Tip Sheets

Deep history of prisoner exchanges during wartime

Media Contact

Becka Bowyer

Russia and the United States have carried out a prisoner exchange resulting in the release of a former U.S. Marine jailed by Moscow and a convicted Russian drug trafficker held in the U.S.


David Silbey

Adj. Associate Professor and Associate Director Cornell in Washington

David Silbey, an expert in military history, is an associate professor of history, associate director of Cornell in Washington, and faculty member in the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy. His latest book, The Other Face of Battle: America’s Forgotten Wars and the Experience of Combat, looks at how America struggles in unconventional wars.

Silbey says:

“There’s a lot of history to prisoner exchanges both in wartime and during the Cold War. They’re often very telling in their own way: during the Civil War, there were extended prisoner exchanges until the South refused to include captured African American soldiers, at which point Grant suspended the exchanges for the duration of the war. During the Cold War, a lot of spies were exchanged and sometimes sent back by simultaneously crossing over at Checkpoint Charlie in divided Berlin.”

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