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"Comments on Japanese by British Soldiers" from Intelligence Bulletin, September 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following comments by British officers and enlisted men on the Japanese originally appeared in the September 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.]



The personal observations of several British officers and enlisted men on Japanese tactics and equipment as used in the Arakan campaign (Burma) are reproduced below. Some of the individual comments have been paraphrased to eliminate repetition. The comments represent the individual views of the men quoted, and are not necessarily the official British thought on the subjects discussed.


a. Movement

Staff Officer: On the offensive in the jungle, the Japanese almost invariably select the most difficult routes by which to approach their targets. They move in small, self-contained detachments with their equipment, food, and other supplies. Each of these detachments sends out its own patrols and "feelers."

The Japanese objectives have invariably been the principal terrain features—high ground, roads, and strategically located villages. In order to gain these objectives, the Japs usually infiltrated into the British positions. Since the British did not have enough troops to man a continuous line in the area, the enemy was always able to infiltrate successfully. After forcing British withdrawals, the Japanese then brought up their rear units and attempted to repeat the process.

b. Patrol Tactics

Lieutenant: When meeting a British patrol in column during the day, it apparently was a standard practice of the Japanese to split their patrol and send one group to the left of the trail and another to the right. These groups then moved through the jungle and tried to cut off our patrols from the rear.

These tactics were successful when our men tried to go back toward friendly troops over the same trail by which they had come out. The Japs usually failed, at least in a large measure, whenever our men stealthily took to the jungle to wipe out the enemy, or forged ahead on their mission, without regard to their line of communications.

c. Deception

Platoon Sergeant: Shortly after the Japanese had launched a night attack—by throwing a few hand grenades, firing a few machine-gun bursts, and setting off some firecrackers—they sent a column marching down a hill by twos. When challenged by a sentry, the Jap leader made some evasive remark in a native Burmese dialect and kept marching. We fired on the column at a range of 10 yards. It immediately split left and right and charged our troops, using hand grenades and bayonets.

Staff Officer: On two occasions when the Japanese attacked in small groups, they drove herds of buffalo ahead of them. This tended to confuse our forces as well as to cover noises of the enemy approach. The Japanese followed the buffalo at a distance of about 20 yards, and thus were able to close with the unsuspecting defenders.

d. Use of Artillery

Staff Officer: All the Japanese artillery pieces fired to date in a certain area [in Burma] are believed to be the 75-mm mountain gun, which has a maximum range of about 9,000 yards.

To fire this gun, the Japs usually hauled it to the top of a hill. The high position is chosen because the enemy prefers simplicity in the conduct of fire, and because, it is thought, the gun is not very well adapted to clearing crests.

These guns usually fire only one or two shots for adjustment before firing for effect. They usually are fired singly or in twos or threes; except in one particular battle, more than four guns were never fired at any one time. In this instance the fire converged from separate localities.

The Japs frequently fire artillery and mortars at the same time, not only for the combined effect but to confuse our forces as to the location of enemy heavy weapons.

We know that some Japanese artillery ammunition is of an incendiary nature. The explosion of this shell produces an orange-colored burst with a large volume of black smoke.

The Jap high explosive shell has both a delayed-action fuze and one in which the fuze is only slightly delayed.

e. Use of Mortars

Sergeant Major: Time and time again, our troops, after having captured a portion of an area defended by the Japanese, were driven back by intense mortar fire which began as soon as the position was penetrated. The Japanese remaining in the area were not very much affected because they were dug in.

Staff Officer: It is known that the Japanese fire their mortars on fixed lines, the range to which is determined in advance. In firing on their own positions which have been penetrated or captured by opposing forces, the Japs in some cases have placed their mortars in deep holes, which were kept covered when the weapons were not in action. It is certain that from such positions the radius of mortar fire is limited. From the holes, a mortar could have been focused on one of the enemy's strongly constructed overhead-covered pillboxes.

f. Night Attacks

Platoon Leader: In the only Japanese night attack in which I participated, the enemy opened by firing a single heavy machine gun at us from a distance of about 100 yards. When our Bren guns returned this fire, the Japanese gun continued to fire straight ahead as usual, as a feint. At the same time, Jap infantry infiltrated between our guns—which had revealed their positions by firing—and attacked my platoon from the flanks and rear.

The Japanese are proficient at sneaking forward at night and, at dawn, lobbing rifle grenades on our positions from a range of about 200 yards.

g. Snipers

Private: Japanese snipers are often covered by another rifleman, who usually is a short distance to the rear. Most of the snipers we encountered were located in small pits dug under fallen trees, or under the roots of certain types of trees.

h. Communications

Company Commander: As means of signaling at night, the Japs have sometimes crowed like roosters and barked like hyenas. They also have frequently used red lanterns, and, in rear areas, red Very lights.


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