General kidnapped in 1981 holds emotional reunion with liberators

Tue Mar 13, 2012 3:03pm EDT
 
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By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - For 42 days three decades ago, U.S. General James Lee Dozier was the world's most famous hostage and his captors, the Red Brigades, were Europe's most feared and bloody terrorist organization.

Dozier, now 80, has come back to Italy, perhaps for the last time, to meet the members of the police special operations unit who liberated him in one of the most daring rescue raids of those dramatic years in Italian history.

"If it weren't for guys like these I wouldn't be here," he told Reuters last Saturday at an emotional 30-year reunion with the 13-man SWAT team that saved him on the cold but clear morning of January 28, 1982.

Thirty years on, the members of the once svelte and swift squad that saved him have lost some of their hair, put on weight and become grandfathers. But no one can forget.

Say Dozier's name to any Italian old enough to remember and they will tell you it brings back dark memories of the country's "Years of Lead," when the ultra-leftist Red Brigades kidnapped, maimed and killed politicians and business leaders as part of their war against the state.

Dozier, then NATO's deputy chief of staff for land forces for Southern Europe and based in Verona, was the biggest fish the Red Brigades nabbed after former Prime Minister Aldo Moro, who they held for 55 days in 1978 before killing him.

Dozier knows he was probably destined to meet Moro's fate had it not been for the raid led by Major Edoardo Perna on an apartment in the northern city of Padua where five Red Brigades guerrillas had held Dozier prisoner in a tent.

"This is something that I live with almost perpetually. But in a way it's cathartic," Dozier said. "You know, you keep thinking about it and I'm told by psychologists that is one of the best medicines - keep thinking about it and don't worry about it."   Continued...

 
U.S. General James Lee Dozier looks on during a news conference in Rome March 10, 2012. For 42 days three decades ago, Dozier was the world's most famous hostage and his captors, the Red Brigades, were Europe's most feared and bloody terrorist organisation. Dozier, now 80, has come back to Italy, perhaps for the last time, to meet the members of the police special operations unit who liberated him in one of the most daring rescue raids of those dramatic years in Italian history. Picture taken March 10, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer