‘Simple Sabotage Field Manual’

The Simple Sabotage Field Manual is a declassified CIA manual from the Second World War. The aim of the guide is to show how ordinary people, sympathetic to the Allied cause, could damage the Axis war effort using simple, low-tech, non-violent, and easily deniable means. Here are some of the suggestions:

Never pass your skills and experiences to a new or less experienced person.

Apply all regulations to the last letter.

Give lengthy and incomprehensible explanations when questioned.

To lower morale and production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.

Work slowly. Think of ways to increase the number of movements needed to do your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one; try to make a small wrench do instead of a big one.

When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large and bureaucratic as possible. Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.

Make train travel as inconvenient as possible for enemy personnel. Issue two tickets for the same seat on a train in order to set up an “interesting” argument.

The manual reflects the industrial nature of the 1940s — literally throwing spanners in the works. Today this would probably be more information and technology based, much of it done through software — spreading misinformation, putting viruses on computer networks, etc. The manual’s language also reflects the sexism of the times, referring to the saboteur as male, which also seems like a lost opportunity in terms of the recruitment of potential saboteurs.

I’m not sure how the document was intended to be used — obviously, being caught in the possession of such a manual would likely have been a death sentence.

Inadvertantly, the manual provides the storyteller with a guide to many of the conditions that create a dysfunctional, dystopian environment. By reducing trust and efficiency, and by increasing bureaucracy, the morale of an organisation (the wider society even) can be diminished — simply through the work of a few silent ‘bad actors’.