For the Glorious Ukrainian Resistance
By Charles T. Pinck
A stylized version of the Ukraine coat of arms to honor the Resistance.
“Act stupid.” This counterintuitive piece of advice comes from the Office of Strategic Services Simple Sabotage Field Manual.
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) - the World War II predecessor to the C.I.A., the U.S. Special Operations Command, and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research - was renowned for its innovation, experimentation, and risk-taking. CIA Director and OSS veteran William Casey described its ethos perfectly: “You didn't wait six months for a feasibility study to prove that an idea could work. You gambled that it might work. You didn't tie up the organization with red tape designed mostly to cover somebody's rear end. You took the initiative and the responsibility. You went around end, you went over somebody's head if you had to. But you acted. That's what drove the regular military and the State Department chair-warmers crazy about the OSS.”
An OSS veteran said the OSS was “the greatest collection of people in the history of the world.” They included Nobel laureate Ralph Bunche; Hollywood director John Ford; architect Eero Saarinen; the “French Chef” Julia Child; actors Sterling Hayden and Marlene Dietrich; Virginia Hall, the only American woman who received the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II; Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg; Jay Kilby, who invented the integrated circuit; and Col. William Eddy - the “Lawrence of America,” to name just a few.
Its founder, the legendary General William “Wild Bill” Donovan – the only American to receive our Nation’s four highest decorations whom President Roosevelt called his “secret legs” – welcomed seemingly outlandish ideas because he said you never knew where a good one might come from. Ambassador David Bruce, who served as one of General Donovan’s closest deputies, said “woe to the officer who turned down a project because, on its face, it seemed ridiculous or at least unusual.” Bruce said that Donovan’s imagination was “unlimited. Ideas were his plaything. Excitement made him snort like a race horse.”
One of the OSS’s best ideas was the Simple Sabotage Field Manual. The manual’s creators recognized that the Nazi occupiers’ greatest vulnerability as an occupying force lay with the native population. Its purpose was to instruct citizens from countries under Nazi occupation about how to perform acts of sabotage using everyday items – matches, hairpins, nail files, candles, pebbles, grease, string, dead insects, hair, salt, and nails – that would undermine the enemy’s ability to function and demoralize them.
It said that “acts of simple sabotage, multiplied by thousands of citizen-saboteurs, can be an effective weapon against the enemy. Slashing tires, draining fuel tanks, starting fires … short-circuiting electric systems, abrading machine parts will waste materials, manpower, and time. Occurring on a wide scale, simple sabotage will be a constant and tangible drag on the war effort of the enemy.”
The manual directed people to target supplies (including food, water, and tires) and places that would be most useful to the enemy: transportation and communication facilities, factories, farms, roads, bridges, buildings, and hotels. The manual included a lot of information about how to sabotage all types of engines and machinery. The OSS invented Caccolube, a condom filled with abrasive materials that destroyed an engine after being dropped into its oil intake pipe.
It instructed citizens working in transportation to make travel as inconvenient as possible for enemy personnel by making mistakes issuing train tickets; by issuing two tickets for the same seat; by making the food on trains as bad as possible; by announcing station stops very loudly and late at night; by delivering baggage to the wrong stations; and by posting incorrect schedules. It advised railroad engineers to put trains on the wrong tracks and to derail trains by loosening bolts connecting sections of the rails. One of its more ingenious – and humorous – directives was scatological: Do not fill toilets with toilet paper.
In addition to acts of physical sabotage, the manual also included instructions on how to sabotage organizations: “Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your points by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. When possible, refer all matters to committees for further study and consideration. Attempt to make the committees as large as possible. Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible. Haggle over the precise wording of communications, minutes, and resolutions. Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.”
It recommended managers to “see that important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers; to give inefficient workers undeserved promotions; to hold conferences when there is more important work to be done; and to see that three people have approve everything where one would do.”
Employees were coached to “work slowly; to contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can; do your work poorly … and never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.” Its best advice on how to sabotage an organization? “Act stupid.”
General Donovan would be pleased to know that the manual’s recommendations about how to sabotage military transportation are being implemented by Ukrainians today. It instructed simple saboteurs to “change sign posts at intersections and forks; the enemy will go the wrong way and it may be miles before he discovers his mistakes.”
Although technology has evolved exponentially since the manual’s publication, the fundamentals of simple sabotage remain the same: “It should always consist of acts who results will be detrimental to the materials and manpower of the enemy.”
The OSS Society has translated the OSS Simple Sabotage Manual into Ukrainian. We hope it will contribute to an occupied country’s liberation just as it did during World War II. Glory to Ukraine.