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"British Observations on Fighting in Burma" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. military report on Japanese battle tactics in Burma in WWII was published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 27, June 17, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. 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.]


In response to questions submitted by Headquarters, U.S. Army Ground Forces, the British recently sent in, with other information, the following notes on Japanese battle tactics.

*          *          *

a. General

The Jap seldom exposes himself to any fire. His trenches are narrow and irregular. He will not be shot out by artillery, bombed out by air bombing or killed by machine-gun fire. He is only to be killed by direct hits with mortar or with grenades. You can surround him but you will have to starve him out or kill him. He will throw grenades until his last breath; many dead Japs have been seen with grenades in their hands.

Jap weapons are copies of modern ones, but are not as good as those of the Allied Nations. Troops should know that our arms are better, and that they can use them better, but that they must see the Jap, hunt him out, and kill him. If you can get the Jap out of his hole, you can see that the smelly rat is no superman, but a small, dirty skunk, who will fight. The whole difficulty lies in hunting him out.

b. Patrols

(1) Our Own

Soldiers should know Japanese methods when undergoing training. They must be taught to slowly and noiselessly approach an area known to be occupied by the enemy. They must lie out in no man's land 1 or 2 days, and listen and look in order to spot enemy positions. The Japs are very patient at this, and so we must be, for we must out-smart and out-fight them.

(2) Japanese

The Jap is known to approach noiselessly and stay in close proximity to the British positions during the day and night. He may be away from his unit a day or two, but when he gets back, he has information.

Jap reconnaissance patrols often consist of only one or two men. They approach close and then listen. They overhear men talking in their trenches and personnel using the telephone. When the information desired has been obtained, they slip back to their own lines and then shoot up British positions. Even when they are on the defensive, they are as obstinate and tireless as they were when attacking. Jap troops for some hundreds of yards in rear of their own front lines talk in whispers or not at all. Indian troops jabber all the time, and cough and spit a lot. Those who do this are causing the death of their comrades, for the Jap is always near, looking and listening.

c. Health

Burma is one of the most unhealthful areas in the world. Malaria and cholera are always present. Simple scratches and bruises are easily infected. Super training effort must be made to instruct and enforce personal hygiene, simple first aid, and camp sanitation before, during, and after operations.

d. Terrain

The terrain in Burma is flat in many places, with rice under cultivation. These flat areas are interspersed with low hills and navigable streams. It is on the low hills that there is heavy, thick jungle undergrowth where the Jap builds his defenses. These hills are the eyes of the enemy. He occupies them and covers the open areas with fire.

e. Climate

The climate is warm the year round, although not so hot during the "winter" months. The evenings during the winter are almost cold. During the monsoons, everything is wet all the time. Transportation on the roads is well-nigh impossible, and the only routes available are streams and rivers. Since roads are few and poor, there is a lot of long and hard marching ahead of the troops who are fighting in this area.

f. Operations

Operations will probably consist of attacking villages and attacking low hills heavily protected with tropical undergrowth. Patrol and infiltration tactics will predominate. They must be continuous, and at night the only direction aid will be that of the compass. The Japs fire mortar and artillery as soon as the British open up, and also, to conceal their own locations and intentions, fire again at approximately the time of impact. They use every ruse imaginable to draw automatic and mortar fire in order to locate the positions of weapons. Strict fire discipline must be maintained, or the Japs will soon know your exact location.


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