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"Problems of Defending the Admiralty Islands" from Intelligence Bulletin, August 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following article on the Japanese defense of the Admiralty Islands was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 12, August 1944.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


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 sacred war.

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 be made.

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.


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