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"Japanese Field Works at Buna" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. military intelligence report on Japanese field works in the Buna area of New Guinea is reproduced from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 21, March 25, 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 taking of the Japanese positions in the Buna area (southeastern New Guinea) was a relatively lengthy process. Much of the difficulty was occasioned by the strong field works constructed by the enemy, and by the tenacity with which these works were held. Of interest, therefore, is the following extract from a report made by a U.S. Army engineer.

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The enemy bunkers and dugouts in the Buna area were constructed of coconut-palm logs, dirt, sand, and sand bags, covered with natural camouflage. In some instances, pieces of armor plate were set up. No concrete positions were found. The log-and-dirt bunker construction was done carefully, and strongly. The corner posts were firmly embedded in the ground, and the horizontal logs neatly and strongly attached and interwoven. Several alternating layers of logs and earth were generally used to give full protection against mortars and light artillery. Roofs were thick and were also made of alternating layers, giving excellent protection. Bunkers were connected to systems of radiating fire and communication trenches on both sides. In some instances, underground trenches were used, and the enemy used these to place snipers in our midst even after they had long been driven from the general area. Leaves and grass were well used to camouflage all bunkers; in addition, the bunkers had been planned and built for just this purpose long before the campaign actually started, and the quick jungle growth, sprouting up over the earthworks, gave first-class natural camouflage.

The enemy work was generally neat and strong. One position in Buna Mission, consisting of kitchens, latrines, dugouts, and trenches, was, in consideration of the locale and the terrific bombardment that it had endured, a model of neatness and efficiency.

The enemy dugout positions were well sited and mutually supporting. It was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to bypass any of the positions, each of which had to be reduced in turn.

It would be impossible to overstress the tenacity with which the Japs clung to their prepared positions. Grenades, and ordinary gun and mortar fire were completely ineffective. There were many instances (not isolated ones) where dugouts were grenaded inside, covered with gasoline and burned, and then sealed with dirt and sand--only to yield, 2 or 3 days later, Japs who came out fighting. One souvenir hunter, entering, 4 days after the battle, a dugout that had been sealed, was chased out by a Japanese officer wielding a sword. Some of the instances in which Japs lived on in these positions, through the burning and the detonation, in the filth and gore, when sorely wounded themselves, are almost incredible.


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