Japanese military leaders consider night attacks one
of their specialties. In these they were very successful
in the Russo-Japanese war, the Manchuria "Incident," the
China "Incident," and during the present war in Malaya, Borneo, and
the Philippines. They have experimented extensively
with various night tactics, over a period of many years, and
have adopted certain specific techniques--with which this
section is primarily concerned.
As a rule, the Japanese have only limited objectives at
night and do not attack very deeply. Once these objectives
have been accomplished, the Japs usually effect a
slight withdrawal, and reorganize for rest during the next
day (except for reconnaissance or infiltration activities).
Although the Japanese admit that night operations
result in more confusion and less control, they feel these
disadvantages are more than offset by the advantages of
greater mobility, secrecy of movement, and therefore
A Dutch officer who escaped from Japanese confinement
in Borneo attributed the following statement to a Japanese
"You Europeans march all day, prepare all night, and
at dawn launch an attack with tired troops. We Japanese
allow our troops to rest all day while we reconnoiter your
positions exactly. Then that night we attack with fresh troops."
The information which follows in this section is based on
Japanese manuals captured in the South Pacific theater:
2. METHODS OF PROCEDURE
The objectives of Japanese night attacks usually are to
locate and attack the front lines of the opposition with
only limited or shallow objectives. "However, there will
be times when it is necessary to attack the enemy's position
in considerable depth," their manual explains.
Before the attack each subordinate unit is given a
clearly defined terrain objective. Objectives can be
clearly defined only by thorough daytime reconnaissance, or
by drawing hostile fire. Villages are avoided because
they are difficult to attack at night.
Japanese regulations emphasize the importance of thoroughly
reconnoitering terrain over which night operations
are to take place, and of obtaining detailed information as
to the location of opposing centers of resistance, machine-gun
positions, obstacles, and searchlights. The reconnaissances
are made in daytime. Japanese patrols, frequently
moving for long distances on their stomachs at a
snail-like pace, get as close as possible to opposition positions
without being observed. If they are unable to
locate these positions exactly, they sometimes deliberately
expose men to draw fire from the opposing forces so the
latter will give their locations away.
The patrols also select the points where the opposition's wires will be cut.
Sometimes the Japanese make a second reconnaissance
just before dark to satisfy themselves as to opposition
positions, or to determine whether new positions have
c. Formation of Plans
Japanese military leaders go into great detail in mapping
plans for attack. This is doubly true for night operations. Particularly
emphasized are march directions, methods of
identifying friendly troops, liaison with adjacent
units, the necessity for silence in order to achieve
surprise, and flank protection.
Obstacles which would interfere with the attacks are
removed by destruction squads--usually engineers--about
an hour beforehand. This phase includes the cutting
of lanes through barbed wire.
d. Approach Movements
In approaching, the Japanese select routes over which
the troops will make the least noise. They generally
move by column rather than in a line in order to maintain
as much control as possible up to the point of assault.
To maintain direction, the Japanese may use any or all
of the following: Compass, flares, rear lights--which give
direction by alignments; searchlights or disappearing
lanterns; markers, white stakes, strips of paper; lines of
chalk, flour, or tape; and artillery shells fired for direction.
e. The Assault
Japanese techniques in the assault are quoted from their own manual, as follows:
"(1) With limited objectives.--When the attacking unit
gets close to the enemy's position (the assault position),
the commander orders a front-line group to assault. The
remainder of the troops will quickly observe the general
situation. For instance, if it is necessary to strengthen
the front line with reserves, these should either attack
the flank of the enemy, or enemy counterattacking troops.
The commander watches for these opportunities, and leads
the battle with firm determination. Placing reserves in
the front lines thoughtlessly and unnecessarily will bring
about confusion. This, must be avoided.1
"At the start of combat, the commander of the reserves
will send out liaison men to inform him regarding the
movements of our assault echelons and the enemy situation,
to connect the reserves with the front-line unit, and
to secure our flanks, rear, and front.
"When the assault has captured the enemy position,
quickly organize your attacking forces. For example,
the machine-gun and infantry-gun units take up their
firing positions, security measures are taken, order is
quickly restored, and preparations are made to repel
any enemy attack to recover the position just lost. The
reserve commander will send out patrols as quickly as
possible to the rear, flank, and front to determine the
condition of the enemy, and he will be prepared for
action with the remainder of his troops.
"The machine gun takes part in the night attack by
occupying a secure position. Thus, it ordinarily cooperates
with reserve troops in action, and may at times
participate in the direct night attack, according to the
opportunities for firing.
"When attacking by sheer strength, the machine gun
is used to cut off enemy communication with other
adjacent areas. Furthermore, it opposes the counterattack
from other areas, concentrating its fire at the
proper time. For this reason, the machine-gun plan must
consider the cooperating fire plan of the artillery. The
use of fire arms will expose our plans, and it may bring
hostile fire on our troops. There is also the danger of
hitting friendly troops. Therefore, make thorough arrangements
"(2) Attack in depth.--When attacking deeply in depth
with two assault echelons, the front-line unit will capture
the predetermined hostile position and take security and
reconnaissance measures, restore order, and make arrangements
for the enemy's return attack. It must quickly
prepare to be leap-frogged by the second echelon of attack
and must always make local conditions clear to this unit.
If the first-line unit receives a counterattack by the enemy,
do not fire, because it would endanger the leap-frogging
"The second attack echelon takes up the attack formation
at the beginning, as a security measure. Before leap-frogging
it will put out security reconnaissance. Maintenance
of direction will be considered after leap-frogging.
In order not to get intermingled with the first-echelon unit
at the time of leap-frogging, the distance and intervals
before and during the attack are controlled accordingly.
"The second assault unit of attack must definitely keep
in contact with the first-line unit, and keep itself informed
of the enemy situation and the progress of the first echelon.
It will be prepared to advance by leap-frogging as soon
as the order arrives. At this point, do not come too
close to the first-line unit because of the danger of getting
into the lines of fire.
"The commander will determine the time when the
second echelon must first advance to the attack from
the place of departure. The time of advance will depend
upon when the first echelon, leading out, has passed
the second-line unit * * *
"When the second assault unit captures the designated
hostile position, the commander must quickly get control
of the unit and then have the first assault unit advance
to secure completely the occupied position. The remainder
(the reserve) prepare for action."
The Japanese nearly always seek to capitalize to the
fullest on pursuit. Even before combat begins, they have
detailed plans for maintaining close contact with retiring
forces. The following data on pursuit is quoted from their
"The enemy will take advantage of darkness to conceal
his retreat. It is important to gain early knowledge of
this retreat by keeping a close contact with him. The
battalion commander must make close reconnaissance,
observe various signs, and always be careful not to lose
the enemy. In order to clear up the possibility of an
enemy retreat, do not hesitate to make a night attack with
any necessary part of your strength.
"If the enemy's retreat is found out, the battalion
commander quickly sends out a part of his strength for
quick pursuit--the main force follows soon thereafter * * * "
g. Machine Guns In Defense
"Because the development of battle during the night is
very quick, it is necessary to put machine guns in positions
where they will be able to concentrate their fire power on
important areas to the front of the battalion's positions.
The guns should be sited to have enfilade fire against the
line of advance of the enemy, or in such a way as to be
able to fire on a small, specific sector through which the
enemy must pass. To obtain the most effective fire,
machine guns are sometimes placed in the front line.
Avoid placing guns separately at night * * *.
"Depending on the amount of natural light available, machine
guns vary the firing method, using night firing
lights when necessary * * *."
"When you are retreating during the night, hinder the
enemy's reconnaissance, and do not make any movements
before darkness. According to the situation, make night
attacks with small units, or have patrols to move about. These
will help to deceive the enemy as to the true action
you intend to take.
"Make full use of the road as quickly as possible with
the main force, concentrating your strength as close
behind the battle as possible. Make sure that control
will be well in hand by retreating in a column
without confusion * * * "
1Although the Japanese manual emphasizes the importance of holding
troops in reserve during night attacks, in the present war the Japs have often
thrown their full strength into the battle at the beginning.