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"New German Emphasis on Salvaging Matériel" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   Translated German orders detail efforts to prevent the loss of critical equipment from combat and sabotage, from the Intelligence Bulletin, June 1944.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. More accurate data on German tactics and equipment is available in postwar publications.]


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 matériel.

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 efficiency.

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 negative reports.

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 after dark.

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.)

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