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"Notes on Japanese Landing Operations" from Intelligence Bulletin, November 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   The following is a report on Japanese landing operations in the Pacific, from the November 1943 issue of the U.S. Intelligence Bulletin. The Japanese tactics are taken from translated Japanese documents and manuals.

[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 contained in this section has been extracted from several translated Japanese documents dealing with landing operations. Some of the statements come from enemy field manuals, while others appear to be based on results of landing maneuvers. In connection with this section, reference should be made to information previously published in the Intelligence Bulletin and other M.I.D. publications on Japanese landing operations. For example, Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. I, No. 8, included a lengthy article which was paraphrased from a translated enemy document titled "Amphibious Tactics Based on Experiences at Wake."

In the paragraphs which follow, the reader must bear in mind that he is reading Japanese doctrine, some of which is experimental, and he must not confuse it with our own doctrine on landing operations.


a. Selection of Landing Points

In selecting landing points, take into consideration the probability that hostile forces have a lot of mechanized vehicles and an excellent network of roads and other means of communication.

The landing points should be suitable for landing installations, and especially convenient for the landing and subsequent advance of vehicles.

In landing on hostile coasts where breakers are anticipated, it is best to select one or two alternate landing points because the actual condition of the surf may be different from that which was expected. For example, we had expected large breakers at one of the points considered for landing in the Philippines, but a close reconnaissance revealed that they were small. Therefore we landed there the first day. Toward nightfall, the surf became rough, so we changed anchorage and continued the landing operations at another point, where the surf was not heavy.

b. Reconnaissance of Landing Points

A thorough air reconnaissance of proposed landing points must be made by a competent officer who is scheduled to participate in the landings. Also, air photos must be made and distributed to each unit designated to take part in the landings. These photos must show views of the landing points during high tide and also during low tide.

Reconnaissance of landing points from the sea must be carried out secretly and quickly. If possible, this reconnaissance, with the aid of air photos, should determine passages and points navigable by boat. Reconnaissance of coasts with unusual characteristics must be continued, even after the first wave of troops has landed. This is especially true if the first wave lands at high tide, because at low tide it may be necessary to change the route of approach or even the landing point.

c. Selection of Time for Landings

Ordinarily, landing operations will start early enough to allow the front-line units to reach shore at dawn. Where an attack by a superior air force, or an advance up a long defile, is expected after landing, it may be necessary to start landings about midnight, so that most of the personnel will be landed by dawn.

On shores where it is difficult to land at night, a daylight landing in force may be necessary.


a. Water and Terrain Difficulties

When the nature of the terrain around the landing point cannot be determined in advance, it will be necessary to rely on a compass and navigational skill in landing. As much information as possible should be gained from tide charts, air photos, and sailing directories.

If the characteristics of the coast necessitate the use of more than one landing place, collapsible boats, ponton boats, rafts, and so forth will be used.

In seas where the current is swift and parts of the landing point are obscure, each boat should carry a searchlight as a navigational aid. Preferably, an experienced naval man should handle the searchlight.

b. Overcoming Resistance

(1) General

It is fundamental that we gain as much surprise as possible in landing operations. Surprise can sometimes be gained, at least for a time, by maneuvering the first wave of landing craft or by approaching by a roundabout route.

In countering resistance by hostile forces, Army troops usually will handle the land opposition, and the Navy will take care of the opposition on water. However, to handle the destruction of small hostile boats and to give direct cover to the convoy, the Navy generally depends on the D engineer regiment's armored boats and other special craft.

When landing on a coast directly defended by fortified positions, the fighting usually begins with the arrival of the landing craft offshore. Under heavy fire from such land positions, it is not only difficult, as a rule, to control units, but it is usually impossible to carry out a planned attack. Therefore, officers of all ranks in the front-line units must make the most thorough preparations to deliver a surprise attack or to counter the hostile attack successfully. These first-line units must strike hard against the. enemy's [United Nations] weak points, and advance resolutely to the advance line agreed upon previously. They must also take advantage of deficiencies in the hostile plan of fire and of any other weaknesses—and it must be clearly remembered that the hostile forces will have many weak points.

(2) With Artillery

When artillery is firing from transports to cover landings, the divisional commander must closely watch the progress of the landing units and give orders to fire at the right time. Premature fire might seriously expose our plans.

To give direct support to the infantry in their battle near the water's edge, part of the field artillery and mountain artillery is sometimes attached to the first-line infantry and landed in the first echelon. This attached artillery is often given the task of advancing into the hostile lines, immediately after landing, for the purpose of neutralizing fire from loopholes of fortifications and of neutralizing the weapons protecting the hostile flanks.

The artillery landed with the first echelon of infantry must at all costs follow the first-line units as supporting weapons. Liaison with adjacent artillery units in the forward area must be maintained so that the development of the artillery battle may be coordinated and controlled.

The infantry commanders must give the accompanying artillery units any assistance necessary for changing positions, or moving forward.

Immediately after landing, positions for artillery should be chosen near the point of arrival. If possible, these positions should not be on a distinct coast line. They must be well concealed from the air and easy to enter quickly. Also, these positions should be inaccessible to hostile tanks.

(3) With Tanks

The first-line infantry commander decides, according to circumstances, whether he will use attached tanks at the water's edge or in the battle after landing. Tanks to be used at the water's edge are allotted to the first-line infantry battalions for close cooperation in the infantry fighting. The battalion commanders must consider the strength of the hostile forces, the amount of light, the nature of the terrain, and especially the difficulties involved in landing tanks: and they must not hesitate to allot these weapons to the different companies. Tanks to be used in the battle after landing may be coordinated with the general plan, detached to subordinate units to break through the main hostile defense lines, or used as the cores of the assault units.

The tanks cooperating in the battle at the water's edge must also reconnoiter the hostile positions and the adjacent terrain. They will lose no opportunity to demolish systematically all the wire entanglements, protections against flank attack, fortified positions, lighting equipment, and so forth. The tank commander quickly takes control of his subordinates, maintains close liaison with the infantry and artillery, and warns against advancing recklessly and getting cut off from friendly forces. If necessary, the commander stops the tanks and, after determining the location of our troops and studying the "lay of the land," he may choose hostile localities easy for maneuvers, or dead ground, and then wipe out objectives at close quarters.

The leaders of tank platoons must keep in touch with neighboring tanks and also with their company commanders. They must see to it that no hitches occur in the fighting after daybreak.

Tanks landed during the daytime to assist the infantry fighting are given protective cover by infantry and engineer troops who are fighting near the water's edge. The tanks assemble quickly near the landing point and complete their battle preparations, such as amending orders, removing waterproof equipment, and so forth. In cooperation with the front-line infantry and artillery, these tanks neutralize hostile flank defenses and small obstacles, take key points, and crush hostile counterattacking units.

(4) With Special Assault Detachments

If necessary, each company commander should organize and train in advance a special assault detachment. These detachments are designed to neutralize fortifications and to reduce centers of resistance, generally by attacking them from the rear. Personnel of the detachments use automatic weapons, demolition bombs, armor-piercing bombs, hand grenades, flame throwers, gas, smoke, and demolition charges placed in groups. Depending upon circumstances, it may be possible to block loopholes and use flame throwers from the beginning.

It is best to put all members of the special assault detachment in one landing boat so that they may push forward to the infantry front line immediately after landing, and carry out their duties with as much speed and secrecy as possible.

(5) By Use of Smoke

Smoke can be used so as to cover our operations, prevent illumination of our movements by searchlights, cause deficiencies in the hostile plan of fire, or prevent the enemy [United Nations] from paying attention to other developments.

How smoke will be used should be determined according to weather conditions (particularly the direction of the wind), according to our plans, and according to the available manpower and the quality and quantity of our smoke equipment. Smoke may be spread directly in front of the hostile positions, it may be laid on the enemy [United Nations] objectives, it may be used so as to split up the coast on which we land, or it may be thrown as a curtain on the flanks and over the sea between the opposing forces.

When surrounding the hostile forces with smoke, it is sometimes a good idea to combine it with toxic smoke.

The time for starting the emission of smoke depends on the strength and disposition of the hostile forces, our situation and plans, the amount of light, and the speed and direction of the wind. Necessary preparations must be made in advance so that smoke may be emitted as soon as it is ordered.

At night do not use smoke merely to interfere with searchlights and artillery fire, but use it for the first time when the advance ashore is obstructed.

With a moderate wind velocity, 10 to 20 smoke candles (floating type) thrown upon the sea at the same time will form an effective smoke cover for about 1 1/2 miles.

When making a frontal or flanking smoke screen with the wind to your back, you can make the smoke continuous by throwing two of the floating smoke candles on the sea at the same time and providing an interval of about 20 yards between each pair of candles.

An armor-plated boat can carry about 150 floating smoke candles.

Four to seven men will be needed to carry out a smoke-emission assignment involving the use of floating smoke candles and smoke generators.

First-line units which lay smoke screens in landing operations generally use grenade dischargers, smoke shells, discharging smoke candles, smoke candles, and so forth. When the wind is blowing toward the landing point at a speed greater than that of the landing boats, lay a smoke screen spread out widely over the water. This can be done if each boat emits smoke as it moves toward the landing point. As far as possible, each boat moves in the thin part of the screen. If there is a cross wind or head wind, personnel in the first boats to land should lay a smoke screen immediately, in front or to the flank, in order to facilitate the landing operation.

Artillery and debarkation work units on transports lay smoke screens against important parts of the hostile positions, such as observation posts, searchlights, and flank-defense preparations. Depending upon the direction of the wind, it is sometimes advantageous to use red smoke shells along with the other shells.

Eight smoke candles discharged from a boat with a simultaneous firing device will cover a frontage of about 50 yards at the water's edge. When using the Type 99 discharging smoke candles (old type of discharging smoke candle), fire them when about 350 yards from the shore.

c. Communication and Liaison

The success of the landing operations largely depends upon the close cooperation between the units landed for immediate combat and the debarkation work units. Therefore, the liaison officers must do everything possible to unite the efforts of these units.

For liaison and communication, do not wait until a regular boat and communication network is established, but use boats, radios, flag and light signals, and, when the anchorage is close, lay a cable. It is also possible to use carrier pigeons.

Anchorage headquarters must immediately build a lookout tower for the purpose of establishing command liaison with ships and boats at sea.

d. Duties of Debarkation Work Units

Immediately upon landing, the debarkation work units must make a quick reconnaissance of the coast line and the traffic ashore, and then hastily construct on-the-spot landing installations and open traffic routes.

For landing large or heavy equipment, it is necessary to choose the most suitable places. These need not necessarily be the original landing points. When unloading motor vehicles, gun carriages, and so forth, the work units must lay steel mats, wheel mats, boards, and so forth. If possible, tractors, trucks, and sometimes tanks or armored ears should be used. The work units must arrange for the necessary equipment to carry out these operations. However, each regular combat unit must make plans for its own unloading beforehand, and must prepare pulleys, nets, and other equipment before embarking.

To reduce losses, it is necessary to spread out on the landing shore the various installations, the troops, and the munitions and other supplies. Troops and matériel should be disposed so as to prevent confusion. Each combat unit must keep in close touch with the work unit for its landing sector. It is important, that each fighting unit quickly move its men, horses, and vehicles away from the coast.

When the line of advance from the coast is limited, unloading installations easily become crowded together. It is necessary to do everything possible to disperse these, and to establish traffic routes parallel to the shore.

When possible, utilize to the fullest extent any native labor. Also seize any shipping in the landing area and utilize it in the landing operations.


The traffic control organization is assisted by sentries in the task of directing vehicles and personnel from the landing points to the various unit combat sectors.

While the troops are embarking, the division commander must allot bicycles to the infantry and engineer units which are to lead the advance, or to the reserves who are to be thrown into the battle quickly at any opportunity to exploit success. At the time of landing the division commander must lose no opportunity to let the men have their bicycles. Depending upon circumstances, the bicycles are assembled on the coast at the various landing points. The main object in using bicycles is to supplement shortages in motor vehicles for long-range operations, especially during pursuit, and to increase the division's mobility.

Each unit should be in position to summon its vehicles quickly from the landing area or the vehicle-assembly point. Vehicles landed in the area of the division traffic-control organization should first be collected at the assembly point before following the unit to which they are allotted.

As a rule, vehicles—especially motor vehicles—should avoid advancing parallel to each other or going in a reverse direction.

A vehicle repair center must be set up as the units move into action. To accomplish this, part of the vehicle-repairing organization must be landed as quickly as possible.

Particularly for the sake of increasing our maneuverability, commanding officers of all ranks should pay attention to achieving quick capture of hostile communication facilities, especially motor vehicles, railroads, and repair shops.

The quick repair of demolished and obstructed roads is of the utmost importance. Regardless of the aid of engineers, all troops should be charged with opening up their own line of advance. The division commander must attach the necessary engineers to the front-line troops for landing operations, and give to the remainder the task of repairing roads, railroads, bridges, and so forth. It is essential that engineers quickly repair roads and bridges.


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