Today In History: US Brigadier General James Dozier Kidnapped by Italian Terrorists (1981)

US Brigadier General James Dozier Kidnapped by Italian Terrorists (1981)

James Lee Dozier (born April 10, 1931) is a retired United States Army officer. In December 1981, he was kidnapped by the leftist Italian Red Brigades Marxist terrorist group. He was rescued by NOCS, an Italian anti-terrorist force, after 42 days of captivity. General Dozier was the deputy Chief of Staff at NATO’s Southern European land forces headquarters at Verona, Italy. The Red Brigades, in a statement to the press, stated the reason behind kidnapping an American general was that the U.S. and Italian governments had enjoyed excellent diplomatic relations and the fact that Dozier was an American soldier invited to work in Italy justified their abduction. To date, General Dozier is the only American flag officer to have been captured by a terrorist group.[1]

Kidnapping
Brigadier General Dozier was kidnapped from his apartment in Verona at approximately 6 pm on December 17, 1981, by four men posing as plumbers. It was later reported that as many as four additional terrorists provided support with multiple vehicles. His wife was not kidnapped, but was held at gunpoint briefly to coerce General Dozier to comply and the terrorists left her bound and chained in their apartment.[2]

In Dr. Paul J. Smith’s (National Security Affairs professor at the U.S. Naval War College)[3] paper The Italian Red Brigades (1969–1984): Political Revolution and Threats to the State:

“For more than a month, Dozier’s right wrist and left ankle were chained to a steel cot, which was placed under a small tent. He was also forced to live under the “never-extinguished glare of an electric bulb.” Dozier’s captors also required him to wear earphones and listen to loud music. During Dozier’s captivity, the Red Brigades issued various communiqués to the government and the public generally, describing their demands or complaints. They issued the first communiqué only days after the kidnapping; it was striking for its lack of any ransom demand. Instead it dwelled on international matters of interest to the Red Brigades, including a tribute to the German Red Army Faction. Subsequent communiqués also failed to mention ransom demands and even lacked any particular reference to Dozier. The fifth communiqué, retrieved from a trash can in downtown Rome, contained a number of anti-NATO and anti-American statements but did not make any specific demands for Dozier’s release.”[4]
According to the book Secret Warriors, by terrorism expert Steven Emerson, the Italian government did not want to mount the rescue operation initially and would not allow the US to rescue Gen. Dozier either. Emerson reports that President Reagan contacted H. Ross Perot and asked him to rescue General Dozier using his private forces. Perot gladly accepted the mission and while his team was in the air between Texas and Italy the Italian government heard about the private rescue mission and was thereby convinced that in order to avoid severe diplomatic problems originating from the capture of several foreign armed mercenaries on its sovereign homeland they would launch their own rescue mission.[5]

The Red Brigades held Brigadier General Dozier for 42 days until January 28, 1982, when a team of NOCS (a special operations unit of the Italian police) successfully carried out his rescue from an apartment in Padua, without firing a shot, capturing the entire terrorist cell. The guard assigned to kill General Dozier in the event of a rescue attempt did not do so, and was overwhelmed by the rescuing force.

After Dozier’s return to the US Army in Vicenza, he was congratulated by telephone by President Reagan on regaining his freedom.[6]

Aftermath
Dozier was later promoted to major general and eventually retired from active military service.

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