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"Security Notes" from Intelligence Bulletin, June 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following security notes were 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.]



From a Southwest Pacific Command, there comes a new version of an old anecdote which is a discerning, if indirect, comment on the gullibility of human nature.

"A real estate man arrived at the gates of Heaven, confident that he already had an option on a piece of property there, inasmuch as he had never robbed widows or orphans—at least, not much.

"St. Peter was adamant, however. There's no room for you;' he said. 'All allotments set aside for real estate men have already been taken up on perpetual lease.'

"Although no longer on his native heath, the applicant still had some of the earthly instincts of all successful real estate agents. He asked permission just to come in and look around. All was as St. Peter had said. So the real estate man stepped up onto a bench on the main boulevard and shouted, 'Oil has been discovered in Hell!'

"There was instant pandemonium and a mad exodus of real estate men, complete with hastily packed suitcases, rushing off to Hell. St. Peter watched the newcomer's face light up with satisfaction at his own cleverness and then slowly cloud over with worry. Suddenly the newcomer, too, grabbed his suitcase and raced after the real estate men. As he gathered speed, he shouted back to St. Peter, 'You know, there may be something to that rumor!'"

Unfortunately, there is a large element of psychological truth in this story. Rumors are contagious, and affect not only those among whom they are spread, but also the rumor-monger himself.


Most breaches of security that censors come across are clearly not intentional. They stem from a soldier's ignorance of what he should and should not write in a letter, or from his faulty judgment as to what may be included without breaching security.

Intentional breaches are nearly always caused by someone's desire to appear clever, and are very seldom committed with treasonable intent. An example of the former was the case of a soldier who filled a letter with classified matters which he thought would entertain the folks at home, and entrusted it to a friend who was returning to the States. ("Don't let the postmark of this letter surprise you, because I'm not at home—" his letter began.) This use of unauthorized channels to carry mail from the field to persons at home is a flagrant violation of censorship, and subjects not only the writer, but the carrier as well, to severe disciplinary action. This particular writer committed an even graver violation, however. In his letter he disclosed in detail:

a. his movements through the South Pacific area from the beginning of 1943, specifically mentioning dates and places;

b. the casualties of units in combat;

c. the movements of other units, and

d. enough information about military plans for the future to endanger the success of an entire operation.

Besides inviting court-martial, this man jeopardized the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Press associations, newspapers, and radio stations sometimes unwittingly influence soldiers and their parents and friends to violate censorship regulations. A press association recently carried a story telling how a civilian well versed in animal lore was trying to help parents determine where their sons were located.

Unfortunately the enemy also has personnel well versed in animal lore. Therefore, such attempts to reveal locations amount, in reality, to using a code which is easily understood by our enemies.

The use of codes of any type is strictly against security regulations, and violators are subject to penalties ranging from a reprimand to a court-martial.

These cases, particularly the former, demonstrate two urgent needs: first, the need for greater and continued security education for troops, and, second, the need for keeping secret military information—especially that involving future operations—out of discussions in the presence of persons whose duties do not require such knowledge.

On the other hand, the men who commit breaches of security out of sheer ignorance of what the censor can and cannot pass would benefit from a practice recently instituted by an Australian unit. This unit has established what it calls a "Censor's Diary." Censored portions of letters are posted on a notice board, with brief comments by the censor officer explaining why these portions are not suitable for transmission. The enlisted men have praised the innovation as being a great help, and the censors have found that it has lightened their work to a remarkable degree.

A South African major general, recommending this scheme for consideration by the units of his command, sensibly points out that several precautions must be observed: "Personal and family matters should not be published. Typed copies of extracts should be posted, so that, the writers' identities are not revealed. Examples which will benefit the largest number should be selected, and comments should be brief, pithy, and constructive."


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