This section is translated from a captured German handbook for
troops, titled The Soldier in Libya. It deals with health
problems, clothing and shelter, relations with natives, and
suggestions to motor vehicle drivers.
The climate of the country (Libya) is entirely different from
that of Germany. The German soldier must first get accustomed
to the peculiarities of the climate.
There are diseases which we do not have in Germany, and every
German soldier must, for this reason, know the dangers which
these climatic peculiarities represent for him.
He must pay special attention to the following:
The water of the country may contain many things that cause
disease; therefore, never drink water that has not been
boiled. Don't even wash out your mouth with unboiled water
until the commanders declare it to be fit for use.
Don't drink any kind of mineral water or any kind of lemonade
until the commanders have expressly declared them to be harmless.
Sherbets and ice creams sold on the street are injurious to
health; avoid them, even though you are very thirsty!
Don't bathe in bad water and don't bathe in rivers, lakes, ponds, or
pools. It is permissible to bathe in the sea. Don't bathe
when you are overheated.
The best food is that which you get from your unit. Don't eat
any raw meat. Don't drink any unboiled milk, and under no
circumstances drink goat milk. Wash all fruit in suitable water
or peel it before eating it. Don't buy melon offered for sale in
slices by street vendors.
Don't store away food, especially in the case of meat, fish, and
sausage. In the heat they spoil quickly and cause serious cases
of poisoning. Protect your food from the flies, because they
In this country there are fleas, lice, ticks, mosquitoes, poisonous
snakes, and scorpions. Use insect powder against the insects. Mosquitoes
are carriers of malaria. Catch the mosquitoes in the
morning and evening, in your shelter. If you allow a light to
burn in your shelter, close the openings, because mosquitoes are
attracted by lights.
While asleep, use a mosquito net. But when you get under
the net, make sure that there are no mosquitoes under it and
that there are no openings through which they can come in.
If you have lice or crabs, report the fact at once. Lice and ticks
are carriers of spotted fever, a very serious disease.
The snakes in the country are very poisonous and crawl in the
sand; so never walk barefoot in the sand.
If you are bitten by a snake or scorpion, bind the member that
has been bitten, between the bite and the heart, so that it will
not swell or become blue; then with a razor blade that you have
disinfected with a flame, make a large cross-cut. Sucking the
incision, a procedure often recommended, should not be done if
you have a mouth sore or a decaying tooth. If possible, go at
once to the surgeon of the unit or the medical officer. Always
shake your shoes well before putting them on; they are a favorite
hiding place for scorpions. When you see a rat, kill it.
d. Holding Animals
Dogs and cats are frequently carriers of serious diseases--for
example, rabies and serious worm and blood diseases. Don't hold
any dog, cat, or monkey.
Don't shun inoculations. They will protect you from serious
diseases. The person who is not inoculated not only exposes
himself, but endangers his comrades.
f. Avoiding Malaria
If tablets must be taken to guard against malaria, don't try
to avoid them. Here, again, you would expose not only yourself, but
your comrades as well.
g. Prickly Heat ("Red Dog")
Prickly heat is an annoying skin irritation which develops as
a result of sultry heat and excessive perspiration. Frequent
washing with warm water and lathering with "Afridol" soap (when
you have it) is the best protection. Let the foam stay on
for 15 minutes and then dry yourself by dabbing (don't rub
yourself dry). Dry particularly in the folds of the skin and
between the toes.
In principle, avoid the houses of the natives. Give houses
or barracks a good cleaning before using them as quarters.
In setting up tents, remember that the spot selected for the
tent should be protected from snakes and scorpions; to do
this, clean or burn off the ground.
At night wear a waistband (girdle), and also wear one when
you are making a long trip in an open vehicle, such as a truck. In
this way you protect yourself from getting chilled. Never
wear a waistband in the daytime, because you soften yourself
in this way. From 0800 until 1600 hours, wear your tropical
helmet when you are outdoors. You must also wear it in the
tent, unless the tent is in the shade of a tree.
3. RELATIONS WITH NATIVES
The German soldiers in Libya are the representatives of a
people who are on a high racial and cultural plane. Be a worthy
representative of your people.
Don't treat the natives as your equals, and in particular do not
meddle in their affairs. Don't show them that you are above
them, but behave in such a way that the natives themselves will
see and recognize your superiority. The natives do not think
or feel as you do. Be reserved in dealing with them and don't
wound their feelings. Take into account the manners and
customs of the natives.
Respect their religious customs. Don't make fun of them for
praying in the streets. When you go into mosques (Moslem
churches), don't violate the native practices.
Keep away from the native women. You are a German. Respect the
family customs of the natives.
Be moderate in the use of alcohol. Never lose control of yourself.
Always keep a strict military bearing and be exemplary in
your appearance. This is more necessary in Africa than in
Europe. Behave as a master without being dominating or
Always be tactful, even in your dealings with natives. They
are generally willing and, dependable if handled properly.
In dealing with native tradesmen, one should always determine
whether or not the price asked is excessive. As a rule, a native
will lower his asking price, because he is accustomed to having
people haggle with him (up to 50 percent). In cases of doubt,
ask police authorities or Italians who are acquainted with the
4. SUGGESTIONS FOR DRIVERS
Driving in the hot climate of Libya, and on highways which
are in part very difficult, requires much greater engine and vehicle
performance as well as greater endurance and skill on the part
of the driver. The temperature of the engine will not be under
80° Centigrade (176° Fahrenheit), and often it will reach the
boiling point of water used to cool the engine. For this reason,
much more water will be used (from 5 to 6 gallons daily per
motor vehicle). Since you will find no water during trips, it will
be necessary to take a supply in tin containers.
Because of the high temperature of the surrounding air and
the high engine temperature, part of your fuel will evaporate.
In addition, more fuel will be used on all the roads, with the
exception of the good coastal highways and a few other tarred
routes, because the roads are merely trails. The fuel consumption
is increased by about one-fourth of the usual amount, and you
must take along some reserve cans.
For fuel we generally use gasoline with an octane content of
76. In this hot region the gasoline which we now use with an
octane content of 74 will cause the engine to knock. If in
exceptional cases we are given gasoline with an octane content
that is lower than 76, we should mix with it some motor oil so
as to increase its knock-resistance (to 10 quarts of fuel with
an octane content of 74 and below, add about 1 quart of motor oil).
A special motor oil, the lubricating power and viscosity of
which are suitable for tropical temperatures, is issued. If in
special cases another oil must be put in, the driver first must see
whether or not the new oil will mix with the kind he is already
using. Many oils cannot be mixed and lead to saponification
(changing into soap), thus destroying the lubricating power. If
the oils will not mix, we must let out all the oil we have, wash
out the motor housing with 1 or 2 quarts of oil, empty it again,
and then fill it with new oil. Continuing the trip, we must observe
the oil-pressure gauge carefully. If the pressure drops below
one atmosphere, we should stop. The engine must cool off
for a time. If the driver continues with an oil pressure below
one atmosphere in spite of this condition, there is danger of wearing
out the bearings.
Openings for oil, air exhausts, and air filters should be provided
with special filters (wet filters) to prevent entrance of the fine
desert sand which is blowing continually. When we fill up with
water, fuel, and oil, and when we grease the vehicle, we must
clean the openings and the lubricating places carefully and remove
all sand. We should pay special attention to the care of the
filter. Each time we tank up, we should take out the wet filter,
wash it with gasoline or kerosene, and then soak it again with
motor oil; in the case of other types, we should set the filter in
the oil bath that is provided. When we take out the filter, we
should cover the open filter housing with a rag so that no sand
may get in it while it is open; otherwise, this fine, sharp-grained
sand will destroy the vehicle in a short time. Because of all of
the moving parts, the sand acts like fine sandpaper. The temperature
range from day to night is often over 30°. If a vehicle
has been running in the daytime and is allowed to stand and cool
at night, dew may gather on it, and, in addition to the rust danger,
this may also lead to serious and time-robbing ignition
disturbances. In the morning, if the engine does not start at
once, further attempts to start it are useless (the batteries may be
run down). We must see whether a spark passes on the spark
plugs. If not, we should search all the cable connections of the
ignition, the ignition distributors, and other movable parts of the
ignition for a ground due to water. We should not try to start
until we have dried all the wet parts.
A vital part of the vehicle is the battery; we should not fail
to take care of it. Because of the hot climate of this region,
and the heat that is radiated from the engine, the distilled water
of a battery is evaporated very quickly. Examine the battery
every day to see whether or not the liquid stands about 1/2 inch
above the plates. If the water is too low, pour in distilled water.
In case of emergency, we may also use boiled water.
Apart from the first-class highways of Libya, many roads and
trails have a relatively hard, thin surface. Under this is loose
sand. In order to lessen sinking in as much as possible, we
should use the following methods:
The pressure in the tires, insofar as the load of the vehicle will
permit, should be decreased so that the tires will have a maximum
Don't make any sharp movements of the wheel, don't throw on
the brakes violently, and don't run backward. In doing these
things, we can easily break through the surface layer and cause
the vehicle to sink in. If, beforehand, we recognize a place as a
soft stretch of sand, we cross it on a rope ladder or on a wire
net if we cannot go around it.
If the vehicle has sunk in, don't try to go either backwards or
forwards by giving gas, because we will accomplish nothing in
this way; we should stop the engine, lift the vehicle with the
jack and put under the sunken wheel the planks that we have
brought along with us. After we have lifted the vehicle, we
should put sand in the hole caused by the sinking in of the wheel
so that the plank will have a good surface to rest on. Of course
we should also put a board under the jack; otherwise, the vehicle
will not be lifted and the jack will sink in the soft sand. After
we have put the wheel on the plank, we should then start the
motor and drive out with as little gas and as little turning of the
wheel as possible (don't forget to pick up the tools).