Simple Sabotage Field Manual
Office of Strategic Services
William J. Donovan, Director
The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), operating during World War II. This 32-page manual instructs OSS officers on numerous ways citizen-saboteurs can be trained to gum up the works. “Simple sabotage is more than malicious mischief, and it should always consist of acts whose results will be detrimental to the materials and manpower of the enemy.”
“Simple sabotage does not require specially prepared tools or equipment; it is executed by an ordinary citizen who may or may not act individually and without the necessity for active connection with an organized group; and it is carried out in such a way as to involve a minimum danger of injury, detection, and reprisal… Try to commit acts for which large numbers of people could be responsible.”
“Where destruction is involved, the weapons of the citizen-saboteur are salt, nails, candles, pebbles, threads, or any other materials he might normally be expected to possess as a householder or as a worker in his particular occupation. His arsenal is the kitchen shelf, the trash pile, his own usual kit of tools and supplies. The targets of his sabotage are usually objects to which he has normal and inconspicuous access in everyday life.”
The booklet offers specific suggestions for wreaking havoc with buildings, manufacturing, metal production, mining, agriculture, railways, automotive transportation, waterways, communications, and electrical power. Some examples include:
- “Garble telegrams to enemy destinations so that another telegram will have to be sent or a long distance call will have to be made. Sometimes it will be possible to do this by changing a single letter in a word—for example, changing ‘minimum’ to ‘miximum,’ so that the person receiving the telegram will not know whether ‘minimum’ or ‘maximum’ is meant.”
- “Damaging insulation on any electrical equipment tends to create radio interference in the immediate neighborhood, particularly on larger generators, neon signs, fluorescent lighting, X-ray machines, and power lines. If workmen can damage insulation on a high tension line near an enemy airfield, they will make ground-to-plane radio communications difficult and perhaps impossible during long periods of the day.”
- “Linesmen can loosen and dirty insulators to cause power leakage. It will be quite easy, too, for them to tie a piece of very heavy string several times back and forth between two parallel transmission lines, winding it several turns around the wire each time. Beforehand, the string should be heavily saturated with salt and then dried. When it rains, the string becomes a conductor, and a short-circuit will result.”
“A second type of simple sabotage requires no destructive tools whatsoever and produces physical damage, if any, by highly indirect means. It is based on universal opportunities to make faulty decisions, to adopt a non-cooperative attitude, and to induce others to follow suit. Making a faulty decision may be simply a matter of placing tools in one spot instead of another. A non-cooperative attitude may involve nothing more than creating an unpleasant situation among one’s fellow workers, engaging in bickerings, or displaying surliness and stupidity.”
“This type of activity, sometimes referred to as the ‘human element,’ is frequently responsible for accidents, delays, and general obstruction even under normal conditions. The potential saboteur should discover what types of faulty decisions and non-cooperation are normally found in his kind of work and should then devise his sabotage so as to enlarge that ‘margin of error.’”
Meetings are a prime opportunity to inflict sabotage:
- Insist on doing everything through ‘channels.’ Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
- Make ‘speeches.’ Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your ‘points’ by long anecdotes and account of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate ‘patriotic’ comments.
- When possible, refer all matters to committees, for ‘further study and consideration.’ Attempt to make the committees as large as possible—never less than five.
- Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
- Haggle over precise workings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
- Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
- Advocate ‘caution.’ Be ‘reasonable’ and urge your fellow conferees to be ‘reasonable’ and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
- Be worried about the propriety of any decision—raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.
Managers and supervisors may use a variety of passive-aggressive methods to destroy productivity and morale. “In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that the important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers of poor machines… Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw. Approve other defective parts whose flaws are not visible to the naked eye… Be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work… Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.”
“The saboteur may have to reverse his thinking… Where he formerly thought of keeping his tools sharp, he should now let them grow dull; surfaces that formerly were lubricated now should be sanded; normally diligent, he should now be lazy and careless; and so on. Once he is encouraged to think backwards about himself and the objects of his everyday life, the saboteur will see many opportunities in his immediate environment which cannot possibly be seen from a distance. A state of mind should be encouraged that anything can be sabotaged.”
“Since the effect of his own acts is limited, the saboteur may become discouraged unless he feels that he is a member of a large, though unseen, group of saboteurs operating against the enemy or the government of his own country and elsewhere.”
“Acts of simple sabotage are occurring throughout Europe. An effort should be made to add to their efficiency, lessen their detectability, and increase their number. Acts of simple sabotage, multiplied by thousands of citizen-saboteurs, can be an effective weapon against the enemy.”
The booklet is now unclassified, and can be downloaded in PDF format from the CIA.
Simple Sabotage Field Manual. Washington, DC: Office of Strategic Services, 1944.