Sabotage! (Oct, 1954)
Every time I see the word “sabotage” I can’t help but hear it in William Shatner’s voice.
Here, on the next few pages, you will read the shocking but all too true story of how a little band of saboteurs, as inconspicuous as you and I, can paralyze the United States.
By Martin Caidin
IT could happen today—tonight—without warning. An attack on our country—but not necessarily with roaring jet bombers, screaming rockets and exploding atom bombs. A crippling assault without warning could be launched against our critical cities, ports, rail centers, factories, farm belts, power stations and military objectives by one of Communism’s deadliest weapons—sabotage.
Sabotage has always been a danger in war. It has, in fact, constituted on many occasions the opening blows of a major conflict. Until today, however, attack by subterfuge has never been more than a minor element in any great war. It has rarely inflicted serious blows against the ability of a nation to fight.
That situation has changed. Because of the tremendous increase in the destructive power of weapons which may be transported and used against vital objectives —by only one man or woman—the significance of sabotage has mushroomed. It is now a weapon which is equal to many crack divisions in the field. It may become a weapon which will decide the outcome of wars.
Our own nation is particularly vulnerable to attack by sabotage. Let us suppose that the night for action has arrived. A man walks through the milling crowd at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal during the evening rush hour. He carries an ordinary valise, at the bottom of which there is a small vent. An almost invisible vapor hisses out the vent, unheard in the clamor of the crowd. The vapor is laden with deadly germs; it swirls amidst the hurrying throng, is breathed in by thousands of men and women, and is transported to thousands of homes by the dispersing commuters. In La Salle Station in Chicago, in other rail centers all over the U.S.A., in the jammed, milling, disease-spreading subways, on the streets—the inconspicuous men and women walk along, deadly vapor escaping from their innocent-looking suitcases.
In dozens of cities, trucks rumble through the crowded streets. They are ordinary vehicles but their exhaust pipes have been slightly altered. As the trucks roll through the cities, a vapor hisses from the false exhaust pipe and disappears among the moving people on the sidewalks. Ten miles off America’s West Coast, a Russian submarine cruises beneath the surface; its periscope and a strange pipe slice unseen above the waterline. A cloud of vapor pours from the escape pipe and drifts on the warm, prevailing winds eastward over the unsuspecting land. An epidemic is on the way!
Oars muffled by padding, a rowboat glides silently across the surface of a great city reservoir. One man rows while his companion drains the contents of a plastic bag into the water. Botulinus toxin, 10,000 times deadlier than potassium cyanide, sinks into the reservoir of 10,000,000-gallon capacity. The men release 350 gallons of toxin in several trips—five cubic centimeters will kill a man who later drinks from the reservoir.
A janitor works late at night in the Pentagon. Unnoticed, he hurries to a broom closet, drags out a heavy cylindrical object which looks exactly like a large fire extinguisher. He stands on a desk, unhinges the grille to the main ventilation system and slides the cylinder within the shaft. He sets a battery-operated soundless timer and closes the grille. Next day, with thousands of high-ranking military officials at work, this container and many others like it pours an invisible, odorless, tasteless, deadly nerve gas throughout the vast building.
Picnickers, fishermen, hunters and tourists move unobtrusively through the great forest regions of the nation. Along their paths they drop “fountain pens.” The “pens” are hidden by the grass and shrubbery of the forest belts. Hours later, a small cap explodes. Magnesium flares brilliantly. The flames spread rapidly.
In San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, New York, Baltimore, Boston, Washington, D. C., Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Seattle and other great industrial cities, men and women go to their closets, brush aside clothes, open panel doors and activate radio beacon sets. The aerials run to commonplace TV antennas on rooftops. Each radio operator then leaves the city. From each set issues a distinctive radio signal. Submarines 200 miles at sea tune in to the signals track the source and launch guided missiles with atom bomb warheads. The missiles’ command systems “lock” on the beams and they hurtle unerringly to their targets.
This is war by sabotage—and sabotage with a vengeance. It is a means of attack to which the United States is particularly vulnerable.
Industrial sabotage, is perhaps the most effective weapon which can be applied against America’s war potential. The destruction of key factory buildings, of generator stations, the poisoning of water supplies, the dissemination of bacteriological agents, the disruption of physical communications and other means of subterfuge can help cripple, along with open enemy assault, our ability to wage war. The individual saboteur, now that atomic bombs may be transported in small, commonplace carriers, is worth his weight in ten divisions in the field.
Industrial sabotage is not necessarily exhibited through physical destruction. Panic, rumor, dissension, strife, strikes and similar activities foistered by the individual allied to the enemy’s cause may be.
and have been, equally as effective.
The key to this terrible means of attack is that the saboteur is not necessarily a foreign national, or even of foreign parentage. He may be a rank amateur—a laborer, a machinist, a truck driver, a clerk, a highly-trained professional, a scientist, or the director of a large corporation. One thing, however, is almost certain: the saboteur will be the least suspected man or woman in a factory, a shop, or on the street.
What’s the record on sabotage? It’s no secret that agents of the Communist Party in this country have pinpointed every major industry for sabotage attack and have, in fact, selected the critical plants upon which a host of giant factories depend to keep operating. There are, for example, numerous aluminum plants in the United States but only a few which supply them with the necessary abrasive materials. A few key plants in our petroleum industry, knocked out, would represent a disaster to the nation’s aviation fuel supplies.
During the last several years we have intercepted thousands of small booklets with sabotage instructions for Red agents in this country. In Philadelphia, we discovered a shipload of “sardine” cans, each filled with 30 to 40 tiny pamphlets listing sabotage methods, instructions and means. The sabotage methods included directions on how to destroy low and high tension electrical lines, transformers, waterfalls, sluices, dams, pipes and other key industrial equipment. Instructions were available on how to manufacture at home incendiary bottle-bombs; how to sneak home made explosive bombs beneath .the beds or desks of individual personnel targets; how to mix common chemicals and sugar into hatband bombs which will rip a man’s head to pieces; how to murder; how to use an ordinary pack of matches and a cigarette as a delayed-action incendiary bomb; how to cripple vital machinery with a handful of emery dust and acid; how to cut bridges and rail trusses with homemade explosives. It was an exhaustive manual on how to rip apart the productive ability of a nation behind its lines. And tens of thousands of such pamphlets have been issued to Red agents in the country, for the past 15 years!
The saboteur may not even be devoted to the enemy country, as past experience has proved. He may, of course, work for love of his homeland but he may also carry out his insidious tasks on a traitorous basis: for cash, for real or imagined hatred, for revenge. He may be under blackmail for threats of death to loved ones in a foreign land.
With new disease agents perfected to the point where they are mass-produced, easily stored and transported over long periods of time, biological warfare by sabotage becomes a deadly possibility. BW weapons can spread disease, sickness, death and panic throughout a country. Because of the freedom of movement throughout America, and the massive quantities of goods shipped by sea, air, rail and highway, we are particularly vulnerable to BW attack. Enemy efforts would be directed against our farms and crops, with diseases and pests directed against livestock and plants.
There is one tremendous point in our favor and that is that we have the best epidemic and hygienic controls in the world. Our natural national standards of health provide a tremendous defense against biological agents. Our rapid systems of communication and transportation also mean that we can move quickly to stamp out disease outbreaks. Also, and not to be ignored, we can deal out devastating retaliation against enemy nations far more vulnerable to this type of warfare than we are.
The most active defense against BW is to be prepared to detect quickly any new insects or foreign diseases and be ready to stamp them out at once. The better these preparations of ours to move and act quickly, the less chance the enemy will have for success in such a venture.
Attacks against America’s breadbasket would most likely begin in hatcheries, stockyards, sales barns, railroad terminals, feed mixing plants and other places where large quantities of food and many animals pass through on then- way to and from farms.
We must remember that some of the world’s greatest crop and livestock blights have never been loose inside our nation. Such diseases include, among many, the Asiatic cattle plague rinderpest which destroys nearly every animal it strikes. Foot-and-mouth disease, often raging throughout Mexico ($90,000,000 and years of work haven’t stamped it out) is an insidious destroyer of cattle. Fowl pest and foreign strains of Newcastle disease are probably the two most destructive poultry diseases on the globe.
Foot-and-mouth disease in 1914 got a month’s start accidentally in Michigan and soon spread to Chicago stockyards. It flared in 22 states before it was halted— and resulted in the necessary slaughter of 172,222 animals. And we were lucky that we caught it when we did.
Asiatic Newcastle disease only two years ago slipped in by accident from Hong Kong to a California fowl establishment. We were extremely fortunate to discover the disease at once. But not before 41 of the 42 chickens on the farm were killed.
Government experts admit there are hundreds of crop pests and diseases which have never reached our shores and which could wreak disastrous havoc. They could be smuggled easily across our borders, dropped from enemy planes or sown by hand, and they could blight our crops with rusts, scales and other effects.
A few men—one man—with a few vials of wheat rust like the new 15B conceivably could scatter amounts from Mexico to Canada, and within a year or two the nation would be suffering from a raging scourge across the Great Plains.
Possibly the greatest danger from BW when used against people—against you—is mental: the generation of rumor and subsequent panic. Because many of the BW agents which may be used against us are of a foreign, strange nature, their apparent effects could touch off wildfire panic. There are no really new diseases among biological agents; old diseases have been made more dangerous, and diseases strange to our shores may be used. But medical facilities, despite initial outbreaks, stand an excellent chance of combatting such scourges if the public refuses to panic and cooperate with health authorities.
If the enemy can cause panic, by spreading wild rumors regarding BW agents, and can cause our people to flee from their cities, he is just as successful in his efforts as if he had actually detroyed thousands of factories. The basic goal of war against a nation’s homeland is not to destroy factories—it is to destroy production. And that can be accomplished by wholesale desertion of the production line as well as by atomic attack.
Fortunately, there are defenses against sabotage of all kinds. We can, by intelligent thinking and action now, reduce by a great margin the possible success of saboteurs. Guards can be placed on 24-hour patrol of our reservoirs (as they have been done in some cases) to protect our drinking water supplies against contamination by disease and poisons. We can install filter traps to test our water on a 24-hour basis.
A security system can be established to protect vital rail bridges, mountain cuts and tunnels, so that unauthorized persons are not allowed to linger at these crucial points. Power and generator stations can be safeguarded by fences, electronic warning devices and patrolling guard teams of dogs and men. We can restrict the parking of cars in our great factories so that they are far removed from the actual buildings. Institution of more thorough personnel and vehicular checks will reduce the possibilities of successful infiltration with concealed atomic weapons.
Our coastlines and cities can be protected by special microbe detectors, inspected daily, which would record the passage or the presence of strange diseases in the air. Early identification of alien diseases, remember, is the key to successful defense against BW attack. A well-informed population can be instructed to report strange physical reactions to diseases. And possible outbreaks can be stopped before they have the opportunity to spread. Many states have already stockpiled tens of millions of dollars of medical supplies which can prevent mass BW outbreaks, if they are detected in time.
Never forget that the enemy will exhaust every means of creating panic, defeatism and dissension among our people. The primary objective of a sabotage campaign is the individual—you. There is something known as passive sabotage, where enemy agents spread dissension among workers, cause slowdowns, start strikes, instigate race riots and enable false rumors to spread. Such activities do not at first appear to affect our war effort but magnified hundreds of times they are of great help to the enemy. The enemy’s objective is to halt production. A strike can accomplish this even more effectively than an atomic bombing.
Panic has often been described as the ultimate of all weapons, which it is, for it leads to the utter disintegration of many people to work together. It can produce a chain reaction of destruction far greater than that of any hydrogen bomb.
Fear is a healthy thing, normal and experienced at various times in our lives. Panic is simply uncontrolled fear. Its main symptom is violent, unreasoning action. This means that enemy agents attempting to create panic must always strike at you. People, not inanimate objects, convey panic. And panic results at times in terrible loss of life and property damage. __ Think not? Let’s look at some cases, where the record shows that grief and death could have been avoided if the people involved had kept their heads.
On June 5, 1941 in Chungking, China, 1,000 persons died horribly in an air raid shelter.
They were jammed together in a vast room where poor ventilation snuffed out the oil lamps. The darkness and heat mushroomed the feeling of stuffiness into choking. The people exploded in panic, with the result that 1,000 men, women and children died horribly.
In 1943, during an air raid on London, a woman and child tripped on the stairway entrance to a large subway shelter. Hundreds of people behind them pressed anxiously to get into the shelter. Instead of helping the woman and child, they began to push frantically. Others tripped. Panic mushroomed. The stairway became a mob of screaming, struggling bodies. More than 170 died.
Panic is suicide in the event of war. The Russians know this and would like nothing better than to send panic racing through our cities. Consider the case of Hiroshima, when it was atom-bombed. More than 20,000 people died from panic in the aftermath of the attack, when they fled wildly and, in many cases, rushed into rather than away from the fires.
Americans today are becoming increasingly aware of their peril and susceptibility to panic. The humiliating lesson of Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of a fictional Martian invasion is deeply ingrained in many people. The use of the word panic has in the last five years increased by 1,447 per cent in the public press!
Russia studies carefully the greatest weaknesses of our nation and our people. The Princeton University report of the reaction to the Orson Welles broadcasts is required reading of Soviet staff officers. The Russians know that, in war, to generate panic among your enemy is to increase your own chance for victory.
Remember—the enemy saboteur, whether he causes destruction by TNT, by atomic bomb, by spreading BW agents, by starting forest fires or by generating the wild emotional and destructive storm of panic, has you as his main objective. Forewarned is forearmed. •