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"Japanese Sentries" from Intelligence Bulletin, December 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on Japanese sentries during WWII was published in the December 1943 issue of the Intelligence Bulletin.

[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.]



At least a rough idea of how the Japanese use sentries in the South Pacific areas may be gained from the following collection of enemy information.

Japanese sentries usually form a "line of observation on the foremost front line." They are given specific instructions, some of which must be carried out even if it means a stand to the death.

The enemy "sentry" is divided into "special guard" and "double sentry." The special guard is posted at strategically important points or at places where effecting relief is difficult. It usually is composed of a noncommissioned officer or a superior private as leader and four to seven privates. This number may be increased under certain circumstances. Part of the guard is usually posted as observers while the remainder is concealed nearby. All men are armed with rifles, and the group sometimes has a light machine gun also.

A double sentry post is composed of a noncommissioned officer or a superior private as leader and "the required number" of privates. Usually two to four men at a time will be on duty. From outpost detachments (pickets) two men are sent out a distance of about 400 yards to form a "double sentry."


According to the Japanese, sentry positions must be capable of all-around defense. The "most suitable" places must not be selected, because they can be easily fired upon by hostile forces. The positions must be so concealed that they cannot be seen from a distance of over 5 yards. The Japanese also lay stress against the destruction of natural terrain features.

"The positions of those on observation duty (more than two men) and those on relief must be close together," one Japanese document states, "so that the relief can be effected at the resting place. Therefore the relief party does not have to move its position for the purpose of relieving those on observation duty."


The "special orders" for Japanese sentries are given below.

Sentries must know:

a. The number of sentries;

b. The names of important roads, villages, and natural objects [in the area];

c. The situation in regard to friendly units and patrols in forward areas;

d. What ground must be particularly observed;

e. The article regarding precautions against gas attacks;

f. The position and the number of neighboring sentries, and the methods of communication;

g. The position of pickets and your company, and routes to them;

h. The methods to use in observing, what postures to assume, how to effect relief, how chemical troops move into action, and what to do in case of hostile attacks;

i. How to signal and give alarms; and

j. Any other precautionary item.


In regard to instructions for observing, the Japanese sources are quoted as follows:

Observation, in all directions, must be carried out constantly. This may sound easy, but there are certain tendencies to avoid. For example, the sentry who does not see hostile forces for several days in his area is apt to become lax. In this state he is likely to be fired upon before he sees the enemy, who more than likely will then be able to get away. The enemy who approaches must be killed, or, if possible, captured.

It is necessary that sentries make good use of their hearing. In jungle areas, the sound of dead branches broken by footsteps can usually be heard before anyone can be seen (unless the movement is over a road or trail). These sounds generally are followed by the shaking of bushes or branches and then, finally, the appearance of the enemy.

If anything regarding hostile forces is discovered, it must be reported immediately. If something occurs so suddenly that time does not permit reporting, it is necessary to signal by firing rapidly, or by some other means. The report will be made later.


Upon contact with hostile forces, Japanese sentries have been instructed to take the following action:

Approach of the enemy [United Nations] will be signaled to the sentry leader and neighboring sentries. (A sentry should act at his own discretion. Contacts cannot be made.)

When the sentry (or sentries) is certain that the hostile forces plan to continue advancing, fire will be withheld until the latter are at point-blank range. Then the sentry will fire—first at the man carrying the automatic rifle and then at those who follow him.

If the hostile forces are small, they will be shot or captured. If large, we must start firing from a greater distance than that outlined above. If the invaders attack persistently, we will use hand grenades in driving them back.

With superior forces, the enemy may attack our rear; therefore we must guard it carefully.

Sometimes, in retreat, the hostile forces are weak, and we should follow up with fierce attacks.

The opposing forces will try to collect their dead, if any; therefore we must guard against these efforts.

Each sentry leader will make a report after the hostile forces have been driven away.


A Japanese document stipulates that only hand signals will be used for communication between sentries. Communication for effecting reliefs will be done without speech or any other form of noise. Signals may be given, according to the document, by pulling a wistaria vine, or some other type of vine.

Sentries will be relieved at "dawn, dusk, and so forth," the document states, "but we must be careful that the route of relief is not detected by hostile forces."

Sentries are required to mess alternately, and quietly.


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