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"Japanese March Plan for a Night Withdrawal" from Intelligence Bulletin, August 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on a Japanese night withdrawal was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 12, August 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 details of a typical Japanese infantry march plan, which required a mixed force to cover approximately 13 miles a night, have been extracted from a Japanese order for a withdrawal along the jungle coast of northeastern New Guinea. The force was one of three from a single division which were involved in the movement. According to the plan, the force was to march from 2000 to 0400 hours on successive nights until it reached its destination, 50 miles away. The order warned that if any hostile activity occurred, it probably would consist of landings on the coast. Communications, security, bivouacs, and care of the weak and wounded were some of the problems dealt with in the order.

The force consisted of the following units: an attached headquarters detachment, an infantry battalion less two rifle companies, a battery of mountain artillery, a company of engineers, one wire and one radio signal section, a detachment of military police, a medical detachment, and a casualty transport (litter-bearer) platoon. It is interesting to note that the commander of this force was a captain.


The force was divided into three groups in order to facilitate the march and to make the force less vulnerable to air attack. Each group was organized to fight independently, and was instructed to attack immediately in case of a hostile amphibious attack. However, the group commanders were instructed to combine their strength, if possible, in the event that contact was made with the enemy.

Communications between the three groups were to be maintained by runners. Each group was ordered to detail a noncom and two orderlies to force headquarters to receive and relay messages. The group commanders were required to report their position, bivouac area, and the next day's route data by 1000 every day, and the force commander was to furnish similar information to the commander of the three forces involved in the withdrawal.

Sick and weak soldiers either were to be hospitalized or sent ahead of the march column. During the movement, medical examinations were to be made independently by each group. For this purpose, the casualty transport platoon was attached to the first group, and the medical detachment marched with the third group.


Unless weather, terrain, or unexpected hostile action made it necessary to alter the plan, the force was to march during the night between the hours of 2000 and 0400, and was to be at a bivouac area and ready to take cover by dawn. (Since the hour between 0400 and 0500 is not accounted for in the commander's order, this period probably was used for preparing camp and camouflage.) During the day, from 0500 to 1800, the troops were to keep under cover, rest and make preparations for cooking. The two hours from 1800 to 2000 were assigned for cooking the evening meal and also enough food to last until the next cooking period the following evening.

The rate of march was set at 1 1/4 miles per 30 minutes, with 15-minute rests every half hour. Intervals were fixed at 55 yards between units, and at six-tenths of a mile between the three groups into which the march column was divided. In order to maintain a uniform pace, proper intervals, and the time schedule, officers were cautioned to keep firm control of their units, to use ropes, and to maintain contact by the use of panels and other means of visual signaling.


All personnel were cautioned to watch the sea closely during the march--especially at night--and to be prepared at all times to meet any unexpected hostile action from that direction. The troops were warned to keep a sharp lookout during the day for hostile aircraft and to carry out all necessary security measures. To ensure secrecy of movement, native villages were to be avoided, and certain precautions were to be observed in making camps. Bivouac areas were to be situated in suitable cover and camouflaged, and were to be no closer to a village, road, or beach than 325 to 450 yards. Tents were to be pitched 30 to 55 yards apart.

To prevent detection by hostile forces during the night, Japanese soldiers were instructed to take care that cooking fires and lights were not exposed to the sky or to the sea. Smoking was permitted only in areas designated by the headquarters adjutant or by unit commanders. If a hostile aircraft should be heard, all fires and lights were to be extinguished immediately. Fires were prohibited during the day, and the troops were forbidden to walk on any road, on the beach, or through any native village.


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