On our bookshelves sits a tattered copy of FM 21-76, the Army Field Manual on Survival. This one was printed in 1986 and I think Alice may have picked it up at a yard sale somewhere. It’s pretty battered but the information in it is good. Edible plants and fruits, how to dress a rattlesnake for supper, building a distillation pit or an emergency raft–probably everything you need to know about basic survival skills is in this book. You can buy one from the government or as a for-profit reprint from a commercial publisher, but since we’ve already paid the bill for this with our tax money it should be available for free.
And at least for the moment, it is. This manual and maybe a couple of hundred more released into the public domain are available online as either HTML documents for reading from the internet or as Zip file downloads. You could even print one out yourself, although considering the cost of printer cartridges and paper you’d probably just have a huge mess that cost more than a neatly bound manual. If you don’t own a pocket pc or an eBook reader like Kindle, you’ll have to read these manuals at home. But if all you need is information, it’s here and it’s free. For now.
Steve’s Military Manuals Page — Steve’s page has Zip files for download and a more comprehensive listing than other sites I’ve found. His bandwidth is limited, so scout out some other places for reading if you only have a passing interest. Don’t click on the links unless you want the download. You can’t browse the manuals onsite.
Global Security’s Library — Read many of the same manuals online at Global Security. Good idea to check out the information here before you download from Steve. If you abuse the bandwidth limits on Steve’s site he’ll rescind your privileges.
Military Info Links Page — Other sources exist, current sources may disappear. Good links at Military Info came back as unknowns for me yesterday, and others led to warnings that I didn’t have the proper credentials for entering that particular server. This page is a good place to start, however, if you’re looking for something unusual.
Military manuals aren’t terribly boring, if you’re the Commander Scott sort of person who enjoys spending his shore leave locked away in his cabin with a good technical manual to sort through. I’m presently learning things I didn’t know about survivability on the battlefield. I remember joining the Army because I wanted to know things like that. What I remember learning in the Army isn’t enough to put in a post here — information seemed too important to trust with the enlisted troops, who generally were allowed to learn only one thing. But if you’re curious about how things work, you can learn as a civilian and have access to much more than the average soldier.
Hmm, I wonder how you run a tank?
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