From a very recent British report, the following observations on Japanese
tactics have been selected. Quite possibly, some or many of the details are already
known to our troops, but there appears to be much of general interest in these
notes. It is worthy of mention that the British are making use of our
experience as we are of theirs.
* * *
a. A Hint about Pass Words
The old Japanese trick of using the language of our troops to try and
discover our positions has again been used in Burma.
One voice was heard shouting in Bengali "Don't shoot, we are the -- Rifles. Where
are you?" On other occasions English and Urdu (a Hindu language) were used.
It is, however, generally quite simple to distinguish whether friend or foe
is calling, as the Japanese find many of our words impossible to pronounce
The following short table indicates the manner in which the Japanese would
pronounce certain groupings of English letters. Note that they
substitute "r" for "l," "su" or "za" for "th," and "b" for "v."
Words employing any two or all of the letters would certainly be mispronounced
by Japanese. It is useful to bear this in mind when formulating pass words.
||Japanese Phonetic Pronunciation
| La||Rah (soft r)|
| Ly||Rye (soft r)|
| Th||Su (soft s as in "soft")|
| The||Za or Zeh|
| Very||Bedy (y like double "e" in "see")|
b. Reconnaissance Methods
A number of Japanese documents from fighting areas show how the Japanese
stress the importance of reconnaissance.
Scouts are instructed to sketch hostile dispositions from observation posts
and to bring back their reports without taking any unnecessary risks. Urgent
reports, it is stated, must be made by telephone or orally and afterwards confirmed
by sketch maps. In reconnaissance much use is made of all available natives.
In New Guinea the primary task of reconnaissance was the pinpointing of
positions: personal reconnaissance by officer patrols took place. Preparations
for night attacks in Guadalcanal included the sending out of scouts "since enemy
security during the night is not always sufficient." Officers were ordered
to "study aerial photographs and reconnaissance reports in detail, remembering
outstanding features in the area to be attacked."
c. Approach through Jungle
The following extracts from a divisional order secured in Guadalcanal
illustrate the detailed precautions taken by the Japanese when approaching a
"Even though the march through dense forest at night is planned beforehand, there
are naturally many occasions when maintenance of contact is difficult. For
this reason, during movement at night lights should be used. It may be
necessary to use glow worms taken from dead trees to maintain contact.
"If one man is ordered to carry out the work of cutting away the undergrowth
through the dense forest, the march will be impossible. A squad of 30 men
and an officer is necessary as a clearing squad under jungle conditions to
keep the column moving.
"Contact in the forest must be maintained by the use of a small whistle, and
it is very important not to shout. The enemy often sets up a microphone on
elevated ground and directs his artillery fire when our position is known."
In certain instances, gun emplacements have been camouflaged by building
up the sides of a gradual slope and coloring the whole position to correspond with
the sand or soil surrounding it. The tone blending is complete, but the circular
outline remains clearly visible. Overhead covering is not used on this type. In
other types, overhead covers are used, the cover being a "flat" made up of a net
interlaced with cut scrub. The position is none the less easily observed because
of signs of activity on the trails and the tendency of the Japanese to cover only the
area immediately over the gun. They also neglect to bridge the "slashed" area in
the virgin scrub, which surrounds the emplacement.
In one area our troops found four well-camouflaged guns. Here, a net
interlaced with garlands and strewn with small bushes to give relief was used to
hide the guns. However, they were readily discernible on photographs because
the camouflage did not form a complete cover. The ground surface could be
seen, and the light sand, where the emplacement had been dug, revealed its position.
Dazzle painting is another form of camouflage used. The general procedure
has been to paint the roof and sides with wavy zebra-like stripes of alternate light
and dark colors. Usually, bands of dark and light stripes continue from the
eaves, but some roofs are painted with a band of light and dark stripes up to the
ridge, and with the contrasting colors from the ridge down to the opposite gutter. This
latter method forms a distinct line of demarcation along the ridge of the roof and
destroys the illusion. These bands do not average more than 10 feet wide; regardless
of the length of the building. Another type of dazzle painting is to paint the
roof and sides with spots of dark color on a light background, in a manner that can
best be compared to the spots on a giraffe.
The Japanese have been relatively successful in hiding some objects by
completely covering them with earth. They have guarded against detection by
building a slope of low gradient, thereby achieving the minimum relief.
e. Defensive Bunkers
(1) General Remarks
The Japanese are evidently exponents of the theory that the construction of
a defensive position involves a continual process of development. It is normal for
a new defensive position first to take the form of a series of fox-holes, which are
subsequently, if time and circumstances permit, linked together into a coordinated
defense system. Such a position may well include still other fox-holes, which are
difficult both to locate and to eliminate. The third stage of development takes the
form of the construction of strongpoints, or "bunker" type earthworks as they
have been called in New Guinea. These strongpoints, as seen in Burma, fall into
two types, both of which are illustrated in the accompanying sketch.
(2) The Double-Bay Bunker
These are built in two sizes, 25 ft. by 15 ft., and 60 ft. by 40 ft. They
consist of mounds of earth from 5 ft. to 12 ft. in height, with a rear
entrance well recessed into the mound. Forward, a central, apparently
solid, block projects to form two bays. These bays vary in size. The
smaller-size earthworks form part of the main trench system, with
which they are linked, but the large "bunkers" appear to be isolated.
(3) The Single-Bay Bunker
This consists of a roughly circular mound of earth about 25 ft. in diameter
and 5 ft. high, with entrance at the rear, opening on to a crawl trench or the main
trench system. In front is a firing-slit at, or slightly above, ground level, from
6 to 8 ft. long and about 1 1/2 to 2 ft. high. Inside there is presumably a timbered
dugout partly below ground level.
Comment: Up to now these bunker strongpoints have been identified in
Burma in beach defense positions only, though there seems no reason to think
that they cannot be equally well employed elsewhere should any particular position
warrant such a comparatively elaborate defense.
It appears that these defensive positions are normally occupied in the first
instance by a platoon armed with their usual weapons--light machine guns, rifles,
and grenade dischargers. A position covering a front of some 600 yards may seem
a very large assignment for one platoon, but this wide dispersion seems to be
standard Japanese practice in the defense.
In the later stages of development of a position, when the strongpoints have
been constructed, the platoon is probably strengthened by detachments from the
machine-gun company or battalion infantry gun platoon. They appear to use both
the single- and double-bay bunkers as positions for their heavy machine guns. The
double-bay type may also be used as covered emplacements for their antitank guns. This
does not preclude the use of either type also as positions for the
normal automatic weapons of the platoon.