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Prisoners of War

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, November 14, 2016 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0181
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
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Waiting Interrogation, 1967, by James Pollock (U.S. Army Combat Art Program)

War has always resulted in prisoners, and their treatment has always been problematic. The settings in which they have been held extend from the Revolutionary War’s prison ships to the Civil War’s infamous Andersonville camp, Japanese slave labor camps and German concentration camps during WWII, and North Korean brainwashing centers through to Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Just as war has changed dramatically over the years, so has the treatment of captured prisoners. 

Evan J. Wallach, an expert on war crimes and the law of war, finds that how a country treats—or mistreats—captured enemy prisoners is a key gauge of its values as a society and its views of international human rights. He discusses the history of prisoners of war, how POW status is defined in modern warfare, the current required treatment of prisoners, limits to their interrogation, and potential domestic and international legal sanctions for their mistreatment.

Wallach is a circuit judge at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. He served as a combat engineer in Vietnam and Cambodia and in the Pentagon as a U.S. Army judge advocate during the Persian Gulf War, where he was responsible for prisoner of war issues and wrote the Army’s investigation of Iraqi war crimes including mistreatment of coalition POWs.

Smithsonian Connections

Union soldiers helped introduce the rules of the emerging sport of baseball to Southerners and Westerners during the Civil War. One of the earliest images of the sport is a lithograph of a game played by Union prisoners of war at Salisbury Confederate Prison, in the collection of the American History Museum. Learn the story behind that match, and how the game played a role in the daily life of its prisoner-players.