British forces in the jungle areas of Burma are emphasizing
the importance of patrolling in their combat
against the Japanese. The following notes on patrolling
summarize conclusions drawn by British officers, or
by units, from their combat experiences in the
western Burma area. These conclusions, while not
official British doctrine, should prove a helpful stimulus
to U.S. thought on the subject of patrolling.
A British officer recently stated that, for jungle
fighting, a soldier can hardly have too much training
in patrolling. The improperly trained soldier, he continued, is
completely lost when he gets off paths or trails
in the jungle. "He must learn to find his way
about in the jungle, and not be afraid of it. The
jungle is totally new to our farm-bred soldiers
as well as to our city-bred soldiers, since it bears no
similarity to either environment. The jungle can be a
friend and protector to you, as soon as you know how
to utilize it.
"You cannot utilize the jungle very well unless you
are a well-trained observer. You must know all the
means of detecting the presence or passage of the enemy—such
as fires, ashes, cartridges, broken
undergrowth, footprints, misplaced foliage, and so forth.
"When fired upon in the jungle, patrols should
pause momentarily to observe and formulate plans. These
should be executed promptly—the patrols must
keep moving, and not pin themselves to the ground. They
must be trained to get rid of obstacles quickly or
to avoid them, depending on their mission."
Another British officer said, "In the past, lack of
clear orders has been responsible for more bad patrolling
than any other factor." He added that orders
should be "crystal clear and not beyond the ability of
the patrol to execute."
A large group of British officers submitted the following
points for consideration in connection with
giving orders to patrols.
"(1) Give the patrol leader all available information about the enemy.
"(2) Give him full information about other friendly patrols
which are operating, or which may operate, in the neighborhood
of this area before he returns.
"(3) State his mission in clear and unmistakable terms.
"(4) State, in general terms, the route the patrol will follow.
"(5) State the time by which the patrol is required
to return, and the place to which it should endeavor
"(6) Give the recognition signal for challenging
"(7) State clearly what action the patrol leader
will take if he meets the enemy before completing
his mission, or after completing it. For instance, should
he attack, withdraw, or remain in observation?
"After stating the mission to the patrol leader, have
him repeat the main points.
"Don't send out more men than are necessary for
accomplishing the mission. Every unnecessary man in
a patrol is a hindrance and increases the chance that
the patrol may be discovered."
Another group of British officers had this to say:
"A company is not a patrol, not even a large fighting
patrol, but it provides the element from which patrols
are produced. Whether a whole company is sent out
depends upon the distance patrols will have to cover
in order to carry out a mission. If the situation calls
for use of a company, the latter will provide the necessary
patrols and the remainder of the unit will
form a mobile base from which the patrols can, if
necessary, be assisted and a base to which the patrols
can withdraw after completing their missions.
"It is important that the remainder of the company
not take up a static position, where it can be pinned
down; therefore, it must operate in a specified area, with
a place of assembly having been determined in advance, in
case of enemy action which necessitates its use.
"Another way in which a company may be employed
in this type of warfare is to carry out an ambush
based on information gained by patrols."
These officers considered the Bren gun too heavy for
patrols which were to stay out more than two days. The
rifle, Tommy gun, and grenade were considered the
best weapons for patrolling.
During the daytime, the officers said, Japanese
patrols almost invariably consisted of two or three
men, who generally were led by a native guide.
3. COMMENTS ON TACTICS
A high-ranking British officer stated that the major
slogan for jungle warfare against the Japanese
is "Patrol! Patrol! Patrol!" A patrol, he said, must
avoid taking up a static defense; it must be "offensive" in
its tactics. It should stay out two or three
days, sometimes up to six days, and it should be
"You must outfox the Jap," this officer explained. "The
main point is to confuse him as to what you are
doing; then you have an even chance of inflicting
"The Japs watch and listen all the time. They
attempt all sorts of ruses to deceive our patrols. We
soon caught on to the enemy's tricks, and he appeared
to be foxed completely....
"You can frequently catch the Jap on the loose—swimming,
eating, resting, playing, and so forth. Usually
when he is caught under such circumstances, he
is absolutely unprotected. Once, during a recent
campaign, one of our platoons caught more than 100 Japs
completely off guard; the platoon killed 30 of the
enemy while the others fled in confusion.
"The British patrols usually moved by day, and frequently
caught the Japs unaware. At night the
patrols generally hid out, away from streams, watering
places, and trails."
A group of British officers made the following suggestions
for getting better results from patrolling:
"a. Avoid the 'circular tour' tactics by patrols; use a larger
number of smaller patrols to deal with a larger
number of smaller areas.
"b. If possible, avoid entering villages or being seen
by local inhabitants. More reliance should be placed
on silent observation at close range.
"c. If it is impossible to avoid being seen, employ
the maximum guile to conceal the route and intentions
of the patrol. For example, the patrol leader
might tell local inhabitants of a village that his
destination is a certain place. The patrol would actually
start for the place named, but later would either return
close to its starting point and watch the village
for, say, 24 hours, or cut through the jungle to another
"d. Seek to complete the mission of the patrol. The
patrol must not turn away because of resistance. If
its route is barred, the patrol must probe the enemy
front until it finds a suitable approach route, or it
must try to maneuver around a flank.
"e. Use cunning, regardless of whether the patrol's
mission is to fight or strictly to reconnoiter.
"f. Patrol deep enough to get the desired information."