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"Further Notes on the Malayan Campaign" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on combat lessons from the Malayan Campaign was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 24, May 6, 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.]


To some extent there may be an element of repetition in the report which follows, but even granting that such is the case, this will serve to highlight the lessons derived from actual experience.

"We must know our foes and know them well," writes the American compiler of the following notes, which indicate some of the basic tactics used by the Japanese in the Malayan Campaign.

"On the tactical side the campaign was an excellent example of 'jungle warfare' and of the use of waterways as arteries of communication and movement. Throughout the campaign there was none, or practically none, of the fanatic frontal charges which characterized Jap tactics in North China. In Malaya it was a case of constant infiltration and constant small-scale envelopment.

"Many of the envelopments were over water and involved landing behind the Allied front. In these 'water-land' operations the experience gained along the Yangtze River and elsewhere in China no doubt was of real value, but most of the Malayan landings had a character uniquely their own. In China the landings habitually were made under the guns of the Navy. The same was true of the basic landing at Kota Bahru, where half-a-dozen Jap troop transports stood off-shore while the troops reached the beaches in various types of special landing crafts.

"But most of the tactical landings involved in the envelopments under discussion occurred on the western coast where, of course, there was no Jap naval support. These landings generally were small in size--perhaps a company or two, or at the most a battalion. The Japs made great use of what they found locally in the way of floating craft, and in view of the size of the Malayan fishing fleet what they found was considerable. In addition, there is evidence that a few special landing craft, motorized and with a capacity for as many as 100 men each, were transported overland from Singora for use along the western coast.

"A characteristic of the Japanese landings was the evident use of alternative objectives. There are several instances in which a convoy, encountering resistance at one point on the coast, moved up or down coast to another more favorable point. Thus was the principle of infiltration applied to tactical landings.

"Infiltration or jungle warfare are the words generally applied to the actual fighting off the roads as it occurred throughout Malaya. The basic Jap tactic involved extreme decentralization: giving a small unit or even an individual soldier an objective, and telling it or him to get there. In the process of getting there the Jap practice was constantly to seek to slip through or, if attack was necessary, to make it from a flank. All accounts agree on the reluctance of the Japs to push ahead frontally."


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