for U.S. surrender or parole; engaging in self-criticisms; and providing oral or written statements or communications on behalf of the enemy or harmful to the United States, its allies, the Armed Forces, or other POWs. Captors have used POWs' answers to questions of a personal nature, questionnaires, or personal history to create improper statements such as those listed above.

A POW should recognize the enemy might use any confession or statement as part of a false accusation that the captive is a war criminal rather than a POW. Moreover, certain countries have made reservations to the Geneva Conventions (reference (g)) in which they assert that a war criminal conviction has the effect of depriving the convicted individual of POW status. These countries may assert that the POW is removed from protection under reference (g) and the right to repatriation is thus revoked until the individual serves a prison sentence.

If a POW finds that, under intense coercion, he unwillingly or accidentally discloses unauthorized information, the Service member should attempt to recover and resist with a fresh line of mental defense.

POW experience has shown that although enemy interrogation sessions may be harsh and cruel, it is usually possible to resist if there is a will to resist.

The best way for a POW to keep faith with the United States, fellow POWs, and oneself is to provide the enemy with as little information as possible.

What Military Personnel Need to Know

Specifically, Service members should:

  • Be familiar with the various aspects of the interrogation process, its phases, the procedures, methods, and techniques of interrogation, and the interrogator's goals, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Understand that the Geneva Conventions and the CoC require a POW to disclose name, rank, service number, and date of birth when questioned. Understand that a POW must avoid answering further questions. A POW is encouraged to limit further disclosure by using resistance techniques such as claiming an inability to furnish additional information because of previous orders, poor memory, ignorance, or lack of comprehension. The POW may never voluntarily give the captor additional information but must resist doing so, even if it involves withstanding mental and physical duress.
  • Understand that short of death; it is unlikely that a POW may prevent a skilled enemy interrogator, using all available psychological and physical methods of coercion, from obtaining some degree of compliance by the POW with captor demands. However, understand that if the interrogator takes the Service member past the point of maximum endurance, the POW must recover ("bounce back") as quickly as possible and resist each successive captor exploitation effort to the utmost. Understand that a forced answer on one point does not authorize continued compliance. The POW must resist answering again at the next interrogation session.
  • Understand that the CoC authorizes a POW to communicate with the captor on individual health or welfare matters and, when applicable, on routine matters of camp administration. Conversations on those VI. are not considered to be giving unauthorized information.
  • Understand that the POW may furnish limited information on family status and address in completing a Geneva Conventions capture card.
  • Be aware that a POW may write personal correspondence.
  • Be aware that the captor shall have full access to both the information on the capture card and the contents of personal correspondence.
  • Be familiar with the captor's reasons for and methods of attempting to involve POWs in both internal and external propaganda activities. Understand that a POW must use every means available to avoid participating in such activities and must not make oral or written statements disloyal to the United States or its allies, or detrimental to fellow POWs.
  • Be familiar with the captor's reasons for and methods of attempting to indoctrinate POWs politically. Be familiar with the methods of resisting such indoctrination.
  • Understand that even when coerced beyond name, rank, service number, date of birth, and claims of inabilities, it is possible to thwart an interrogator's efforts to obtain useful information by using certain additional ruses and stratagems.
  • Understand and develop confidence in the ability to use properly the ruses and stratagems designed to prevent successful interrogation.

Special Provisions for Medical Personnel & Chaplains (Articles V and VI)

These Articles and its explanations also apply to medical personnel and chaplains ("retained personnel"). They are required to communicate with a captor in connection with their professional responsibilities, subject to the restraints discussed in Article I, V, and VI.