War Trophies. The law of war authorizes the confiscation of enemy military property. War trophies, as long as taken
from enemy military property, are legal under the law of war. The problem with war trophies arises under U.S. domestic
law, rather than under the law of war. Confiscated enemy military property is property of the U.S. The property becomes
a war trophy--and capable of legal retention by an individual soldier--only if the U.S. so designates the property IAW
law and regulation.
War Trophy Policy. Section 1171 of the 1994 National Defense Authorization Act states the U.S. policy on war
trophies. In essence, the law amends Title 10 by adding section 2579; 10 U.S.C. ... 2579 requires that all enemy material
captured or found abandoned shall be turned in to "appropriate" personnel. The law, which directs the promulgation of an
implementing directive and service regulations, contemplates that members of the armed forces may request enemy items
as souvenirs. The request would be reviewed by an officer who shall act on the request "consistent with military customs,
traditions, and regulations." The law authorizes the retention of captured weapons as souvenirs if rendered unserviceable
and approved jointly by DoD and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF). Ample flexibility (or
ambiguity) is created by the law so as to continue the need for punitive command policies or regulations which limit the
items that may properly be taken as war trophies. (AR 190-XX, Control and Requisition of War Trophies, will
implement the law; as of this writing, the regulation is still in draft.) USCENTCOM General Order Number 1 is perhaps
the classic example of a war trophy order. These regulations and policies, and relevant UCMJ provisions must be made
known to U.S. forces prior to combat. War trophy regulations must be emphasized early and often, for even those who
are aware of the regulations may be tempted to disregard them if they see others doing so.
The key to a clear and workable war trophy policy is to publicize it before deployment, work it into all exercises and
plans, and train with it! When drafting a war trophy policy, consider the "6 Cs":
COMMON SENSE--does the policy make sense?
CLARITY--can it be understood at the lowest level?
3. CI--is the word out through all command information means available? (Post on unit bulletin boards, post
in mess facilities, put in post newspaper, put in PSA on radio, etc.)
4. CONSISTENCY--are we applying the policy across all layers and levels of command? (A policy
promulgated for an entire Corps is better than diverse policies within subordinate divisions; a policy that is promulgated
by the unified command and applies to all of its components is better still.)
5. CUSTOMS--prepare for customs inspections, "courtesy" inspections prior to redeployment, and amnesty
6. CAUTION--Remember one of the prime purposes of a war trophy policy: to limit soldiers from exposing
themselves to danger (in both Panama and the Gulf, soldiers were killed or seriously injured by exploding ordnance
encountered when they were looking for souvenirs). Consider prohibitions on unauthorized "bunkering, "souvenir
hunting," "climbing in or on enemy vehicles and equipment." A good maxim for areas where unexploded ordnance or
booby-traps are problems: "If you didn't drop it, don't pick it up."
Rules of Engagement. Defined: Directives issued by competent superior authority that delineate the circumstances and
limitations under which U.S. forces will initiate and/or continue engagement with other forces. ROE are drafted in
consideration of the Law of War, national policy, public opinion, and military operational constraints. ROE are often
more restrictive than what the Law of War would allow.
Hors de Combat. Prohibition against attacking enemy personnel who are "out of combat."
Law of War