If you need to move a great many captives, slaves, or other human capital through country that you control you may consider making use of the built-in transportation system that comes standard with every adult human being. By leaving the internal combustion engine out of the equation, you can take comfort in the knowledge that you are not producing any harmful greenhouse gases in the process. The natural effect of thinning the numbers through stress and exertions ensures that only the fittest individuals will arrive at the final destination so you will not need to worry about making special provisions for the weak and ailing. Also, the process of dehumanization of those under coercion in the eyes of your underlings will be well advanced by the time the entire group arrive at the new base of operations so they will be in the proper frame of mind to take on the role of sadistic guards from Hell.
- Select the route. The road over which your death march will travel does not need to be paved, although uncrossable waterways, large mountains, and thick forests are unsuitable and will call for diversions. It should be wholly under your control, as even a small raid by your enemies at a vulnerable point may cast things into disarray and disrupt the entire column.
- Domination. Those forced to march must be relieved of any means of resisting the orders of your staff, not only implements of war but also the very will to fight back. Separate out any who display senior rank or trappings of leadership and ensure that their example will not infect the main body of prisoners.
- Deal with the stragglers. Once the column is under way, the main means of propulsion is a vigorous suppression of the trailing end and of those who attempt to diffuse to either side. Of course a taste of the lash or the butt of a rifle can help curb tendencies to lag, but as the captives become progressively fatigued any attempts to appeal to their faculties of consciousness will become less and less effective, leaving only the fear of liquidation by vigilant and brutal cullers as the motivation to keep up the pace.
- Destroy solidarity. The one weapon your marchers can hope to employ against your superior might is a sense of unity awaiting a spark or signal to rise up and overwhelm them. Thus you must arrange to quash any signs of camaraderie between the prisoners, whether these be attempts to help the weaker, to comfort the emotionally shattered, or to rally the dispirited, instructing your guards to regard all of these as capital crimes over which they have summary judgement. Those under compulsion should be encouraged to turn upon their fellows in hopes of escaping each one’s individual doom, spreading distrust and hatred among them. The remains of those who violate your iron law may be employed alongside the route of march to serve as reminders to the rest.
Strokes of genius
- Forecasting. For planning purposes, it makes a very big difference whether the march will be conducted through mud, slush, or Martian desert sandstorms, in that the more extreme the climatic conditions the more stress your guards will be subjected to, affecting their morale. Satellite weather forecasts and accurate aerial mapping are invaluable in the initial planning stages. You may wish to bring along pontoon bridges or defoliating aircraft as indicated.
- On through the night. Depending on amount of ground to be covered and your requirement for haste, you can make the hike a round-the-clock affair, especially if your guards are well equipped with night-vision equipment to spot any attempted breakaways. Extended sleep deprivation usually is not compatible with marches over a couple dozen kilometers in length, however, because of the likelihood of system shutdown in even the strongest of individuals.
- Sensory deprivation. Monotony is a great boon when planning a death march as it numbs the subject’s mind into animal compliance and offers no stimulus to work up a heroic stand. Though one would think that forcing a vast body of prisoners up the precipitous mountain pass would be a glorious awe-inspiring sight, this kind of treacherous landscape lays you open to the risk that one or more will be inspired to take a guard over the side with him or her, causing dismay among your rank and file. Anyone you suspect of harboring such impulses but who is too valuable to liquidate should at least be blindfolded and tethered.
Traps for mere fools
- Rousing marching songs. Dry rations and restrictions on hydration will help curb any urge to break out in a soul-stirring sound of defiance, in most cases.
- Moral compunctions. Sudden unprovoked violence, starvation, and occasional mutilation must be accepted from the outset as part of the death march package by all those in charge, with no room for expression of dissenting sentiments.
- Incomplete air superiority.
- Improvised weapons.
Precious and needful
- Military transports. With securely locking doors and controls designed to be hard to operate by the untrained.
- Handcuffs. Rope, cable ties, or iron chains may be used, each with their own virtues.
- Jackbooted thugs.
- Automatic weapons. With fixed bayonets and abundant supplies of ammunition.
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