Every member of the Army, the Navy, the Marine
Corps, and the Coast Guard has a personal stake in
the matter of safeguarding military information.
Even so, the most patriotic individual is always hi
danger of forgetting that the enemy cleverly tries to
collect "small" facts and dovetail them so that the
"big" fact will emerge. A man may be eager to preserve
the nation's safety and his own, but the moment
he forgets that the enemy's intelligence services work
subtly, instead of in a predictable manner, he becomes
easy prey for the Axis.
We fight the enemy not only with guns, but with silence.
The security campaign will not end until the war
itself ends. This is why the Intelligence Bulletin reports,
from time to time, new and helpful security
information. This month a thought-provoking item
has been paraphrased from an article published in a
South African Air Force pamphlet. The paraphrase
is presented below. It is followed by a note on unintentional
compromising of security by Americans at home, and how
servicemen can remedy this. The section concludes with an
extract taken from a War Department pamphlet.
2. CARELESS QUESTIONS
We hear a great deal about "careless talk," but
very little about "careless questions." Careless asking
is all too often responsible for careless telling! While
careless telling is seldom intentional, seemingly careless
asking sometimes is deliberately and scientifically planned.
The enemy agent—or the stooge whom he is bribing
or blackmailing—has motives very different from those
of one's mother, wife, sweetheart, or best friend. Unfortunately, they
all ask their questions in the same casual, natural way.
Every day the most innocent catch phrases, such as "What's new?" "How's
everything?" "What's the dope?" and "What do you know?" lead to the
committing of blazing indiscretions.
Love makes most people possessive. The people
who love us—and this is especially true of women—are
always eager to project themselves into our lives, to
share our experiences, at least with their minds and
hearts. We are accustomed to talk freely with them. The
habit, ingrained in so many of us, of "getting it off our
chest" to the person we love is hard to overcome. Breaking
the habit is particularly hard for those of us who loyally
observe the tradition of writing home every week.
In the armed forces the relationships between different
ranks are inevitably responsible for certain types
of careless questions. The Senior asks the Junior a
question, perhaps out of politeness, or perhaps because
of an impulse to patronize. Junior is too overawed to
identify the question as "careless." The Junior asks
the Senior a question, perhaps because the Junior
wishes to appear a superior fellow who is going places,
or perhaps because he thirsts for information that is
none of his business. The Senior, especially if he
has only recently been promoted, is likely to find such
questions irresistible. Nor must we forget the Senior-to-Senior
and Junior-to-Junior combinations. Naturally, we
don't want our equals to get a jump ahead of
us. We want to know all the dope (only we try to excuse
ourselves by saying solemnly that we want to "keep
ourselves up to date"). In the service, then, we
fall into the habit of answering careless questions, just
as we do when we are speaking or writing to the
people we love.
What are the mechanics of the careless question? It
may be written, spoken directly, or telephoned. It
isn't always easy to answer exactly as we should, and
in a courteous manner. Because we are ordinary
human beings, we would prefer to talk freely. Moreover, our
reaction to the "careless question" is affected
by our familiarity with faces and our personal affections
or dislikes, and by our uncritical acceptance of
uniforms and insignia. These things are largely responsible
for our failure to detect questions of this
type and, in so detecting, to avoid giving a dangerous
The written question gives us more time for reflection
than does the question spoken directly or telephoned. For
this reason the written question is a little less dangerous—but
only a little!
The directly spoken question involves an added
danger because of the rapid speed at which the average
conversation is conducted. Although one can see
and identify the speaker, analyze the tone of his voice, and
study his facial expressions, the conversational
"rate of fire" makes it impossible to examine every
question deliberately and carefully. However, if we
are able to show presence of mind, we can gain time
by asking a noncommittal counterquestion. This gives
us a moment in which to reflect.
The telephoned question is by far the most dangerous. It
is impossible for the staff of any switchboard
to check the origin of each telephone call and the
credentials of each caller. Nor, in fact, is it the staff's
duty to do so. It must be assumed that an enemy agent
will have no trouble whatever in reaching by telephone
anyone with whom he wishes to speak. We all are so
accustomed to poor connections, people omitting or
mumbling their personal identifications, sudden requests
for information, continually changing personnel, and
so on, that we are a little hesitant about asking those who
telephone us—often very high officers—to
speak up, give their name and rank, specify
their job, hang up and let us ring them back, and so
forth. Internal and private lines are not absolutely
safe, either. There is no such thing as a telephone
line that can't be tapped.
In fact, the telephone is the happy hunting ground
of the bluffer who is an expert at asking questions
which will sound casual. In using the telephone, moreover, he
exposes his person to no risk at all.
It must be stressed again that an enemy agent asks
his "careless question" deliberately, whereas a friend
will employ the selfsame manner without any ulterior
motive. The fact that the technique is the same is
what causes all the trouble. We simply fall into a
habit of answering questions asked in a casual, friendly
tone. And sometimes, even if we do not answer a
question outright, we are likely to reply in such a
manner as to confirm or deny a statement related to a
military secret. We may do this merely by implication.
The question is what counts. It constitutes the first
danger to military security. The answer constitutes
the second danger, of course.
The seemingly unimportant question, the seemingly
unimportant answer. The light-hearted question, the
lighthearted answer. The flattering question, the flattered
answer. The annoying question, the annoyed
answer. The careless question, and the careless answer.
3. HOW THE HOMEFOLKS MAY ERR
Several reports have been received relating how
parents, relatives, and friends of men overseas are unintentionally
violating security regulations. These violations
involve the engraving on gifts of such secret
information as the name of a soldier's unit and his
arm of service. If soldiers with such information on
their persons should fall into the hands of the enemy, it
would greatly facilitate the latter's intelligence
work. In one instance the unsuspecting parents of a
soldier overseas purchased him an expensive identification
bracelet with the following engraved on it: his name, rank, serial
number, APO number, Company D, 300th Port Battalion, Transport
Corps. Luckily, a service-connected friend of the parents saw the
engravings before the gift was mailed, and pointed out
the security violations. Only the soldier's name, rank, and
serial number should have been engraved on the bracelet.
4. SECURITY VIOLATIONS
So that troops in theaters of war may make full use of the
weapon of surprise, it is of the utmost importance that all
officers and men understand the seriousness of their responsibility
for safeguarding military information. Enemy intelligence
acquires much of its knowledge about impending operations
by piecing together bits of information carelessly circulated
by individuals who do not realize the importance of such bits of
information. No officer or enlisted man in the U.S. Army
has any excuse for failing to understand that the disclosure of
such information constitutes a serious breach of military discipline.
The following examples of security violations are cited
and will be brought to the attention of all personnel to serve
as a warning:
a. A private stationed in a staging area wrote a letter to a
girl in which he listed several APO numbers with their geographic
locations. The private was tried by a general court-martial
and sentenced to 6 months at hard labor with forfeiture
of $30 per month for 6 months.
b. A lieutenant colonel stationed in a large city had access to
information involving troop movements and other matters vital to
national security. One evening the lieutenant colonel told a
woman over a public telephone that he was flying overseas the
next day and named his destination and probable time of arrival. A
high ranking officer was mentioned as being a passenger on
the same airplane. The lieutenant colonel was relieved from
active duty with the U.S. Army and reverted to inactive status.
c. A private disclosed to a group of civilians the location of a
regimental ammunition dump, the number of rounds of ammunition on
hand at the dump, and the number of men on guard. One of the
civilians reported the incident, stating that he had not
known of the ammunition dump's existence before the soldier
told him. The private was tried for disclosing military information
knowingly and wilfully, found guilty, and sentenced to confinement
at hard labor for 3 months with suspension of $20 per month for a like period.
d. A major, while serving on a staff in an active theater of
operations, wrote letters to friends in the United States which
disclosed order of battle and casualties, and contained violent
criticism of superior officers, including the general in command
of the entire operation. He was severely reprimanded by the
chief of staff of that command, transferred to a home station, and
reduced to his permanent grade of first lieutenant.
e. A major, while on temporary duty in the War Department, sent a
cable in the clear to the commanding general of the U.S. Army
forces in an overseas theater advising him that he was being
replaced by another officer. For disclosing this secret information, the
major was reduced to his permanent grade of second lieutenant.
f. A sergeant, in conversation with two United Nations noncommissioned
officers and in the presence of civilians, disclosed exact details
of a new and secret type of combat airplane. The information
revealed might have impaired the effectiveness of the
airplane and resulted in serious loss of lives among United Nations
forces. In any event, the information would have been of great
value to opposing forces, enabling them to adjust their combat
methods to meet this new weapon. The sergeant was sentenced to
5 years' imprisonment, total forfeiture of pay and allowances, and
dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Army.
g. A major in an advanced base of operations sent several rolls
of film to the United States without censorship. Many of the
pictures taken were of military installations. The major was
court-martialed and forfeited $50 a month for 6 months.
h. A sergeant in a theater of war disclosed results of enemy
action, casualties, and location of an APO address. He was
court-martialed, restricted to the detachment area for 3 months, and
required to forfeit $20 a month for the same period.