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.
2. OPERATIONS ON TIMOR
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
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
3. OPERATIONS AT PALEMBANG2
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
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.