"Japanese Operational Principles: Mandalay Offensive" from Tactical and Technical Trends
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JAPANESE OPERATIONAL PRINCIPLES: MANDALAY OFFENSIVE
The following document, dated March 26, 1942, was found on the corpse of
a Japanese battalion commander, and its importance is indicated by the reminder, over
the signature of the Chief of Staff of the Army, to the effect that "this document
must be carefully protected."
The document starts out by highlighting the objectives to be sought by the
Japanese in this campaign, and goes on to enumerate the several steps
necessary to bring about a decisive battle in the Mandalay area.
The full text of the instructions follows:
The objective of our Army in this campaign is to crush the combined
forces of the British and Chinese, especially the latter. This is to
prevent their cooperation, and to consolidate the whole of Burma.
Our army is now fighting to bring about a decisive battle for the South Area
Army Forces. Once we succeed, we shall not only check the ambitions of
the British in the Far East, but will also deliver a crushing blow to
Chiang Kai-Shek's administration, and speed his downfall. Otherwise, if
we lack thoroughness in dealing with the enemy, and the battle is a
long one, the effect on the Greater East Asia war will be considerable.
All ranks in the army should be taught thoroughly the significance of
this campaign and our responsibility.
Before coming to a general engagement, the army should try to catch
and annihilate the enemy in their individual areas. But in general the army should
either lure the Chinese army out, or force it to fight in the vicinity of
Mandalay. Once this is done, the retreat of the main force must be cut off by a wide
encircling movement. Meanwhile the enemy's attention must be held, and our
frontal units should hold him from retreating until he is exhausted. Then the whole of
our army in close cooperation will catch and destroy the enemy, whether
encircled or isolated.
This can be called the fundamental plan of this campaign. However the
enemy must also have plans; therefore, our fighting must be maintained
according to prevailing conditions. It is of primary importance to fight according
to this basic plan in order to attain the objective.
The intended encirclement of the enemy is of the greatest importance. When in
contact, it must be found out if there is any possibility of the enemy's
evading the encirclement. Here the circumstances are different from the
conduct of operations in China. In this country, the local inhabitants are quite
friendly to as and hostile to the enemy. Moreover, outside the encirclement
areas, the country is rough and mountainous. Apart from the main roads, we can well
say that there are no lines of communication. All these factors are handicaps
to the enemy, and advantageous to our own fighting services. If there is
any sign of the enemy's withdrawing before we are ready to strike, we must lose no
time in pursuing them so as to fulfill the objective of our fighting plan.
The following points are to bring about the above plan, and are to be
understood by all units.
(1) In order to complete the encirclement, the following points are to be memorized:
Units that are assigned to build up the encirclement on the outer wing of the
enemy's main force, should, before the general offensive of the army, maintain
complete secrecy from enemy air or ground observation, by making use of terrain
and darkness. Should they encounter the enemy, these units should encircle him
and launch an immediate attack, and avoid giving any information which may
lead to an estimate of our strength.
There have been many cases in which the enemy has been able to estimate our
strength through movements of our troops in the rear. The secrecy of our
rear movements must therefore be strictly maintained. Even in other
sectors, although units are northward bound, we should not allow the enemy
to overestimate our strength, lest this lead to an early withdrawal of the
enemy's main force.
(b) Urgency of Mobility
Ultimate success or failure in a battle depends on the mobility of the
units that cut off the enemy's retreat. Once the offensive is on the
move, then the units assigned to cut off the enemy's retreat must overcome all
difficulties and occupy their objective at a given time.
For this purpose, these units should make full use of local
transport organizations, but must not rely too much on these to the detriment of
our fighting mobility.
When engaging the enemy, it is not essential to engage him
frontally. A sudden flank attack will weaken his defense.
Units assigned to cut off the enemy's retreat are specially picked
troops. Preparation for their transportation on short notice to their destination
should be completed. After starting, these units should proceed directly to their
destination if not harassed by the enemy. They must also, when on the
march, maintain contact with other units following.
The enemy is paying great attention to the construction of strong defensive
positions on roads, but generally neglects the importance of the area on the
sides of the roads.
Generally speaking, the British and Indian troops pay
little attention to demolition of roads, as a result of which the thrust of motorized
units is found to be particularly effective. Even the Chinese army seldom
destroys Burmese roads as they do their own, since the local inhabitants are,
generally speaking, hostile to the Chinese, and without the help of local inhabitants,
destruction of roads cannot be fully achieved.
Units that are assigned to cut off the enemy's retreat must
immediately consider the protection of the places they have to occupy. At the
same time, they must maintain close contact with other units. They must be in a
position either to attack the enemy or to defend themselves. Not one of the
enemy must be allowed to escape, and the strong points must be held even if the
enemy is attempting to break through from an advantageous position.
There is a common tendency among our troops to neglect
the construction of strongpoints, especially protection against tanks and
aircraft. When a place is to be protected, antitank obstructions should be erected.
If engineers are attached, the construction will be more effective.
Mopping-up operations within the area of encirclement require
time; therefore, the removal of troops from the enemy's line of retreat
should not be done until the order is given.
(2) Important Points for Mopping-up Operations
(a) Aggressive Spirit
Not one enemy inside the encirclement must be allowed to
escape, whether the operation takes 10 or 20 days. Everything to annihilate them
must be done, and with no half-way measures.
(b) Use of Fighting Strength
In the campaign, close cooperation between air and ground
must be maintained. Our forces must be concentrated according to time and
conditions in order to defeat the enemy as quickly as possible. For this, the
various signaling units must be suitably employed, and cooperation well planned.
(c) Air and Ground Cooperation
As the encirclement may extend several hundred kilometers, we require the cooperation of
air units while the mopping-up is in full swing. During these operations, air and
ground strength must be concentrated at one point, and therefore close air and
ground cooperation is very essential. Any unit, under any conditions, must at
once distinguish whether a plane overhead is ours or the enemy's, and, if
ours, give the prearranged recognition signal. Units must not feel disappointed if it
happens to be one of the enemy planes.
d. Supplies from the Rear
Owing to the distances that have to be covered, and the rapid movement of
first line units, supplies are usually overdue; therefore, provisions for
the troops must be found locally. But as regards ammunition, troops must keeps
it secure and die with it. If they rely on supplies from the rear they will
certainly lose fighting mobility.
e. Use of Local Inhabitants in Fighting Areas
The movements of the natives have a great effect on the outcome of a
campaign. Units must exercise good discipline towards them. Propaganda and
pacification should be started at the first opportunity, and everything must be
done to induce the people to cooperate with us.
As regards the Burmese, we must respect and protect their temples, and
thereby induce the monks to help us.