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Hunting Tongues

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  • #31
    Joining late, but just an observation on just how far back the hunting of information from POWs goes . . .

    When Alexander of Macedon's army was "marching to contact" before Gaugamela, his light cavalry, the "prodromoi" ("Those who go before") caught the Persian cavalry who were applying 'scorched earth' tactics to the land in front, engaged the commander of the Persian force and killed him. They brought his head back to Alexander, who praised their good work.
    However, Arrian, who used as one of his sources the eyewitness Ptolemy Soter, Alexander's probable half-brother and one of his senior staff/Generals, says that in fact Alexander was extremely upset with the light cavalry, because he would have much preferred the Persian commander alive and talking than as a trophy on a stick!
    "Tongues" are only useful if they are still animated.

    And on another point, as to prisoners telling interrogators what they want to hear, there was an incident recounted in the Ic files (Intelligence) from one of the Panzer Armies in late 1942 or early 1943 (it's been a few years since I went through that material) when a Soviet POW was asked about the 'new but not yet seen' Soviet T-43 tank. He proceeded to describe a Soviet version of the German Tiger I: 90 ton tank with 100+mm armor all around and a long barrel 85mm gun - none of which, of course, described the T-43, which was an attempt to combine some of the protection of the KV-1 with the mobility of the
    T-34 which never made it to production. But, one suspects, someone in the interrogating team made the mistake of indicating what he was interested in hearing, and got told a story that had basis only in German reality, not Soviet.

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    • #32
      Originally posted by Sharposhnikov View Post
      Joining late, but just an observation on just how far back the hunting of information from POWs goes . . .

      When Alexander of Macedon's army was "marching to contact" before Gaugamela, his light cavalry, the "prodromoi" ("Those who go before") caught the Persian cavalry who were applying 'scorched earth' tactics to the land in front, engaged the commander of the Persian force and killed him. They brought his head back to Alexander, who praised their good work.
      However, Arrian, who used as one of his sources the eyewitness Ptolemy Soter, Alexander's probable half-brother and one of his senior staff/Generals, says that in fact Alexander was extremely upset with the light cavalry, because he would have much preferred the Persian commander alive and talking than as a trophy on a stick!
      "Tongues" are only useful if they are still animated.

      And on another point, as to prisoners telling interrogators what they want to hear, there was an incident recounted in the Ic files (Intelligence) from one of the Panzer Armies in late 1942 or early 1943 (it's been a few years since I went through that material) when a Soviet POW was asked about the 'new but not yet seen' Soviet T-43 tank. He proceeded to describe a Soviet version of the German Tiger I: 90 ton tank with 100+mm armor all around and a long barrel 85mm gun - none of which, of course, described the T-43, which was an attempt to combine some of the protection of the KV-1 with the mobility of the
      T-34 which never made it to production. But, one suspects, someone in the interrogating team made the mistake of indicating what he was interested in hearing, and got told a story that had basis only in German reality, not Soviet.
      Enjoyed your post. Human intelligence has a history longer than signals, imagery, electronic intelligence. We used to say in counterintelligence, that it was the world's second oldest occupation (prostitution was considered first).

      Interrogation is an art; one would like to get corroboration. The German soldier's pay booklet and other papers were useful in unit identification and if the unit had received reinforcement or augmentation.
      Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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      • #33
        Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
        Interrogation is an art; one would like to get corroboration. The German soldier's pay booklet and other papers were useful in unit identification and if the unit had received reinforcement or augmentation.
        My father served as an Intelligence Officer in the Pacific towards the end of WWII, and had some interesting observations concerning this: he observed that contrary to popular belief, Japanese soldiers were perfectly willing to surrender on occasion, especially after late 1944, but that front-line American troops had grown so leery of fake surrender attempts that the would-be prisoners were usually shot dead on the spot. The G-2 offices sent junior intelligence officers forward so that they could be on-hand and try to prevent the Japanese with his hands up from being shot.
        The reason for taking such extreme measures was simple: the Japanese soldier had never been told what to do if he was captured - it was assumed that he never would be. As a result, they would freely answer any and all questions, and frequently carried letters, diaries, copies of maps and orders, and so were absolutely priceless sources of raw information, complete with written addenda or corroboration.

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        • #34
          The human side of warfare is fascinating.
          Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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