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Title U.S. Army War Department/Signal Corps bulletin, December 3, 1917: "WARNING TO AMERICAN AVIATORS: Things to avoid if Forced to Land Behind German Lines"
Collection Percival T. Gates World War I Aviation Collection
Object Name Bulletin
Caption US Army aviators bulletin, 1917: If forced to land behind German lines. 1
Scope & Content U.S. Army War Department/Signal Corps bulletin, December 3, 1917: "WARNING TO AMERICAN AVIATORS: Things to avoid if Forced to Land Behind German Lines". Footer reads, "Air Service Special Bulletin No. 3, dated Oct. 31, 1917."


"The following confidential information is furnished for the use of the Army and Navy and authorized civilians in the service of the Government.

WARNING TO AMERICAN AVIATORS: Things to avoid if Forced to Land Behind German Lines.

The following instructions in the form of a warning have been given to British Aviators. American Officers & Aviators should note them and appreciate their importance:
If you are unfortunate enough to be compelled to land behind the German lines, you may be agreeably surprised by your welcome there. The German Officers will probably have you stay with them as their guest for a few days at one of their squadrons and will make you most comfortable. You will probably be extremely well entertained with the very best of everything they can offer. An abundance of good champagne from France will oil the wheels of conversation between the officers of the German Flying Corps, and one whom they will probably term a brother officer of the English Flying Corps. They will appear to be very good fellows, straightforward, cheerful and keen on the scientific side of flying, apart from their ordinary work with which they may say they are quite fed up. They will probably lead you to talk about the possibilities of aviation after the war, and profess little interest in aviation as actually applied to war. It may not take much wine to gladden your heart, and to induce you to lay aside your suspicions and reserve, and forget the guile which lies behind their artless questions.

An so unaccustomed are you to this form of deceit, you may fall another victim to this clever combination of cunning and hospitality. But though they may succeed for the moment in making a favorable impression, you will afterwards have every reason to remember during this war the Germans have proved themselves to be a cruel and unscrupulous enemy, but they are sound financiers, and have an eye to good investment. It does not cost them much to entertain you well, and even if it did they would expect to get an adequate return for their money in the form of information unwittingly imparted by you.

This is why they will give you all delights of the "Carlton" and "Savoy", with none of the regrets of an overdraft at Cox's and that is why you will be treated as a highly honored guest, instead of being half-starved in one of their now notorious prison camps, a treatment which is in fact only postponed until they have squeezed every ounce of useful information out of you.

The work is done by experienced men. Quite unknown to yourself one or more of the seemingly irresponsible flying men are highly trained intelligence officers who will sift bits of useful information from your most brilliant "bon met" [sic], received with the keenest amusement and gratification.

On the other hand, different methods may be employed, though these are not so common with prisoners of the Flying Corps, as of others. You may be browbeaten, and ordered to disclose information under pain of suffering severe penalties, if you refuse. Remember that this is only a ruse and that they will not carry out their threats. It is more probably that they will respect your patriotism, and discretion.

It is quite possible that you may be placed in a hut with an officer alleged to be an English prisoner, speaking English fluently, and knowing many people in England well, and wishing to have news of everyone and everything, or perhaps he will ask no questions, relying only on your confidence. It will be difficult for you to believe that he is not a companion in misfortune, but this is a common trick of all intelligence services and a very profitable one.

Therefore, be on your guard and remember that in a show like this, it is impossible for any individual not at the head of affairs to say what is of use to the enemy and what is not. Remember that any information you may inadvertently give, may lengthen the war and keep you longer in Germany; may cost the lives of many Englishmen, may strain the country's resources even more than they are being strained at present. Don't think this is all imagination and needless caution. The need of it has been bought by experience. No careless or irresponsible feelings ought to weigh with us against anything we can do to hasten the conclusion of this war."
Accession# 1992G1026
Subjects Gates, Percival T., (Percival Taylor), 1897-1978
World War, 1914-1918--Aerial operations, American.
Prisoner-of-war camps--Germany.
Interrogation tactics.
Object ID 1992G1026.3.01
Creator U.S. Army War Department/Signal Corps
Other Creators American Expeditionary Forces (AEF)
People Gates, Percival T., (Percival Taylor), 1897-1978
Date 12/03/1917
Year Range from 1917
Year Range to 1917
Condition Fair
Imagefile 010\1992G10263.JPG