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"The Solomon Islands Campaign" from Intelligence Bulletin, November 1942

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on the campaign in the Solomon Islands was published in the Intelligence Bulletin, November 1942.

[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.]



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.


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 to subsist.


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 weapons.


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.


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 our positions.


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.


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