More than two months after armed Iraqi soldiers kicked in their front door and took them prisoners, Don and Brenda Swanke were confronted by the commander of a military site south of Baghdad.
"You're going to America. Pack!" Swanke said they were told.The Swankes were leaving the ranks of the hundreds of Westerners held in Iraq as "human shields" to discourage a feared U.S. attack.
They plan to leave Germany Tuesday for their home in the Los Angeles suburb of Westlake Village. But they say their thoughts linger on Iraq and Kuwait, where friends and others remain captive.
"We feel guilty because we were set free and they were not," said Mrs. Swanke, who spent 65 days in captivity with her husband.
"We want whatever has to be done to get them out," he said.
The couple spoke to The Associated Press a day after they were discharged from the U.S. Regional Air Force Hospital in Wiesbaden. They underwent two days of physical examinations following their release Friday.
They both got a clean bill of health, despite a combined loss of 55 pounds.
The couple was among more than 170 Western hostages released following a visit to Iraq by former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt.
The Swankes said they were fed "mostly rice" during their captivity, but were generally treated well.
"I took the position that you guys are the enemies and we're the prisoners and we'll do what you say. There was no use getting hardnosed with them, and they were very respectful of that," Swanke said.
After Iraq invaded Kuwait City on Aug. 2, Swanke said the couple found out they could still move around the city.
"Until Aug. 18, we could sort of roam around," he said.
After the Iraqis ordered all Americans to report to the International Hotel, Swanke said the couple tried to keep a "low profile" and remained in their apartment.
"On the night of Sept. 5, about 7:30, we heard them (Iraqi soldiers) kicking doors down" at the apartment complex where they lived.
"In a matter of time they came and they kicked our door down, about 15 soldiers came in with AK-47s (assault rifles), quite polite, but rather threatening," he said.
"They took our passports and told us to throw some things in a bag and follow them," Swanke said. They also took his car keys.
The couple were told they were illegally in Kuwait and later taken to the Regency Hotel in Kuwait City under guard, where they remained two nights.
A night later they were taken to Baghdad by bus along with "14 or 15 Americans and several British."
"On the way to Baghdad an Iraqi driving my car passed the bus. If you don't know how to take a joke, don't be a hostage," Swanke said.
He said they were taken to the Mansour Amelia hotel, and over the days other hostages "disapperared one-by-one out to strategic sites."
After about a week, the Swankes were taken to a strategic site in Mosul, about 240 miles north of Baghdad.
He said they were placed in a three-story house where they could cook for themselves with supplies provided by the Iraqis, "although we only got about a fourth of what we asked for."
Later the couple were moved onto what appeared to be a missile storage and assembly base "in a wing of an administraton building office with beds." Swanke said. He said the base was "well-guarded."
"They kept doors locked, kept us guarded and ran around with guns," but "I did not see anybody touched or directly threatened in any manner," he said.
Then Swanke became ill. "It was the food, the stress," Mrs. Swanke said. They were eventually moved to another site south of Baghdad, where Swanke spent four days in a hospital.
"Brenda and I give Mr. Brandt total credit for getting us out," Swanke said.