Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening a polity, effort, or organization through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. One who engages in sabotage is a saboteur. Saboteurs typically try to conceal their identities because of the consequences of their actions and to avoid invoking legal and organizational requirements for addressing sabotage.
The English word derives from the French word saboter, meaning to “bungle, botch, wreck or sabotage”, and was originally used to refer to labour disputes, in which workers wearing wooden shoes called sabots interrupted production through different means. A popular but incorrect account of the origin of the term's present meaning is the story that poor workers in France would throw a wooden sabot into the machines to disrupt production.
One of the first appearances of saboter and saboteur in French literature is in the Dictionnaire du Bas-Langage ou manières de parler usitées parmi le peuple of d'Hautel, edited in 1808. In it the literal definition is to 'make noise with sabots' as well as 'bungle, jostle, hustle, haste'. The word sabotage appears only later.
The word sabotage is found in 1873–1874 in the Dictionnaire de la langue française of Émile Littré.Here it is defined mainly as 'making sabots, sabot maker'. It is at the end of the 19th century that it really began to be used with the meaning of 'deliberately and maliciously destroying property' or 'working slower'. In 1897, Émile Pouget, a famous syndicalist and anarchist wrote "action de saboter un travail" ('action of sabotaging or bungling a work') in Le Père Peinard and in 1911 he also wrote a book entitled Le Sabotage.
At the inception of the Industrial Revolution, skilled workers such as the Luddites (1811–1812) used sabotage as a means of negotiation in labor disputes.
Labor unions such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have advocated sabotage as a means of self-defense and direct action against unfair working conditions.
The IWW was shaped in part by the industrial unionism philosophy of Big Bill Haywood, and in 1910 Haywood was exposed to sabotage while touring Europe:
The experience that had the most lasting impact on Haywood was witnessing a general strike on the French railroads. Tired of waiting for parliament to act on their demands, railroad workers walked off their jobs all across the country. The French government responded by drafting the strikers into the army and then ordering them back to work. Undaunted, the workers carried their strike to the job. Suddenly, they could not seem to do anything right. Perishables sat for weeks, sidetracked and forgotten. Freight bound for Paris was misdirected to Lyon or Marseille instead. This tactic — the French called it "sabotage" — won the strikers their demands and impressed Bill Haywood.
For the IWW, sabotage's meaning expanded to include the original use of the term: any withdrawal of efficiency, including the slowdown, the strike, working to rule, or creative bungling of job assignments.
One of the most severe examples was at the construction site of the Robert-Bourassa Generating Station in 1974, in Québec, Canada, when workers used bulldozers to topple electric generators, damaged fuel tanks, and set buildings on fire. The project was delayed a year, and the direct cost of the damage estimated at $2 million CAD. The causes were not clear, but three possible factors have been cited: inter-union rivalry, poor working conditions, and the perceived arrogance of American executives of the contractor, Bechtel Corporation.
Certain groups turn to the destruction of property to stop environmental destruction or to make visible arguments against forms of modern technology they consider detrimental to the environment. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other law enforcement agencies use the term eco-terrorist when applied to damage of property. Proponents argue that since property cannot feel terror, damage to property is more accurately described as sabotage. Opponents, by contrast, point out that property owners and operators can indeed feel terror. The image of the monkey wrench thrown into the moving parts of a machine to stop it from working was popularized by Edward Abbey in the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang and has been adopted by eco-activists to describe the destruction of earth damaging machinery.
From 1992 to late 2007 a radical environmental activist movement known as ELF or Earth Liberation Front engaged in a near-constant campaign of decentralized sabotage of any construction projects near wildlands and extractive industries such as logging and even the burning down of a ski resort of Vail Colorado.ELF used sabotage tactics often in loose coordination with other environmental activist movements to physically delay or destroy threats to wildlands as the political will developed to protect the targeted wild areas that ELF engaged.
In war, the word is used to describe the activity of an individual or group not associated with the military of the parties at war, such as a foreign agent or an indigenous supporter, in particular when actions result in the destruction or damaging of a productive or vital facility, such as equipment, factories, dams, public services, storage plants or logistic routes. Prime examples of such sabotage are the events of Black Tom and the Kingsland Explosion. Like spies, saboteurs who conduct a military operation in civilian clothes or enemy uniforms behind enemy lines are subject to prosecution and criminal penalties instead of detention as prisoners of war.It is common for a government in power during war or supporters of the war policy to use the term loosely against opponents of the war. Similarly, German nationalists spoke of a stab in the back having cost them the loss of World War I.
A modern form of sabotage is the distribution of software intended to damage specific industrial systems. For example, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is alleged to have sabotaged a Siberian pipeline during the Cold War, using information from the Farewell Dossier. A more recent case may be the Stuxnet computer worm, which was designed to subtly infect and damage specific types of industrial equipment. Based on the equipment targeted and the location of infected machines, security experts believe it was an attack on the Iranian nuclear program by the United States, Israel or, according to the latest news, even Russia.
Sabotage, done well, is inherently difficult to detect and difficult to trace to its origin. During World War II, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated 19,649 cases of sabotage and concluded the enemy had not caused any of them.
Sabotage in warfare, according to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) manual, varies from highly technical coup de main acts that require detailed planning and specially trained operatives, to innumerable simple acts that ordinary citizen-saboteurs can perform. Simple sabotage is carried out in such a way as to involve a minimum danger of injury, detection, and reprisal. There are two main methods of sabotage; physical destruction and the "human element". While physical destruction as a method is self-explanatory, its targets are nuanced, reflecting objects to which the saboteur has normal and inconspicuous access in everyday life. The "human element" is based on universal opportunities to make faulty decisions, to adopt a non-cooperative attitude, and to induce others to follow suit.
There are many examples of physical sabotage in wartime. However, one of the most effective uses of sabotage is against organizations. The OSS manual provides numerous techniques under the title "General Interference with Organizations and Production":
From the section entitled, "General Devices for Lowering Morale and Creating Confusion" comes the following quintessential simple sabotage advice: "Act stupid."
The United States Office of Strategic Services, later renamed the CIA, noted the specific value in committing simple sabotage against the enemy during wartime: "... slashing tires, draining fuel tanks, starting fires, starting arguments, acting stupidly, short-circuiting electric systems, abrading machine parts will waste materials, manpower, and time." To underline the importance of simple sabotage on a widespread scale, they wrote, "Widespread practice of simple sabotage will harass and demoralize enemy administrators and police." The OSS was also focused on the battle for hearts and minds during wartime; "the very practice of simple sabotage by natives in enemy or occupied territory may make these individuals identify themselves actively with the United Nations War effort, and encourage them to assist openly in periods of Allied invasion and occupation."
On 30 July 1916, the Black Tom explosion occurred when German agents set fire to a complex of warehouses and ships in Jersey City, New Jersey that held munitions, fuel, and explosives bound to aid the Allies in their fight.
On 11 January 1917, Fiodore Wozniak, using a rag saturated with phosphorus or an incendiary pencil supplied by German sabotage agents, set fire to his workbench at an ammunition assembly plant near Lyndhurst, New Jersey, causing a four-hour fire that destroyed half a million 3-inch explosive shells and destroyed the plant for an estimated at $17 million in damages. Wozniak's involvement was not discovered until 1927.
On 12 February 1917, Bedouins allied with the British destroyed a Turkish railroad near the port of Wajh, derailing a Turkish locomotive. The Bedouins traveled by camel and used explosives to demolish a portion of track.
In Ireland, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) used sabotage against the British following the Easter 1916 uprising. The IRA compromised communication lines and lines of transportation and fuel supplies. The IRA also employed passive sabotage, refusing dock and train workers to work on ships and rail cars used by the government. In 1920, agents of the IRA committed arson against at least fifteen British warehouses in Liverpool. The following year, the IRA set fire to numerous British targets again, including the Dublin Customs House, this time sabotaging most of Liverpool's firetrucks in the firehouses before lighting the matches.
Lieutenant Colonel George T. Rheam was a British soldier, who ran Brickendonbury Manor from October 1941 to June 1945 during World War II, which was Station XVII of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), which trained specialists for the SOE. Rheam innovated many sabotage techniques, and is considered by M. R. D. Foot the "founder of modern industrial sabotage."
Sabotage training for the Allies consisted of teaching would-be saboteurs key components of working machinery to destroy. "Saboteurs learned hundreds of small tricks to cause the Germans big trouble. The cables in a telephone junction box ... could be jumbled to make the wrong connections when numbers were dialed. A few ounces of plastique, properly placed, could bring down a bridge, cave in a mine shaft, or collapse the roof of a railroad tunnel."
The Polish Home Army Armia Krajowa, who commanded the majority of resistance organizations in Poland (even the National Forces, except the Military Organization Lizard Union; The Home Army also included the Polish Socialist Party – Freedom, Equality, Independence) and coordinating and aiding the Jewish Military Union as well as more reluctantly helping the Jewish Combat Organization, was responsible for the greatest number of acts of sabotage in German—occupied Europe. The Home Army's sabotage operations Operation Garland and Operation Ribbon are just two examples. In all, the Home Army damaged 6,930 locomotives, set 443 rail transports on fire, damaged over 19,000 rail cars "wagony", and blew up 38 rail bridges, not to mention the attacks against the railroads. The Home Army was also responsible for 4,710 built-in flaws in parts for aircraft engines and 92,000 built-in flaws in artillery projectiles, among other examples of significant sabotage. In addition, over 25,000 acts of more minor sabotage were committed. It continued to fight against both the Germans and the Soviets; however, it did aid the Western Allies by collecting constant and detailed information on the German rail, wheeled, and horse transports.As for Stalin's proxies, their actions led to a great number of the Polish and Jewish hostages, mostly civilians, being murdered in reprisal by the Germans. The Gwardia Ludowa destroyed around 200 German trains during the war, and indiscriminately threw hand grenades into places frequented by Germans.
The French Resistance ran an extremely effective sabotage campaign against the Germans during World War II. Receiving their sabotage orders through messages over the BBC radio or by aircraft, the French used both passive and active forms of sabotage. Passive forms included losing German shipments and allowing poor quality material to pass factory inspections. Many active sabotage attempts were against critical rail lines of transportation. German records count 1,429 instances of sabotage from French Resistance forces between January 1942 and February 1943. From January through March 1944, sabotage accounted for three times the number of locomotives damaged by Allied air power.See also Normandy Landings for more information about sabotage on D-Day.
During World War II, the Allies committed sabotage against the Peugeot truck factory. After repeated failures in Allied bombing attempts to hit the factory, a team of French Resistance fighters and Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents distracted the German guards with a game of soccer while part of their team entered the plant and destroyed machinery.
In December 1944, the Germans ran a false flag sabotage infiltration, Operation Greif, which was commanded by Waffen-SS commando Otto Skorzeny during the Battle of the Bulge. German commandos, wearing US Army uniforms, carrying US Army weapons, and using US Army vehicles, penetrated US lines to spread panic and confusion among US troops and to blow up bridges, ammunition dumps, and fuel stores and to disrupt the lines of communication. Many of the commandos were captured by the Americans. Because they were wearing US uniforms, a number of the Germans were executed as spies, either summarily or after military commissions.
From 1948 to 1960, the Malayan Communists committed numerous effective acts of sabotage against the British Colonial authorities, first targeting railway bridges, then hitting larger targets such as military camps. Most of their efforts were centered around crippling Malaysia's colonial economy and involved sabotage against trains, rubber trees, water pipes, and electric lines. The Communists' sabotage efforts were so successful that they caused backlash among the Malaysian population, who gradually withdrew support for the Communist movement as their livelihoods became threatened.
In Mandatory Palestine from 1945 to 1948, Jewish groups opposed British control. Though that control was to end according to the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine in 1948, the groups used sabotage as an opposition tactic. The Haganah focused their efforts on camps used by the British to hold refugees and radar installations that could be used to detect illegal immigrant ships. The Stern Gang and the Irgun used terrorism and sabotage against the British government and against lines of communications. In November 1946, the Irgun and Stern Gang attacked a railroad twenty-one times in a three-week period, eventually causing shell-shocked Arab railway workers to strike. The 6th Airborne Division was called in to provide security as a means of ending the strike.
The Viet Cong used swimmer saboteurs often and effectively during the Vietnam War. Between 1969 and 1970, swimmer saboteurs sunk, destroyed, or damaged 77 assets of the U.S. and its allies. Viet Cong swimmers were poorly equipped but well-trained and resourceful. The swimmers provided a low-cost/low-risk option with high payoff; possible loss to the country for failure compared to the possible gains from a successful mission led to the obvious conclusion the swimmer saboteurs were a good idea.
On 1 January 1984, the Cuscatlan bridge over Lempa river in El Salvador, critical to flow of commercial and military traffic, was destroyed by guerrilla forces using explosives after using mortar fire to "scatter" the bridge's guards, causing an estimated $3.7 million in required repairs, and considerably impacting on El Salvadoran business and security.
In 1982 in Honduras, a group of nine Salvadorans and Nicaraguans destroyed a main electrical power station, leaving the capital city Tegucigalpa without power for three days.
Some criminals have engaged in acts of sabotage for reasons of extortion. For example, Klaus-Peter Sabotta sabotaged German railway lines in the late 1990s in an attempt to extort DM10 million from the German railway operator Deutsche Bahn. He is now serving a sentence of life imprisonment. In 1989, ex-Scotland Yard detective Rodney Whitchelo was sentenced to 17 years in prison for spiking Heinz baby food products in supermarkets, in an extortion attempt on the food manufacturer.
The term political sabotage is sometimes used to define the acts of one political camp to disrupt, harass or damage the reputation of a political opponent, usually during an electoral campaign, such as during Watergate. Smear campaigns are a commonly used tactic. The term could also describe the actions and expenditures of private entities, corporations, and organizations against democratically approved or enacted laws, policies and programs.
After the Cold War ended, the Mitrokhin Archives were declassified, which included detailed KGB plans of active measures to subvert politics in opposing nations.
Sabotage is a crucial tool of the successful coup d'etat, which requires control of communications before, during, and after the coup is staged. Simple sabotage against physical communications platforms using semi-skilled technicians, or even those trained only for this task, could effectively silence the target government of the coup, leaving the information battle space open to the dominance of the coup's leaders. To underscore the effectiveness of sabotage, "A single cooperative technician will be able temporarily to put out of action a radio station which would otherwise require a full-scale assault."
Railroads, where strategically important to the regime the coup is against, are prime targets for sabotage—if a section of the track is damaged entire portions of the transportation network can be stopped until it is fixed.
A sabotage radio was a small two-way radio designed for use by resistance movements in World War II, and after the war often used by expeditions and similar parties.
Arquilla and Rondfeldt, in their work entitled Networks and Netwars, differentiate their definition of "netwar" from a list of "trendy synonyms", including "cybotage", a portmanteau from the words "sabotage" and "cyber". They dub the practitioners of cybotage "cyboteurs" and note while all cybotage is not netwar, some netwar is cybotage.
Counter-sabotage, defined by Webster's Dictionary , is "counterintelligence designed to detect and counteract sabotage". The United States Department of Defense definition, found in the Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, is "action designed to detect and counteract sabotage. See also counterintelligence".
During World War II, British subject Eddie Chapman, trained by the Germans in sabotage, became a double agent for the British. The German Abwehr entrusted Chapman to destroy the British de Havilland Company's main plant which manufactured the outstanding Mosquito light bomber, but required photographic proof from their agent to verify the mission's completion. A special unit of the Royal Engineers known as the Magic Gang covered the de Havilland plant with canvas panels and scattered papier-mâché furniture and chunks of masonry around three broken and burnt giant generators. Photos of the plant taken from the air reflected devastation for the factory and a successful sabotage mission, and Chapman, as a British sabotage double-agent, fooled the Germans for the duration of the war.
In Japanese, the verb saboru (サボる) means to skip school or loaf on the job.
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), members of which are commonly termed "Wobblies", is an international labor union that was founded in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. The union combines general unionism with industrial unionism, as it is a general union, subdivided between the various industries which employ its members. The philosophy and tactics of the IWW are described as "revolutionary industrial unionism", with ties to socialist, syndicalist, and anarchist labor movements.
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in total war with the goal of defeating the enemy by destroying its morale, its economic ability to produce and transport materiel to the theatres of military operations, or both. It is a systematically organized and executed attack from the air which can utilize strategic bombers, long- or medium-range missiles, or nuclear-armed fighter-bomber aircraft to attack targets deemed vital to the enemy's war-making capability.
Strategic bombing during World War II was the sustained aerial attack on railways, harbours, cities, workers' and civilian housing, and industrial districts in enemy territory during World War II. Strategic bombing is a military strategy which is distinct from both close air support of ground forces and tactical air power.
The Black Tom explosion was an act of sabotage by German agents to destroy U.S.-made munitions that were to be supplied to the Allies in World War I. The explosions, which occurred on July 30, 1916, in the New York Harbor, killed four people and destroyed some $20,000,000 worth of military goods. This incident, which happened prior to U.S. entry into World War I, also damaged the Statue of Liberty. It was one of the largest artificial non-nuclear explosions in history.
Vemork is the name of a hydroelectric power plant outside Rjukan in Tinn, Norway. The plant was built by Norsk Hydro and opened in 1911, its main purpose being to fix nitrogen for the production of fertilizer. At opening, it was the world's largest power plant with a capacity of 108 MW.
The Brandenburgers were members of the Brandenburg German special forces unit during World War II. Originally the unit was formed by and operated as an extension of the military's intelligence organ, the Abwehr. Members of this unit took part in seizing operationally important targets by way of sabotage and infiltration. Being foreign German nationals who were convinced Nazi volunteers, constituent members had lived abroad and were proficient in foreign languages as well as being familiar with the way of life in the area of operations where they were deployed.
Operation Pastorius was a failed German intelligence plan for sabotage inside the United States during World War II. The operation was staged in June 1942 and was to be directed against strategic American economic targets. The operation was named by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, chief of the German Abwehr, for Francis Daniel Pastorius, the leader of the first organized settlement of Germans in America.
The occupation of Byelorussia by Nazi Germany started with the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 and ended in August 1944 with the Soviet Operation Bagration. The western parts of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic became part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland in 1941, but in 1943 the German authorities allowed local collaborators to set up a client state, the Belarusian Central Rada, that lasted until the Soviets liberated the region. During the occupation German actions led to approximately 1.6 million civilian deaths including 500,000 to 550,000 Jews in the Holocaust in Belarus.
The German Luftwaffe and Soviet Long Range Aviation bombed the Estonian capital Tallinn several times during World War II. The first instance was during the Summer War of 1941. A number of bombing missions followed in 1942–43.
Operation Pelikan, also known as Projekt 14, was a German plan for crippling the Panama Canal during World War II. In mid-late 1943 the Wehrmacht had completed preparations to haul two Ju 87 Stukas with folding wings on two U-boats to an unnamed Colombian island near the coast of Panama, reassemble the planes, arm them with "special bombs", and then send them to attack the Gatun Dam. After completing the mission, the pilots would fly to a neutral country and seek internment. However, Germany called off the plan, for unknown reasons, at the last minute. Rumors among the Germans who planned the sabotage were that it had been called off due to betrayal.
Operation Albumen was the name given to British Commando raids in June 1942 on German airfields in the Axis-occupied Greek island of Crete, to prevent them from being used in support of the Afrika Korps in the Western Desert Campaign in the Second World War. These operations were carried out in tandem with similar raids against Axis airfields at Benghazi, Derna and Barce in Libya and were among the first planned sabotage acts in occupied Europe.
The Lysaker Bridge sabotage was a sabotage action in World War II which occurred in Norway on the night between 13 and 14 April 1940 when a bridge at Lysaker, bordering Oslo, was blown up.
Against the Wind is a black-and-white British film directed by Charles Crichton and produced by Michael Balcon, released through Ealing Studios in 1948. Against the Wind is a World War II sabotage/resistance drama set in occupied Belgium, starring Robert Beatty, Jack Warner and Simone Signoret.
A sabot is a clog from France or surrounding countries such as The Netherlands, Belgium or Italy. Sabots are either whole feet clogs or a heavy leather shoe with a wooden sole.
Comte Robert Jean Marie de La Rochefoucauld was a member of the French Resistance and Special Operations Executive during World War II, as well as the mayor of Ouzouer-sur-Trézée – a canal town in the Loire Valley – from 1966-96.
The history of Belgium in World War I traces Belgium's role between the German invasion in 1914, through the continued military resistance and occupation of the territory by German forces to the armistice in 1918, as well as the role it played in the international war effort through its African colony and small force on the Eastern Front.
A general strike is a strike action in which a substantial proportion of the total labour force in a city, region, or country participates. General strikes are characterised by the participation of workers in a multitude of workplaces and tend to involve entire communities. General strikes first occurred in the mid-19th century and have characterised many historically important strikes.
Operation Animals was a World War II mission by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), in cooperation with the Greek Resistance groups ELAS, Zeus, EDES, PAO and the United States Army Air Force. The operation took place between 21 June and 11 July 1943 and included an organized campaign of sabotage in Greece, to deceive the Axis Powers into believing that Greece was the target of an Allied amphibious landing, instead of Sicily. Despite the mission's success, the Greek civilian population suffered from mass reprisals and British intervention into the internal affairs of the Greek resistance exacerbated the tensions between its various components.
The Chetnik sabotage of Axis communication lines was campaign of Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland sabotage of Axis communication lines, mostly along the rivers Morava, Vardar and Danube, to obstruct transport of German war material through Serbia to Thessaloniki and further to Libya during Western Desert campaign. The Chetnik sabotages were organized since 31 April, or according to some sources since July or early August 1942.
Railway sabotage was one of the main tactics used by the resistance to German occupation during World War II. It was used by partisans and rail workers to harass and confuse the invaders, misdirect, destroy, and lose their troops and supplies, and also damage railroad infrastructure, denying the occupiers its use.
Saboteur : Sobriquet injurieux qu'on donne à un mauvais ouvrier, qui fait tout à la hâte, et malproprement.
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