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"Notes on the Japanese—From Their Documents" from Intelligence Bulletin, April 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on Japanese tactics was originally printed in the Intelligence Bulletin, April 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.]



Japanese comments on their operations, as revealed by their own documents, are given in this section. The documents have been paraphrased and edited to eliminate repetition and parts considered of little or no value. For the sake of clarity, individual documents are separated by a long dash.


The following are extracts from an address made by a Japanese commander to his troops in New Guinea on September 11, 1942:

... Endeavor to forget unpleasant incidents and to remember only the good. It is useless to brood over matters as a hysterical woman does.

We are all thin from lack of food, but do not show a haggard countenance when we get on the vessels. There is a saying that "The Samurai (warrior) displays a toothpick even when he hasn't eaten." [Comment: That is, he is too proud to admit that he is suffering from lack of food.] This is an example worth emulating at the present time.

Since we have been here, there have been those among us who have worked well and also those who have been lazy. The men of the "suicide squads" and those with similar aspirations are among the bravest of the brave; on the other hand, those who have neglected their duty can only be considered despicable. Every individual must aspire to be a hero.


The document below, dated October 14, 1942, is a statement made by a Japanese commander to his subordinate commanders in New Guinea.

This is a most regrettable statement to have to make regarding soldiers, but this unit in facing air attacks here has turned out to be composed of cowards. There are some men who, in the midst of their work, take refuge before any order to do so has been given. This is a breach of military discipline which will not be permitted in the future.

The rigor of military discipline applies equally to those who advance without orders and those who do not advance when ordered to do so--to the brave as well as the weak.

When it becomes necessary to take refuge, obey the commands of your leaders. Those on the beach near the landing craft should take refuge in the jungle as far inland as the position of the rapid-fire gun unit. Even during the period when you are taking refuge, every unit commander must maintain liaison with the command, and also exercise control both over those who are engaged on some task and over the remainder of his unit. We are truly sympathetic with those who have to continue work during air attacks.

The first submarine relief went off better than expected, but the second failed. I think that any further attempts at rescue will be even more difficult. As a matter of fact, the crew of the submarine, in endeavoring to rescue us, is engaged in a more death-defying task than we are ourselves. This command does not ask for anything more than that you should emulate the spirit of sacrifice of such men.


The "bulletin" below was issued by a Japanese commander December 1, 1942, on New Guinea.

It is reported that part of my unit retreated yesterday (30th), when the enemy penetrated the fixed radio station area. This is being thoroughly investigated by all Military Police members of the detachment.

It is to be remembered that anyone leaving the garrison area without orders will be severely punished or executed on the battlefield, in accordance with the Military Criminal Code. Hereafter there will be no leniency. In order to develop military discipline and strengthen the foundation of victory, deserters will be severely punished.

Those who have no rifles or swords will tie bayonets to poles. Those who have no bayonets will carry wooden spears at all times. Some are walking with bayonets only, or without any arms. Each man will prepare a spear immediately and will be as fully prepared as troops about to charge. Even the patients will be prepared.



The following "Characteristics of the U.S. Army" were issued by the Japanese during the early phases of fighting on Guadalcanal:

a. U.S. troops are simple-minded and easy to deceive.

b. The enemy lives in luxury, so cut his lines of communication.

c. The Americans possess a strong feeling of national unity, and they like novelty and adventure.

d. They are boastful, but are inclined to carry out their boasts.

e. They are optimistic and lack patience.

f. They excel in the technical field.

g. Their marksmanship is excellent.

h. They lack proper training in scouting and security.

i. The tempo of their attack is slow.

j. After the initial assembly, the enemy has difficulty in controlling succeeding movements.

k. Adjoining units do not cooperate with each other.


Observation parties watching for aircraft will note the following places particularly:

a. The space between the mountains and the sky;

b. Between clouds;

c. The coast line and along rivers;

d. Above villages.

When enemy aircraft are observed, report the number and direction of the flight to the commander, and the number, direction, height, and distance to the antiaircraft units.

No soldier will be on lookout duty more than 1 hour at a time. Two lookouts will be on duty at the same time at each post. One will watch the direction from which planes are most likely to come, while the other will watch the opposite direction and act as runner.


The following is an order by a Japanese commander to a "suicide squad":

I order the three of you to be messengers unto death... Should you encounter the enemy on the way, fight to a finish; burn these papers, and each of you use your final bullet to take your own life rather than become a prisoner.


In writing home, mention nothing concerning current military operations; make no reference to the zone of operations, and make no reference to the state of training.


To avoid personal injury from falling coconuts, do not sleep under coconut trees.


In the absence of a specific plan of action, attack during a dark night, or in the rain, to gain the maximum surprise effect. Another method is to assault the key enemy positions after they have been blasted by concentrated fire.

Plans of attack should not fall into one fixed pattern. It is best to confuse the enemy by changing the pattern as often as feasible.

... A captured position should be prepared for use against enemy counterattacks, and it should be held firmly.

Avoid the enemy's zone of fire.


... Most of our losses are suffered from artillery and mortar shells. When these enemy attacks cannot be neutralized, it is important to plan a desperate assault to occupy the enemy's strongholds. Remember that enemy artillery positions are protected by several automatic weapons and that the positions are strongly prepared. In attacking them, use smoke, deception, and penetrating forces, which should be at least the strength of a platoon.


The best way to deal with enemy air-borne troops (parachute units) is to annihilate them before they have time to assemble and consolidate their positions. Indispensable requisites in this type of defense are airtight security measures, including careful and thorough reconnaissance, and perfectly established communications and liaison.

Each commander is responsible for taking protective measures in his own area. These measures are to be carried out in conjunction with general antiaircraft defense, and with protection of structures and equipment.

The enemy drops paratroops to capture key communication positions and important military installations. Another practice is to interfere with our troop concentrations and deployment, and to drop a few troops secretly behind our lines to incite the inhabitants and start agitations.



a. Rubber Boats

  Types                Capacity  
Large12-15 men
Medium 976-7 men
Small2-3 men
Portable1 man

These boats, which can be deflated and packed, are easy to transport and to inflate. They are easily damaged, and should be stored under cover when not in use.

The boats are designed for use by advance units in actions over terrain which has small, unfordable streams and lakes. They are not suitable for use by large forces or in the crossing of large rivers or swift currents. (They are difficult to manage in currents moving faster than 5 feet per second.)

b. Land Mines

Types of these include a remotely controlled land mine, which is exploded by an electrical current; an automatic mine (alarm-clock type), and contact mines. These latter include a pressure- operated mine which is placed about 4 to 5 inches underground, and one which is adapted to use with a booby trap.

These land mines are not as good obstacles as are wire entanglements. However a large number of them can be laid in a short time.

In laying these mines, place them in dead spaces in front of a defensive position and near wire entanglements, about 3 to 5 yards apart.


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