The 90th IDPG has very graciously been given permission to reprint this article by Stars & Stripes. The information can be found at the bottom of this page.
This story originally appeared in Stars and Stripes on July 27, 1944.
Wanted: Live Kraut
Don't let tales of foe's tricks stop you from taking prisoners — Here's how to do it with safety
By Arthur Goodwin, Warweek staff writer
TAKING enemy prisoners without becoming a casualty yourself is one of the tricks the fighting Yanks in Normandy have been learning — the hard way. First lessons cost us some men, as over-enthusiastic Joes clambered out of their fox holes to examine at close range the first real live Krauts they had ever seen.
They forgot that there were others in the countryside who weren't ready to holler "Uncle" and were just waiting for a good excuse to heat up their MG 34s. These were needless casualties because, if a guy keeps his wits about him, he can scoop in all the wavering Herrenvolk in the county with little danger of getting perforated in the meantime.
There's one thing every soldier ought to remember:
These prisoners may look tike a bunch of beat-up guys named Hans and Fritz but they are one of the best investments a front-line soldier can make. If they talk they can give up info which actually pays off in saving lives. Remember that every time some sad-looking ex-superman fans the air and hollers "Kamerad."
Glad to Give Up
Under The Hague Convention, all they are required to tell is their name, their rank and their serial number. But that doesn't prevent them from volunteering information on their own hook. Whether they "sing" or not depends largely on how they have been handled during and after their capture.
Sometimes the information they can give — if they feel like it — is of vital importance.
This true story poses a nice point. What is the low-down on taking Nazi prisoners? Are all Krauts two-timing devils who hoist a white flag in one hand, and a concussion grenade in the other? Is taking prisoners too big a risk? Aren't the only good Germans dead Germans? And if you get yourself a German prisoner, what next?
There's a lot of different ideas on that first point. The evidence proves Jerry never gives a sucker an even break. He's playing for keeps. He'll trick you, shoot you, search you for your Luckies, and leave his hob-nailed imprint ground into your face.
Lots of Them Will Quit
But there's plenty of evidence, too, that hundreds, maybe thousands, of Germans and non-Germans in the Reichswehr are sick of the war and would give their eye teeth for a chance to give up. "We're taking whole batches of them," said one captain. "They're glad to get out of it alive. They were static troops, maybe 50 per cent of them foreigners. They are not German citizens by birth — or Reichsdeutsche as they are called. They come from Poland. Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland. They are what Hitler calls Volksdeutsche. There are out and out foreigners, too, whose pay books say they're 'volunteers.' When you talk to them they tell you it was a case of volunteering in the German Army or going to jail. You eat in the German Army, so they joined up. They all say the same thing "We just waited for this day when we could give up."
What it all boils down to is this: All these Jerries can shoot a rifle or a machine-gun. Every one that gives up is one less obstacle on the road to Berlin. In the hundreds of thousands of Germans we are facing you will find all kinds of men. Some arc tricky and will use any gag they can to kill another Yank before they die themselves. But a lot of others are honestly anxious to surrender. The trouble is you never know which is which.
Three Rules for Prisoners
What's the answer? Just this: There are three things to do in dealing with a German who lifts up his hands and shouts "Kamerad." Never go up to him. Make him come to you. Stay under cover. That's specially true if you're alone. If you arc working in a group, stay under cover anyway, and to be extra sure, have someone else cover the Heinie before you let him know where you are. Stay under cover. Say "Raus Kommen." If he doesn't come — shoot. If he tries to pull a fast one — squeeze that trigger. But give him a chance to give up.
If you are alone, better call for help. Meanwhile get the prisoner under cover and out of sight. When help arrives, one of you keep him covered while the other searches him for pistols, knives, grenades or other small weapons. Make the search short and snappy. Frisk him of anything tie can use to make an escape. Take away anything that looks like it might have stuff of value to our Brains Trust in the rear.
Give Lie to Goebbels
If you have got to operate alone, be plenty careful. Make Jerry turn around with his back toward you and his hands behind his head. Keep him covered while you frisk him. When you want him to move say, "Marsch, and point the direction you want him to go. Follow a few teps to the rear.
If you do it that way, taking prisoners isn't risky, and you have a man on your hands who's worth more alive than dead.
One U.S. interrogator, a major of an Infantry regiment, threw in this suggestion: "We have discovered one thing in talking to hundreds of Jerries. They all say one thing: they have been told by their officers that if they are captured by the .Americans they will be shot.
But generally the German soldier knows better. For one thing he's had letters from prison pals in the States that say they are being treated well. For another thing they listen to our propaganda broadcasts and they pick up our leaflets. This is first class psychological warfare that convinces Jerry that if he surrenders to us he will be treated well.
What do you do with your prisoner after you get him frisked and marching? March him back to your platoon or company CP. To repeat, have him walk a few paces ahead of you. Keep him covered or carry your rifle at port. Keep on your toes. Beware of tricks, but don't be trigger happy.
Search, But Don't Keep
At the company CP your CO is apt to do one of two things. He may say you got him so you can take him back. Or he may turn the prisoner over to a runner who will take him back to the battalion CP. Generally, no further search of the prisoner is made at the company CP. If a runner takes over your prisoner, turn over to him all the stuff you found on the prisoner when you caught and frisked him.
Don't take away any personal items — clothing, letters, pictures, money, dog tags, mess equipment, gas mask, pack, blankets and even his soldbuch, or paybook — from the prisoner. But be sure there are no weapons hidden in his equipment — pistols, grenades or knives are apt to be hidden anywhere from his boots to his gasmask container.
At Battalion CP the S-2 takes over. He may question the prisoner briefly. He'll look over the documents you bring along and if they seem urgent he will send them directly to the regimental S-2 in a Jeep.
The next station on the march back to the rear is the regimental S-2. Usually battalion guards take over this part of the journey. Your prisoner will probably have been joined by others, and as many as three or four guards will cover them on the way back.
Keep Prisoner Guessing
The value of that prisoner thereafter depends in large measure on how you handled him while he was in your charge. Let's go back a minute to what that captain said: "Jerry is told by his officers that he will he killed if he is taken prisoner." That means he is nervous and worried. He isn't quite sure how he was going to act.
That does not mean you are to treat your prisoner rough. Don't fraternize with him; don't dispel his nervousness.
If it is a group, separate the officers, NCOs and the privates. March the officers back in one group, the NCOs in another, the privates in the third. Don't let them get within talking range of each other. The reason is the officers will try to cook up a story for the privates to tell. Better brush up on your German uniform identification. Be sure you can spot an officer from an NCO and an NCO from a private.
Officers Are Arrogant
Talking about officers, here's a true life story as told by one disgusted Yank sergeant: "I want to tell you I almost puked with disgust. These guys had captured a Nazi colonel. He was one of those tough, hard-bitten guys with a monocle in his kisser, and his uniform pressed and clean. He was one of those killer-diller Aryan types and you could see he felt the GIs around him were dirt. And do you know what these GIs were doing? They all had franc notes and they were begging this Kraut to write his John Hancock on them. They were begging him for his name for a souvenir. This guy look out his pen and wrote his name like they asked him. It was like a movie actor or a big politician giving in to his funs. The way to treat officers is — be courteous but firm. The Geneva Convention rules that an officer is supposed to be treated with dignity.
'Souvenirs' Mean Victory
One thing more: Turn in all those "souvenirs." This point is best illustrated by an almost unbelievable story told by another officer.
This offlcer said: "One of our boys broke into a German pillbox on the beach on D-Day. He picked up a map, used by a forward observer of German artillery. It showed all the CPs on the beach. It showed church steeples and a big tower. It Iocated every gun both on the beach and behind the beach. It included the Divisional CP. The information was relayed to the Air Force and the Navy. Concentrations were fired on every position on that map, including the vital pivot OP. That document — that map — paved the way to success on D-Day."
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