The following observations are taken from British sources which summarize the
experience gained from the campaign in Burma. The lessons drawn from this
campaign must be viewed in the light of the conditions under which the
fighting took place: outnumbered United Nations forces were conducting a very
difficult retreat, in country which was mainly jungle and where many
natives were Fifth Columnists.
a. Training for Jungle Warfare
The British report emphasizes that, for troops unfamiliar with the jungle, first
contact with this type of country is confusing and even frightening. The
Japanese capitalized on this by the use of fire-crackers and "battle cries" to
add to the effect of jungle noises. Troops who are to operate in jungle country
should be trained as far as possible under conditions which will familiarize
them with this type of terrain.
The report recommends that troops be trained in the use of battle cries, both for
purposes of controlling movement and for the psychological effect on enemy
morale. The Japanese have made effective use of this device.
The Japanese made little or no use of scouts during night movements, and in
some cases they advanced without putting out patrols ahead of their
columns. The Japanese were also careless in moving motor transport and
normally gave their approach away by failing to dim the headlights.
In the second half of the campaign, the Japanese moved by night and rested
during the day. During this period, they made very inadequate provision
for security of their bivouacs and were easily surprised during daylight.
c. Fifth Columnists
These were used extensively, sometimes as patrols moving ahead of
advancing Japanese forces and sending back information. British ambushes were
nearly always given away to the enemy by Fifth Columnists.
d. Japanese Shock Troops
These are killers, trained in individual fighting, self-reliant, and bold
to the point of fanaticism. Moreover, they have a very good sense of guerrilla
tactics and are capable of effective action in groups. They are masters of the
art of concealment and camouflage, and very quick to size up a tactical situation.
Usually armed with light automatic weapons, their sniping has sometimes been
deadly, but it is reported that, on the whole, their marksmanship is
not adequate to enable them to reap the full benefits of their excellent offensive
The shock troops are employed primarily for infiltration. They sift through
forward lines before the main Japanese forces come up, pin down advance
units, and cause confusion in rear areas by seizing key positions quickly and
The British regard it as of the highest importance that these shock troops be
dealt with as quickly as possible, by what is termed a "blitz" party. They
recommend that this party be commanded by an experienced officer, often
the company commander, and in medium jungle country that the party include two
light machine guns and three Tommy guns. The party is formed under cover, and
moves to a line of departure as near as possible to the area in which the
enemy has been located. From this line, the party advances, shooting from the hip, and
spraying all possible enemy positions with short automatic bursts, or two or
three rounds of rifle fire. The light machine guns should have tracer
ammunition. Muzzles are kept well down for ricochet effect. Any houses and trees in
the line of advance must be sprayed with fire. In order to avoid loss of contact
between elements of the party and to insure a ready supply of ammunition, care
must be taken not to advance too far. It is reported that the Japanese will not
stand up against shock tactics of this sort. It is further suggested that "blitz" parties
should be made up on the spot from available troops at hand rather than
organized as specialist groups; if specialist groups are formed it is feared that
they will often not be present at the right time or the right place. Therefore, all
riflemen should be trained to participate in a tactical group of this sort.
Emphasis is placed on the need for heavy automatic-weapon fire in jungle
warfare against the Japanese shock troops. To meet the automatic weapons
of the enemy, the heaviest weight of fire power must be used, and used first.
The British report of this campaign expresses the belief that if the Japanese
shock troops can be successfully dealt with, there is less to fear from
the action of the main forces.
e. Japanese Pursuit
It is reported in this campaign that the Japanese failed noticeably in aggressive
pursuit of withdrawing United Nations forces. This failure was presumably due
either to orders which limited forces to a particular objective, or else
indicated lack of initiative in pursuit tactics.
f. Mortars in Jungle Fighting
The Japanese 4-inch mortar proved a formidable weapon in jungle warfare. It was
brought up very quickly after contact was established, and fire was accurate.
The Japanese avoided siting their mortars on the edge of a jungle or wood. They
were generally placed well back from the edge, even as far as 400 to 600 yards. This
meant that observation posts must have been well forward of the mortar position, and
it is thought that these posts must have controlled the fire by light radio sets or
It is reported that the Japanese do not stand up well to shell fire and
that mortar fire is very effective in silencing Japanese mortar posts or machine-gun
posts. The value of searching fire directed against Japanese light machine
guns, mortars, and artillery was very noticeable. On many occasions searching
fire of 3-inch British mortars, with variations in range, and deflection shifts
of 2 to 10 degrees, had the effect of completely silencing enemy positions over long
periods. The British give the following recommendations with regard to use of the mortar:
(1) It is an extremely valuable weapon for the jungle, often being the only
support weapon which can deal with short-range targets.
(2) Movement of mortars in jungle country presents a serious problem. Except on
main roads the mortars cannot be moved by motor transport. Pack mortars are
liable to be lost through the stampede of animals under fire. Jeeps are
recommended as the ideal transport vehicle.
(3) Even at night, mortars should be sited away from the edges of jungle
clearings or isolated woods in order to avoid being spotted by muzzle flash and
neutralized by enemy mortars. The Japanese have often been able to locate
machine-gun and mortar positions by patrols and then bring accurate fire at
night on these positions. The patrols indicate the position of the weapons by
converging fire with red tracer ammunition.
(4) In selecting the mortar position, care must be taken to insure a field
of fire clear of tree boughs for a wide traverse. A 15-foot screen of foliage in
front of the line of fire will screen the muzzle flash.
(5) The observation posts for direction of mortar fire should be pushed up to the
edge of the jungle and should operate by some simple form of visual signal.
(6) The initial laying of the mortar can be accomplished either by the
detachment commander at the mortar position, or by sending a gunner forward
to the observation post to get range and direction. The opening fire must be
at safe margins and corrections boldly made.
(7) In difficult positions, communication from the observation post will
be facilitated by clearing tunnels through the jungle. This must be done in such
a way as to conceal the tunnels from ground or air observation.
(8) If the rounds fall in high jungle, observation of the fire may be
completely blanketed. Where this is the case, systematic searching fire
must be used instead of corrected fire.
(9) Smoke ammunition may be used in the jungle to set a dry area on fire, but
it is suggested that incendiary ammunition would be much more effective for
(10) The small 2-inch mortar is also a good jungle weapon.