Captured, Not Conquered Cover

Captured, Not Conquered

The American POW Experience in the First World War

Greg Eanes

E & H Publishing Company, Crewe, Virginia, 2018, 482 pages

Book Review published on: June 22, 2018

The first group of American prisoners of war (POWs) during World War I were captured just before daylight on 3 November 1917. Company F, 16th Infantry Regiment, First Division, had been placed in sector for training purposes when a German trench raid targeting the Americans killed three, wounded eleven, and took eleven as prisoner. Over the next year, some 3,700 Americans would become German POWs, including a handful of American soldiers captured just minutes prior to the Armistice going into effect. All living American military POWs were back in U.S. custody by 5 February 1919.

In Captured, Not Conquered, Greg Eanes, a retired Air Force colonel, provides a timely examination of the American POW experience in World War I. He opens with an overview of contemporary international legal conventions regarding POWs and Germany’s POW policies during the war. Food shortages on the German home front severely restricted the country’s ability to feed its prisoners. As a result, the United States and other nations sent rations through the International Red Cross to POWs held in Germany. Eanes research indicates that the prisoners’ treatment varied for a variety of reasons ranging from when a prisoner was captured to his rank and where the prisoner was confined. His research further indicated that the Germans treated their American prisoners generally better than their Allied comrades.

Eanes relates one of the more remarkable prisoner experiences during the war involving Marine Private Henry Lenert. Lenert, who spoke German, was captured at the front. On his third night of captivity, following a conversation with the German company commander, the German company of eighty men surrendered to Lenert who promised to lead them to the safety of American lines.

Captured, Not Conquered describes individual and group prison escapes during the war. Approximately 114 Americans were successful in escaping their German captors; many of the escapes occurred within minutes of being captured during the confusion of battle. Twenty of these occurred after the Armistice was signed but when POWs were still being incarcerated as a formal state of war still existed. Eanes describes how the United States and its allies developed prisoner intelligence that played a critical role in preparing military members on enemy interrogation techniques, conditions of captivity, escape and evasion, and proper prisoner conduct. Lessons gleaned in prisoner intelligence during World War I have evolved into the training, operations support, and intelligence products for current armed forces training.

Captured, Not Conquered is the most complete collection of American POW experiences during World War I that has been written. Eanes’s research is extensive and includes firsthand accounts that convey the harsh reality of life experienced in a German POW camp. This work is a must for historians and students of the World War I and those interested in the POW experience.

Book Review written by: Jesse McIntyre III, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas