From a Southwest Pacific Command, there comes a
new version of an old anecdote which is a discerning, if
indirect, comment on the gullibility of human nature.
"A real estate man arrived at the gates of Heaven, confident
that he already had an option on a piece of
property there, inasmuch as he had never robbed
widows or orphans—at least, not much.
"St. Peter was adamant, however. There's no room
for you;' he said. 'All allotments set aside for real
estate men have already been taken up on perpetual lease.'
"Although no longer on his native heath, the applicant
still had some of the earthly instincts of all successful
real estate agents. He asked permission just to
come in and look around. All was as St. Peter had said. So
the real estate man stepped up onto a bench on the
main boulevard and shouted, 'Oil has been
discovered in Hell!'
"There was instant pandemonium and a mad exodus
of real estate men, complete with hastily packed suitcases, rushing
off to Hell. St. Peter watched the newcomer's face
light up with satisfaction at his own cleverness
and then slowly cloud over with worry. Suddenly
the newcomer, too, grabbed his suitcase and
raced after the real estate men. As he gathered speed, he
shouted back to St. Peter, 'You know, there may be
something to that rumor!'"
Unfortunately, there is a large element of psychological
truth in this story. Rumors are contagious, and
affect not only those among whom they are spread, but
also the rumor-monger himself.
2. SENSE AND CENSORSHIP
Most breaches of security that censors come across
are clearly not intentional. They stem from a soldier's
ignorance of what he should and should not write in a
letter, or from his faulty judgment as to what may be
included without breaching security.
Intentional breaches are nearly always caused by
someone's desire to appear clever, and are very seldom
committed with treasonable intent. An example of the
former was the case of a soldier who filled a letter with
classified matters which he thought would entertain
the folks at home, and entrusted it to a friend who was
returning to the States. ("Don't let the postmark of
this letter surprise you, because I'm not at home—" his
letter began.) This use of unauthorized channels to
carry mail from the field to persons at home is a flagrant
violation of censorship, and subjects not only the
writer, but the carrier as well, to severe disciplinary
action. This particular writer committed an even
graver violation, however. In his letter he disclosed in
a. his movements through the South Pacific area
from the beginning of 1943, specifically mentioning
dates and places;
b. the casualties of units in combat;
c. the movements of other units, and
d. enough information about military plans for the
future to endanger the success of an entire operation.
Besides inviting court-martial, this man jeopardized
the lives of his fellow soldiers.
Press associations, newspapers, and radio stations
sometimes unwittingly influence soldiers and their
parents and friends to violate censorship regulations.
A press association recently carried a story telling how
a civilian well versed in animal lore was trying to help
parents determine where their sons were located.
Unfortunately the enemy also has personnel well
versed in animal lore. Therefore, such attempts to
reveal locations amount, in reality, to using a code
which is easily understood by our enemies.
The use of codes of any type is strictly against security
regulations, and violators are subject to penalties
ranging from a reprimand to a court-martial.
These cases, particularly the former, demonstrate
two urgent needs: first, the need for greater and continued
security education for troops, and, second, the
need for keeping secret military information—especially
that involving future operations—out of discussions
in the presence of persons whose duties do not
require such knowledge.
On the other hand, the men who commit breaches of
security out of sheer ignorance of what the censor can
and cannot pass would benefit from a practice recently
instituted by an Australian unit. This unit has established
what it calls a "Censor's Diary." Censored portions
of letters are posted on a notice board, with brief
comments by the censor officer explaining why these
portions are not suitable for transmission. The enlisted
men have praised the innovation as being a great help, and
the censors have found that it has lightened their
work to a remarkable degree.
A South African major general, recommending this
scheme for consideration by the units of his command, sensibly
points out that several precautions must be
observed: "Personal and family matters should not be
published. Typed copies of extracts should be posted, so
that, the writers' identities are not revealed. Examples
which will benefit the largest number should be
selected, and comments should be brief, pithy, and constructive."