The present tactics and techniques of the Japanese have been developed as
the result of combat experience against active enemies under varied conditions
and over many types of terrain.
As is generally known now, the Japanese are cunning fighters, skilled in the
use of ruse and deception. They are well trained in the tactics of
infiltration, especially in jungle and mountain country. Their favorite
maneuver is the turning of an exposed flank. During the entire Milne Bay
operation (see Tactical and Technical Trends, p. 28, No. 22 for
previous reference to this operation), Allied flanks were never secure, because
the Japanese had practically complete immunity by sea and so could make landings
at any chosen point.
While it is true that the tactics employed at Milne Bay should be regarded
as applicable to a particular terrain rather than as representing the normal
situation in jungle warfare, yet the principles illustrated and the lessons
learned are of general application.
From Japanese sources it is learned that in this operation the patrol
strength for special tasks was one officer and six enlisted men, or one
non-commissioned officer and three enlisted men. Normal night patrols
numbered 18 men or more, while day patrols averaged
from 6 to 10 men. In general, these patrols moved as a body and
kept to the trails. Combat patrols were not employed by the Japanese
Scouts made use of the thick jungle to approach our defense areas, or were
left in position when the enemy withdrew from a night attack. In general, they
would lie "doggo" and unobserved in order to get information to their
troops. They allowed our patrols and working parties to pass unmolested.
c. Night Operations
The Japanese force relied almost entirely on night operations, for which
it appeared to have been well trained.
There were no Japanese attacks by day and movement was limited. This
might have been due to our complete command of the air. The main Japanese
body rested by day with little regard for local security.
d. Approach March
During the approach march, the Japanese moved rapidly, in groups of 20 to 30, with
little regard to flank protection. The main line of advance was the
road or beach. Bodies of troops did not seem to have moved more
than 300 yards from the road. A speed of movement was achieved
which would have been impossible if an attempt was made to secure the
flanks. Enemy troops talked a good deal during the approach march, but
were careful about lights. Absolute silence was maintained just before
the attack and while assembling.
e. Night attacks
During the assembly for the attack, Japanese troops tended to bunch up. Once
the attack began, they made all the noise possible by firing mortars, grenades, and
fire crackers, and by calling and whistling. This noise was made not only to
draw our fire but also in an attempt to demoralize our troops and to encourage
Night attacks were made on a small frontage, but mortars were fired well
forward to the flanks to give an impression of a large force advancing on a wide
front. The rear elements seemed to be more widely deployed for a probable flank
When our troops opened fire, the Japanese tried to infiltrate through our
flanks and rear. When in position, they attempted to rush our posts under cover
of mortar fire and grenades.
f. Night Withdrawals
These night attacks were suddenly broken off before daylight. The Japanese
withdrew again in chattering groups along the road. In two instances, the
signal to withdraw was a bugle call. Snipers and observers in trees close to our
main line of resistance and along trails were left behind as they withdrew. A
great deal of equipment was abandoned, but no wounded were left.
g. Sniping and Field Craft
The Japanese used tree snipers to harass our troops during the day and
interfere with the advance. Before opening fire the snipers would allow our troops
to approach within a few yards, or to go past. These snipers cooperated with
others hidden on the ground. When our troops exposed themselves to shoot at tree
snipers, they drew fire from the ground. Other snipers lay hidden among their
own dead and allowed our patrols and burial parties to go past before firing. The
snipers' marksmanship was not as good as their fieldcraft.
The fieldcraft of these snipers was very good. They used foliage and body
camouflage nets and secured themselves in the leafy tops of coconut palms and
other trees. Their greenish uniform blended well with the vegetation. They were
so well hidden that it was necessary to draw their fire in order to discover their
position. Even then they were difficult to dislodge.
Japanese tactics in this action were mainly centered on attack. All defense
positions were covered by a screen of snipers who were hard to deal with.
i. Infantry Cooperation with Tanks
At least two light tanks were used by the Japanese in this operation. Some
machine gunners rode on the tanks or followed close behind. The glare of the
headlamps prevented our troops from seeing these troops. In defiles, other
infantry parties preceded the tanks to deal with antitank guns lying in ambush.
In addition to skillful fieldcraft, the Japanese made free use of English
phrases in ruses to draw fire. Some were well chosen to give the impression
that bodies of our troops were approaching the position; examples were "Do not
fire, troops coming in," etc. However, a few of these expressions were quite
inappropriate--as "Good morning" in the middle of the night, etc.
k. Recommendations by Brigade** Commanders
Jungle fighting presents great difficulties for signal communication. Visual
signaling is often impossible. To counteract this situation, it was recommended
that a large and immediate reserve of wire and spare telephones be made available
for issue to battalions in this type of operation. In all cases where lines and
telephones were available, signal communication was maintained in the heaviest
Only vehicles with high clearance and 4-wheel drives are recommended
for this type of operation; also, that each company (if possible each platoon) be
equipped with a light 2-wheel cart similar to the type captured from the
Japanese. These carts are invaluable for rapid transport of mortar bombs, supplies, and
ammunition, and in some cases for the evacuation of the wounded.
Recommendation was made that all enlisted men be issued capes equipped
with cross-straps in place of the present type, which is a sort of cape thrown over
the shoulders with a series of buttons down the front. It is awkward to
handle, especially if the soldier is called upon to use his rifle.
In place of drum magazines for Thompson submachine guns, it was proposed
that the box type magazine be carried. Bayonets should be sharpened
to a cutting edge to assist in the quick clearance of undergrowth. It was
recommended that Royal Australian Air Force type signal pistols and
cartridges be issued, so that a more economical signal ammunition code would be
established for the recognition of troops in forward areas, instead of the method
involving considerable expenditure of Very cartridges. Finally, it was
recommended that guns place one round of smoke on each side of the target to indicate
positions to aircraft for bombing and strafing. This method was tried, and the
round of smoke was placed on each side of the target according to the direction
of the wind. This proved very effective, as the smoke drifted very slowly, hung
about the tops of the trees, and was easily sighted by Allied planes.
*Based on British report.
**Brigade approximates U.S. infantry regiment.