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Gulf War POWs Tell of Saddam's Wrath

ByABC News
March 13, 2003, 4:57 PM

March 14 -- In the last war with Iraq, 22 Americans were taken prisoner, all but two shot down. But when they came home, the story of what really happened to them was never fully honored.

After a short military ceremony they were quickly forgotten. But 12 years later, as the possibility of another war with Iraq grows daily, the men who were held captive by Saddam Hussein's men remember their suffering all too well.

"I won't lie to you; I was terrified 95 percent of the time I was there," said Maj. Craig Berryman.

"My prevailing thought was they're gonna cripple me, or they're gonna kill me," said Col. Cliff Acree, who was captured after his aircraft was shot down over Kuwait on just the second day of the war.

Acree's wife, Cindy, said she feels people have forgotten about the sacrifices her husband and other Gulf War veterans made. "When it comes up that my husband was a prisoner of war, they'll say, 'Oh, in Vietnam?' " Cindy encouraged her husband, a lieutenant colonel at the time of his capture who has been promoted to full colonel, to tell the story so few Americans have ever heard.

And their stories are terrifying. "I can tell you that for about 20 minutes of my captivity, they played by the Geneva Convention. The rest of the time, they did not," Acree said.

Inside the Baghdad Biltmore

Acree and the others ended up in the basement cells of the Iraqi secret police headquarters. Nicknamed the "Baghdad Biltmore" by the American POWs, it was a place of unrelenting torture and misery.

Acree said he was so hungry during his captivity that he was forced to eat the scabs off his own body.

Former Iraqi officials have told 20/20 the treatment of the American POWs was overseen by Odai Hussein, Saddam's notoriously brutal son.

Odai is believed to have ordered the starvation, the mock executions, the mock castrations, chemical injections and severe beatings of the captives.

Despite the excruciating torture he describes, Acree never yielded to the Iraqis' demands. Acree said his silence only made his captors angrier. They beat him and knocked him unconscious repeatedly as he was tied to a chair blindfolded, he said.