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"The Japanese at Buna" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following observations on Japanese tactics at Buna were originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 40, December 16, 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 observations are quoted from an interview with an infantry officer who recently returned to the United States from the Southwest Pacific theater:

"The only enemy installations I saw were on the outskirts of Buna Village (between late November and 7 December 1942.) The laps were comfortably quartered in semipermanent structures, made in the usual native design, with a pole frame, canvas roof and mosquito netting enclosing the interior. Board flooring further bug-proofed the houses and provided sleeping accommodations above the level of pools caused by rainfall. Dugouts, surrounding the structures, formed a defensive ring around the area of living quarters. These defenses were supplemented by installations extending to Buna village and Buna Mission.

"The Japanese defense installations were excavations, four to six feet in depth. They were covered with palm logs (generally more than 12 inches in diameter) and earth. The sides of the dugouts were usually reinforced with boards, sandbags or logs. Firing slits were provided for rifles and automatic weapons, fire lanes had been prepared, and the whole artfully camouflaged.

"These installations were practically impervious to the Australian 25-pounder artillery fire and our own 81-mm mortar fire. (See Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 31, p. 31 for additional information on these bunkers and dugouts.) However, I have been told that our 37-mm gun, firing the cannister shell, has been effective against the Jap emplacements. Also it was noted that these dugouts were open in the rear and thus were vulnerable to attack with hand grenades.

"The troops opposing us were Jap marines. They were disposed to defend Buna Village, Buna Mission and the nearby airstrips.

"The Jap has definite characteristics. He is not too willing to die for his Emperor when the odds are against him, and he will squeal like a pig when he is routed. He is crafty and takes full advantage of his surroundings to improve his position; he is a master of the art of camouflage; he will wait hours for a target; he will use decoys to draw and disclose fire; he takes delight in plaguing inexperienced troops with so-called "explosive bullets" which he fires into tree tops to the flank and rear of opposing positions; he also uses other noise-making tricks to bewilder his enemy. His attitude early in the Buna campaign was almost entirely defensive but he fought with dogged determination while he considered that he had a chance."


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