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"Parachute Forces (Japan)" from Intelligence Bulletin, October 1942

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on Japanese parachute forces was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, October 1942.

[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.]



Since the war began, the Japanese have used parachute troops only twice on a large scale--at Palembang, Dutch Sumatra, and on the Island of Timor, near Java. In September 1941, reliable reports indicated that they had three battalions and two companies. Each battalion consisted of a headquarters staff and supply section (not air-borne) and three companies. The total strength of a battalion is 670 to 700 men. Enlisted men, as well as officers, attend special courses in foreign languages and in map reading. All officers are drawn from the air force and must not be over 28, except the battalion commander, who must not be over 35. The age limit for enlisted men is 25.


a. Landings

A battalion of about 700 parachutists were dropped to support a Japanese landing operation on Timor. About 350 were dropped one day and the same number the next. They jumped from transport planes, each of which carried 15 to 24 men, at heights of 300 feet. Section leaders came down in blue parachutes and platoon leaders in red ones.

The landings were made about 0830 (8:30 a.m.) in bright sunlight with no wind. The principal landings each day were about 5 miles from our fixed defensive areas and on our lines of communication. Bomber and fighter planes protected the troops while the latter were landing, by bombing and machine-gunning the nearby areas. The terrain on which the landings were made is mostly flat country, covered by trees varying between thick undergrowth and high palm trees 15 to 20 feet apart.

b. Results Obtained

The operations as a whole were very successful, partly because our forces had no fighter planes to oppose the landings and to prevent the Japanese bombers and fighters from bombing and strafing the defenders. In one instance the paratroopers landed within 1% miles of one of our company positions, and in another instance they surrounded one of our battalions and prevented it from breaking through to safety.

c. Equipment and Supplies

The parachutists wore green uniforms buttoned at the neck and rubber boots. They carried wrist compasses and were armed with Tommy guns,1 which they fired while dropping to the ground. Other equipment included small mortars and a large number of battery-operated radio sets. Each parachutist carried rice and compressed fish as emergency rations, wrapped in cellulose.


Approximately the same number of paratroops (700) were dropped at Palembang as on Timor. They jumped from about 70 transport planes, some of which had British markings on them. Their mission was to capture the airport and hold it until Japanese sea-borne troops arrived via the Moesi river, and also to capture two large oil refineries to prevent the Dutch from destroying them. A total of about 300 attacked defending troops at the airdrome, and about 400 sought to capture the refineries.

Nearly all the parachutists were killed or captured, except a group which managed to hold one of the refineries and prevent it from being destroyed. The other refinery was demolished by the Dutch. On the whole, the attack was a failure. It is believed that the Japanese underestimated the strength of the Palembang defenders. The parachutists had no assistance until the following day, when Japanese ground troops came up the river in transports.

1 These may have been light machine guns, which the Japanese are known to have used in the earlier Palembang operation.
2 Fuller details on the Palembang operations were given in Information Bulletin No. 16, Japanese Warfare: A Summary. M.I.S.


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