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"Morale, Characteristics of Japanese Soldiers" from Intelligence Bulletin, June 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on the morale and individual characteristics of Japanese soldiers in WWII was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 10, June 1944.

[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 information presented in this section supplements data which have appeared in previous issues of the Intelligence Bulletin regarding the morale and individual characteristics of Japanese soldiers. For a complete reference to this data, see Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 8, p. 69, and Vol. II, No. 9, pp. 44-47.


A statement made by a Japanese lieutenant describes the hardships forced upon the enemy in New Guinea by the American and Australian air, ground, and naval forces. The statement, which ends with boasting threats, is presented below.

In air power, to put it briefly, we are about a century behind America and Germany. We who have participated in the New Guinea fighting are in position to appreciate at first hand the importance of air power. Those living in peace and safety at home talk about our air superiority in China. This is exceedingly childish chatter. If you have not experienced a continuous bombardment by formations of Lockheeds and North Americans, or 50 to 60 bombers, a true appreciation of air superiority is well nigh impossible.

This present war is termed a war of supply. Shipping is the key to victory or defeat. To have regular shipping lanes, air superiority is essential. Ah! If we only had air superiority! Even the privates here voice the same opinion.

Let us examine the situation. In the battle for Salamaua, we were bombed and strafed relentlessly day and night for about six months. We left Sio with 10 days' rations, which must last for 25 days.... We fight while eating only grass. However, we must not complain about it to our superior officers. Since coming to New Guinea, I fully appreciate the value of even 1 gram of rice. If we only had salt and matches in the combat area, we could cope with anything. Indeed, these are supposed to be absolutely essential. How laughable! A certain labor unit existed for about two weeks on only pumpkin.

What of the Americans and Australians? They can boast only of their material power. Wait and see! We will wage a war of annihilation. The feelings of every officer and man throughout the Army are churning with a desire to massacre all Americans and Australians.


Before entering a theater of operations, the Japanese prepare themselves for possible death. Fingernails, toenails, and locks of hair are often taken from every man in a unit, and when a soldier is killed these items are sent to his family in Japan. Also, whenever possible, the ashes of deceased soldiers are sent home, generally by special courier. That this is an important and solemn pilgrimage is apparent from the following story written by a private and published in a Japanese magazine:

On this occasion I have returned from the front bringing the remains of the fallen soldiers. In the Army we regard these ashes as more precious than living beings. When we were on board ship we were given strict instructions by the officer-in-charge as follows:

"You are about to cross seas that are dominated by enemy submarines. You know now what may befall you. If the ashes of those who have fallen in battle are lost and their spirits are again made to meet a second death, we who are responsible for bringing home these ashes will be without excuse before their bereaved families. Whatever happens, even though the ship sinks, do all you can to save these ashes."

This officer-in-charge is fond of his glass, but throughout the whole voyage he never touched a drop of sake. Every one of us in charge of these boxes of ashes kept them by our sides continually. At night we tied them to our waists with a rope attached to a life belt, so that if we were struck by a torpedo and had to dive overboard, though we might be drowned, the boxes of ashes would certainly float.


The following items, loosely related, give further insight into Japanese morale and characteristics:

Just before a big counterattack against U.S. forces at Torokina on Bougainville, Japanese officers tried to boost the morale of their men by telling them that, there were enough rations and tobacco within the U.S. lines to supply the Japanese for three years if they could be captured.

Such statements have been made by Japanese officers on other occasions for the same purpose.


A Japanese soldier dejectedly stated that U.S. weapons "are made for jungle warfare and are superior in quality. If we had their weapons, we could annihilate them in one day. Unfortunately we haven't them!"


Members of a Japanese unit on Bougainville were exhorted as follows:

The time has come to manifest our knighthood with the pure brilliance of a sharp sword. It is our duty to erase the mortification of our brothers at Guadalcanal. Attack, assault, and destroy everything. Cut, slash, and mow them [Americans] down. May the color of the red emblem [probably refers to the red insignia of the 6th Division] of memory on our arms be deepened with the blood of the American rascals. Our cry of victory at Torokina Bay will be shouted resoundingly to our native land. We are invincible. Always attack...


An officer who has returned from duty in the Pacific theater of operations debunks any feeling that the Japanese soldier possesses anything approaching "super" qualities. This officer said:

"I feel that it was a mistake to be given the idea, as we were, that the Jap is practically an unconquerable superman. We had repeated lectures to this effect."


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