The Japanese continue to make extensive use of
what they call "scouting parties." However, the enemy
draws a sharp distinction between parties sent out with
the primary mission of reconnoitering for information,
parties detailed to form part of a sentry line, and parties
dispatched for the purpose of undertaking combat
reconnaissance. In the course of his training, the Japanese
noncom is fully instructed in the tactics of all
three types of scouting parties, any one of which he
may be called upon to lead in the field. Japanese training
calls for scouting parties to be approximately of
squad strength, although for combat reconnaissance
the enemy sometimes makes use of combat outposts.
Combat outposts, which are discussed later in this article,
vary in strength, and sometimes are as large as
A SCOUTING PARTY RECONNOBTERS
The leader of a Japanese "scouting party" which is
to reconnoiter for information1 gives orders
as to what type of clothing is to be worn and what arms
are to be carried. (Japanese doctrine recommends that as many
light machine guns as possible be provided.) The leader
designates a second-in-command, and assigns an observation
mission to each man.
If the party believes itself to be some distance from
a hostile force, the advance is made by bounds, from
one promising observation point to another, with the
leader in front and his second-in-command in the
| || |
|Birds in sudden flight are observed,|
direction of flight is noted.
rear. If it is believed that contact with a hostile force may be
established, the leader assigns new missions, with much
smaller and more compact fields of observation.
When the leader reaches a spot which affords complete
cover, he may halt and allow the party to assemble. This
enables him to keep in fairly constant touch with his
men. Discussing their observations, they, speak in low
whispers. They compare evidence of the most detailed
kind, such as the odor of smoke considered in relation
to wind direction, and any unusual activity on the part
of wild animals and birds.
If Allied soldiers are encountered, the party's next move
is determined largely by its mission. If the opposition
consists only of a scout or two, or a weak reconnaissance
patrol, an attempt will be made to take prisoners. However, if a
stronger force is encountered, the Japanese try to detour
around it and hurry back to report their observations.
It is a Japanese principle that combat reconnaissance
be undertaken by a scouting party approximately of
squad strength or by a combat outpost, depending on
how much opposition the Japanese estimate the party
may meet in the execution of its mission. Japanese
companies employ combat outposts equal in strength
to a platoon, while battalions employ combat outposts
approximately of company strength.
After a careful preliminary observation of the
terrain, the scouting party advances from one place of
concealment to another. When the presence of hostile
soldiers in a locality is suspected, that locality is fired
upon promptly. The Japanese have been taught that
if they act in too deliberate a manner, a target may
take advantage of the terrain and slip away.
If the party itself is fired upon, the men instantly
throw themselves on the ground and attempt to crawl
to cover. They try to determine the point from which
the firing has come, and, if they believe they have detected
it, they report their conclusions to the leader.
Observation is then conducted either by the leader or
by sharpshooters whose rifles are equipped with telescopic
sights--men who have been chosen expressly for
this purpose. From the moment the first sound of hostile
fire is heard, each Japanese soldier tries to watch
not only the spot from which he suspects the firing has
come, but also his leader and his fellow soldiers. As
far as possible, the Japanese communicate by means
of hand signals.
At each burst fired by Japanese heavy weapons or
by other neighboring Japanese units--should such support
be provided--the party makes the most of the distraction
and works its way forward. Similarly, if the
opposition is suddenly forced under cover by any
circumstance--such as the sudden appearance of Japanese
planes--the individual members of the scouting party
move forward. The Japanese soldier is supposed to
make the most of such opportunities without waiting
| || |
|"--the party makes the most of the dis-|
traction and works its way forward."
for any authorization from the leader. All the members
of the party are expected to advance simultaneously so
that they will not lose contact with each other.
As to targets, the Japanese regard hostile commanders, forward
observers, runners, heavy weapons crews, and machine gun
nests as particularly dangerous, and give them priority.
In performing combat reconnaissance, Japanese
scouting parties pay special attention to individual
camouflage. It is interesting to note that there are
certain similarities between Japanese and U.S. doctrine
regarding such precautions. The enemy gives the following
camouflage instructions to soldiers who are to
undertake combat reconnaissance:
Observe from depressions, not from elevations. Never look
over such objects as stones, tree trunks, bushes, hedges, or
fences; always observe from the side--and be sure to choose
the shaded side--or through cracks or gaps. Often the prone
position is your greatest safeguard. In observing from houses,
do not stand directly in front of a window; stand farther back
in the room. Take the same kind of precaution when you are
observing from the edge of a wood. Avoid roads and paths,
even at night. Instead, choose such natural depressions as
roadside ditches. Go around fields and clearings. Move only
on the shaded side of boulders, trees, ravines, and so on. When
you rest, lie down beside a fallen tree. Stoop low when passing
through waist-high underbrush, and crawl through still
lower growth. Your head must never be exposed against a
light background. When you are observing, never betray your
presence by restless and unnecessary movement. When you
are creeping forward in any kind of wooded or partly wooded
terrain, camouflage yourself still further by holding branches
in front of you.
In combat reconnaissance, the Japanese soldier pays
attention to personal camouflage even when he is about
to work his way forward by means of a rush or a series
of rushes. Before a rush, he looks ahead for the next
and most desirable place of concealment--or cover, if
any is available. He may choose a small hill, a rock,
a hollow, a ditch, a tree, or even a bush. First, he rises
very slowly, so as not to attract attention; then he darts
as fast as he can to the spot he has chosen, and throws
himself on the ground. He does not always fall to the
ground directly behind the protecting object, but may
drop down 3 or 4 yards to one side of it. The Japanese
theory is that if the hostile force becomes interested in
the more obvious place of concealment, and fires on it
experimentally, without getting the expected result, that
place will make a good alternate position later on. Meanwhile, as
soon as the soldier has thrown himself on the
ground, he covers his head with grass, leaves, or twigs, and
remains there until he decides that it will be advantageous
for him to move to an alternate position.
| || |
|"He does not always fall to the|
ground directly behind the protect-
ing object, but may drop down 3 or
4 yards to one side of it."
When a man has been wounded, he does not move to
the rear until the leader of the scouting party has been
notified and has approved. Only the leader may detail
escorts for seriously wounded men. Stragglers are under
orders to report to the nearest Japanese commander
and to participate in combat under his authority.
The straggler is required to obtain a written certificate
that he has done this.
The following Japanese order, which was issued during
operations on Bougainville Island, refers to this
type of reconnaissance activity.
"You will infiltrate and reconnoiter for information
regarding conditions along the river. Search for U.S.
positions along the right bank, and determine the enemy
strength. Investigate for obstacles, the security
line, gaps, microphones, and so on. Later you will be
given further details. I wish you to reconnoiter carefully,
positively, and boldly. If it should eventually
prove that reconnaissance has been insufficient, Japanese
blood will be shed. Consider this point. I have
nothing to send you except one cigarette. I wish you
Whenever possible, the party returns by a different
route. The foremost consideration, Japanese doctrine
maintains, is to keep hostile soldiers from discovering
the whereabouts of Japanese units to the rear of the
Because of the deterioration of Japanese supply
channels, the soldier going out on combat reconnaissance
is told that no weapon must be lost or allowed
to fall into the hands of Allied troops. The Japanese
soldier is held responsible, not only for safeguarding
his own weapon, but also for recovering the weapons
of his comrades who have been killed or wounded.
Most of the preceding has dealt with the responsibilities
of the individual soldier, rather than with those
of the leader of the party. During the entire mission,
the leader has been evaluating all the information that
his men have given him about the opposing force, as
well as the information that he himself has collected.
His principal concern has been to judge when and
where the main Japanese force behind him must expect
to meet serious opposition. He has been estimating the
strength and dispositions of the Allied force. Finally,
he has been attempting to determine, as far as possible,
what weapons they have at their disposal. This is the
information that he must embody in his report to his
1The nearest U.S. equivalent is the reconnaissance patrol.