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"The Moroccan Soldier" from Intelligence Bulletin, January 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following article on the Moroccan soldier was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, January 1943.

[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.]



The information in this section was extracted from an article written by a Spanish infantry captain. It deals with the characteristics of the Moslem soldier in Spanish Morocco and how to get along with him.1 Basically, this soldier is very much like Moslem soldiers in other parts of North Africa; therefore, it is believed that a study of him will aid our troops who come in contact with Moslems in the African theater of operations.


Centuries of warfare have developed notable military virtues in the Moroccans. They are born warriors, and possess in the highest degree the characteristics of a perfect infantry soldier. They are industrious and economical, good walkers and runners, agile, well disciplined, strong, good at hand-to-hand fighting, tenacious in defense, and pitiless in attack. They possess, moreover, an enviable instinct for making the most of opportunities offered by the terrain, fully exploiting them in retreat as well as in attack.

Military forces made up of such elements must naturally be excellent; but it takes skillful veteran officers to command them. The Moroccan is not urged on by the sentiments that inspire the Spanish soldier, such as patriotism, sense of duty, self-denial, spirit of sacrifice, and so forth. He does his work, nearly always because of the inspiration and personal magnetism of his leader, and such leadership is fostered only by the leader's display of intelligence, force of will, rectitude, skill, and, above all, valor.

Aside from his military qualities, the Moroccan soldier possesses other characteristic traits that his officers should know: He is haughty and proud because, being a Moslem, he believes that his religion and his race are superior to all others; he is distrustful, because deep down in his heart he is convinced that every action in life has a selfish end in view; he is mercenary--of necessity and as a natural defense against the unfailing greed of his neighbors; and he is crafty, because since childhood he has had to keep constantly on guard to defend his own interests and his family, in a country where so far only cunning and force have carried the day.

As a result of these traits, the Moroccan soldier will seem complex and difficult to a young officer. One simply must learn to know him; and for that purpose one must observe him, study him, and treat him accordingly.

In dealing with these troops it will be found quite profitable to mingle to some extent with the subordinates, to enter into their feelings and get to know them, demonstrating a suitable measure of friendly confidence such as will afford opportunity for them to present any claims or complaints they may have, or ask any question that may be troubling them. Such consultations should even include the soldier's personal affairs, and he should come to his officers for help and advice. He may without doubt be expected to do so, and perhaps more frequently than one might wish, as soon as he notices that his officers lend an attentive ear and take an interest. This trait, together with the characteristic obstinacy of the Moroccan, may become a source of annoyance; but there is no better way for an officer really to attach a Moroccan soldier to his person and induce him to do his best in the faithful performance of duties assigned.

The writer does not possess sufficient experience to offer substantial advice, and we shall limit ourselves to quoting a few suggestions from our lamented great master in matters Moroccan, none other than General Capaz:

"Be extremely polite, since nothing could more easily wound a Moslem than insolence or contempt. Be of firm character, without weaknesses; and if you show indulgence, let it always be preceded by punishment. Avoid insulting and angry speech. The native chiefs never shout as they speak their sentences, and you might set them a bad example.

"Wear correct uniforms, and avoid showy attempts at imitating the dress of the natives.

"Be equitable in your decisions; because impartiality is for a Moslem the height of justice.

"Always keep your word, and never go back on an agreement.

"Ask for a service in such manner that you would seem to be asking for collaboration; and the service will be rendered more willingly.

"Respect the man's religion, and take care not to offend him. It would be an outrage to their feelings for you to attempt to explain to them a passage from the Koran, or to say that you have a Koran in your possession.

"Pass in silence over their beliefs and superstitions. They will tell you all sorts of funny superstitions; and you should not agree, or disagree, or smile. Simply remark: 'That may be.'

"The so-called good Moroccan--who admires European things and possibly speaks Spanish quite correctly, and who publicly advertises his repugnance to his creed and takes alcohol freely--is, generally speaking, not the type of man to be very much trusted.

"In your dealings with Moslem authorities, show them consideration; but do not strike too great a note of familiarity with them. They will not understand your condescension and will not fail to regard it as a sign of weakness.

"Look with indifference upon events as they happen; if you give too much praise, they will regard it as cringing.

"Don't talk about war; and if you do, avoid dwelling too much on their cooperation or praise their valor and loyalty. If you do not follow this advice, you will hear them saying later that success was due entirely to their help.

"Do not lend your presence too readily at festivities, banquets, or more casual entertainment in your behalf; because the invitation will, as a rule, be followed by some request for a favor.

"There is one thing in particular that the young officers must keep in mind. Upon arrival, they will readily find admirers. But do not abandon yourself to your vanity. Servility is only one of their modes of intrigue; and a Moslem is addicted to intrigue so much that it constitutes part of his character no less than the Yibala is a regular part of his dress.

"In cases of doubt or hesitation--and such cases are bound to arise for a newly arrived officer--it will be necessary to suspend judgment and consult.

"If the occasion arises, something will have to be done. If you make a mistake you will lose prestige. If you confess your ignorance, they will lose respect for you. Under such circumstances one must nonchalantly pronounce certain magic words which can be acquired from the natives and the purpose of which is to gain time. For instance, 'We shall have to see... But let me see... Tomorrow;' or simply make a promise, more or less as follows: 'Don't worry... things are bound to go right, if it is the Lord's will...,' and so forth."

1A Moslem is a believer in the faith established by Mohammed, whose writings and revelations constitute a sacred book, the Koran.


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