The Early Spy Manual That Turned Bad Middle Management Into An Espionage Tactic

WHEN YOU THINK OF ALLIED espionage, you might imagine disguised explosives, wiretaps, bat bombs, or other dramatic inventions. But declassified documents reveal that World War II was won in part by more everyday saboteurs–purposefully clumsy factory workers, annoying train conductors, and bad middle managers, all trained by the U.S.’s Simple Sabotage Field Manual.

In 1944, World War II was in its final throes. Though the Allies were holding their own against the Axis, they were in need of more troops and more local cooperation. The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a precursor to the CIA, envisioned a special kind of special forces–an army of dissatisfied European citizens, waging war on existing governments simply by doing their jobs badly. They wrote up the Simple Sabotage Field Manual, a kind of ultimate un-training manual, which was full of ideas for motivating and inspiring locals to make things harder on their governments. Selections and adaptations from it were disseminated in leaflets, over the radio, and in person, when agents met people who seemed right for the job.

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