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"Scouts and Observers" from Tactical and Technical Trends

This U.S. report on scouts and observers is based on lectures given at the British Commando school. The report was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 18, Feb. 11, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. 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.]


The following report on scouts and observers is based on a lecture given by a British officer at the Commando school.

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The object of scouting should be to obtain accurate and reliable information in all types of warfare, whether stationary or mobile, in all types of country, with or without the aid of maps, binoculars, and other such instruments, for the information of the commander which cannot be obtained in the normal way by other troops.

Scouts are specialists, and must reach a considerably higher standard of training in their specialty than do other troops. In addition, they must have a knowledge of the functions and organization of other arms, and must keep up with recent developments. Scouts must be keen, resourceful, and trustworthy, and must cultivate reasoning powers. Surprise and mobility are the greatest assets of scouts. It is the duty of every scout to learn all he can about his job and about the function of other arms, by constantly being observant and taking an intelligent interest in all he knows or sees around him.

The importance of gaining superior observation over the enemy cannot be overestimated. "No Man's Land," whether it be a hundred yards or a hundred miles broad, must be kept under continuous observation, and regarded as a network through which no piece of information, however small, must be allowed to escape. For this reason, duties of scouts are the same although methods may be different.

A trained scout or observer, having acquired a knowledge of infantry soldiering, should be an expert in: observation and use of binoculars, map reading, writing of reports, use of compass, patrolling, concealment and use of cover, selection and construction of observation posts, use and care of weapons, and identification of the various arms. In addition, it is desirable that he should have a knowledge of field sketching, drawing plans, the study of air photography, and first-aid. He should also be able to ride a horse and a motorcycle, swim, cook, and sail a boat. A high standard of physical fitness is also required.

The various roles in which scouts are invaluable are:

(1) Patrols, observation in small detachments, sniping, and verbal reporting;

(2) Fieldcraft--if necessary to the extent of being able to pass through enemy lines;

(3) All scout personnel must attain a high degree of skill in movement by night over difficult country by use of stars and compass, and must be trained to carry out certain tasks under cover of darkness, and in silence;

(4) Construction of field defenses, and erection of obstacles;

(5) Demolition and sabotage.

For the above, scouts must not only be physically fit, but must have 100 percent self-confidence. There are more occasions in the role of a scout where a cool head, a clear eye, and a quick imagination win through, than in any other branch of military warfare.


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