a. The Individual
The Japanese soldier and junior officer were excellently
trained for their tasks. Assisted by native Burmese, they
showed great initiative and ability to move fast, even over
The Japanese soldier believes that it would be a disgrace
to his family for him to be captured in battle. His
religion--which is based on ancestor worship--teaches
that it is a high honor and privilege for him to die for his
emperor. These beliefs were vividly demonstrated during
the Burma Campaign. Japanese, wounded to the
point where they could not offer effective resistance,
dropped to the ground to be killed rather than surrender--often
they begged to be killed. Wounded men were sometimes
killed by their comrades in order to escape capture.
The Japanese were unusually fearful of mortar and
artillery shells. Although the Japanese 4-inch mortar
had a greater range than the British 3-inch mortar, the
Japanese mortar crews time and again fled or sought new
positions when fired at by the British.
b. Shock Troops
These troops are carefully selected and usually are
noticeably superior to the troops which follow them. The
Japanese soldiers selected to infiltrate around the
British flanks and to the rear were drawn from the ranks
of the shock troops, and, in actuality, performed shock-troop
missions. They were well educated, many being
able to speak foreign languages.
The equipment of the shock troops included light
machine guns, 2-inch mortars, grenades, compasses, and maps.
These troops used tracer bullets to indicate British positions,
especially mortars and machine guns, to the heavier
Japanese supporting arms. They were very successful
in infiltrating into villages and quickly losing themselves
in the mass of cover available. These Japs often knocked
small holes in the roofs of houses, and--supporting themselves
on the rafters of the roofs--shot at opposing troops.
They also fired from slit trenches under houses, as well as
from culverts, bridges, bamboo clumps, rice dumps, and
other hiding places.
c. Use of Weapons
(1) Machine guns.--Medium machine guns were used
in pairs, with only one gun firing at a time. The second
gun took up the firing while the first was replacing its
cartridge strip, thus maintaining continuous fire.
(2) Mortars.--Besides the 2-inch mortar carried by
shock troops, the Japanese used a 4-inch mortar effectively.
This weapon was quickly brought up to the firing line
after first contacts were made, and its accurate fire caused
major casualties in several instances to the opposing
troops. The Japanese avoided placing the mortar on the
edge of woods or jungle, but put it some distance into
these areas—sometimes as far as 600 yards. The observation
post for the mortar was usually well forward. The
fire probably was controlled by radio or telephone.
(3) Artillery.--Japanese artillery was not very efficient
in searching out new positions of defending troops. Gunners
were usually content to shell old and empty
positions, not bothering to search for alternative ones.
Japanese observation posts were able to spot movements
of opposing infantry at distances of 4 to 6 miles. This
suggests that they are equipped with the scissors-type
rangefinder, which is considered superior, when used
as field glasses, to the rangefinder employed by defending
troops in Burma.
Japanese planes usually were not in the air
after 1700 hours (5 p.m.); therefore
British forces were able to move about without
detection from the air until about 0700 hours (7 a.m. the
e. Road Blocks
The Japanese always located their road blocks at points
where the roads pass through dense jungle or embankments. The
actual blocks or barricades were almost
always placed in bends of the roads and thus concealed
from frontal observation except for short distances. These
positions were strongly covered by well-placed mortars, antitank
guns, and machine guns. Sometimes the positions
were multiple affairs--at Shwedaung, five barricades
blocked one road. In country made difficult by
jungle, the areas defended on either side of the road
blocks usually did not extend very far back from the roads.
f. Night Operations
Japanese night attacks generally were started at about
1900 hours (just before or after dark). They used very
few scouts in their night movements, and they were careless
with motor transports--for instance, the normal headlights
of trucks were on as they moved.
During the latter stages of the campaign, the Japanese
moved almost entirely at night and rested during the day.
During these rest periods their local protection was poor,
and they were easily surprised.
g. Fifth Column
Fifth Columnists probably were more numerous and
active in Burma than in any other country involved in the
present war. They sometimes were used by the Japanese
as a screen for advancing troops, sending back information
on defending forces as they moved from place to place. Any
ambush set to trap the Japanese usually was given
away by these Fifth Columnists.
2. COMMENTS BY AMERICAN OBSERVERS
The Japanese in most instances had a larger number of
troops than the British. With the exception of tanks, they
also usually had more equipment.
(1) Patrols.--Lack of cavalry forced the British to use
infantry troops almost exclusively for reconnaissance and
security. Sometimes these troops had to go as far as 15 miles
ahead of the main forces. As a result, they often
were too exhausted to fight effectively, and their loss
greatly lowered the capabilities of the infantry combat
(2) Cavalry.--Most of the terrain in Burma is ideally
suited for the use of mounted cavalry. Small local
ponies are better than our American cavalry horses.
The cavalry equipment should include a high proportion
of light machine guns and Tommy guns.
(3) Transportation.--The British had severe transport
problems, particularly because of a shortage of ferry
boats and railroad personnel (nearly all native railroad
personnel fled from their jobs when the Japanese entered Burma).
The American jeeps proved ideal vehicles for commanders, liaison
officers, and persons carrying orders, and
for transporting machine guns and mortars.
Destruction of abandoned vehicles by the defending
forces was not carried out on a thorough scale.
(4) Artillery.--Some British units found that four guns
to a battery were better than six because they are easier handled.
(5) Slit trenches.--These proved very effective except
for direct hits or when bombs hit tree tops near the trenches.