Early in February, 1944, the colonel commanding
the Japanese garrison in the Admiralty Islands officially
welcomed an infantry battalion which had been
sent to reinforce the Los Negros area. In explaining
the unit's duties, the colonel frankly discussed the
disadvantages of the situation confronting the garrison.
He admitted the vulnerability of the area he was
charged with defending, and outlined the methods by
which he planned to improve the defenses.
The Admiralty Islands, the colonel remarked, constitute
the key to a double corridor formed by New
Ireland, New Britain, and New Guinea. He told his
new infantry battalion that the garrison's success or
failure would largely determine whether the Japanese
Army and Navy could continue to operate in Melanesia
and the Caroline Islands, and that even the safety of
Imperial territories might be affected. What he said
was partly "pep talk" and partly fact. It is undeniably
true that the mission of the Japanese garrison in the
Admiralty Islands was a highly responsible one.
The following extracts from the colonel's instructions
to the battalion are significant:
Although the Japanese soldier should not have to be told
that rigid discipline and high morale are important, I want to
emphasize that the men serving in the defense of this island
must pay particular attention to their attitude toward the
natives. The natives on Los Negros Island are simple and
friendly. Because of propaganda and conciliation work, they
have full confidence and faith in the Imperial Army. At present
they are completely obedient. If we should behave in an
undisciplined manner, however, or treat the natives with anything
less than scrupulous correctness, this satisfactory state
of affairs will deteriorate, and it will be impossible to expect
the natives to assist in the defense of this island. If the Imperial
Army always maintains strict discipline and the highest
morale, the natives will look up to us, will submit to our
orders, and eventually will realize the true significance of this
I am not exaggerating when I say that we must be alert
day and night for any sign of hostile activity. It will be fatal
if we are caught off guard. Since the first of the year, hostile
action against this island has intensified. Day and night
patrols have increased. Three Japanese troop transports have
been sunk in this area, and during the past week dozens of
airplanes have raided us daily, causing considerable damage
both to the Army and the Navy. On the nights of 1 and 3
January, hostile warships were detected off the south coast,
and it is believed that a number of hostile soldiers already have
infiltrated into the island. This is why I say that the battalion
must be on the strictest alert and must not permit the slightest
negligence. There is every possibility that the opposition may
use parachute forces in an attack on Los Negros. Maintain
vigilant guard against hostile air activity, as well as against
hostile sea and land activity.
All present positions will be strengthened, and new ones
will be constructed. Antiaircraft defenses must be increased.
The area that this unit has been assigned to defend is extremely
large, and the sea surrounds us on all sides. Under
these circumstances, we are very vulnerable. I have decided
that the battalion must quickly construct strong positions and
key points, from which positive and daring counterattacks can
Faith in ultimate victory will be nurtured by thoroughness
of training. The battalion will seize every opportunity to
train, and will study in particular the types of combat training
designed for the Southwest Pacific area.
You must pay the most careful attention to the care and
preservation of weapons and materiel, especially signal equipment.
This unit cannot afford to allow anything to be lost or
destroyed. Remember that in the first phase of the landing
operations at Arane and Cape Gloucester, our signal equipment
was almost unserviceable. Furthermore, the supplies of
military necessities that we have accumulated here have undergone
a number of air attacks, have endured many other
dangers, and finally have reached us after journeying for
thousands of miles and at the risk of many Japanese lives.
Thus the value of these supplies is now very much greater
than it normally would be. In accordance with recent Army
instructions, this battalion will collect all supplies which at
present are stored in hangars and so on, and will see to it
that they are dispersed and properly camouflaged [see cover
illustration]. Strong revetments will be constructed around
all the new storage places.
The main operational roads on this island are a vital part
of our defense plan. Roads suitable for motor vehicles are of
the utmost importance in shifting troops from one part of the
island to another and in transporting supplies. For this reason,
you must not permit road maintenance to slacken. When
you discover that certain repairs or improvements are needed,
do not wait for orders but take it upon yourself to perform the
work without delay. If you do this, there will be no hitch in
an emergency. It goes without saying that traffic regulations
must be observed.
Study ways and means of living off the land. Our reserve
rations are limited. Unfortunately, all troop transports headed
here recently have been sunk. Nor does it seem likely that the
supply situation will improve in the near future. Be very
cautious about using the rations held by the battalion; instead,
make energetic efforts to use the island's resources, and cultivate
edible plants. Prepare to endure a siege which may last
for several months.
In short, this battalion is the backbone of my defense plans.
When a hostile force strikes, destroy it in desperate, fearless
combat, adding to the glory of the battalion and fulfilling the
mission which has been assigned to you by the Emperor.
One month later, United Nations units had landed
on Los Negros Island and had captured the Momote airfield. The
Japanese defense plans had failed.