James Dozier pictured after his rescue.
January 28, 2010 06:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Brig. Gen. James L. Dozier, chief of staff at NATO’s Southern European land forces at Verona, was kidnapped on Dec. 17, 1981, by members of the Red Brigades, an Italian Marxist-Leninist terrorist group. Four terrorists disguised themselves as plumbers and abducted Dozier from his Verona apartment, leaving his wife bound and chained in the apartment.
Dozier was taken to a Padua apartment and chained to a pole under a camping tent. During his captivity, he was barred from exercise and forced to listen to loud rock music so he would not hear what the terrorists were saying.
The kidnapping put pressure on the Italian government to clamp down on the Red Brigades, who had kidnapped and murdered several Italian politician and senior officials since it was formed in the 1970s.
Italian authorities began the “largest man hunt in Italian history” and tracked the terrorists to the Padua flat. On the morning of Jan. 28, 10 agents in Italy’s Central Operative Security Nucleus agents invaded the apartment, subdued several Red Brigade members, and found Red Brigade member Antonio Savasta holding a gun to Dozier’s head.
“Before Savasta could pull the trigger, however, a commando hit him from behind with the butt of his machine gun and knocked him to the floor,” wrote Time.
Within 90 seconds of entering the apartment, the COSN agents had captured all six Red Brigade members without firing a shot. Dozier, who appeared unkempt but generally unharmed, was unchained and taken to safety.
He was flown home to the United States a week later, where he was greeted with a hero’s welcome and a meeting with President Ronald Reagan.
James Dozier is “an example both of what to do and what not to do” in a kidnapping situation, according to Stars and Stripes. Dozier admits that he did not take the threat of terrorism seriously enough and consequently did not increase his personal security before the kidnapping. But “he was an exemplary hostage, who ‘maintained his composure and survived,’” the newspaper wrote.
Dozier said in a 2006 speech that he tried to show his kidnappers that he was a dependable hostage, allowing them to relax their guard. “I did the same things at the same time every day. I asked for and was given a deck of cards, which helped them to see me as more human rather than just a hostage,” he said.
Sources in this Story
- The BBC: 1982: US general rescued from Red Brigade
- Time: “Police! Marvelous!”
- Time: Welcome Home, Soldier
- Stars and Stripes: General who was held hostage now an example of how to survive
- BNET (Spokesman Magazine): Former hostage shares lessons with terrorism conference attendees
- The BBC: Italy’s history of terror
- RobertoBartali.it: Brigate Rosse and Moro Kidnapping: secrets and lies
- Center for Defense Information: In the Spotlight: The New Red Brigades/Communist Combatant Party
- The Investigative Project on Terrorism (The Jamestown Foundation): Italy’s Left-Wing Terrorists Flirt with Radical Islamists
The Brigate Rosse, known as the Red Brigades, was created in 1970s by radical Marxist-Leninist students who wished to see the overthrow off the capitalist system. The most active of Italy’s paramilitary groups during the “Year of Lead,” the Red Brigades became famous for the kidnapping of prominent Italian officials and industrialists.
The group’s most infamous act was the kidnapping of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro on March 16, 1978. When the Italian government refused to release 13 jailed Red Brigade members, the group killed Moro on May 9, 1978.
The Red Brigades fissured around the mid-1980s, splitting off into The New Red Brigades/Communist Combatant Party and the Union of Combatant Communists. The New Brigades inherited the militancy of the original Red Brigades. The New Red Brigades claimed responsibility for the assassinations of labor minister advisor Massimo D’Antona in 1999, Professor Marco Biagi in 2002 and a police officer in 2003.
According to a global terrorism analysis report by the Jamestown Foundation, the New Brigades are developing ties with Islamic terrorist organizations. A Brigades member is quoted as saying that the “Zionist entity” is trying to destroy “Arab and Islamic masses who have been expropriated and humiliated by imperialism and who constitute the natural ally of the urban proletarian class in European countries.”
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