U.S. Armed Forces Survival Guide

U.S. Armed Forces Survival Guide

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by John Boswell

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Get the same survival training that the U.S. military uses for its troops.

The U.S. Armed Forces Survival Guide is the only source hikers, campers, explorers or families focused on emergency preparedness will ever need.

The U.S. Armed Forces Survial Guide covers everything a modern outdoorsperson needs to know to make it in tough terrain and tense

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Get the same survival training that the U.S. military uses for its troops.

The U.S. Armed Forces Survival Guide is the only source hikers, campers, explorers or families focused on emergency preparedness will ever need.

The U.S. Armed Forces Survial Guide covers everything a modern outdoorsperson needs to know to make it in tough terrain and tense situations, from the psychology of survial and overcoming fear to building a shelter and making it through a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or earthquake. Every kind of environment--from tropical to desert, aquatic to arctic--is covered.

Topics include:
--how to orienteer with or without a map and a compass
--how to cross quicksand, bogs and quagmires
--how to signal for help
--how to set a fracture and tend a burn
--how to forecast weather
--how to trap, fish and set snares
--how to indentify poisonous plants, insects and animals
--how to survive unusual conditions, such as plane crashes and nuclear attacks

The U.S. Armed Forces Survival Guide is the most comprehensive and thoroughly tested survival manual ever published.

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.78(d)

Read an Excerpt

U.S Forces Survival Guide

By John Boswell

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 1980 John Boswell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-7105-8


The Psychology of Survival

No one can ever be fully prepared for a survival situation. If you are lucky, you may have access to a survival kit, a rifle, or an axe. If you are smart, you are already well versed in the skills and techniques that will be described in this manual. But no matter how lucky or skillful you might be, to find yourself suddenly isolated in a desolate area of the world is a shock to the entire human system — emotionally and mentally, as well as physically. It is important to understand the psychology of survival as well as its techniques.


Track and field athletes talk of "The Bear" that haunts middle- and long-distance runners. After going some distance the runner, in a matter of a few yards, will break stride, will pull up out of the running crouch, and will perceptibly begin to slow. Overcome with pain or cramps or fatigue, he has lost the will to win.

The same phenomenon often occurs in survival situations, only the stakes are far greater than winning or losing a track event. There are reported incidents of people who have been rescued and treated for all maladies, and who have then died in the hospital. They had lost the will to live. The experiences of hundreds of servicemen isolated during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam combat prove that survival is largely a matter of mental outlook. The will to survive is the most important factor. Whether you are with a group or alone, emotional problems resulting from shock, fear, despair, loneliness, and boredom will be experienced. In addition to these mental hazards, injury and pain, fatigue, hunger, or thirst tax the will to live. If you are not prepared mentally to overcome all obstacles and to expect the worst, the chances of coming out alive are greatly reduced.


Interviews with thousands of survivors of World War II German prison camps have demonstrated the amazing resiliency of the human body when guided by the human spirit. Our bodies are highly complex machines, yet even when subjected to the most harsh and degrading conditions, the will to live can sustain the living process. The body's demands for energy from food sources can, over a period of time, be reduced to practically zero. Survivors of German concentration camps have reported that life, even under inhuman circumstances, was worth living. In many cases, this spirit alone was credited for their survival.


Proper preparation can give the survival victim a strong psychological edge toward overcoming his or her survival situations. While no one expects to be in such a situation, one cananticipate certain conditions that dramatically increase the possibility. If you are preparing to go on a camping or hiking trip or to ride in a small plane or boat, the odds of finding your lifein extremis are increased.

The following tips are not only sound advice but, if followed, offer strong psychological support under survival conditions:

1) Prepare a Survival Kit (see Appendix II) and take it along on any trip that offers even the most remote possibility of being stranded or isolated.

2) If you own or are a regular traveler in a small plane, pleasure boat, or recreational vehicle, keep a copy of this manual in your glove compartment or tool box.

3) If you hike or camp, take along a copy of this manual in your backpack or knapsack.

4) Commit to memory as much of the information in the book as possible. Knowledge of survival techniques builds confidence and confidence will lead to control of the survival environment.


Almost everyone who has ever found himself lost, isolated, and cut off from civilization has experienced fear — fear of the unknown, fear of pain and discomfort, fear of one's own weaknesses. Under such conditions fear is not only normal — it is healthy. Fear heightens one's senses and attunes one to potential dangers and hazards. Fear is the natural surge of adrenalin, present in all mammals, that acts as a defense mechanism against hostility or the unknown.

But fear must be harnessed and properly channeled or it can lead to panic. Panic is the most destructive response to a survival situation. Energy is wasted, rational thinking is impaired or destroyed altogether, and positive steps to one's survival become impossible. Panic can lead to hopelessness, which can begin to break down one's will to survive.

Several positive mental steps can be taken to make fear an ally and panic an impossibility. As mentioned above, preparation and knowledge of survival techniques instill confidence and lead to control of one's self as well as one's environment. In addition, it is important tooccupy yourmind immediately with an analysis of the situation and the survival tasks at hand. It will help you to remember the word S-U-R-VI-V-A-L and to use it as a memory device. The interrelated survival tips keyed to the individual letters of the word will provide you with an initial survival checklist. More important, it focuses the mind on the tasks at hand, sublimating fear and the danger of panic.


Size Up the Situation — Am I injured? What emergency first-aid measures must I take? What is the injury status of others in my group? What are the immediate dangers? Is there anything immediately preceding my present situation that tells me where I am or how best to survive? Am I near water? Food? What are the weather and terrain conditions? What is there around me that can aid my survival?

Undue Haste Makes Waste — Do not scurry about without direction or purpose. Until you are fully aware of your situation it is important to conserve energy. Under survival conditions energy is precious and time (except in medical emergencies) of less importance. Do not engage in any physical activity until you have a plan and specific tasks to perform. Wasted activity can foster a sense of helplessness that can ultimately lead to panic.

Remember Where You Are — Most likely you will be required to forage and to travel some distance from your initial location. Familiarity breeds security, and there is little that is more defeating in a survival situation than to "lose" your focal point or base camp. Note your surroundings, unusual topographic features, etc., and make a mental picture of them. When leaving your base camp, mark your path so that you can always retrace your footsteps. No matter how stranded or isolated you may be, you are "somewhere." Knowing where you are, even if only in reference to your immediate surroundings, increases your chances of being rescued.

Vanquish Fear and Panic — Reminding oneself consciously of the debilitating force of fear and panic can diminish their danger. Take an "attitude check" and objectively analyze the results.

Improvise — No matter where you may find yourself there will be something, probably several things, within your immediate range of activity that will aid in your survival. The more inventive and creative you are, the more comfortable your circumstances will become. You must alter your frame of reference. A tree no longer is a tree but becomes a potential source of food, fuel, shelter, and clothing.

Familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Like an optical illusion, the mind will miraculously transform objects of nature into instruments of survival.

Value Living — The urge to survive is basic in man and animal, and underlies most cultural and technological revolutions throughout history. Under extreme conditions the will to survive can be severely tested. If the will is lost, it renders all knowledge of survival techniques useless.

Do not take unnecessary risks. You are the key to your own survival, and foolish gambles resulting in injury or some form of incapacitation limit your effectiveness.

Act Like the Natives — In many areas of the world remote from civilization you may discover human inhabitants. Primitive natives and tribal groups are usually not hostile; however, approach them with caution. They know the country: available water, shelter areas, food, the way back to civilization. Be careful not to offend them. They may save your life. To enlist native help, use these guides:

Let the natives make the initial contact. Deal with the recognized headman or chief to get what is needed.

Show friendliness, courtesy, and patience. Do not show fright; do not display a weapon.

Respect their local customs and manners.

Respect their personal property.

Most tribal cultures are male-dominated. As a general rule, try to avoid direct contact or communication with the female members of the tribe.

Learn from the natives about woodcraft and getting food and drink. Seek their advice concerning local hazards.

Avoid physical contact without seeming to do so.

Paper money is usually worthless, but coins — as well as matches, tobacco, salt, razor blades, empty containers, or cloth — may be valuable bartering items.

Leave a good impression. Others may need this help.

Learn Basic Skills — This volume will tell you how to perform basic skills. But learning is doing. The more you repeat basic tasks and skills, the more adept you will become at performing them.

Survival is a positive mental attitude toward yourself and your surroundings. By memorizing, then analyzing, the survival tips keyed to the letters of the word, you will have already established a direction for your survival actions and some worthwhile tasks to perform.


These are the stepsisters of fear and panic. Unlike the latter they do not come upon one suddenly and savagely, but quietly and unexpectedly, usually after all the basic survival tasks have been performed and the basic survival needs — water, food, shelter, and clothing — have beenprovided for. Loneliness and boredom can lead to depression and undermine the will to survive.

The psychological antidote for loneliness and boredom is the same as for fear and panic: Keep the mind occupied. Set priorities and tasks that'will minimize discomfort, enhance the possibility of rescue, and provide for survival over an extended period of time. Consider unexpected yet possible emergencies as contingency operations and devise plans and tasks to deal with them.

Set a schedule. A schedule not only provides a form of security; it occupies the mind with the business at hand.

Set large tasks, such as building a "permanent" shelter, and establish tasks that must be repeated every day, such as keeping a diary.

Loneliness and boredom can only exist in the absence of affirmative thought and action. In a survival situation there is always plenty of work that needs to be done.


Group dynamics can be both a help and a hazard to individual survival. Obviously, there are more hands to perform the necessary tasks, and contact with another human being can be psychologically supportive. Still, a chain is as strong as its weakest link, and the survival difficulties encountered can be multiplied by the number of people encountering them. Group survival also introduces an additional potentially destructive factor: dissension. Dissension must be avoided at all costs.

As individual reactions to survival situations become automatic, so must those of the group. Groups (such as squads or platoons) that work together and have leaders that fulfill their responsibilities have the best chance for survival. If there is no designated leader, elect one. If your group considers the following factors, the odds of returning to friendly control are greatly improved:

1) Organize group survival activities.

2) Recognize one leader. The leader should delegate individual duties and keep the group appraised of overall survival activities.

3) Develop a feeling of mutual dependence within the group.

4) When possible, the group should make decisions under the direction of the leader. Otherwise, no matter what the situation, the leader must make the decisions, and his orders must be followed.

Finally, know that the greatest test of your will and stamina will occur after you are almost rescued — when you see the plane or ship, but no one aboard sees you. You will feel an inevitable backlash of depression and despair. But don't succumb. Where there is one aircraft, there will be more. If it is flying a search pattern, it means someone is looking for you. Now is the time to direct your energy and survival techniques toward being seennext time. And there will be a next time.

The theme of survival is: Never give up.


Finding Direction with a Map and a Compass

Knowing or finding out where you are is literally the first step toward successful survival. Every year people get lost — and some perish — because they had no map or were unable to utilize effectively the maps they did have.

The simplest way to avoid this risk is to know where you are at all times on your journey. Although you are not likely to have maps covering all the terrain for every trip you make — especially trips abroad where reliable maps are often difficult to obtain — you can remain generally oriented by knowing the direction in which you were going and the country in or over which you are moving.

If you are abandoning a ship or aircraft at sea and time permits, try to find out your latitude and longitude, the difference in bearing between true and magnetic norths, heading to the nearest land, prevailing wind direction, prevailing ocean current (if any), and direction and distance to the nearest shipping lanes.

If you are a passenger on a commercial liner (air or ocean), the captain and his crew will automatically take command of the survival effort. They may not feel you should "worry" about such information. Point out to them that something could happen to them, and that the more people there are with essential information regarding location and possible paths of rescue, the more likely it is that everyone will survive.

If you are on a pack trip or safari with a guide, ask him to keep you up to date on where you are and where you are going. Review maps with him regarding your daily progress; something could happen to your guide, leaving you without his special knowledge of the local region.


Most people would claim to know how to read a map — and those people would be partially right. But a map can provide the reader with a wealth of information that is not readily apparent to the uneducated eye. In fact, map reading can be a difficult, often fascinating field of study, far too complex to cover here in any great detail. What is presented here is a basic explanation of maps; the map's relationship to geographic coordinates, or lines of latitude and longitude; and the simple use of a map with a compass.

Both the Army and the Navy offer map-reading courses to their personnel (some lasting eight weeks, an indication of just how complex this seemingly simple subject can be). Much of the text material used in these courses is available to the public. For further information on map reading, write the Office of Information, Dept. of the Navy, Washington, D.C. 20350, or the Office of the Chief of Information, Dept. of the Army, Washington, D.C. 20310, or request a copy of "Map Reading" (Dept. of the Army, FM 21-76) from the Government Printing Office.


The purpose of a map is to permit you to visualize a portion of the earth's surface much as a bird flying overhead sees the ground (see fig. 2-1). Of course, given changing angles and distances, not even a bird sees all ground features in their true proportions, positions, and shapes. Thus, a mapmaker must focus on those details that pertain to a map reader's special interests and needs.

For example, a truck driver is not at all interested in having a map with such details as individual buildings, or water depths of the various rivers he crosses. If the roads on his map often seem larger and wider than the towns they pass through, the truck driver accepts such unreality because the map better serves his needs that way.


Excerpted from U.S Forces Survival Guide by John Boswell. Copyright © 1980 John Boswell. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

John Boswell is a former Naval officer and graduate of the U.S. Navy's SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) School. Boswell is a writer, editor and literary agent who has worked in publishing for nine years.

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