U.S. soldiers execute a German guerrilla in the closing days of World War II.
Captured “Werewolves” like these posed little danger during the postwar occupation of Germany.
Army doctrine also followed Western traditions in taking a dim view of guerrillas who violated the laws of war and hid their true identity by shedding their arms and uniforms. When a civilian population spurned the hand of reconciliation and supported illegal combatants, an army was free to employ more severe measures. Among the counterinsurgency methods employed by the United States prior to World War II were the taking of hostages; the destruction of food and property; the arrest, trial, and possible execution of guerrillas and their civilian allies; population resettlement; and a host of other restrictive steps. The net result of the Army’s thinking about small wars was a loose body of broadly defined concepts that blended aggressive military action, punitive measures, and enlightened administration into a carrot-and-stick approach to the suppression of irregulars and their civilian supporters.
After a century of antiguerrilla operations, the U.S. Army had little occasion for fighting guerrillas during World War II. In the closing months of the war German leader Adolf Hitler launched a “Werewolf ” guerrilla movement that harassed the Allies. The movement largely fizzled after Germany surrendered, however, and resistance to the postwar occupation of Germany generally amounted to little more than minor acts of sabotage and hooliganism, often perpetrated by wayward boys.