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"Some Notes on German Intelligence Methods" from Intelligence Bulletin, June 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on WWII German intelligence methods was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 10, June 1944.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



It cannot be stressed too often that German efforts to extract information from prisoners are not limited to open-and-aboveboard questioning, but have been known to include trickery of every conceivable kind. U.S. soldiers must realize that when a prisoner has been asked a number of questions during an interview and has told his captors, "I can give only my name, rank, and serial number," German scheming to break his security has only just begun.

In Rome there was a combined Italian and German camp for prisoners of war. The Germans, thwarted by the high sense of security that their prisoners displayed, resorted to the following ruse. After a soldier's means of personal identification had been taken away from him, he would be given an artificial chance to escape. When he was recaptured, the authorities then would pretend that they did not know him, and that they were unable to identify him as a combatant. They would threaten to regard him as a spy and to execute him unless he would truthfully answer a questionnaire covering some very detailed military information. A prisoner who was treated in this manner, and who of course refused to divulge any information, was put into solitary confinement for eight days and nights, with rations of rice, bread, and water. After this, he was again given the questionnaire, and was told that he would be freed if he would answer it. When he refused a second time, he was kept in confinement for a few more days, and then was returned to a regular prisoner-of-war camp.

In an attempt to obtain information from an RAF noncom, the Germans asked him whether he would like to be sent to a permanent camp where he had friends. A list of personnel was read to him, in an effort to get him to indicate those he knew. His squadron leader, who was still in England, was included in the list.

On the day that this same noncom was to leave the transit camp, he was told that an RAF squadron leader had requested, and had been granted permission to meet all RAF personnel in the camp. The noncom was taken to an office where he was greeted cheerfully by a man who wore a squadron leader's uniform and who spoke English without a foreign accent. This man asked him how he had been treated, and expressed the hope that he had divulged nothing. The bogus officer then produced a notebook in which he said, he was compiling records that some day would be useful to the British Air Ministry. He asked many questions about the sergeant's squadron. When the prisoner refused to answer, he was threatened with a postwar charge for disobeying a superior officer, and finally was dismissed with curses.

An escaped British flight sergeant has given an account of how he was placed in a cell with two men dressed as Royal Tank Regiment officers, who told him their unit and asked him to tell his. They then showed him various articles that they were planning to use in an attempt to escape, and tried to lure him into a discussion of the possibilities of escaping by air. When the sergeant was questioned about forward airfields, he stated that he knew nothing about them. By this time his suspicions had been aroused, inasmuch as they did not know what "Mk V" on his service watch stood for. An observer in this sergeant's plane had exactly the same sort of experience with other stool pigeons posing as British officers.

The Germans generally make a point of having stool pigeons pose as belonging to a branch of service other than that to which a prisoner belongs. Obviously, the purpose of this is to make it easier for a stool pigeon to hide his ignorance of the many small, everyday details that he otherwise would be expected to know.


A German prisoner, who served in the signal section of an armored division recently encountered in Italy, has described an intercept unit of from 10 to 15 sets which served with his division. Part of the unit was said to concentrate on locating and identifying all possible stations, down to company (and British squadron) level, while the other part listened to the nets thus identified and selected those which afforded the best information. Identification was made by a careful analysis of the characteristics of each set and each operator.

The division's artillery regiment was said to have a special direction-finding component which apparently attempted to discover the area from which each projectile came. To do this, the Germans tried to intercept fire orders, locate the stations on the net concerned, and coordinate the results with reports of hostile shelling. This procedure was not especially successful.

The foregoing points very clearly to the fact that any carelessness with respect to communication security is extremely dangerous. The Germans are continuously hunting for random bits of free information.

A German artillery signalman captured in Italy made the following comment about signal procedures in his unit. The rule was that no use be made of uncoded references, even over the telephone. Battalions and batteries had code names, and the numerals 1, 2, or 3 following a code name related to the observation post, radio truck, or gun position, respectively. All radio messages were doubly coded, the key being changed every two hours. In actual combat the use of radio was reduced to a minimum because of unhappy experiences with hostile direction finding. As a further precaution, the radio truck was situated half a mile from the gun position.


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