POW Rescue, A Year Later

April 13 marks the first anniversary of the dramatic rescue of seven American POWs in Iraq. Five soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Company and two helicopter pilots were rescued by U.S. Marines after they spent nearly a month in the hands of Iraqi captors.

It's hard to forget those haunting images of the troops in captivity and the celebrations when they returned home.

A year later, dozens of hostages from many countries are being held in Iraq. Former POW Ron Young Jr. tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler that some - like American truck driver Thomas Hamill, who was not trained to handle a hostage situation - are probably scared.

"It's going to be a little more difficult for him because he just doesn't have the expertise to look back on and say,'These are the things I need to say to keep myself alive' and all of those types of things," Young says. "So by now he's been kind of integrated into their system. He's probably really fearful for his life. He's trying to listen to what they're saying and their tone of voice to see what kind of mood they're in and trying to react from that. Really, there is nothing he can do other than try to gain their sympathy."

Former POW Shoshana Johnson says she and her family are praying for Hamill. "I know he's doing the same thing," she says. "I know his family is probably intensely worried. It upset my family a great deal to see that. And we actually tried to contact his family. But, of course, you know, with everything going on, they're not answering their phone and we understand that. But all we can hope to do is offer some support for his family, our prayers. And I just hope he comes home."

Being rescued, she says, was not the first thing she thought would happen, but she kept the hope alive. To the Marines who kicked down the door where she and the other POWs were being held, she says thank you.

She says, "I don't want them ever to think that I have forgotten what they've done for me. Every time I look at my daughter, I know what they did for me."

So The Early Show made it possible for her and Young to meet personally with Lt. Col. Stacey Clardy, who orchestrated the rescue operation, and Maj. Gordon Miller, who took part executing it.

Although Lt. Col. Clardy couldn't get clearance from his higher-up, he made the decision to get the hostages. "I don't quite look at it that way, of course," he tells Syler. "We were all alone. And the decision was ours to make at the time, and it was mine to make."

The problem was that they kept getting bogus information from the Iraqis. He says, "But if there was a chance that they were there, we had to act on that."

Maj. Miller adds, "I can definitely say that nothing had gone exactly the way anybody anticipated anything. Dynamic, fluid environment is the best term we can use. Everything is a constant change in environment. The Iraqis changed the way they did everything. We got the word from Col. Clardy that possibly there were POWs in there and it was an opportunity we couldn't let pass."

Miller says he owes Johnson an apology. "The first thing I saw in there was her (Johnson)," he says. "She was inside the room near the ladder well." Addressing her, he adds, "I'm sorry I put you down on the ground as hard as I did. But we needed to make sure that the room was clear and safe and everything else."

Thanks to them, Johnson and Young Jr. are all smiles now. Johnson even can laugh at the fact that after having to wear pajamas for so long, she was the only one of the rescued POWs who asked for something to wear.

She says, "After the rescue, they got me to a contained area and I had to take off that pajama. I couldn't take it anymore."

She not only got a flight suit but underwear from the colonel.

"It was clean," Lt. Col. Clardy points out and they all laughed.
  • Tatiana Morales

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