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"Notes on Recent Fighting in the Southwest Pacific" from Intelligence Bulletin, January 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on fighting in the Solomons and other Southwest Pacific areas was published in the Intelligence Bulletin, January 1943.

[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.]




Issues No. 3 and 4 of the Intelligence Bulletin contained considerable information dealing with tactics and matériel used by the Japs in the Solomon Islands fighting. Additional information on the action in the Solomons, as well as in other Southwest Pacific areas, is presented in this issue.


Members of a Marine battalion in the Solomons agree that at night Japanese often can be detected by a characteristic odor, which resembles the gamy odor of animals. One Marine, through his sense of smell, detected a Jap walking along a road with him--the Jap was killed.

It is interesting to note that the Japanese are able to detect us by smell. A Jap scientist has described the odor of a white person as being pungent, rancid, sweetish, or bitter to his race.


The Japs are very well trained to move silently in jungle areas. They deliberately make noises at times, however, to distract our attention and to deceive us, or to draw our fire--especially that of automatic weapons. These noises are made by firing rifles, mortars, and firecrackers, by beating on bamboo sticks, and by loud talking and yelling. Frequently, Japanese attacking units sneak up ahead of the noise makers and are ready to throw hand grenades and fire at our positions if our troops open fire at the noises. On other occasions, the Japs infiltrate small patrols to attack our forces from the rear while the noises are being made.


When the Japs bivouac in the jungle, they prepare an all-round defense. One bivouac position, captured by a Marine battalion in the Solomons, was occupied by a reinforced rifle company. Foxholes were of the standing type and tunneled in, with well camouflaged overhead protection. Some of the holes were connected by ropes, probably to guide soldiers at night. The area was roughly circular, and presented no flanks and no weak spots. Snipers were placed about in trees to protect automatic weapons. Low and narrow fire lanes, extending 1 to 2 feet above the ground, had been cut in all directions. The lanes were hard to see unless troops were crawling. Only the low brush was cut, and the lanes appeared like tunnels in the jungle. Weapons fired low through them hit several of our men in the lower legs and ankles.


The Japs have tried numerous tricks to sneak up to within knife- or grenade-range of our forces at night, or to lure them into the range of these weapons. Although many of the Japs speak good English, their accent almost always gives them away to a careful listener. They try hard to learn our passwords, and sometimes they cut in on our radio or telephone lines to get information.

After certain night operations in the Solomons, our troops found dead Japs wearing our helmets.

Also, a Jap was found dead with a light machine gun strapped to his back in such a manner that it could be fired. It is believed that guns of this type were moved from place to place in this way, with one man carrying the gun and the other firing it. The Japs also have been observed while running from tree to tree, firing one or two shots from each position. This creates the illusion of large numbers of troops.


During the Milne Bay operations, the Japanese employed at least two light tanks which were heavily armed with automatic weapons. The tanks had strong lights which threw powerful rays 200 yards. The lights were controlled in such a manner that it was practically impossible to shatter them by point-blank fire. The tanks were heavily greased, and sticky grenades would not cling to them. They were finally immobilized by breaking the tracks.

Cans of luminous paint were found in the Solomons. Apparently the Japs had planned to use the paint to assist movements at night.


The following conclusions, drawn by officers and men of a Marine battalion, are based on their fighting experience against the Japs in the Solomons:

a. Because the helmet silhouette is an easy way to detect friend from foe at night, it should be borne in mind that the Jap will use our helmets if he can get away with it, and positive identification cannot be based on that factor alone.

b. Telephone lines should be carefully concealed, and never laid on trails--because the Japs cut or tap them and use them as guides to our command posts.

c. Remember that darkness is just as good cover for us as for the Japs.

d. Jap noises are harmless. Wait until "pay-dirt" targets present themselves at night before opening fire.

e. Our men should always dig in, and our automatic weapons should have protection against grenades.

f. During daylight hours strong patrols should be sent out to interfere with enemy reconnaissance (on which they base their attacks) and to interfere with their rest.

g. Each man should be equipped with at least 4 hand grenades.

h. Location of friendly troops should be known to all our units or detachments.

i. Snipers strategically placed in trees are very effective in daytime--give the Japs some of their own medicine.

j. All guard and sentry details must be posted in pairs--while one man is challenging, the other must cover his partner from the flank, ready to handle any emergency.

k. Challenging at night must be done skillfully. The challenger must remain unseen in the shadows of a tree or building, and not permit the challenged person to come within knife-range of him until his identity has been definitely established as okay. The password should not be used unless necessary to secure positive identification. If used, the password should be spoken in a stage whisper.

l. Commanders should be mentioned by nicknames. Mention an officer or noncom by rank and that individual has a fine chance of being showered with grenades.

m. Troops should be well instructed in Jap tactics, but they also should be impressed with the fact that American fighting men can, and have, outfought this wily enemy.

n. The jungle puts a premium on individual and squad action.

o. Strict compliance with all basic rules of hygiene and sanitation is all-important. The individual must learn to conserve drinking water. All local water must be considered contaminated, and must be treated before drinking.


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