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"Comment by Prisoners" from Intelligence Bulletin, February 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on information obtained from Japanese prisoners was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, February 1943.

[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.]



Since this information has been obtained from prisoners of war, it should be treated with considerable reserve. However, our observers to date have found the average Japanese prisoner to be more truthful in his statements than are prisoners of other enemy nationalities.


a. Regarding Organization

Each rifle company normally has 190 men, but existing conditions in some Southwest Pacific islands have forced the number down to 120. The rifle company platoon usually consists of 52 men, but the prisoner's platoon had 70, and was therefore classed as "independent."

The battalion-gun company normally is divided into 3 platoons, each having 4 guns and about 70 men.

The mountain artillery battalion consists of approximately 500 men.

b. Regarding Equipment

(1) Landing Boats.--Each of those used at Buna carried 30 fully equipped infantrymen, or 20 men equipped as machine-gunners, or 10 horses.

(2) Flame Throwers.--A prisoner "thought" that each company is supposed to carry three flame throwers. Their use is primarily against fortifications and armored vehicles, the prisoner said.

(3) Marks of Identification.--One prisoner stated that his identity disks had been sewn to his uniform. These disks are made of black metal sheeting; they are shiny at first, but rust after brief use.

Another prisoner said that all badges of rank were removed by personnel in his unit before it left Rabaul for action on an island to the south. All marines wore a white cloth badge on the left side of the coats, over the heart. The inscription on these badges included name, rank, company, and date of birth.

(4) Eye Shield.--These are issued to all troops as a protection against sun glare, but are seldom used, because they affect the eyes and are considered a nuisance.

c. Regarding Supplies

(1) Ammunition.--One prisoner said that each rifleman carries 60 rounds into the combat area, while others stated that the number was 120. A supplementary supply is carried by natives. Shells for the infantry battalion gun (70-mm) are packed five to a case, which weighs about 75 pounds. Larger shells, for mountain artillery, weigh about 20 pounds each.

Normally each soldier carries two hand grenades.

(2) Rations.--The information on rations was conflicting, probably because of the differing local tactical and supply situations. One prisoner said each man in his unit carried rations for 2 days upon landing, while another's unit carried sufficient food to last for 20 days.

d. Regarding Medical Care

One prisoner stated that each Jap soldier was issued 10 antimalarial pills, to be taken one per day for 10 days. At the end of the 10-day period, they took a round of smaller pills. The prisoner said he did not know the nature of the pills except that they prevented malaria. His unit had no malaria until the pills ran out. He added that the Japs would not use mosquito headnets because of the heat.

Another prisoner, questioned regarding malaria, said about half of his unit was attacked by fever--he did not know, if all were malaria cases. Light cases recovered in 3 days, the serious ones took as long as 3 months.

e. Regarding Suicide

The following dialogue between a captured Japanese warrant officer of the Naval Air Service and his interrogator is reported from the Southwest Pacific:

Q. After the war is over, what would you like to do?

A. In accordance with our tradition, I would like you to allow me to destroy myself.

Q. That is contrary to our ideas and we cannot allow that, but if there is anything else which you would like and which we have power to grant, we would like to do so.

A. I would like to have my hair cut.


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