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"Morale, Characteristics of Japanese Soldier" from Intelligence Bulletin, November 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   The following report from the November 1943 issue of the Intelligence Bulletin describes the morale and characteristics of Japanese soldiers in WWII.

[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.]




One of the primary aims of the Intelligence Bulletin is to provide enlisted men and junior officers with all the useful information possible about the individual enemy soldier they expect to face in battle. A considerable amount of this type of information has appeared in previous issues of the bulletin, and reference should be made to it because very little repetition is published in this periodical. Vol. I, No. 12 of the Intelligence Bulletin contains an index which should prove helpful in making such references.


In both oral and written instructions, the Japanese have placed great emphasis on such subjects as "military discipline," "improving morale," "reforms in the service," "improvement of fighting power," "dying for the Emperor," and "brotherly teamwork" between individuals, units, and the various arms and services.

However, the state of morale and combat qualities desired by Japanese leaders are frequently missing. This is borne out by our observers in the field, by documentary evidence, and by prisoners of war.

The good characteristics of the individual Japanese soldier are summed up as follows:

a. Physically, he is hardy and strong.

b. In prepared defenses, he usually is tenacious unto death (this was not true in some instances in the fighting on Attu).

c. He is bold and courageous, particularly when his comrades are around and when he has terrain and firepower advantages.

d. Because of good training, he is generally "at home" in the jungle.

e. His discipline (especially fire discipline) is usually good.

The poor characteristics may be summed up as follows:

a. He is usually subject to panic when confronted by the unexpected.

b. He is not always steadfast in battle.

c. Usually his marksmanship is poor.

d. Under certain conditions, he is unimaginative; he is a poor thinker when thrown "on his own."

Observers agree that there is nothing "super" about the Japanese soldier, and that he has the usual human frailties.


Various Japanese instructions on morale and aggressiveness in combat are given below. They were obtained from enemy sources.

Form an unshakable group unity through harmonious relations. "The advantages of heaven and earth are of no avail against the unity of men" is an ancient but true maxim. Always maintain a calm spirit in battle, and forgive others generously. By forming around our commanding officers a unity like that of a blood brotherhood, we can overcome all difficulties.

Manifest your morality on the battlefield. Morality is might in battle. Deal with your neighboring unit in a spirit of friendship and respect. Respond immediately to the needs of others in an emergency. When another unit lacks some items, share what you have with them—even the most precious rations and ammunition are not for your use alone. You should know that kindness to others will always be repaid.

Read the training manual thoroughly, observe strictly the battle regulations, and never do things your own way. The training manual is a guide which must be strictly followed regardless of the enemy or terrain; there is no need to change the manual.

On the battlefield there are some who are prone to neglect the regulations, or thoughtlessly fail to keep them in mind.

When assigned a duty, first of all consult the manual and familiarize yourself with the instructions regarding your specific assignment. Then, after the battle, go over your instructions step by step and determine what mistakes you made. You must realize that the training manual is the guide and mainstay of the unit.

It is the enemy's [United Nations] nature to be weak to the strong and strong to the weak; therefore, if we show any passiveness, hesitancy, or weakness, they will increasingly take advantage of it. Each unit and each individual, realizing this fact, must boldly and resolutely attack and crush the enemy's morale and put them in a shrinking, retreating frame of mind.


The following translation of a Japanese document indicates that in at least some areas there is an outmoded, shortsighted relationship between the Army and Navy.

For the sake of future relations, the Army units will give proper respect to the fact that the Navy has shown power in every area. In addition to recognizing and respecting the hardships the Navy has experienced, the Army units must try to keep trivial problems—such as those involving billeting or supplies—from causing any feeling of estrangement between the two services. Indeed, the fundamental basis of ultimate victory in the coming operation is dependent upon the close spiritual unity of both the Army and the Navy.

Also, the mutual exchange of salutes between Army and Navy personnel must be strictly enforced.


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