Military engineering under the most favorable weather conditions is a
difficult art, particularly when complicated by the opposition of an alert and
resourceful enemy. In tropical jungles and with native troops, the work is one of
extreme difficulty. The following paragraphs are a condensed resumé of a report
made by an experienced British officer after five months of such operations.
To begin with, the officer writes, everyone should know how to swim and
how to fight with automatic weapons. The men must be "absolutely fit" physically, and
trained to take care of themselves in the field, which includes security
discipline. Frequently engineers are engaged in cutting trails and building or
repairing bridges, far from the protection of supporting units. Under these
circumstances, it is absolutely essential that they be capable of repelling any
probable attack. They must, moreover, be able to change quickly from motor
transport to animal, and to understand the methods of animal-pack loading. Mechanical
transport can only be used on good roads.
(2) Map Reading
Map reading must include both ordinary and stereoptican aerial map
interpretation. A case was cited where a route for a trail was decided upon from
the direct terrain observation and examination of existing maps. After two days
work in cutting the trail, it was found to lead to a vertical cliff and had to be
abandoned. Had this route been closely scrutinized by stereoptican interpretation
of aerial photographs, the mistake would not have been made.
b. Notes on Jungle Operations
(1) Mine Fields
Jungle operations have their own problems in regard to mines and booby
traps, since it is difficult to make sure the mine fields are properly marked and
sited. For this reason, the writer comments, the division commander was reluctant
to use them.
As most streams were tidal with muddy bottoms, nearly all bridges were
of timber-pile construction, with the material cut in the neighboring forest. A
local type of pile-driver was used to sink piles 6 to 15 feet in the ground. While
bridge-building was slow at first it became very fast with experience. The rate
of progress by four squads of engineers on a pile bridge was about 30 running
feet of bridge per day.
(3) Water Supply
Water was supplied by a local type of well-digging apparatus. Two-inch
pipe with a nose piece was driven by the same equipment used in pile-driving.
(4) Care of Tools and Supplies
Attention must be given to the care of tools and supplies. This is the
particular duty of the maintenance units. Early requisitions of other needed supplies
were essential because of the distance from base, and there was a paramount need
to use all local resources.
(5) Driving in Mud and Sand
Drivers should be trained in driving under all sorts of jungle conditions, getting
on and off ferries, over wet ground, soft sand and in water.
(6) Maintenance of Communications
It is stated that 95 per cent of the engineer work was devoted to maintenance
of communications, which included the building of dirt roads by the shovel-and-basket
method, erecting bridges and ferries, and the construction of landing points.
Native labor was used to within 5 miles of the front; after a bombing raid, natives
were apt to desert. When all-weather roads were requested, they were built by
the rear elements, which constructed brick fire kilns, made bricks and laid them
with native labor.
(7) Tidal Streams
On large tidal streams, bridging was out of the question and folding boat
equipment was invaluable. Assault boats were used to make improvised rafts
for the transportation of animals. Getting across was easy but seventy-five
percent of the time was consumed in getting on and off the rafts. Landing stages
were built at different levels to cope with the tides, extension landing ramps
being used on muddy ground.
Where tidal variations were not too great, pile bridges were built, and
the small box-girder type was used over narrow gaps, to be replaced later with
(8) Native Labor
Native labor was considered to be an advantage and 20,000 natives were
used at one time in a division area. The natives supplied their own food. Management
was carried on through groups of about 40, under a foreman who was usually the
village head man working under the engineer commanding officer.
(9) Supply Dumps
Supply dumps were established for wire, AT mines, etc. When an issue
was made from a forward dump, that dump was replenished from one of those in
the rear echelon as required. No regular daily supplies were sent. Material was
transported by trucks from the motor pool.
(10) Ferry Discipline
Ferry discipline is most important. Engineers, particularly when under
fire, have enough to do without handling the priority of individuals in crossing a
ferry. That is MP work.
There was need for additional light machine guns and submachine guns. Booby
trap mechanisms were badly needed - two officers were killed attempting
to make and install booby traps. The explosive provided must be capable of
withstanding heat and dampness.
Long knives of the machete type were invaluable. Every man should carry
one. Spades as well as shovels were required. Power tools should not be too
heavy and power saws were valuable, as were the bull-dozers and graders. Some
small motor-driven circular saws would have been useful.
The following tools were recommended as a squad tool set, and made up one mule load.
auger, wood, 3/8 x 4 1/2 in
adze 4 1/2 lbs
chisel 1 in
hammer, carpenter's claw, 1 1/2 lbs
hammer, sledge 10 lbs
saw, cross-cut 4 ft
saw, hand, 26 in
jungle knives, light (two)
jungle knives, heavy (two)
rope 1/2 inch
||axes, pick (four)|
axes pick, spare helves (two)
shovels, engineer (four)
shovel, spare handle
rod, measuring 4 ft
tape, steel 100 ft
tapes, tracing (two)
level, field service
wire, 14 gage, 1 lb
nails, wire, 3 to 6 in, 1 lb
tape, 1/2 inch, lashing, 6 rolls
(3) Bridging and Ferrying Equipment
Outboard motors and other propulsion units which can be attached to
rafts and reconnaissance boats were both in demand. On one occasion, proper
pontoon equipment, which was lacking, would have saved three days in moving a
brigade to meet a vigorous attack,
(4) Motor Transport
Shortage in motor transport was met by pooling. One jeep for each
engineer company commander would have been desirable. Flat-bed, American-type
trucks were particularly useful in handling engineer supplies.
The overall type combat uniform was not popular with either officers
or men, who preferred shorts, particularly for working in water. Obviously, for
protection against malaria, shorts are inadequate.
(6) Tubular Scaffolding
Tubular scaffolding would have been extremely useful in making jetties and
for general landing purposes. It is quick to set up and is adjustable.