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"Notes on the Japanese—From Their Documents" from Intelligence Bulletin, June 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on Japanese tactics in WWII was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, June 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data June 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.]



Notes on Japanese warfare, as revealed by their documents, are given in this section. The documents have been edited and paraphrased to eliminate repetition and unimportant parts. The reader must keep in mind throughout that the information presented is from enemy sources, and he must not confuse it with U.S. methods of warfare.


a. Offense

(1) Artillery.--Artillery support is essential for any successful attack against the enemy [U.S. troops]. They react quickly to our artillery fire; therefore, we should establish numerous artillery positions (real and dummy). By fixing fake positions, using smoke, and so forth, we confuse the opposing forces and make them waste their shells.

...We [Japanese] have often received effective shelling in front of the U.S. positions. And there have been instances where this shelling disorganized our ranks and finally made it impossible for use to charge.

(2) Fire Support.--In many cases our attacks on positions are ineffective without organized fire support. Even a night attack must have a thorough artillery preparation, and we should not hesitate to use fire-power support forces. [These "fire-power support forces" probably consist of battalion and regimental guns, quick-firing guns, mortars, and machine guns—in other words, the infantry heavy weapons. The Japanese have had a tendency to neglect the proper use of these, and to depend mainly on maneuver and "cold steel."]

(3) Antitank.--In regard to attacking tanks, you will jump on the tank and throw a hand grenade inside, or stab the occupants with your bayonet.

b. Defense

(1) Against Aircraft.--The direction from which U.S. planes approach should be watched carefully, and no one should be exposed to aerial view. If the troops carelessly bunch up, they will be bombed and strafed at every opportunity.

In woods, take advantage of shadows while moving.

Your equipment should include camouflage nets and camouflage matériel. The latter should be fastened to your uniform with string.

Opposing planes seek to locate our headquarters in order to bomb and strafe it. Therefore, its concealment is very important. Runners and orderlies must be careful lest their activities betray the position of headquarters and cause strafing by planes. Headquarters will detail an officer to direct and control all special duties.

Shortly after our landing, fierce air attacks are expected...

The moment the attacks are over, you will construct slit trenches big enough to accommodate about five men. Until these are completed, remain under cover during daylight hours.

To afford protection against strafing as well as bombing, use the slopes of high ground and dig lateral tunnels.

Since incendiary bombs probably will be dropped, military supplies must be dispersed and important documents placed in safe places.

(2) Against U.S. Warships.--There will be practically no friendly warships on the sea [in this area], and opposing ships may appear in considerable force with scouting planes. Since there is great danger of a naval bombardment, those units fronting the ocean must dig strong entrenchments.


a. Procuring Information

Get information [on U.S. forces], by means of air reconnaissance, enemy broadcasts, sentries with telescopes, prisoners of war, reconnoitering of outpost lines, and so forth. Information is needed on the following matters:

(1) Enemy strength and tactics;

(2) Location of main hostile positions, types of obstacles, and the strength of flank defenses;

(3) The terrain, especially the situation of Lunga river [Guadalcanal];

(4) Location of hostile hangars, fuel dumps, and communication centers.

However, procurement of information of the area in which the division is disposed will be given the greatest consideration.

b. Security Measures

Each first-line unit, as well as the command posts of the various commanders, will have its own secret name (code).

The disposition of our strength and the condition of our supply will be kept secret from the enemy [U.S.]. Adequate precautions must be taken regarding sketches of our troop dispositions. The scattering of secret paper scraps will be stopped, and papers used by soldiers, written orders, reports, and messages will be reduced to the minimum.


a. Discipline

That the discipline of Japanese soldiers in some New Guinea areas was far from perfect is borne out by the following extract from a Japanese pamphlet:

During these operations, many crimes which affect military discipline have been committed. They are based on a slackness of will power and a depression in spirit.

The crimes affecting military discipline are as follows:

Robbery and rape (most frequent); trespassing on another's premises (second most frequent); disorderly conduct (generally while drunk); destruction of military equipment; desertion; trespassing on places off limits; leaving the sentry post without permission; loss of secret military documents, especially the code book.

b. Personal Sacrifices

Every noncom and every private will cooperate by sacrificing his life for the Imperial Army.

Even though you are a patient, you should not hesitate to advance. There are cases where patients exerted their utmost energy at the time of withdrawal. Therefore, it should be possible to exert your utmost energy at the time of advance.

Educate everyone so they would rather die on the battlefield in glory than withdraw.


The Japanese used the following daily schedule during their occupation of Tulagi Island in May, 1942:

Daily schedule          Hours          Notes
Reveille 0400
Morning worship begins0415Respectful reading
End of worship 0440   of Imperial Mandate.
Exercise 0440   
Breakfast 0500
Begin work 0630
Rest 0730
Resume previous tasks 0745
Rest 0845
Resume previous tasks 0900
Stop work 1000Sick call.
Begin daily care [of equipment]1015
End daily care [of equipment]1100
Special course begins1430
Special course ends1530
Begin work1700
End work1745
All hands get sleeping gear ready1900
Prepare for tour of inspection1915
Tour of inspection1930


1. It is expected that laundry work will be done after lunch and in time not allotted to tasks or lessons.

2. Special courses shall consist chiefly of sports designed to improve standards [of health], and, at the same time, to aid the nourishment of bright clear feelings.


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