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"Japanese Tactics--Arakan Campaign" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. military report on the Arakan Campaign was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 37, November 4, 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 extracts taken from a recent report on the Arakan Campaign, of the period from April 27 to May 16, 1943, are given here to point up some phases of Japanese operations connected with this campaign. It should be remembered that in the particular area pertaining to this action, there are flat, coastal plains interspersed with numerous, small, tidal waterways; flat cultivated areas at this season of the year (spring) are dry and untended, with small foothills covered with light growth merging into thick jungle country in the Mayu mountains rising to 2,000 feet.

a. Defensive Tactics

When the Japanese is on the defensive, he digs in and stays there. He either prepares his position before occupying it, or if that is impossible, continually improves it during the night, resting and sleeping during daylight hours. His system of supporting fires is excellent and his placing of machine guns and mortars superb. He is prepared to sacrifice some of his own men as a result of mortar and artillery fire on his own positions, if they should be penetrated by his enemy. These casualties are few because of the overhead cover invariably furnished for his prepared pits and dugouts.

b. Weapons Employed

All of the Japanese guns so far fired in this area were thought to be the 75-mm mountain gun with a maximum of 9,000 yards in range. The Jap usually hauled this gun to the top of a hill to fire it. From the locations it is believed that the gun is a pack type and that these positions were chosen first because the Jap prefers simple conduct of fire and secondly because it is thought the guns have difficulty in clearing crests. There was an apparent shortage of ammunition since the guns did not fire often and when they did, not very many rounds were used on a target. Their adjustment usually consisted of one or two shots fired into an area after which they fired for effect. Guns were usually fired singly or in twos or threes, and with the exception of the battles before Donbaik, Htizwe and Indin, (see Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 32. p. 29) never over 4 guns were fired at any one time. The British knew that some Jap ammunition was of an incendiary nature but they believed that it was not phosphorous loaded and they stated that it probably contained gasoline or a volatile liquid of a similar nature. The explosion of this shell produced an orange-colored burst with large volumes of black smoke. Only once has the Jap been known to use 4 guns together in the form of a battery fire mission and although more than 4 guns have fired (as mentioned above) on a single target, this fire converged from separate localities. He frequently fired his guns and mortars simultaneously not only for their effect, but it is thought, so as to confuse our forces as to the exact location of his heavy weapons. His high explosive shell had both a delayed and a slightly delayed action fuse. He confined himself almost entirely to harassing types of fire and in this he was fairly accurate. His usual ranges were, it is believed, from 6,000 to 7,000 yards. On one occasion only, and then at two different times, he concentrated his guns on counterbattery. He has attempted interdiction but without success and has not fired for destruction. He was particularly successful in his counterbattery fire at first, in that his observers occupied high ground overlooking the British position at Donbaik from which they could spot at night all the guns on the front. Once, it is stated, in a surprise bombardment he delivered the fire of all his guns presumed to be 10 in number, on the British batteries in turn. The latter consisted at that time of 26 pieces, 3 of which were put out of action. The British artillery manned their guns and were successful in silencing the enemy. Later in the morning the Jap produced this same form and intensity of fire but the British were more nearly ready at this time and the duration was only one to two minutes. British artillerymen believe that they put out of action as many Japanese guns as they lost, although no exact data were ever available.

c. Use of Dogs

The Japanese used dogs on this front. Those observed had the appearance of the ordinary village mongrel or so-called "pi" dog. In the day time these dogs were seen coming up to our forward defended positions and when they discovered our men, they barked and went back. This may be fanciful and simply a coincidence. On another occasion, one dog and two men formed a scouting party, the dog preceding the men, and when he encountered the smell of our nearby troops he was observed to run back and warn the approaching Japanese scouts. On another occasion, six Japanese in an open glade of the jungle were observed to halt while passing through and their leader barked like a dog several times. Several minutes later a dog appeared with a scrap of paper, probably a note, tied to his neck. After looking at the piece of paper the patrol set off again accompanied by the dog. In no cases did the dogs appear to be imported but from their looks were those indigenous to this section of Burma. (It is believed that these dogs are not highly trained but that their propensity for friendship to man is being utilized as described. No dogs were on duty with the British forces).

d. Use of Animal Barking

The Jap has used cock-crowing and hyena barking as a means of signalling at night. He frequently puts out red lanterns and also uses red Very lights in his rear areas.


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