While United Nations air forces bomb German
factories, the ground forces of these nations are destroying
vital enemy matériel in combat. The importance of
these combined blows against Germany's war economy,
as well as against her military machine, is tremendous.
The average U.S. soldier may not realize that to
deprive the German Army of matériel of any kind is a
great help in speeding victory. German leaders,
however, are well aware of the extent of these blows, and
are making every effort to impress their troops with
the increased necessity for recovering and salvaging
One of the best illustrations of the German matériel
shortage as it affects the individual soldier in the field
is this typical regimental order regarding the loss of
weapons and other equipment:
Recent heavy fighting has caused substantial casualties in
killed, wounded, and missing. This alone, however, is not
sufficient explanation for the losses in materiel that we have
suffered. I am well aware that many members of this
regiment—officers included—do not sufficiently realize their
responsibility for the recovery and salvage of weapons and
equipment, or even parts thereof, which have been damaged
in combat. Moreover, and as a consequence of such losses, the
problem of replacing matériel is growing more and more
difficult. Indeed, in some cases the problem absolutely cannot be
solved. This leads to a dangerous weakening of our combat
The reputation of our regiment will suffer disastrously if
such losses continue. I do not propose to let this happen. On
the contrary, I am determined to employ the severest
punishment to end unsoldierly carelessness, wherever it exists.
I am convinced that commanders of all grades, despite the
heavy strain under which they labor, will fully understand
and support me in my efforts. This particularly applies to
battalion and company commanding officers. With the
foregoing in mind, I give the following order:
Putting aside all personal considerations, and renouncing
their well-deserved hours of rest, the battalion, company,
platoon, and squad leaders will thoroughly investigate and
explain all matériel losses suffered during the past month and, as
of today, will report such losses after future engagements.
The battalion and company commanders will personally
certify by signature that these investigations are being conducted
with the utmost thoroughness and that the troops have been
instructed regarding the consequences the individual soldier
will have to face if he cannot justify the loss of a weapon. It
must be driven home to every soldier that he can avoid punishment
by bringing back even some parts of the weapons and
equipment entrusted to him. Furthermore, every soldier must
be taught that even the smallest parts are valuable inasmuch
as they can be used again in the manufacture of weapons.
I am fully aware of the additional paper work that these
reports will involve. Their importance to the war effort, however,
makes it necessary for me to call for them. On the other
hand, if future losses in combat are avoided, the reports will
not have to be made.
In order to investigate individual cases, use most also be
made of those periods during which the unit is in reserve.
Within 48 hours after return to the rest area, units will file
reports regarding losses of weapons and equipment. For
every loss, one or more soldiers will be held responsible. These
names will be listed in the report, as well as the action taken
in each case. Units which have not suffered losses will file
In addition to suffering losses of weapons and
equipment in the course of military operations, the Germans
continually lose matériel at the front through acts of
sabotage. It will readily be seen that the aggregate
loss, from all causes, constitutes an economic factor so
great that whenever the U.S. soldier captures even a
single piece of enemy equipment, or destroys it in
action, he deals a much greater blow to the German war
effort than he may realize at the time.
As to sabotage in the field, the following are
characteristic of acts which recently have been committed
against the flow of German motor traffic. This list,
which comes from an authoritative source,
demonstrates how elements friendly to the United Nations
are helping the liberating armies to destroy the enemy's
equipment and supplies.
a. Fences around ditches on roads have been
damaged in such a manner that vehicles have been in
danger of driving into the ditches at night.
b. Stone road blocks have been erected across roads
c. Gasoline tanks have been filled with water, and
gasoline pipes have been smashed.
d. Hand grenades have been attached to parked
motorcycles in such a manner that operation of the
vehicles detonated the grenades.
e. Nails have been sprinkled on roads. (Recently,
new nails have been removed from nearly all flat tires.)