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"Jap Estimate of U.S. Land Tactics" from Intelligence Bulletin, January 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following translation of a Japanese document describing their view of U.S. tactics was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, January 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.]



What Japanese staff officers think of the land warfare tactics used by U.S. forces is set forth in an official Japanese document. These beliefs indicate clearly why the Japs have specialized in infiltrating, surprise, and deceptive tactics to such a great extent against our forces. Although the enemy may be in a mood to alter some of his beliefs by now, a study of what he thinks of us as fighters should be beneficial, as well as interesting. You will notice that the Japanese contradict themselves more than once in the document. Extracts from it are given below:


One peculiarity of the U.S. forces is that the orders of the higher commanders are passed down in minute detail and leave little room for initiative by subordinates. For this reason, if the supreme commander does not display a great deal of ability, a versatile change of tactics to cope with the situation as it develops is not possible.

American strategy is based on fighting a battle of fortified positions, but their rules for the conduct of battles encourage mobile warfare. In actuality, however, this is not often practiced in training and maneuvers.

Under normal conditions, the Americans display their might in carefully planned operations; but once their planned strategy is spoiled, they must get one or two high commanders to straighten things out. Hence, we must grasp every opportunity not to give them time to do this.

In order to capture one of their positions, we must induce them to come outside their fortifications and fight a decisive battle, or else all efforts must be made to put a hitch in their plans; we must practice a policy of throwing them into confusion.

Also, because American tactical ideas are simple, deceptive displays of force are one of the most valuable of all our strategic weapons.

Again, because the character of the American is simple and lacking in tenacity, they also lack tenacity in their tactics and battle leadership; and if they meet with one setback, they have a tendency to abandon one plan for another. For this reason, we must not fail to hammer at this weakness.

The Americans are very poor at scouting, patrolling, and security measures; so the effects of a sudden attack and the benefits to be gained therefrom should always be kept in mind.

The Americans make much of firepower, especially the power of artillery, and lay only small stress on bayonet assaults. So, under the cover of night, fog, or a smoke screen, we must take advantage of the lack of flexibility of their plans, cut down the advantage they may have gained by having registered their artillery fire on us, and lead our troops into an attack which will decide victory or defeat.

The decision of the U.S. forces to attack or defend will depend largely on their estimates of the strength of their artillery compared to ours, so it is essential that we conceal our artillery strength and thereby cause them to underestimate it.

The Americans regard the enemy artillery dispositions as most important. For this reason, if we utilize mobile warfare and either conceal our batteries or establish fake artillery positions, we may reap great benefits.

The U.S. forces vigorously recommend the offense, and constantly practice it in maneuvers and training; and, unless they feel a definite inferiority in manpower and more particularly in artillery, the view should be taken that they will attempt an offensive.

As the rise of the U.S. forces took place during the World War, it is no wonder that they developed a definite tendency toward position warfare. Even in encounters that are not according to the "book," their leadership follows a fixed path; and they are extremely fearful of enemy counterattacks. For this reason, it is especially necessary for us constantly to utilize mobile warfare tactics.

a. Attack

(1) Plans.--The Americans do not minutely reconnoiter the movements of the enemy, and they are especially poor at determining the direction from which enemy attacks will come. They simply make broad plans for combatting enemy attacks against their fortified positions, but have no idea of our active defense.

We must search for ways of attack and defense against the Americans with their superior firepower; and we must avoid a stationary defense as much as possible. Even when we unavoidably are fully on the defensive, we must work to keep our forces mobile.

In an active defense, if we base our defense on firepower in our advanced positions and do not seize every opportunity to counterattack, we will never make any gains. However, if the U.S. forces should have a marked superiority in firepower, we must plan an active defense by disposing our forces so as to increase the units in the reserve. Do this by increasing the frontages assigned to front-line units. In doing this, we multiply our chances to use reserves for flanking.

(2) Leadership.--If the U.S. forces are in a meeting engagement or in an attack on a position (excluding heavily fortified positions), their columns usually will first diverge and then deploy. In deciding on the plan for deployment, they consider the enemy artillery fire as a factor of first importance. Their dispositions will usually be made on a much narrower front than our assembly positions, and therefore room for their maneuvering will be lessened.

It will be beneficial to study the methods of deployment of the U.S. forces. It should be remembered that at this time communication facilities will not be complete. Also, as their leaders will not have regained control as yet, we may, by maneuvering, discover good opportunities to strike. For this reason, do not relax your reconnaissance of the enemy's movements.

It is bad judgment not to use an assault to bring about a final decision. American assaults usually appear to be penetrations of enemy positions which have already lost all power of resistance (that is, after fire superiority has been gained); and their training in hand-to-hand fighting is not sufficient. Because of this, it is well to consider ways of destroying them by desperate fighting within our defensive positions.

We must not overlook the fact that the Americans, who believe in a principle of mutual support, are paradoxically inclined to reckless and headlong advances; and at times, they do not consider a coordinated advance, but, instead, rush forward alone. Consequently, when their forces are separated, crush them individually, or endeavor, with a counterattack by all your forces, to deliver a crushing blow.

(3) Meeting Engagements.--In meeting engagements, it is usual for the Americans to commit their forces only when control has been regained, so take advantage of this by sending up an advance guard to hold fast, and use your main body to maneuver and strike at the enemy's flanks. Again, because the initial artillery fire of the enemy will be unorganized, bring up to the front at once a strong force of artillery to press the enemy. It is essential that the initiative be taken from him and that he not be allowed to regain it.

Their advance guards have a tendency to carry out independent attacks, and also often deploy their front line too broadly. By advancing one body of our troops, we can make the enemy deploy prematurely in most cases. Also, by bringing up an advance guard, we can gather our offensive strength in one spot for a decisive attack, break through the enemy front line, and strike the main body during deployment.

In dawn attacks, there are times when contact between opposing forces is lost. Therefore, when you fear that the Americans may launch a dawn attack while you are changing your dispositions in preparation, carry out a small attack against them; this will take advantage of the fact that while they are advancing to the line of departure, their covering fire will not yet be ready. Or, depending on circumstances, if you are well acquainted with the terrain within the enemy's lines, you may make a major counterattack.

Thus, while American attacks are not to be feared, it is most desirable that we investigate fully the ways of combatting the enemy's superior firepower. An attack or defense based on firepower will never bring good results when used against the U.S. forces.

b. Defense

The American defense does not utilize the ideas incorporated in our active defense system.

In cases when there is not much time, their organization of fire is weak and there are gaps in it. The machine guns are particularly fond of displaying their independence, and coordinated fire between machine-gun units is not often seen.

When there is time to spare, they display magnificent, systematic organization of fire by using many types of weapons, and aim it in front of the position; but they have no minute organization of fire (that is, fire distribution by squads, and so on).

From the preceding, it can be seen that when they are pressed for time, the American dispositions, and especially their organization of fire, are not coordinated. Therefore, we must not fail to move fast and attack quickly, giving them no time in which to prepare their positions.

However, on the whole, in deciding on a plan of attack against American positions, the possibilities of maneuver must not be overlooked. Utilize a deceptive display of strength in order to draw the enemy out of his positions. When he attacks, by using your infantry guns, keep him from breaking through. Then practice the principle of manifesting your whole might in a counterattack.

c. Night Fighting

Insofar as night fighting is concerned, the Americans are unlike our troops, who can attack at night and bring about decisive results; instead, they simply use the night hours to better their preparations.

In view of the American organization of their military forces, national characteristics, and habits, it is best for them to make use of superior firepower and not indulge in night fighting. This is a point of which we should take advantage.

d. Pursuit and Retreat

American pursuit of the enemy starts only when the enemy has left his position and has begun the retreat. In the drill regulations, it is emphasized that the whole result of battles may be decided by energetic pursuits. In actuality, because they fear enemy counterattacks and demand order in the ranks, their manner of pursuit is not vigorous. And if their pursuit is delayed by forces of the enemy, they will finally go on the defensive in order to collect their strength.

In general, their leadership in a retreat is very incapable. For this reason, once you have defeated them, great advantage may be gained by pursuing them relentlessly.

e. Security Measures

Duty in the field is poorly performed by the Americans, especially their security measures and patrols that operate over short distances. Because of this, concealment of our movements and execution of surprise attacks are comparatively easy, particularly at night. Their use of cover and concealment is poor.

f. Tanks

Their tanks are considered able to fight independently, but coordinated action with the infantry is difficult. In consideration of this, after the tanks have smashed the enemy positions, their, infantry is brought up to exploit the gains. But calm individual soldiers, well trained in throwing explosive charges, will be able to destroy the tanks.

The movement of their tanks is extremely skillful and they are able to pass through practically any type of terrain. However, their antitank measures, on the whole, are crude and if we use our tanks well, we may crush the enemy line or break through without much difficulty.

g. Other Vehicles

A great many motor vehicles are included in the organization of the U. S. forces, who are thoroughly experienced in using them. They plan strategic and tactical actions with them that are unthought of by us. In a place where vehicles can travel, regardless of how bad the roads may be, you must consider that they will try to use them.

h. Vulnerability of the Rear

Since the rear of the U.S. forces seems very vulnerable, threats and raids on their rear confuse them extremely and produce many advantageous possibilities for the conduct of operations.


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