To become effective jungle fighters, soldiers should
study the problems of living and getting about in the
tropics. They must look upon the jungle as a friend—it
is just that when understood.
Almost the only thing to be afraid of in the jungle,
or any other wild country, is fear itself. A soldier
should not be afraid for two good reasons. First,
the chances are 100 to 1 that there is nothing to be
afraid of, and, second, a man afraid and therefore in
a state of partial panic is useless in any situation. If
you are dropped in a tropical jungle, in an unknown
forest, or in the desert, the most important thing of all
is to keep your head and calmly think out the situation.
Fear is the last thing that will help you.
Remember that many of the things you have read
about in these out-of-the-way places were written by
men who went there in a spirit of adventure, and who
practically without exception have emphasized, if not
actually invented, many of the thrilling experiences
they relate. Thrillers are often a matter of the author's
state of mind and not based on actual circumstance.
Most Americans, especially those born and reared
in cities, are far enough removed from their pioneer
ancestors to have lost the knack of taking care of themselves
under any and all conditions, and it would be
foolish to say that, without any training, they would
be in no danger if lost in the New Guinea or some other
Pacific island jungle. On the other hand, they would
be in just as great danger if lost in the mountains of
Western Pennsylvania or in other regions of our own
country. The only difference is that a man is less
likely to become panicky when he is lost in his homeland
than when he is lost abroad.
Tropical areas are about the safest places a man
can find if he is to be dropped without supplies. Animals
scamper away, and you may travel for months
without seeing any of those sometimes called dangerous. In
fact, it should be something of a thrill and
a challenge to your ingenuity to undergo such an
experience. Work your way out slowly. Keep rested
and avoid fatigue.
The discomforts of tropical climates are frequently
exaggerated. It is true that, on the whole, these climates
are warmer than those in the temperate zones. The
heat is more continual, or persistent, and, for this
reason, stories of excessively high temperatures have
been circulated. In regions where the air contains
a lot of moisture, the heat may seem more oppressive
than it actually is. As a matter of fact, however, tropical
travelers often complain that they have never
experienced such heat and discomfort in the jungles
as in some of our own cities in the summer
time—Washington, D.C, for example. Also, strange as it
may seem, there may be more suffering from cold in
the tropics than from the heat. Of course, at ordinary
altitudes, low temperatures do not occur, but chilly
days and nights are common. At higher levels the
nights may even be cold. The contrast between hot
days and cold nights, however, is not as marked in
forested areas as in the desert.
Rainfall in many parts of the tropics is much greater
than that in all but a few areas of the temperate zones.
Tropical downpours usually are followed by clear skies,
and in most localities the rains conform to a fairly
predictable time table. Except in a few areas where
the fall may be continuous during the rainy season,
there are not many days when the sun does not shine
part of the time. Residents of the tropics usually plan
their activities so that they are able to stay under
shelter during the rainy and hot portions of the day.
After becoming accustomed to it, most tropical dwellers
prefer the mild and equable climate of the torrid zones
to the frequent weather changes experienced in the
more northerly climates.
In the jungles of Burma, the nights are cold enough
from December to March to require a wool blanket
for cover while sleeping. A British jungle authority
recommends that the sleeper pull part of the blanket
over his head. This will induce deeper sleep, he
says, and will have no harmful effects, since a person's
blood does not require much oxygen while he is resting. A
single blanket used in this manner will keep
a soldier warmer than two used while his head is
uncovered and while his lungs are inhaling lots of
The harmful effects of tropical insects are generally
overstressed. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes are by far
the most harmful. It is fairly easy to contract malaria
if a person fails to take the proper precautions. These
include taking atabrine or quinine, wearing
clothing that covers as much of the body as possible, using
nets or screens at every opportunity, and avoiding
the worst-infested areas when the tactical situation
permits. Remember that mosquitoes generally
fly in the afternoons and at night. They are most
prevalent early at night and just before dawn. In
uninhabited areas, malaria is much less likely to result
from mosquito bites than in the populated places. Mud
packs offer a certain amount of relief from the
itching caused by mosquito bites.
Wasps and bees may be abundant in some places,
but they will rarely attack unless you interfere with
their nests. In case of stings, mud packs again are
helpful. In some areas there are tiny bees, called
sweatbees, which may collect on exposed parts of the
body in enormous numbers during dry weather, especially
if one is sweating freely. They are stingless
and, until one has completely stopped sweating, the
only thing to do is to scrape them off with the hand,
hundreds at a time. The honey made by these bees
is not edible, as too much perspiration goes into its
The larger centipedes and scorpions can inflict painful
but not deadly stings. These creatures like dark
places, so it is always advisable to shake your blankets
before turning in at night, and to make sure before
dressing that none are hidden in clothing or shoes.
Spider bites may be painful but are rarely serious,
and, as a matter of fact, are not often incurred. Ants
are a possible source of danger to injured men lying
on the ground and unable to move. This should be
borne in mind in placing wounded where they may
have to remain for some time.
In some localities certain butterflies collect to gather
sweat from the human body in dry weather. They
are somewhat annoying but quite harmless. In Indo-Chinese
countries the rice-borer moth of the lowlands
collects around lights in great numbers during certain
seasons of the year. It is a small, plain-colored
moth with a pair of tiny black spots on the wings. It
should never be brushed off roughly, as the minutely
barbed hairs of its body may be ground into the skin,
causing a sore, much like a burn, that often takes weeks
Leeches are common throughout most of the islands
in the Southwest Pacific and the Malay Peninsula.
They are found in swampy areas, streams, and
moist jungle country. They are not poisonous, but
their bites may cause infection if not cared for properly,
and the small wound that they cause may provide
a point of entry for the organisms which cause tropical
ulcers or "jungle sores." One should watch for
leeches on the body and brush them off before they
have had time to bite. When they have taken hold,
they should not be pulled off forcibly; make them
release themselves by touching them with a moist piece
of tobacco (this is especially effective if some red
pepper is mixed in the tobacco), by touching them
lightly with the burning end of a cigarette or a coal
from the fire, or by dropping some alcohol on them.
Leeches try to reach mucous membranes and frequently
enter the rectum or penis without attracting
attention until an itching sensation begins. Urination
usually removes them immediately from the penis,
but medical help may be needed to remove one from
the rectum. However, after satisfying their hunger, leeches
frequently leave the rectum during defecation.
This may produce a certain amount of blood flow,
which may be mistaken for the beginning of dysentery
or piles, but its short duration will remove all fears on
The dangers from snakes in the tropics have been
very much overemphasized. A person in the jungle
probably will not see more than one or two snakes a
month—and when he does, the view will probably be
fleeting, as the snake most likely will be making every
effort to disappear. There are no land snakes in the
more remote Polynesian islands, and there were none
in Hawaii until a minute, wormlike blindsnake was
accidentally introduced there in recent years. Most
of the islands of the East Indies have both venomous
and non-venomous types. There are four kinds of
snakes on the Fiji Islands, including one venomous
variety. There are many kinds on the Solomon Islands,
and Australia has an abundance of them, but
nearby New Zealand has none. Only harmless kinds
occur in the Galapagos Islands.
The poisonous snakes in New Guinea and the large
neighboring islands are relatives of the Indian cobra,
and their venom affects the nervous system (in contrast
to most North American poisonous snakes, whose
venom affects the blood stream). If you should accidentally
step on one, you probably would be bitten.
The chances of this occurring to persons traveling
along trails or waterways are probably about the
same as the chances of being struck by lightning. A
large party, composed of some 700 men, traversed a
considerable area in New Guinea some years ago and
in a year's time none of them was bitten. New Guinea
is as infested with poisonous snakes as any part of
Melanesia, but is probably a less dangerous area in this
respect than New Mexico, Florida, or Texas, for example. This
does not mean that one should be utterly
careless about the possibility of snake bites, but ordinary
precautions against them are sufficient. One
should be particularly watchful when clearing ground
for a camp site, trail, or the like, and also when roaming
in the brush gathering firewood.
"Crocodile-infested rivers and swamps" is another
catch phrase about the Tropics. New Guinea certainly
has its share of crocodiles, but authentic cases of their
attacking human beings are not very numerous. Large
crocodiles, particularly a species inhabiting Southern
Asia and some South Pacific islands are likely to
attack a person unless proper precautions are taken.
As a rule, crocodiles are more apt to attack a dog or a
small child than a grown person. If you approach
or attempt to kill one along the shore, you should take
care to avoid the powerful sweep of its heavy tail, which
can break a man's leg. Crocodiles are able to move
swiftly in a straight line on land, but they cannot cover
a zigzag course at a fast pace. If a crocodile chases
you, dodge about while you are making your escape.
7. WILD ANIMALS
Jungle animals are by no means as dangerous as
many writers of adventure stories would have us
believe. In Africa, where lions, leopards, and such flesh-eating
beasts abound, it usually is necessary for photographers
and others to obtain pictures of them on the
large preserves, where the animals roam about as do
the bears in Yellowstone National Park. In areas
where the beasts are not protected, they are shy and
seldom are seen—unless you have the aid of guides. When
encountered, the one thought of the beast is to
escape. All large animals, of course, can be dangerous
if cornered, or suddenly startled at close quarters. This
is especially true of females with young. The
chances of this happening, however, are remote. The
idea that big game hunting is dangerous is largely
bunk. There are no carnivorous animals in the South
Pacific, but in Sumatra, Bali, Borneo, and in Burma
there are tigers, leopards, elephants, and buffalo. Ordinarily, these
will not attack a man unless they are cornered or wounded.
8. POISONOUS VEGETATION2
Another category of fictitious dangers deals with
poisonous plants and trees. The truth of the matter
is that nettles, particularly tree nettles, are about the
worst that one will encounter, and one stinging from
this source is sufficient to educate the victim to a
ready recognition of the plant. There are some trees,
which the Malays call "ringas," the sap of which affects
some people in much the same way as poison
oak. Our own poison ivy and poison sumac, however,
are much worse and much more likely to cause
trouble. Danger from poisonous plants is much
greater in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, or in the
woods of our own eastern seaboard, than it is in New
Guinea or the tropics anywhere. Thorny thickets, such
as rattan, should be avoided as one would avoid a
New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are popularly
believed to be the haunts of headhunters and cannibals.
Fifty years ago this was true, and it is true
today to a much lesser degree in certain areas. A considerable
portion of the interior of Dutch New Guinea
is occupied by hostile tribes that are likely to be dangerous
to small parties. This is particularly true of
the natives of the interior lake plain, who are armed
only with bows and arrows and who are so excitable
that they are likely to reveal intended ambushes by
shouting or firing their arrows too soon. If attacked,
a small force armed with modern weapons should be
able to disperse them without serious difficulty. There
still may be places in the interior of British New
Guinea where the natives are treacherous, but for
the most part these have been brought under control.
Headhunting and cannibalism are usually practiced
at the expense of traditional enemy tribes, although
strangers occasionally may be attacked without provocation.
Generally you can get along all right with
natives by treating them as you would your friends
back home. This involves respect for privacy and
personal property, and observance of local customs
and taboos. One should not enter a native house
without being invited, nor should fruits be picked or
sago trees cut without the permission of their owners. If
one is tempted by the women of the wild tribes (and
not many soldiers are likely to be), a case of
venereal disease can be expected as a follow-up—this
is one of the "benefits" of civilization conferred by
the whites. Any native may be dangerous if badly or
unjustly treated, or if undue liberties are taken with
native women without regard to local custom.
Everyone who knows the jungle strongly recommends
that equipment be as light as possible. A
British authority says:
You will require a haversack to carry rations and various
other necessary articles. Take with you a small luminous
compass, a small flashlight, matches and a cigarette lighter, a
very small alcohol burner (to be used only when a wood fire
cannot be safely made), and any small, light articles you
desire. Consider carrying a very light sheet of oiled silk or
cloth if rain is expected.
These articles—plus your rifle, ammunition, and rations—will
hardly weigh 20 pounds. The temptation to take more is
likely to be strong. Resist it, because every pound over
this weight becomes a burden on a long march.
Other aids are practicable under certain circumstances. A
well-trained dog may be a most efficient sentry, and even a
messenger to your base. Carrier pigeons are invaluable aids to
scouting parties working far behind enemy lines—for example
in directing our planes to enemy targets you may discover.
Goats are silent, active animals which will follow you through
all sorts of country. Each goat is capable of carrying 10 pounds
of supplies. As a last resort, these animals may be
killed and eaten.
The bark of various trees can be split and used as rope or
string. For the same purpose, many small vines and grasses
can be used.
The bamboo "tree" can be used for a variety of purposes in
the jungle, such as mats, rafts, and cooking utensils. To make
a mat, cut a large bamboo "tree" into sections of the required
length and split each section down one side. Cut out the partitions,
make lengthwise cuts near the joints, and then beat
each section flat. These mats also can be used for walls and
floors of huts. (Remember that the sharp edges of bamboo
"wood" can cut you like a knife.)
To make a bamboo water container, select a section of a
bamboo "tree" and cut just below the lower joint and just above
the upper joint. Then cut a hole in the upper part of the
section, and rinse out any loose particles inside. A carrying
handle can be made by peeling a strip of the outer bark on each
side, from the base to a point about two-thirds up the container,
and tying the ends together above the top joint. For cooking
or boiling water, fill the container as desired and then plug
the hole with leaves. The bamboo will not burn out until the
water is boiled and the food cooked.
A "stick" of rice for carrying with you can be obtained by
using a section of small, thin-walled bamboo to cook it. Cut
the section of bamboo as described in the last paragraph, fill it
with rice and water, and boil. The surplus water will evaporate,
and the rice will swell to fill the entire cavity of the section.
After it has cooled, the section may be split open. The
boiled rice will emerge in a stick form, covered with an edible
film of silvery-white inner skin from the bamboo. The rice can
be carried in this state, or left in the bamboo for added protection.
A frame for drying meat can be made by erecting four
bamboo stakes and connecting them with pieces of split
bamboo, which are tied to the stakes.
Water should be boiled about 10 minutes or otherwise
made safe from various disease germs unless you
are absolutely certain as to the purity of its source. In
this connection, reference should be made
to Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. I, No. 9, page 66.
Water can be freed of salt by filtering it through
soil. Polluted water in a lake or pond likewise can
often be made safe to drink by digging a well close to
the body of water. The fluid content in the stomachs
of animals is safe, and, despite its taste, is a nutritious
substitute for water.
Many plants have water stored in their stems and
leaves; the fluid is easily obtained by cutting or breaking
the stems and by chewing the leaves or other soft
parts of the plant. Many natives use a vine which
they call "water rope." Each foot of the vine, when
cut, yields about a teacup full of water.
In the forests of Burma, water is easily obtained
almost everywhere. Many of the streams, however,
have typhoid or paratyphoid fever germs, despite the
fact that they appear clear and pure. Except for flowing
springs, no water in the Burma jungles should be
considered safe until it is properly treated or boiled.
Food of some type is always available in the jungle—in
fact, there is hardly a place in the world where
food cannot be secured from plants and animals. All
animals, birds, reptiles, and many kinds of insects of
the jungle are edible. Some animals such as toads
and salamanders, have glands on the skin which should
be removed before their meat is eaten. Fruits, flowers,
buds, and often tubers, leaves, and bark can be
eaten. Fruits eaten by birds and monkeys usually are
acceptable to man.
A group of officers and enlisted men several months
ago tested the possibilities of "living off the land"
of a Southwest Pacific island (New Hebrides) while
making a four-day reconnaissance in the jungle. Although
rations for three days were carried by each
man, very little was touched except tea and biscuits.
It was conclusively proved that men who are resourceful
and who will take the time to learn a little jungle
lore can easily live and thrive healthfully in jungle
The group found the following kinds of meats: Wild
chicken, wild duck, wild pigeon, wild cattle, wild pig,
flying fox, fish, eel, and fresh-water crawfish.
The following types of fruits were found: Bananas
(all year round), oranges (May, June, July), lemons
(May, June, July), bread fruit (February, March),
wild raspberries (September, October), Nakarika
(October, November), papaya (all year round), and
mangoes (February, October).
Vegetables—found to be available throughout the
year—were taro, yam, manioc, hearts of palm trees,
and the hearts of pandamus.
Coconuts are found all during the year, and navele
nuts during September and October.
Natives used two methods in cooking fish. In one
instance the fish, after being cleaned, were wrapped
in wild banana leaves. The bundle then was tied with
string made from bark, placed on a hastily constructed
wood griddle, and roasted thoroughly until done. The
second method was to wrap the fish in the manner described
above, place the bundle well down inside and
underneath a pile of red-hot stones, and roast.
Some of the meat cooked by the experimenting
group was roasted in a hollow section of bamboo, about
2 feet long. Meat thus cooked did not spoil for three
or four days if left inside the bamboo stick and
Yam, taro, manico, and wild bananas were cooked
in coals of fire. They tasted like potatoes—with a
little stretch of the imagination. Hearts of palm made
a refreshing salad, and papaya a delicious dessert.
In Burma, edible fruits and vegetables are not easily
obtained, according to a British authority. Many
fruits and vegetables are either not edible or are very
bitter. Troops may find sweet potatoes or corn
planted in a jungle clearing.
Meats in the Burma jungles may be obtained by
killing such game birds as pea fowl, jungle fowl,
pheasant, partridges, geese, and duck; and such animals
as fish, deer, wild pigs, buffalo, and wild red ox.
However, most of the latter do not move about much
in open spaces during the day, are shy, and are therefore
hard to kill. Buffalo and wild pigs, when
wounded, may attack a person, and under some circumstances
when not wounded at all.
Southwest Pacific natives have demonstrated how
to construct a satisfactory bed and rain shelter
in 15 minutes. The bed itself is made first, about 3 feet
from the ground. Four forked stakes are driven into
the ground, and a timber framework is placed upon
the stakes. Then stout but pliable reeds are laid over
the framework, and these, in turn, are covered with
several layers of large, fine ferns. To construct the
roof, four longer stakes are driven into the ground
alongside the bed stakes, and the top is made in the
same manner as the bed.
In Burma, the British warn against sleeping near
a trail, game track, or stream, or on a ridge. These
are jungle highways at night, and a tiger or other
large animal might walk in on you. Go to the side of
a hill away from game tracks, choose a dense thicket,
make yourself comfortable, and rest without being
mentally disturbed. The chances are very remote that
anything will bother you.
The British also warn against sleeping in monasteries, or
killing domestic cattle or chickens in front
of the natives as it would offend Buddhist religious
beliefs. Many monasteries have out-buildings for pilgrims
or other travelers to use.
14. MAKING A FIRE
If you lose your matches or other fire-making devices, remember
that a magnifying glass or any lens
(including spectacles) will start fires by focusing sun
rays. The fine inner skin of dry bamboo is a good starting fuel.
Another quick method is to extract the bullet from
a cartridge, replace it with a dry rag, cotton, or some
other similar substance, and fire it onto the ground. The
material used should catch fire and smolder.
If both these methods fail, you can always resort
to the primitive practice of rubbing two pieces of
wood together to fire a highly inflammable substance. Many
primitive tribes have ingenious labor-saving
gadgets to make fire by friction.
15. POINTERS ON OBSERVATION
The following notes on observation and reconnaissance
were prepared by a British authority on the
jungles of Burma.
Primarily, I would ask you to regard the ground on which
you walk as the page of a book, or the page of a newspaper
on which is written the news of all activities in and around
the jungle. All movement of animals and men are marked by
tracks and signs which you can interpret. Go out of your way
to study the signs in soft ground, in the beds of streams, on
roads and trails, and near watering places and salt-licks. Movement
is seldom made without a reason; a few fresh tracks
supply information about their maker, his direction, and
Animals fear men. Watch the animals, their tracks, and their
behavior and you will learn the whereabouts of men. Listen to
the cries of animals and learn to recognize their alarm calls.
A bird such as the lapwing, found in clearings near camps and
villages, invariably gives away the movement of men by its
loud and continuous cries.
In combat areas of the Burma jungle, it is best for
an individual or small group to avoid the main road
and trails and move through the forests. You will
perhaps have a feeling of entering a maze. Don't
let that disturb you. Consider that in these forests
there are many animals as large or larger than yourself,
and that they make and follow game trails, some
of which are many years old. These game trails never
run straight; they wind about and criss-cross the
jungle; they lead to clearings, watering places, and
salt-licks; and small ones may lead into larger ones,
or merely vanish. Use these trails—don't strike
across the jungle when there's a trail to assist you.
The larger game trails follow the easiest terrain across
hills, rivers, and swamps; and near these trails
you will find opportunities to supplement your meat
If no trails or paths are available, movement (in
Burma) may be easier along drainage channels than
along ridges. The reverse is generally true in other
17. MAINTAINING DIRECTION3
Only a few of us have had enough experience to
attain a "sense of direction" which comes to us
instinctively. We therefore must consider various
aids. The compass is an obvious aid, but, in the
jungle, the inexperienced man would never be able to move very
fast if he had to make constant reference to his compass. It
should be used as a last resort and as a check.
The shadows thrown by the sun are an easily observed
and accurate aid to direction; but one must
allow for the gradual displacement of shadows as the
earth moves around.
Other aids to maintaining direction include prominent
objects, the course of rivers, prevailing winds, the
stars, and the moon.
1 This section is based on three separate reports, one of which was prepared
by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington,, D.C.; one by the Division of
Wildlife Management, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the other by a
British authority on jungle craft in Burma. See
FM 31-20, Jungle Warfare, for U.S. doctrine on fighting in the jungle.
2 In connection with vegetation, reference should be made
to TM 10-420, Emergency Food Plants and Poisonous Plants of the
Islands of the Pacific.
3 Reference should be made to the section on "Maintaining Direction" in
Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. I, No. 4, page 69.