Characteristics of Japanese soldiers and their reactions
under fire have been discussed frequently in the
Intelligence Bulletin, primarily for the purpose of
acquainting U.S. junior officers and enlisted men with
the enemy they may face in battle. Repetition has
largely been avoided in presenting this information; therefore, for
a fairly complete study of the subject
matter, the reader should refer to the following articles
in past issues of the bulletin:
Vol. I—"Characteristics of the Japanese" (No. 2, pp. 27-35; this
section tells how to differentiate between the Japanese and the
Chinese); "The Japanese Soldier" (No. 3, pp. 35-36); "Festivals
and Holidays" (No. 3, pp. 53-54); "Individual Characteristics" (No. 5, p. 37);
"The Individual Soldier" (No. 5, pp. 42-52); "Handling Personnel" (No. 6,
pp. 9-11); "Enemy Thoughts" (No. 6, pp. 18-26); "Morale" (No. 7, pp. "27-28);
"Regarding Morale" (No. 8, pp. 55-57); "The Japanese Soldier" (No. 9, pp. 1-4);
"Comments by Prisoners" (No. 9, pp. 27-29); "Conduct of Soldiers" (No. 10,
pp. 80-81). Vol. II—"Individual Characteristics" (No. 2, pp. 33-34),
and "Morale, Characteristics of Japanese Soldier" (No. 3, pp. 66-69).
2. AS SEEN BY OBSERVERS
Summing up the characteristics of the individual
Japanese soldier during the New Georgia operations, a U.S. intelligence
officer described the enemy as follows:
"He was afraid of hand-to-hand combat, and ran
when our troops got close, unless he was in a well-concealed
foxhole or in a fortified position. His
marksmanship was poor—we were usually safe at a
distance of 50 or more yards. However, he was expert
at camouflage, and was thoroughly trained to operate
in the jungle. He obeyed orders very well, and proved
himself capable in night attacks and in handling barge
movements. His officers lied to him frequently to
bolster his morale. Not one Jap in 100 could speak
A U.S. participant in the fighting around Buna
described the average Japanese as follows:
"He had definite characteristics. We found that he
was not too willing to die when the odds were against
him, and that he squealed like a pig when routed. He
was crafty, and took full advantage of his surroundings
to improve his position. His camouflage was excellent. He
frequently climbed trees and waited several
hours for a target. He used decoys to draw our
fire, with the intention of discovering our positions.
He delighted in pulling various ruses to bewilder inexperienced
troops. He fought with dogged determination
while he considered he had a chance to win."
An observer in the South Pacific relates that the
regimental colors and standards of active infantry
and cavalry regiments of the Japanese Army are
highly revered, and guarded above the life of any
member of the particular regiment. He says that
the extreme importance attached to the regimental
flag is borne out by statements made by prisoners of
war. One prisoner said that a colonel in command
of an infantry regiment was rescued from a torpedoed
ship but that his regimental colors and the color bearer
had gone down with the ship. As a result, the colonel,
according to the prisoner, became mentally unbalanced
and continually referred to the loss of the colors
while apparently being indifferent to the loss of men
The regimental colors of the infantry and cavalry
regiments are presented to the units by the emperor
and are symbolic of the "divine" Imperial family.
The colors are never replaced, and their loss is considered
by the Japanese to be an everlasting disgrace.
An officer, usually a 2nd lieutenant, is selected to carry
and guard the colors. It is stated that he undoubtedly
would be executed if the colors were captured.
The regimental colors of old regiments of the Japanese
Army are now little more than a few shreds of
cloth and tassels, and are the more highly prized on
The colors consist of the Imperial flag of Japan on a
pole, which is capped by the Imperial Crest, a
chrysanthemum. The Imperial flag consists of a red sun
with red rays on a white background.
3. ACCORDING TO JAPANESE SOURCES
That Japanese soldiers have been indoctrinated with
the idea they are "sons of heaven" is borne out by
the following statement made by an enemy soldier:
The first time the natives of the Gilbert Islands saw Japanese
planes and soldiers was shortly after the outbreak of the war.
They were astonished at the short stature of our air force
When the native saw the noble sight of our defense forces
repulsing American attempts to land and our air force covering
the skies, their confidence turned to worship. They then believed
in the legend of "A land of the gods across the sea." Now
that the natives have seen our god-soldiers, they have come
forth as partisans of the Imperial Forces.
At least one Japanese unit was given the following "Guide to Certain Victory":
Fight hard; leaving nothing undone. If you are afraid of
dying, you will die in battle; if you are not afraid, you will not
die; if you are thinking of going back home, you will never
go; if you do not think of it, you will go home.
A Japanese soldier made the following optimistic statement:
When we think about going to Sydney [Australia] and Washington, D.C, our morale soars.
Man for man, we ought not to be beaten by those hairy foreigners. We
must foster such conviction and skill that one of
our men can take on, if not 1,000, then at least 10 of theirs!
Further insight into the cocky, bragging nature of
the Japanese soldier—as long as he is winning—is revealed
in the following enemy poem:
We will have the rising sun dyed with a red tide of blood as
a symbol of world domination.
We will angle for crocodiles in the Himalaya-bestowed waters
of the Ganges [river in India].
We will have our annual Boys' Festival in London when the fog clears.
The lights of London and [illegible] will shine again when
our police take over there.
Today in Berlin, tomorrow in Moscow.
Even snow-swept Siberia will be in the August Hands of the Emperor.
Our grandchildren will erect memorials to us in the streets of
We will drink our fill of sake on the plains overlooked by
[Line regarding the Great Wall of China and the Gobi desert
If I die, let it be where the three rivers meet, and there will
I wrestle with my thoughts.
When Japanese casualties began to mount in a certain
South Pacific combat area, the enemy command
deemed it necessary to revise the procedure of burying
the dead, and issued the following instructions:
Too many graves with markers are not good for security and
morale. Also, it is unfair to erect grave markers for some
persons and not for others. Since a grave will be erected at
the home of a deceased man, it is not necessary to erect one for
him on the battlefield.
When burying the dead on the battlefield, avoid using the
sides of a road. To dig a grave for a deceased person near the
road may be taken as a sign of disrespect for him. In burying
the dead away from the road, dig as deep as possible so that the
offensive odor will not leak out.
Previously reported Japanese doctrine with regard
to becoming prisoners of war is confirmed by the
following enemy statement:
Under no circumstances become a straggler or a prisoner of
war. In case you become helpless, commit suicide nobly.