A story yesterday about prisoners of war incorrectly attributed a quotation to Lt. Col. Clifford M. Acree. The statement, "I think our leaders and our people have wrongly attacked the peaceful people of Iraq," was made by Lt. Jeffrey N. Zaun. (Published 1/23/91)
The harsh side of war was brought into many American homes yesterday through a stark videotape of U.S. pilots, obviously under stress, appearing on Iraqi television to condemn the U.S. offensive.
Three Americans -- Navy Lt. Jeffrey N. Zaun, Marine Lt. Col. Clifford M. Acree and Marine Warrant Officer Guy Hunter Jr. -- spoke haltingly and stiffly. "I think our leaders and our people have wrongly attacked the peaceful people of Iraq," Zaun said. Hunter said, "I condemn this aggression against peaceful Iraq."
Acree gave only a rank and first name, with the Iraqi interviewer cutting in to give his last name. "I think our leaders and our people have wrongly attacked the peaceful people of Iraq," he said.
Some family members said they recognized their loved ones, but could tell they were making the statements under stress. "They are putting words into his mouth," Zaun's father Calvin told the Associated Press. Later in the day, the elder Zaun refused further comment, and support groups formed around other POW family members to handle news media inquiries.
The downed aviators appeared to have swollen faces, some bruises and cuts. Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said it was not possible to determine whether the injuries were suffered in military action or at the hands of the Iraqis, but several members of Congress and former POWs said the aviators had been tortured.
"I think already we can assume these men are being mistreated," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was a prisoner in Vietnam for more than five years.
The effect on public opinion of parading POWs before television cameras was unclear yesterday, but the initial responses here indicated it was likely to anger Americans.
"If Saddam Hussein thinks by mistreating American soldiers or airmen, if he thinks by doing that it somehow is going to weaken resolve in the United States, it's going to have just the opposite reaction here," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.).
"The apparent torture of American POWs will increase support for the president's policies," predicted Rep. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), "and it makes this war a real war, not just a war of early euphoria."
At home, attention turned to helping the families of those listed as prisoners and missing.
In statements released at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Hunter's and Acree's wives expressed joy that their husbands were alive, coupled with concern for their future.
"We all feel very scared but with this news of him being a POW, we all feel somewhat relieved to know that he is alive," said Mary Hunter.
"I wish I could be there to comfort you and hold you," said Cindy Acree in remarks addressed to her husband. "Just know that I'll wait as long as necessary for you to come home safe to me."
The wives received immediate comfort and assistance from a support group organized at Camp Pendleton.
"We take care of the family's medical, spiritual and other needs," said a spokeswoman for the group who would identify herself only as "one of the wives" from the local Marine air unit. "We handle the front door and we answer the phone," including calls from reporters. The group is also assisting Mary Hunter, the wife of Acree's navigator.
"The Marine Corps always has support for the wives," the spokeswoman said. "The nearest base provides a casualty assistance officer, and taking care of the family becomes the officer's full-time job."
"We've been running errands, bringing in food and just sitting and holding her hand and listening to her talk," said the spokeswoman. "We have sat by her bedside while she tried to get some rest because she didn't want to be alone. But the main thing is to see to it that she doesn't have to face the phone and the doorbell."
In St. Louis, the family of Navy Lt. William T. Costen, 27, was notified yesterday that Costen has been officially listed as missing in action. The Navy has been in constant touch with the family since Friday. "They called us on Friday night," said Costen's father, William, an orthopedic surgeon, "about 10 hours after the incident, but we were out. So they stopped by to see his sister -- I guess she was next on the list.
"Then a captain came here in person on Saturday morning," along with a minister and an enlisted aide, Costen said. "All they could tell us was that he hadn't returned to his carrier. That was it -- that's all they knew. Later we got a telegram from Washington" with the official MIA notification.
Staff writer Tom Kenworthy contributed to this report.