The information in this section includes reports given
by Marine Corps personnel who took part in the Solomon Islands
fighting. A study of the tactics and matériel used
by the Japanese should benefit our troops who may face them in the future.
2. THE JAPANESE SOLDIER
Individually, the Japanese soldier proved to be a tough
and excellent fighter in the Solomon Islands operations. "They very, very
seldom give up, but will fight until killed, even after being badly
wounded," according to a Marine officer. "Of a force of well
over 700 that we wiped out, we were able to take
only 34 prisoners, and 33 of these were so badly wounded
that they couldn't do anything." Each of the prisoners said he
had expected to be killed by the Americans after capture--however, each
said he had not been so warned by his superiors. All
insisted that they would never be able to return to Japan, because
they would be disgraced for surrendering.
Upwards of 300 Japanese trapped along a beach chose to
swim out to sea rather than surrender. Marine gunfire "picked
them off like rabbits," according to the officer
previously quoted. "After it was all over, we saw a single
Jap swimming well out at sea so we sent a boat to get him. As the
boat came alongside, he made a dive and never came up. In
other words, they kill or get killed. Within 3 days
over 200 bodies were washed ashore."
Apparently a great deal of propaganda has been spread
among Japanese soldiers about horrible things that would
happen to them if taken prisoner. Repeated chances were
afforded Japs to surrender in the Solomons fighting but
only two men attempted it. They threw down their
rifles and ran toward our lines with their hands in the air.
The Marines ceased fire but a Japanese machine gun shot
down the would-be prisoners before they reached our lines.
One Japanese unit, carrying all of its heavy equipment,
marched 40 miles in two nights, through jungle country
part of the time. The distance was covered in less than
22 hours hiking time and with very little food on which
Cleverly hidden Japanese snipers proved very troublesome
to the U.S. Marines. A Marine sergeant reported
that "our biggest problem was in locating and destroying
snipers. They were well concealed in trees, bushes, and
buildings. Time and again, our forces passed through an
area and were shot at from the rear."
A second Marine officer said that the Japanese used a
large number of snipers, well camouflaged. "They shot
at us from the tops of coconut trees, slit trenches, garden
hedgerows, from under buildings, from under their shelter
halves, and from under fallen palm leaves," he explained.
"One sniper, shot down from a tree, had coconuts strung
around his neck to help conceal him. Another in a palm
tree had protected himself with armor plate. Our
Browning automatics proved to be excellent weapons for
dealing with snipers hidden in trees."
The snipers sought especially to pick off officers and
noncommissioned officers who wore insignia or markings
indicating their rank.
The Japanese placed snipers on the flanks of their
positions and weapon emplacements.
The Japanese will do anything he can to deceive you. "Never
underestimate the Jap in any respect, and never
think you've got him whipped until you've killed him," says
a Marine officer. "Wounded Japs have shot our
men in the back after our men have passed them."
One night a Japanese soldier struck a match about 75 yards in
front of our sentries to get them to shoot and
thus reveal their positions.
A large number of the Japanese wore green uniforms
and painted their faces and hands green so they would be
hard to see among the green vegetation on the islands. They
also wore camouflage nets with wood fiber strands
and garnished with vegetation. Japs wearing these were
hard to see, even at 50 yards, if they were still.
Camouflage was cleverly used over numerous pit traps, most of which were mined.
A radio transmitter located near a beach was extremely well camouflaged by palm trees.
Their concealment was made easier by the fact that no
flash, smoke, or muzzle blast was visible from their
The Japanese tried out their old tricks of infiltrating
around our flanks and through gaps in our lines, especially
at nights. Alert Marine outpost troops, however, broke
up the infiltrations. The Marines held their fire until they
were sure of their targets--several Japs were killed while
only 10 or 15 feet away from our posts.
7. NIGHT TACTICS
The Japanese offered comparatively little resistance
during the day, often fleeing before the fire of our machine
gunners and riflemen. Considerably greater resistance
was offered at night. The Japs fired tracer ammunition
in machine guns. The fire was not well aimed, and
probably was intended to draw our fire and thus locate
8. DEFENSIVE TACTICS
The Japanese defenses included slit trenches, foxholes,
dugouts, houses, sheds, hedgerows, heavy brush, caves,
and cut-and-cover shelters. The cut-and-cover shelters
were 20 feet long and 14 feet wide, and their tops were
about 4 feet above the ground level. Each shelter had
firing posts, which were well camouflaged. They consisted
of rocks piled haphazardly on the ground surface at
the edge of the shelter. Entrances to the shelters--located
at each end--were protected by sandbag walls on
the outside. The surplus dirt from the slit trenches had
been carefully removed, leaving no protection above the
surface of the ground. Machine guns were set up in some
of the caves used by the Japanese. At one cave, the
enemy made two unsuccessful bayonet and sword charges
in an effort to drive our troops away. Reserve troops
were kept in some of the caves and were used to replace
casualties at guns nearby.
Dugouts were prepared close to the edge of the sea.
They extended underground into the hills, and were protected
on the front and flanks with sandbags and steel
plates. The passageways into the dugouts curved sharply
a short distance beyond the entrance, making it impossible
to use hand grenades effectively. Each dugout housed
about eight men. They fired from the entrance as the
Marines approached, but retreated into the dugouts just
before the latter got within grenade-throwing range.
The Japanese were well equipped with mortars, 70-mm cannons (infantry
battalion guns), light and heavy machine guns, rifles, pistols, and flame-throwers.