ALVAREZ, ROBERTO
Name: Roberto Alvarez
Rank/Branch: Civilian
Unit: CBS News photographer
Age: 37
Home City: U.S.
Date of Loss: 24 January 1991
Country of Loss: Saudi Arabia/Kuwait border
Loss Coordinates:
Status: Released POW 03/03/91
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: auto
Other Personnel in Incident: Juan Caldera; Peter Bluff; Bob Simon (all released)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 09 March 1991 from one
or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
published sources, interviews. Updated by the POW NETWORK 2002.
REMARKS: OPERATION DESERT STORM
SYNOPSIS: On January 16, 1991, Allied forces began concentrated air strikes
on Iraqi military targets in Iraq and Kuwait. Participating in the strikes
were U.S., British and Kuwaiti air forces. The United Kingdom had the second
largest military contingent of troops after the U.S. with 35-40,000 troops,
75 Tornado fighter/bombers, and sixteen warships.
International news agencies struggled to compete for up-to-date news on
this, the first "live-time" war the world had seen. CBS News correspondent
and his three-man crew checked in on January 18 saying they were "in the
no-man's land between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait."
On January 24, 1991, CBS News correspondent Bob Simon, producer Peter Bluff,
soundman Juan Caldera and photographer Roberto Alverez, apparently seeking a
story, traveled unescorted to the Saudi/Kuwait border. Their abandoned
automobile, still containing their personal effects, camera equipment and
money, was found by Saudi Arabian troops.
On January 28, 1991, a UPI story stated that Saudi Arabian authorities
reported that an Iraqi deserter told them he may have seen the four-man
crew. CBS, as of that date, was trying to confirm the report and speak to
the deserter to obtain information on the crew.
CBS has been unable to confirm that the four are prisoners, although
information from several sources indicates that this was the case. Simon's
wife, Francoise, appeared on "CBS This Morning" on February 11 and said she
believes the four are alive, but there was no fresh news.
CBS received on February 11 a report from an Iraqi defector that the four
newsmen were being held somewhere in Kuwait. According to one U.S.
intelligence official who had access to the intelligence report, "They'e
POWs. And they're lucky if they're getting a single meal a day."
On February 12, an "Inside Edition" television show reported that sources
"close to the Iraqi leadership" said Simon and his three crew members had
been moved to Baghdad from Kuwait City where discussions were underway
"within the Iraqi government concerning their release."
The mechanisms protecting civilians and military personnel in combat zones
are varied. While civilians are under the protection of the United States,
they are, in theory, the responsibility of the U.S. State Department.
Greater priority in actual recovery efforts are given military personnel,
who are under the protection of the Department of Defense. Simon and his
crew had as their greatest advocates their families and their employer -
CBS.
On March 2, 1991, the CBS team was released by the Iraqis in a "goodwill"
gesture following pre-ceasefire agreements. All reported being beaten during
their captivity during interrogation sessions.
The team had been held with other Coalition POWs at Basra. On several
occasions they were subject to nearby allied bombing strikes, and once the
complex in which they were held was hit. One of the team barely missed being
killed in the strike, but used the opportunity to leave his solitary cell
and check on other POWs in the complex.
The release of the CBS team was followed by three releases by March 9, the
last being that of 40 international journalists.