[Lone Sentry: Enemy Combat Notes on Use of MGs, AT Rifles]
  [Lone Sentry: Photographs, Documents and Research on World War II]
Home Page  |  Site Map  |  What's New  |  Search  |  Contact Us
"Enemy Combat Notes on Use of MGs, AT Rifles" from Intelligence Bulletin, October 1943

[October 1943 Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following intelligence report on Japanese machine-gun and antitank rifle tactics during WWII is taken from the October 1943 issue of the Intelligence Bulletin.

[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 notes given below on Japanese combat principles for machine guns and antitank rifles are paraphrased from a translation of an enemy document, which deals principally with the tactical employment of the infantry battalion machine-gun company.

A brief discussion on the organization of the machine-gun company and the battalion antitank section will help the reader to understand the Japanese notes. This organizational data deals only with the model, or "paper," composition of the units. Their actual operational strengths are usually flexible, and generally less than the "paper" figures. The machine-gun company has eight heavy machine guns and six officers and 130 enlisted men. The company is broken down into four gun platoons and an ammunition platoon. The gun platoon has two sections, each of which has one gun and 10 or 11 men. The antitank section consists of two 20-mm antitank rifles, and 17 men.


a. General

Machine guns and the 20-mm antitank rifles operate with the rifle companies to increase their fire power—these weapons are not designed for independent use.

In firing machine guns and the 20-mm rifles, it is important to catch the hostile forces unawares, and to lay down a large volume of fire within a short period.

These weapons must follow closely behind the rifle companies during an advance.

b. Section Combat

The section leader will inspect the mechanism and the sighting of his gun before going into position so that firing can commence immediately. He will move secretly by cover afforded by the terrain, and by shadows and camouflage.

During combat the section leader will watch the enemy situation and the operation of his own gun. He will observe the range and adjust the gun sights as needed, and, if necessary, will fire the gun himself. At suitable intervals he will report to the platoon commander the amount of ammunition on hand and the condition of the gun.

c. Platoon Combat

(1) Attack.

While front-line rifle units are preparing for the attack, the machine-gun units will move into positions where they can be of the greatest assistance. They will make thorough preparations and maintain close coordination with the rifle companies.

Before sections occupy positions, the platoon commander will, as far as possible, inform the section leaders of the plan of occupation, the firing plan, the range and target, the position of the company as a whole, and the positions selected for the sections. He will maintain liaison with adjacent units within the zone of advance, and, when necessary, will regulate the details of future firing and advance. The platoon commander will usually order each section to fire at the same general target, but, depending on the tactical situation, he may order them to fire on different targets.

At suitable times during combat, the platoon will change positions. Usually all platoons of the machine-gun company will change at the same time, although, under certain conditions, the change may be made in echelon.

The positions of the 20-mm antitank rifles will be chosen with a view to giving the gunners a good field of fire and as much natural cover and protection as possible.

The antitank-platoon commander will usually point out the tanks at which the gunners will fire, but he also will order the section leader, on his own initiative, to attack targets which appear to be good ones. Against flank defenses, the platoon commander will, as a rule, point out the targets for each section.

Antitank riflemen should not suffer unnecessary losses by firing too quickly and exposing their positions. They should take no notice of diversions caused by the enemy at long ranges, but they will fire against the infantry which usually accompanies hostile tanks. However, if a tank approaches within close range, the riflemen will fire on it at will, or upon orders by the company commander. On such occasions, they are to fire either on the weak spots of the tank or else concentrate their fire on the loophole and the peephole.

(2) Defense.

The machine-gun platoon commander, after having reconnoitered his sector as far as circumstances permit, will see that his guns are sited properly, and will then report to the company commander whether or not there is "dead space" between his sector and friendly troops on the flanks. There must be no weak points in the firing front.

The platoon commander, in order to facilitate the execution of his mission and to avoid needless losses, will set up several alternate gun positions, and, if possible, some dummy positions, as well. All positions must be located far enough back of the front line to prevent their being hit by friendly gunfire from the rear.

Positions will be constructed so that the gunners may stand up while firing. Communication trenches for the purpose of changing positions will be dug so that the men may traverse them by merely stooping.

Each section will prepare a firing plan. In order to simplify firing commands, as far as conditions permit, the section leader will measure the distance to the principal point where fire will be massed, and will set up markers in the forward areas and attach symbols to them. He will prepare a fire map, mark in the principal lines of fire, and will make communication arrangements.

The section leader commences firing upon orders by the company commander. The former will gradually increase his fire against the most profitable targets as the hostile forces press forward. He will lose no opportunity to fire the 20-mm antitank rifles at hostile tanks.

Even if the opposition should penetrate our positions, each section will continue firing in order to facilitate a counterattack. If necessary, the sections will advance, while firing, to more suitable positions. By not considering the question of losses, the machine-gun sections will most effectively cooperate with the unit which is counterattacking.

d. Company Combat

(1) Attack.

When an assault by front-line rifle units is held up or hampered, the machine-gun troops, without regard for losses, will direct their greatest fire power against the hostile forces in order to inflict maximum losses and give the rifle units an incentive for resuming the assault.

When preparing positions at night for a dawn attack, the company commander will, as far as the tactical situation permits, reconnoiter the area and decide on suitable objectives. Upon advancing into their attacking positions, the machine-gun units will effect immediate liaison with flanking units, and perform various preparatory duties, which include suitable camouflaging.

After the first-line rifle troops have launched an assault, the supporting machine-gun units must be able to catch up with them rapidly.

(2) Defense.

When ordered to assume the defensive, the machine-gun company commander reconnoiters his area, studies the dispositions of friendly artillery, infantry, heavy weapons, and front-line infantry, and then plans the details of his own attack.

Important points in machine-gun defense include arrangements for digging proper disposition of the ammunition platoon, and antiaircraft, antitank, and antigas protection.

In case of a [Japanese] counterattack from defensive positions, the machine-gun company units will advance quickly to new and convenient positions, or, with rifle troops, they may thrust toward the hostile flanks or rear, or through openings. They must attack strongly.

During the retreat, machine-gun troops do not think of losses, but sacrifice themselves for the unit as a whole by firing fiercely against the strong pressure of the enemy. They make it easy for other friendly troops to withdraw. The machine gunners will allow the hostile forces no advantage, and if the latter press close to their guns, the machine gunners will resist with vigorous hand-to-hand fighting and destroy the enemy.


[Back] Back to Articles by Subject | Intel Bulletin by Issue | T&TT by Issue | Home Page

LONE SENTRY | Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Search | Contact Us