Lessons learned by the Japanese in the land, sea,
and air attack on Wake Island are contained in a recent
enemy document. Of special note is the indication
that the surrender of U.S. troops was hastened
when a Japanese detachment got among civilian workers
and began slaughtering them. Apparently
the U.S. commander surrendered at that time to prevent
further killing of these workers, realizing that surrender
was inevitable anyway. The information given
below has been taken from the enemy document, and is
presented in a paraphrased and condensed form.
2. GENERAL PROCEDURE
You must not use a plan of attack that has been used previously, because
the enemy can anticipate our actions. And don't forget to take the enemy
by surprise. This is absolutely essential.
Our method of operation must be determined only by the progress of the battle.
There are many cases where the soldier must value speed more than finesse.
The issue of victory lies in the constant maintenance of the
offensive spirit. The great success of this operation (capture of
Wake Island) was due, in the final analysis, to the constant display
of this spirit by all personnel, without regard for their own
It is necessary to train especially picked troops for the landing
In landing in the face of the enemy, it is necessary to utilize
timely diversions and deceptive movements. If the diversion
does not succeed in its purpose, it will hinder rather than help
the subsequent operations. Because the diversion effort at Wake
was carried out before the invasion force landed, the result was
rather to alert the enemy than to deceive him. In view of this,
similar operations in the future should be thoroughly prepared
beforehand in regard to time, place, and method of attack. It
also is essential to have thorough communication arrangements
so that all units can be advised of any last-minute changes in our
In case the landing is restricted to a very narrow front and
there is no room for a diversion, you must either carry out a
thorough bombardment before and after the landing, or make
the landing in overwhelming force. If the attempt is made to
land secretly (that is, using only motor boats and landing only
small numbers at one time) on a place like Wake Island where
landing is limited to a small area, it is evident that great losses
will be incurred.
In the invasion of a strategic island, the command must be
unified. The invasion forces consist of the Occupation Force, the
Covering Force (naval and air), and also a force we may
call "Cooperation." [Comment: This force is believed to be
composed of reserves and unloading units.] The power of these
forces cannot be developed fully if there is a lack of mutual
understanding among them.
3. PREPARATIONS FOR LANDING
Because troops easily become scattered at night and control is
difficult, execution of the operations must be made simple by detailed
preparations. The following factors must be considered
in deciding methods of operation, organization, and equipment:
a. Troops must be organized and equipped to fight independently
during the daytime.
b. Remember that when the enemy's main batteries and other
defense areas cannot be captured before daybreak, it is often impossible
to get fire support from the ships during the day. [Comment: This
shows a healthy Japanese respect for our shore
c. At night, hand grenades and grenade throwers are extremely
effective in silencing heavy guns. In day fighting, it is necessary
to have machine guns and infantry cannon available for use.
d. All the first-line fighting strength must be landed at once.
Quite often, motor boats used in the first landing become stranded
and cannot be used for another trip.
4. LANDING PROCEDURE
If the beach is defended, it is absolutely essential to complete
the landing before daybreak. In general, it seems that the
earlier the landing time, the more effective it will be.
Although the Wake Island landing was effected 4 hours before
sunrise, it turned out that the old saying "The hours of the night
are short" was only too true. The landing originally was planned
for execution at 2300 hours, but trouble in lowering the motor
boats delayed us about iy2 hours. It is also necessary to allow
extra time for approaching the shore and making the main landing.
Where there are fringing reefs, low tide is more advantageous
for landing than high tide.
At night the enemy shells pass overhead; so damage is slight, although
you receive a fierce shelling.
It is easy to mistake the landing point at night. The leading
boat must approach at half speed or low speed until the island
can definitely be seen from the large landing lighters.
To lead the boats in close formation within range of the enemy's
defense guns is extremely dangerous; however, in landing operations
in the dark on long swells around an island, and if the
boats deploy 4,500 to 5,000 yards from shore, the lighters will
find it extremely difficult to hold their course, and almost impossible
to reach shore at the designated point. Although four
lighters were led within 3,500 yards of the shore at Wake, none
of them arrived at the appointed time or place. Two lighters
which accompanied patrol boat No. 32 lost sight of her on the
way because she increased speed. It is necessary for the leading
boat to have a low-powered signal light on its stern for signaling
to the rest of the boats.
At the time of landing, the normal speed of the patrol boat
should be maintained. When the boats are proceeding shoreward
at about normal speed, the enemy has extreme difficulty in
It is necessary to unload the boats very quickly after reaching
shore, and a great deal of equipment should be made ready in
the bow of the boat.
5. THE FIGHT AFTER LANDING
a. General Observations
The enemy forces are, after all, easily beaten. Although
the U.S. force was numerically equal to the invasion force and was
in a fortified position, it was defeated in a half day's fighting; so
the conclusion is inescapable that the U.S. soldiers are at the
beginning like lions, but at the end are gentle like virgins.
In the Wake Island operation, our landing force hardly fired a
shot until daybreak, but used enveloping movements and hand grenades.
In darkness, our use of rifle fire generally is damaging to
us because it reveals our positions. Hand grenades and grenade
discharges are extremely effective, particularly against enemy
machine-gun positions, trenches, and so forth. There were some
cases where enemy positions were surrounded from four sides,
and use of the rifle might have caused casualties to friendly
b. U.S. Tactics--How to Combat Them
(1) Attacking a Defense Position.--A diagram of a U.S. position
is shown in figure 4.
Note that the Americans put two or three men out in front
of their position. When we approach, they fire a volley and
fall back in an attempt to lead us to their main body. (Study
|Figure 4. Diagram of attack on U.S. position.|
To combat such positions, encircle them at night and fire on
them heavily with grenade throwers and hand grenades. Immediately
thereafter, rush the positions from the flanks and rear
as well as from the front.
If the night charge fails, or if the opposing forces confront each
other in the daytime, it is most effective to encircle the position
and begin fighting with hand grenades and grenade throwers.
(2) How to Mop Up at Night.--The Americans usually post
a sentinel, armed with a light machine gun, about 200 to 300
yards in front of their positions. After firing a burst, the sentinel
skillfully withdraws to a nearby slit trench. When our forces
have passed by, he opens fire and throws our rear into disorder.
Against these tactics, divide the troops into an assault force
and a mopping-up force.
When the assault troops locate the enemy position, they will
rush it. Remember to have scouts ahead of the assault force and
to keep a sharp lookout to the rear.
The mopping-up force advances after thoroughly searching the
trenches in the occupied area, throwing two or three hand
grenades into likely hideouts. This force then occupies the ground
taken and posts sentinels to secure our rear.
See figure 5, which is a diagram for mop-up methods.
(3) Attacking U.S. Positions in Heavy Brush.--On Wake Island, the
enemy (U.S.) had numerous positions in the heavy
brush area. These positions had many small machine-gun nests,
with a few 50-caliber machine-gun nests as the backbone of the
When attacking from the open ground in front, our troops
received the sweeping fire of these machine guns, and our losses
were great. When trying to attack the enemy's rear in the brush
area, maneuvering was difficult because our troops were unacquainted
with the terrain. Forces penetrating such positions should use
special care not to become dispersed. They should surround the
enemy and then use hand grenades, grenade throwers, and so forth.
|Figure 5. Japanese mop-up methods.|
(4) Attacking Skirmish Lines.--Although the Americans deploy
in skirmish lines, they do not hold their ground. When we
charge, they fall back and assemble in the vicinity of a defensive
position, but they do not turn to the offensive—that is, they almost
never counterattack. We should take advantage of this with all
(5) Attaching Contractors Workers.--The U.S. contractor's
workers have absolutely no fighting spirit. It is fruitful for us
to raid those places where these workers may be found, as the
first step in bringing about the surrender of the enemy. In the
Wake operation, the success of one company's action as a flying
column was the first step toward victory. [Comment: This unit
apparently captured the contractor's workers and started slaughtering them.]
6. COOPERATION OF SHIPS AND AIRCRAFT
a. Destruction of land batteries with ship's guns or airplanes is difficult.
b. Direct cooperation between air and land forces is extremely
effective, and the cooperation of light airplanes is essential (especially
when we are weak in artillery and the enemy has powerful
artillery, tanks, and so forth).
c. Detailed reconnaissance of enemy positions by airplanes appears
to be extremely difficult.
d. It is sometimes hard to bomb air bases. It was difficult
to see and bombard the Wake airfield with ship's guns because it
is lower than the road around it.
When landing, it is necessary to devise measures to keep communication
equipment from getting wet. In the Wake operation,
communication between ships and the shore was impossible because
the radios and telephones either got wet or received severe
shocks. The rockets and signal pistols also got wet, and, although
fired, they were difficult to distinguish from the enemy's
machine-gun tracer bullets.
The methods of communication must be simple. In a landing
operation carried out by a number of cooperating units, it is
necessary to perfect communications so as to maintain close
liaison. It is most important to have several simple, sure means
of communications so that they will function regardless of the