Historical Survival Tips, Feat WWII

Ever wondered about what it might have been like to abruptly travel and live in a foreign country? Add to it the setting of American soldiers fighting on European soil in the earlier half of the twentieth century, and you’ll find yourself needing to read the tongue-in-cheek, albeit quite seriously intentioned, Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain, issued by the United States War Department in 1942. This brief pamphlet details the tough job ahead for the intended reader, the American servicemen, who were going “to meet Hitler and beat him on his own ground” (pg. 3). So, what tips can be garnered from this archival, and nearly obsolete, set of bound pages? Take a look: (1) One of our most important strengths (or weapons in wartime) is “plain, common horse sense; understanding of evident truths” (pg. 4). Often overlooked in our checklists and outsourcing of knowledge is simple common sense! Make sure to trust your gut; mistakes can be much costlier in outdoor settings. (2) “Don’t be a show off” (pg. 6). This one is also pretty important – and ties back to common sense. We all get the urge at times to present our best possible selves to others watching; we try things that are more difficult or dangerous than we might have otherwise. While this affliction affects some more than others, it is necessary for all of us to keep it in mind. (3) Accomplishment does not simply come from travel alone. “Remember that crossing the ocean doesn’t automatically make you a hero” (pg. 21). Survival tips do not exist in a vacuum. Instead, much of what we consider worth surviving is based on its merit, in the form of accomplishment. Yet, the travel alone to a destination is not worthwhile in and of itself unless you have actively engaged with the environment in some way. In other words, make sure that you are doing more than just passively taking in a view – it is one thing to visit the Grand Canyon and gaze over its breathtaking rim; it is quite another thing to hike down into its valleys and return unscathed. But then you ought to be the latter kind anyhow if you’re reading this! (4) “New cheerfulness and a new determination [can be] born out of hard times and tough luck” (pg. 23). At the root of it, survival is about instinct and intrinsic drive to win (or at least stay alive). (5) Don’t let stress get the best of you – an especially don’t let it ruin your relationships with other people that you are traveling with. “It is militarily stupid to insult your allies” (pg. 23). Things come up, but when you’re faced with difficult or frightening scenarios, it is always better to remain united and discuss qualms at a later time. As in after the trip is over. (6) Ration wisely, and plan ahead for needing more water or food than you think you might need. If this means stashing water at more sites than you think necessary for a backpacking or bikepacking trip, do it! “Waste means lives” (pg. 24). In the case of wartime, wasting resources meant destroying lives – this can be readily applied to survival in an outdoor sense. Simply put, don’t waste anything – and leave no trace. (7) “Be friendly – but don’t intrude anywhere it seems you are not wanted” (pg. 29). This can apply to both other people and animals. Just as you should not enter another camper’s space, you also should be aware of whose house you are sprawling in while hiking through a national park, biking through a wilderness area, or fishing in a secluded creek. Be friendly – but be smart about it. Originally published Feb 20, 2019 

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