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"Souvenir Hunters Cause Needless Loss of Lives" from Intelligence Bulletin, October 1943

[October 1943 Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following is a report on the dangers of souvenir hunting from the October 1943 issue of the U.S. Intelligence Bulletin.

[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.]


Souvenir hunting—a practice which is frowned upon, even in peacetime, by many straight-thinking Americans—continues to cause needless loss of lives and injuries to U.S. soldiers in the various combat areas. Reports from commanding officers and intelligence personnel about the fighting on Attu Island state that souvenir hunters in our ranks interfered greatly with the prompt collection of intelligence data. These reports cite several instances in which lives were actually lost, or the progress of battle impeded, by soldiers who endangered the lives of comrades, as well as their own, by seeking some useless souvenir.

One observer reports that a soldier found a large pair of Japanese binoculars, which were used by the enemy to spot our planes. The soldier hid the much-needed binoculars, with the thought of picking them up for his private use after the fighting was over. Apparently it did not occur to him that the binoculars were badly needed in spotting Japanese snipers and machine gunners who were killing and wounding our men.

Private D_______ and his squad grenaded a Japanese outpost. As his squad moved forward, Private D_______ crammed deep into a pocket of his overcoat a small enemy battle flag and some sketches. They became badly soiled and almost unreadable from tundra mud and foxhole water. Days later, at a first-aid station, the sketches were taken from the soldier's pocket and examined. They turned out to be new battle orders, which gave definite information about the enemy—in fact, they revealed the location of an artillery piece whose shell had injured Private D_______.

Many of our men apparently removed nameplates from vehicles, picked up optical equipment, and took lots of other items that would greatly have aided intelligence personnel in the combat area.

Where there was no loot of interest to the souvenir hunter, enemy quarters and matériel—useful to us—were sometimes left in utter disorder, and valuable information was destroyed. Our troops ruined foodstuffs and equipment—frequently by slashing through bales and boxes with bayonets—and they burned or damaged tents. In other words, they worked for the Japanese by accomplishing the destruction that the enemy was not given time to complete.

Enemy matériel should be destroyed when the enemy has it, but it should be preserved when it is in our hands. No matter how small or insignificant certain small items of enemy property may appear to you, they may be exactly what is needed to supply the "missing links" to important chains of information.

Remember also that the enemy will frequently booby-trap items he figures you will want as souvenirs.

Both Japan and Germany have often claimed that the efficient operation of their salvage activities has been one of the main factors in successful campaigns of the past. On Attu the Japanese made special efforts to capture our weapons, equipment, food, and cigarettes.

We must seek the enemy's matériel, and keep him from getting ours. A gun captured today may win a battle for us tomorrow. Our technicians must see everything new that is taken from the enemy. They can copy the good points and incorporate them in our own weapons, and they can devise means of countering new enemy weapons.

Remember that:

"Everything has a value in modern warfare."

"Nothing should be wasted or ignored."

"Nothing should be willfully destroyed unless it is in imminent danger of falling into enemy hands."

In connection with the handling or disposal of captured or abandoned property, the 80th Article of War says:

DEALING IN CAPTURED OR ABANDONED PROPERTY.—Any person subject to military law who buys, sells, trades, or in any way deals in or disposes of captured or abandoned property, whereby he shall receive or expect any profit, benefit, or advantage to himself or to any other person directly or indirectly connected with himself, or who fails whenever such property comes into his possession or custody or within his control to give notice thereof to the proper authority and to turn over such property to the proper authority without delay, shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by fine or imprisonment, or by such other punishment as a court-martial, military commission, or other military tribunal may adjudge, or by any or all of said penalties.


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