The German Intelligence System


L. Wardlaw Miles
The German Intelligence System



THE first encounter I had with the German Intelligence System was at Company Headquarters. Their principal concern here was as to how we entered their lines, whether we were planning a general attack on their line, and why the United States entered the War. They were much worried over the possibilities of our attacking them, and their morale was very low from the effectiveness of our artillery fire.

They called in one of my men' who could speak German somewhat. At this time there were three officers in the dugout, two of whom could speak English. Now the thought of being captured never occurred to us until it happened. Consequently our men had no instructions as to how to conduct themselves, and I was afraid that, without thinking of the consequences, they might give away information. So I told Mallov that he was to be questioned, that two of the officers understood English, that he could tell them anything that he saw fit, but that he should remember that the lives of the rest of the company might depend on what he said. Well, those Germans went crazy and raved, telling me to remember that I was a prisoner, to keep my mouth shut, and that they would do all the talking that was necessary. They got so violent that I had to cool them down, so I told Mallov to tell them anything he wanted to, and that seemed to appease them, but meanwhile I had conveyed the idea to him, and knew they would get no vital information.

From here I was passed back through a system of double runner posts to Battalion and Regimental Headquarters. These posts were maintained even in the open fields in camouflaged shallow dugouts, two men being at each post.

The Colonel was absent from Regimental Headquarters, but his Adjutant could talk English (most of the German officers could) and we were once more discussing the cause of America's entry into the War, when he came in. It was impossible to convince them that submarines had anything to do with the matter, and they firmly believed that money was responsible, but they could not explain how. The Colonel sat down and seemed to pay no attention to our argument, so I concluded he could not understand English, when suddenly he looked up at me and said, " Where is the place of your Regimental Commander? " It almost knocked me flat it was so unexpected, but I replied that he was a soldier by profession and could therefore understand why it was impossible for me to answer that question. He got up and walked out and I didn't see him again.

At Division Headquarters, which was in a wonderful place excavated from solid rock by the British when they occupied that territory, two officers formed the intelligence force. Both spoke English very well, and one had spent considerable time in the States. They wanted to know the exact location of our companies. They had a very large scale map, showing the sectors of our various divisions, and even the Regimental sectors, and it was extremely accurate. I said I couldn't tell them, and one (not the one from America) got extremely nasty and said they had heard that the English and French and Americans threatened but did not shoot officers and men who refused to give information, so I told them we heard the same thing about them, and he denied it, before he realized that it took the sting out of his threat. The man from the States was quite decent and at my request got the men and myself some hot soup, which was the first we had eaten for about twenty-four hours.

The next place I ran into the German Intelligence Section was at the Hotel in Karlsruhe. There are some strange tales about this place, one of them being that each room is equipped with a dictaphone. Three of us were put in one room and I lay down on my bunk as soon as we entered. There on the wall in fine pencil writing was the warning "Careful, enemy hears all." We were locked in that room for two days, then two of us were transferred to another room with an aviator for several hours, and two new men took our place in the old room. Then all of us were collected together and sent to the regular prison camp in the town. The same shifting performance had happened to all of them. It was a queer business, to say the least. Some of the aviators had peculiar experiences. One stayed there two weeks because he refused to give his squadron number. A German dressed in civilian clothes visited him finally, saying he was writing a history of the war and wanted to include a story about the aviator, and had the Government's permission to interview him. After asking for some general information about the officer he asked in a casual way, "What was your squadron number?" The aviator laughed at him and refused to answer, whereat the interviewer went up into the air and revealed the fact that he was after the information for the Government-The Huns weren't strong on tact in trying to get information.

At Rastatt they sold us diaries and lead pencils for practically nothing and at Karlsruhe they searched us (the first time since being captured that we had a thorough physical search) and took the diaries away to be translated. This was also a good way to get information, but the laughable part about it is that they censored mine, blotting out the word "Hun" and "Boche" wherever I had used it. Evidently they do not like those names!

The Army of Occupation is being subjected to insidious propaganda, and it cannot help but have some effect on the intensity of the men's feelings. As prisoners of war the Americans were also subjects of that same propaganda, but things which came to my notice more than offset its effects. Anything I can do to remind our men and friends of the other side of the Boche nature I want to do, so I am including some of those things that came to my notice.

In a little cleft in the rock, outside a German First Aid Post in the Vesle valley, I found an American. His body was covered by a blanket, but the flies were swarming over his face, eating at several open holes-the face was puffed up and yellow from pus. I thought he was dead and inquired about him, but he opened his eyes and said: "My arms are broken and my legs shot, but my body is all right." He had lain there two days, and no attempt had been made to get him to a hospital, and they had not even covered his face with a handkerchief to keep the flies away, so he was gradually being eaten, as he could not use his hands to chase them away. I insisted on his being taken to a hospital and finally got him out on his way, but I doubt if he lived. I'm sorry I do not know his name, but he was from Company I of this Regiment.

At Montcornet (Camp Lislet) the men worked all-day, loading and unloading freight. The rations consisted of coffee made from roasted barley for breakfast, a thin soup for dinner and perhaps soup for supper, although they usually had tea instead; three slices of sour bread a day, and every other day a small portion of "vegetable marmalade," artificially colored; once in a while they were served a piece of horsemeat, perhaps two bites, about twice a week. I could see our men shrinking up tinder the hard work and lack of food, but some of the Frenchmen had been there two months and more, and were wrecks. One morning five of them were too weak to work and so the guards put them into a small wire enclosure for twenty-four hours, with no blankets and nothing to eat. I have seen such men, almost starved to death, pick potato peelings out of the most unspeakable places and eat them, in order to keep alive. One officer from another camp where there were some British soldiers told me the Huns would throw the peelings into such places and laugh at the starved " Tommies " trying to recover them. And now they are asking England and France and America to feed them!

Medical attention at this place was a scream, except that it was pathetic. The doctor pulled all aching teeth, by using a pair of pliers and prying the tooth out. One French soldier had an abscess under his arm, showing in the form of a lump; the doctor opened it by thrusting a scissors point into it, although he had surgical knives that he might have used.

The first night I spent at Rastatt was in the prisoners' hospital, with some British officers. One had a wound in the foot and it had to be opened to cleanse it. The German surgeon cut the foot from che tendon to the front of the foot, doing nothing to counteract the pain, and laughing at the agony of the Englishman. This surgeon was generally known as the Berlin Butcher, on account of his cruelty. While out walking on the grounds that evening a crippled "Tommy" happened to get in the way of a German sergeant, and was kicked into a doorway because he was unable to walk,

The above are but a few instances that I personally know of; the stories of others would fill a book. One officer who had a shell fragment in his brain back of the left eye, which was blind as a result, told me of riding for thirty hours with nine wounded Boche in a car which had just been vacated by horses, and not cleaned out. Seven of the ten of them died on the way from lack of attention. And so on and on, until I have determined that I shall never have anything to do with things German.
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