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"Hints for Soldiers in Libya" from Intelligence Bulletin, December 1942

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following translation of a captured German handbook, The Soldier in Libya, was published in the Intelligence Bulletin, December 1942.

[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.]



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:

a. Water

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.

b. Food

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 carry disease.

c. Vermin

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.

e. Inoculations

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.

h. Shelter

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.

i. Clothing

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.


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 arrogant.

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 country.


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 bearing surface.

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).


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