Tuesday, May 24, 2016

SHTF Self-Education Series Tuesday Book Review: The Interrogator

This book review is of a text that really is more a biography of an extremely interesting man than a handbook on interrogation.  So, if what you are looking for is more KUBARK-ish, go here.  KUBARK is a CIA manual that has long since been declassified (January 1997).  It was originated in July 1963 and was originally classified as "SECRET NO FOREIGN DISSEM".  The link provided to KUBARK is legitimate and is part of the NSA archive.

Now that that is behind us, a look at the book itself.  I am reviewing a copy of Raymond F. Toliver's work.  It was copyrighted in 1997, published by Schiffer Publishing and bears ISBN #978-0-7643-0261-9. The work is chock full of copies of original source documents, reports, drawings, photographs and the like that punctuate the absolutely true yet amazing story of one man who retained his humanity and treated prisoners of war with dignity and respect, yet achieved his directed goals.

Hanns Scharff just after his conscription into the German military
It would be nigh impossible to appreciate his work fully if you have never had the task of searching, sorting, silencing and speaking with detainees in a live, uncontrolled environment.  His words describing events, people and over arching circumstances will get you as close as you are likely to ever get to the real scenario. There is a sense of chivalry and respect that comes across that is lost in much of the historical record.  One would be hard pressed to imagine the interaction between American/British POW being remotely similar to that of what was meted out to Russians.

Still Image courtesy of "Spy Chatter" blog taken from WWII Army Training Film, Interrogation of Enemy Airmen
The story of Hanns Scharff is a wide ranging tale of a man trapped by circumstance in Germany at the outbreak of the war from his home in South Africa.  His facility with multiple languages and a certain cosmopolitan demeanor enabled him to function across even steep rank gradients to good effect.  His use of well known ploys such as "we know all" was backed up by immense amounts of research and archival information that made tracking orders of battle and personnel as familiar as if he himself were posted in an allied S-1 administrative section in England.  To understand the lengths gone to and the required detail is a lesson well imparted in the narrative.  Skills like this and an understanding of one's foes in such depth will be of great importance among NPT everywhere.

There are a number of stories in here about his interaction with famed American aviators.  Don Gentile, Francis Gabreski, Sydney Woods all appear, and much, much more.  They all relate the humanity of Hanns Scharff in difficult situations.  That they all gave far more than they ever imagined just in the course of protracted and meticulously documented conversations would come later as stunning news to all.

Famed WWII American Military Ace Francis Gabreski
Human tragedy swept Hanns Scharff's personal life, a story best told by his own words.  It is moving.  Upon completion of the war, Hanns Scharff remade his life both personally and professionally in America.  A man of many talents, he arose as a mosaic artist in postwar southern California.  Never forgotten by his one time captives, he was part of their lives in annual celebrations and gatherings until he passed away in September of 1992, just before his 85th birthday.

Hanns Scharff's meticulous mosaics were commissioned by Disney

The depth of the stories, chronologically laid upon each other like layers of sedimentary stone create a massive body of knowledge in time.  One of the key elements is remaining a gentleman in the midst of insanity.  Hanns Scharff proved it could be done.  Men like him were, and are, rare treasures.  This book offers human drama in vast quantities, an over leavening of  old school analog techniques for interrogation in the truest traditions and in the best light.

I personally found the book of intense interest for the understanding it provided me of the structure of the Luftwaffe POW interrogation infrastructure.  It intersected with my own study of an uncle's B-24 Liberator that was shot down over Germany in August of 1944.  While my uncle did not survive to be captured, some of his crew did and this book brought home the reality of what they faced, how they were treated and the various circumstances at the time that you just will not find documented elsewhere in such an engaging fashion.  I unreservedly recommend this book to all of you interested in learning how a true master of the craft plied his trade - that of interrogation.

Compare and contrast....

British RAF produced WWII Training Film for Allied aircrew:  Enemy Interrogation of Prisoners

You may enjoy reading some of Partyzantski's previously published Tuesday Book Reviews.  Links to the Reviews as well as Amazon purchase links are compiled in ONE UPDATED LIST FOUND HERE.

"The Interrogator" Tuesday Book Review written by StopShoutingBlog contributor and #FAB50 Blog Award Winner Partyzantski, coolest cat on teh inner webs, retired Mustang, former FID embedded military Advisor, SASO trainer and scenario developer, Electronic Warfare Aviator, PME instructor, certified Force Protection and Anti-terrorism officer and combat seasoned USMC (0202) field grade intelligence officer. When not blogging or maintaining weapons proficiency at the range, he enjoys cat herding and travel to off-the-beaten-track locales. You can follow him on Twitter @Partyzantski  


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