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"Japanese Use of Noise as a Weapon" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on Japanese use of noise to confuse and demoralize Allied troops in the Pacific is taken from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 25, May 20, 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.]


The following notes are quoted from an Australian publication, and concern Japanese tactics as designed to give their opponents the "jitters--the 'we are cut off' feeling."

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When the operations of the present war are examined closely, especially those in Malaya, it is realized that defeats and retreats are brought about principally by the new weapon--"Noise." The more eerie the noise, the more effective--anything that can give troops the "jitters."

Noise is used to upset the morale. It aims at disrupting the psychological balance of the soldier and sometimes affects whole units.

Aerial bombing causes few casualties, especially when troops are in shelters or slit trenches, but the effect on the troops is very great--much greater than artillery bombardment where the casualties are much heavier. In Malaya, troops which stood up well to artillery and mortar fire became extremely uneasy under aerial bombing. This was due mainly to the great smashing noise caused by the explosion of bombs. Usually the Japanese "blanketed" an area by dropping bombs from 20 or 30 or even more aircraft simultaneously. The noise was terrific and the effect on the troops in the area was very great psychologically, though not serious physically.

This psychological effect cannot be ignored. Many military leaders--usually those who have not experienced heavy aerial bombing--cannot understand why troops should be so seriously affected when the physical casualties are so light. The fact is that they are affected.

One noise-making device used on many occasions in Malaya by the Japanese was to fire bursts from a machine gun (or even two or three) behind the line all night long. This soon created in the receptive minds of the troops the "we are cut off" idea. Sometimes a few snipers who had infiltrated behind the lines fired shots throughout the night for the same purpose. They fired into space--no casualties from this firing were experienced, but the "casualties" on the morale side were heavy. Weak troops began to worry, and "look over their shoulders." They became unreliable, and when pressed from the front and flanks they were inclined to surrender, or more frequently to "escape." They usually escaped easily enough without loss through this phantom force behind them. The enemy, expecting this, was quick to take advantage of it, and thus another retreat was started. Usually it took days to collect these drifters or stragglers, and when they were collected and sent forward again they were less reliable than ever.

In Malaya and also in the Philippines, the Japanese used a time bomb fired behind our lines by a mortar or gun. On striking the ground, the bomb burst open and set off a fuze which fired intermittent explosives which sounded like a machine gun. This was called by our troops "a packet of crackers." This sounds childish, but it had a definite effect on many troops, especially those whose morale was below the average.

The Germans have an attachment to aerial bombs and shells, a device which makes a screaming noise as they fall through the air.

Any noise that may upset the nerves of their enemy has been adopted by both the Japanese and the Germans.

Our men must be taught to steel their nerves against uncanny and eerie noises. During their training, especially night training, all kinds of weird noises should be used to accustom them to this new weapon. They must be taught that noises hurt no one. They must learn to laugh at them.

At the same time, we should copy this successful trick from our enemy. The Japanese are very susceptible to howling noises. When the Australians charged them with the bayonet, they went in with a terrifying yell. The Japanese could not stand it--they ran away screaming time after time. The yell terrified them as much as the sight of the cold steel.

We must invent and use every ingenious device that can terrify frightened men. Siren whistles should be used, of course with discretion. Even a soft tapping of wood or metal constantly all night long near their lines will worry them. Animal noises, even eerie lights, will have an effect. The ingenuity of cunning soldiers will soon devise sound effects that will upset the nerves of our enemy. They must be used with caution, otherwise they will become ridiculous--thus eliminating noise as a weapon.


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