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"Information Obtained from Japanese Prisoners" from Intelligence Bulletin, May 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following information from Japanese prisoners was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, May 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.]



All the information given in this section was obtained from Japanese prisoners; therefore, it is not necessarily correct in all particulars, and should be treated with reserve. The comments are presented according to subject matter.


a. Regarding Morale

Several prisoners have stated that they were opposed to going to war against the United States and Great Britain. One prisoner remarked that Japanese soldiers and sailors were talking among themselves about the prospects of losing the war. He said there was considerable fear of Russia "turning on Japan and using Vladivostok as a base for bombing operations."

At least two prisoners deserted because of difficulties with their commanding officers. One of them, suffering from malaria and confined at a rest camp in New Guinea, declared that his superior officer accused him of "gold-bricking" and "kicked, pushed, and beat me." He intimated that this treatment made him so miserable he went into the jungle and wandered three days until he reached the Australian lines.

Another prisoner wandered off into the jungle toward the U.S. lines on Guadalcanal after his commanding officer had reprimanded him because he asked for more rice than the individual rationed allotment. He was captured by natives while stealing food, and was turned over to U.S. troops.

When asked what he thought about fighting the war, the prisoner replied that he didn't think--he just followed orders. He refused to write home, and said he would like to settle in the United States after the war is over.

There is a difference of opinion among prisoners as to their reception in Japan after the war. Most of the prisoners have insisted that it is a life-time disgrace to be captured. One prisoner questioned recently declared that all those captured would be killed when they were returned to their country. He said that even his own father and mother would not receive him. However, he intimated that there might be a possibility of some kind of adjustment.

Another prisoner thought he would be able to return and live a normal life provided he did not resettle in his native district.

In regard to "saving face," another prisoner stated that the correct procedure for the commander of a badly defeated regiment would be to return to the district where his unit was formed and commit suicide

According to one prisoner's story, Japanese enlisted men are forbidden to make allotments from their pay for dependents. In explaining this statement, the prisoner said the army felt that the enlisted men needed all of their pay to buy necessities.

Japanese soldiers may keep diaries in Japan and in other areas not close to the theater of operations, according to another prisoner. On his departure from Rabaul, the prisoner said his commanding officer read an order forbidding diaries to be taken to New Guinea or to be written there. The order did not apply to officers, he said, and noncoms in some instances could obtain permission to keep diaries.

b. Regarding Equipment

(1) Collapsible Boats.--One prisoner described a collapsible boat made of wood and reinforced with rubber. The boat, according to the prisoner, was constructed in four independent and water-tight sections, which hook together. The hooked joints were reinforced with rubber. The maximum capacity for the boat is 10 men.

Another prisoner described a collapsible rubber boat, which was inflated by a foot pump. The floor of the boat was made of folding wooden slats, which were fitted into a side frame to provide rigidity. The overall length of the boat was about 8 feet and the width about 6 feet. The inside measurements were about 5 feet by 3 feet. The boat, which weighed approximately 100 pounds, accommodated two or three men. The occupants propelled it by paddling with their hands.

(2) For Infantry Squad.--A prisoner said each infantry squad, of 12 men, carried the following: 4 shovels, 1 axe, 1 hammer, 1 large tree saw, 3 picks, 1 hatchet, 1 pair of wire cutters, and nails and staples. He said the squad did not carry barbed wire.

(3) Footwear.--Before leaving Japan, each soldier is issued hobnailed shoes and rubber-soled canvas shoes, according to a prisoner. The latter are worn, he said, when leaving a ship because ordinary shoes are too slippery.

(4) Camouflage.--A prisoner stated that in addition to a camouflage headnet, each Japanese soldier in jungle areas is issued a pair of greenish cotton gloves.

(5) Identification Badges.--A prisoner explained that infantry troops are identified by a circular khaki cloth badge, 1 1/4 inches in diameter, which is worn above the left breast pocket. The prisoner said that the Japanese character denoting infantry was marked on the badge.


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