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Volume 59


Howard S. Levie


Prisoner of War! That is the least unfortunate kind of prisoner
to be, but it is nevertheless a melancholy state. You are in the
power of your enemy. You owe your life to his humanity, and
your daily bread to his compassion. You must obey his orders,
go where he tells you, stay where you are bid, await his pleasure,
possess your soul in patience.

A Roving Commission 259 (1930)

( 1295



Volume 59

Published by the Naval War College Press
U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island 02840

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 78-5135
Manufactured in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Levie, Howard S., 1907-

Prisoners of war in international armed conflict.

(International law studies; v. 59)
Bibliography: p. 602
Includes index.

1. Prisoners of war. I. Title. II. Series: United States.
Naval War College. International law studies; v. 59.
JX1295.04 vol. 59 [JX5141] 341s [341.6'5] 78-5135


Since the founding of the Naval War College in 1884, the study of International Law has been an important part of its curriculum. From 1894 to 1900 the College compiled and printed, for a limited distribution, a number of lectures on International Law together with the situations studied. In 1901, the first formal volume of the “Blue Book” series was published. Thereafter, the series continued on an annual basis until the mid-1960s. With the establishment of a revised resident curriculum at the Naval War College, Richard L. Lillich, Professor of Law at the University of Virginia Law School and former (1968-1969) holder of the Naval War College Stockton Chair of International Law, conducted a comprehensive reappraisal of the need for and value of the “Blue Book” series. As a result of this study, the College has decided to reinstitute its series in order to publish timely treatises and articles concerning important areas of International Law. With this background, it is my pleasure to write the foreword to this volume, the fifty-ninth of the series, by Professor Howard S. Levie, recently of the Saint Louis University School of Law, who occupied the Charles H. Stockton Chair of International Law at the Naval War College during the 1971-1972 academic year. In light of the recent experiences of the American prisoners of war in Vietnam, Professor Levie's excellent study of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War could not be more appropriate. The development of a total understanding of the rules of law which govern the treatment of prisoners of war is essential in order to promote those principles of humanitarianism necessary to regulate an all too often imperfect world. The opinions expressed in this volume are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the United States Navy or the Naval War College. JAMES B. STOCKDALE Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy President


Pope Pius XII once said:

The treatment of prisoners of war and of the civilian population of occupied areas is the most certain measure and index of the civilization of a people and of a nation.

Perhaps in recognition of this “index of civilization,” the representatives of most of the members of the then world community of nations met in Geneva in 1949 and drafted four conventions for the protection of war victims, conventions which, as of 1 June, 1977, had been ratified or adhered to by 143 nations. (See Appendix B.) The third one of those conventions, the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War is the subject of this monograph. It will be noted that the title of this volume specifically limits the discussion to the status of prisoners of war in international armed conflict. Cognate problems arising in cases of internal conflict have so proliferated in recent years as to make that a subject requiring and warranting a study limited exclusively to that field. This task I leave to others who have already produced a number of articles on various aspects of the problem.

It will undoubtedly be said by some that the international law of the subject discussed herein, and hence this volume, is concerned with a situation which will never recur, that the era of large-scale long drawn-out wars has ended, that the arrival of the atomic age has made obsolete the rules of international law contained in such documents as the four 1949 Geneva Conventions for the Protection of War Victims. Unfortunately, there is just no reason to believe that, however many “pacts,” “charters,” “codes,” or “conventions” are entered into by the nations of the world, this will have the effect of eliminating armed conflict as a method of settling disputes between nations. And the 1949 Geneva Conventions are properly geared to govern “little” wars, such as Korea, the Middle East, India-Pakistan, China-India, Vietnam, etc., etc., as well as “big” wars, such as World War I and World War II. While the total elimination of international armed conflict as a method of settling disputes between nations is certainly an end devoutly to be sought, I am afraid that I am too much of a pragmatist to believe that such an end is just around the next corner. However, should the millennium actually arrive in the near future, it is hoped that this volume will still have some historical value as an indication of the status of an important segment of inter


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