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"Port Moresby--Attack Directive" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report is based on the original operational orders of a Japanese infantry unit taking part in the Japanese attack on Port Moresby. The article was published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 38, November 18, 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 notes taken from an Allied publication, were issued in the abridged form in which they appear in this article. They are based on an original operational directive of a Japanese infantry unit which was to have taken part in the attack on Port Moresby. The wording of the directive has been followed, and although the actual text has been paraphrased somewhat, literal translations have been left where they appear typically descriptive or apposite.

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a. Main Considerations

Most of the fighting will take place in jungle country. River crossing engagements will be frequent. Enemy equipment is excellent.

b. Approach March

During the crossing of the Owen Stanley Range, the column will probably be spread out over a considerable distance; but on approaching more level jungle country, the column will close up to ensure adequate control and immediate readiness for battle.

(1) Speed -- Rapidity of the advance is of paramount importance. Any delay will give the enemy time to destroy bridges and build obstacles. Be prepared to swim across rivers if bridges are destroyed.

(2) Communications -- Commanders will ensure that full agreement is reached on signal communications, and that radio sets are correctly distributed. On the march, Bn. Hq. will have either a No. 5 or a No. 2 set, Co. Hq. a No. 6 set, and unit or organization Hq. No. 3 sets. All communications will be tested at halts.

(3) Reconnaissance -- Reconnaissance patrols must precede the main body. Their primary task will be the reconnaissance of ground so that during the approach march the maximum use can be made of cover provided by natural terrain features.

c. Battle Drill (General)

(1) Leadership -- The resolute leadership of junior commanders is essential to ensure that nothing holds up the speed of the advance. Prompt action in dealing with unforeseen situations is a guarantee for quick success. "If the advance is delayed, enemy preparations on the one hand will become greatly improved; while on the other hand our own ammunition and food will become exhausted and the sick will increase. Therefore each unit will ignore severe hardships, resolutely and promptly enter the fight carrying out the assault to the final objective."

(2) Alternative Methods of Attack -- Decoy the enemy from one direction by the use of smoke, firing or even shouting, and attack him from an unexpected direction. Utilize the advantages of rain and fog for catching the enemy off guard. Make an attack when our own aircraft are bombing the enemy. "Make an assault suddenly from positions which the enemy believes to be unapproachable, such as cliffs, rivers, streams, steep inclines and jungle."

(3) Precautions -- During an attack, avoid grouping in exposed positions such as hill tops, villages and bridges which provide excellent targets for enemy machine guns, artillery and bombing. For example, when one unit attacks, the following unit should deploy and take cover to prepare for the next assault.

d. Special Considerations

(1) Night Attacks -- "The use of dusk, night and dawn is a special tactical characteristic of the Imperial Forces. Although fatigue may be great from the combat during the day, courage must be renewed to take advantage of darkness to develop the engagement."

On account of the heavy fire-power of the automatic weapons of the enemy and their skill at close-range firing, a headlong frontal attack, even at night, should be avoided. A night attack must be carefully planned, and full advantage taken of natural terrain features.

(2) Flanking Envelopment -- The utmost use should be made of natural cover. Part of the force will make a holding attack on the enemy's front, while the main body deploys to make a "bold, resolute and prompt flanking movement" to attack the enemy rear. Smoke should be used if the enemy anticipates the maneuver.

(3) Close Range Reconnaissance -- Patrols composed of personnel especially selected for their good eyesight (such as fishermen or the aborigines of Panape Island) should be formed for close-range reconnaissance of the enemy positions in thick jungle.

(4) Jungle Fighting -- No jungle country is impassable. On the contrary, its special features should be extensively utilized for surprise and out-flanking tactics. Infantry units must be adequately equipped with machetes; native knives are also suitable for hacking a way through thick jungle.

(5) Hostile Aircraft Attack -- With the considerable increase in enemy air activity, the following precautions will be taken: rapid deployment, night moves when practicable and use of natural camouflage and camouflage equipment. The location of the headquarters will be carefully chosen and the movement of personnel and vehicles around this area should be reduced to a minimum. If possible, each unit should detail an officer to be responsible for locating the headquarters of his organization. Wooded areas should be used for the camouflage of guns and ammunition. Smoke from cooking will be a certain target. Troops should accordingly be warned to keep at least a hundred yards distant from the source of any smoke during a raid. On the other hand smoke can frequently be used with success as a decoy.

(6) Communications -- When units are operating in an independent role, difficulty is often experienced in maintaining communications when fighting. Pay particular attention to the following points: find out when and what to report, send out as many (situation) reports as possible, and make certain that a report is sent out at least three times a day, even if it is only a unit position report. Ascertain the whereabouts of the radio section and confirm that it has been issued a communication time schedule. In general signal communications have fallen far below expectation.

(7) Use of Compass -- As most of the fighting will take place in jungle country and maps are inaccurate, as many compasses as possible should be distributed. The maximum information on road conditions should be obtained from our patrols, prisoners and natives.

(8) Enemy Supply Depots -- If the battle does not progress favorably, enemy supply depots should at all costs be captured intact in order to ease our own supply difficulties. The enemy must be prevented from destroying his supplies.

(9) Use of Captured Weapons and Ammunition -- As our units are only lightly equipped with arms and ammunition, make a careful study of enemy weapons so that they can be utilized when captured. Note that our advance elements have already captured a quantity of enemy rifles and ammunition which have been found extremely useful.

e. Intelligence

All captured material and documents from prisoners and enemy dead must be promptly handed over for examination.

All important information including estimated losses, abandoned enemy corpses, captured weapons, and ammunition expended must be turned in by platoon and company commanders. Accuracy in the compilation of these reports is not essential, but speed is important.

Comment: Although much of the above may now seem trite, the theme running through the directive is still the basis of Japanese tactics. Note the special emphasis on careful reconnaissance, speed of advance, night attacks and the flanking movement through "impassable and impossible" country which have been the predominant features of Japanese battle drill wherever they have fought us. Note also that their G-4 staff are encouraged to cut supplies and equipment to the bare minimum and are permitted to anticipate the utilization of enemy equipment and especially supplies.


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