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TM-E 30-480: Handbook on Japanese Military Forces
Technical Manual, U.S. War Department, October 1, 1944
[DISCLAIMER: The following text and illustrations are taken from a WWII U.S. War Department Technical Manual. As with all wartime manuals, the text may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the contents of the original technical manual. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]

Chapter VII: Tactics of the Japanese Army

Section XII: Japanese Parachute Troops

1. GENERAL. Only small forces of parachute troops have been used by the Japanese in their operations during the current war. They have made only very modest claims for their achievements and early realized that considerably more thought must be given to the training and organization of these forces.

2. EMPLOYMENT TACTICS. a. Palembang. At Palembang, Sumatra, in February 1942, Japanese parachute troops were assigned a two-fold mission; to gain control of the airfield at Palembang; and to seize the 2 large oil refineries there before they could be put out of commission by the opposing forces. The airfield and the 2 refineries were so widely separated that the battalion (about 700 men) was divided into 3 combat teams, each of which had to operate independently and out of support distance of the units attacking the other 2 objectives. The force used appears to have been too small to accomplish the missions properly. However, even though the parachute force was practically destroyed, and the entire operation was characterized by the utmost confusion, the effort served the Japanese well as a training maneuver. It also served as an effective diversion (possibly unintentional) while the Japanese were moving in from the sea to take Palembang.

b. Timor. On Timor Island, in June 1942, parachute troops were employed by the Japanese on two successive days, during sea borne landings, to cut the communication lines of the defending forces. The operation is described as follows: Twenty to 25 troop carriers came in supported by bombers and fighters. The bombers operated in groups of 9, in arrow formation. It was estimated that each carrier contained from 15 to 25 troops, which were dropped in groups of 6 to 8. There was no wind when the operation took place at 0830, in bright sunlight. The objective on each occasion was a position astride the hostile line of communication. The area chosen was fairly level, but timbered with high palm trees from 15 to 20 feet apart over certain portions, with thick undergrowth in the adjoining areas. There was no air opposition, and the objectives were from a mile and a quarter to a mile and three quarters from the nearest company outpost area and about 5 miles from the main defenses. Japanese paratroops landed from a low altitude, estimated to be 300 feet. During descent automatic weapons were fired, and considerable noise was made. While the landings were being made, the escorting planes bombed and machined gunned the defending positions. The paratroops, upon landing, quickly took up ambush positions; some climbed trees from which they acted as snipers. Forward positions were marked with Japanese flags, to facilitate their quick location by aircraft, and alternative positions were used extensively as soon as each squad was fired upon or outflanked. It was the use of these troops which prevented the withdrawal of the relatively small defending garrison which was opposing a landing of a large Japanese force in the Koepang area, since the paratroops had cut off the line of retreat.

c. Central China. In November 1943, in the Tungting Lake Campaign, in Central China, it was reported that the Japanese used parachute troops in the attack on Taoyuan, Hunan. Previous to this attack the Japanese carried out a thorough air reconnaissance of the area and subjected it to heavy strafing before dropping the troops. During the landing of the troops, made on elevated ground, the Chinese positions were kept under constant bombing and strafing attack from low flying planes. It was estimated that approximately 60 men were dropped, all landing near their objective. The leader of the force fired a flare which was apparently a signal for plain clothes men in the city to aid the attack. The parachute troops collected their equipment, which had been dropped first, and organized for the ground attack in approximately thirty minutes after landing.

3. CONCLUSION. The Japanese Army no doubt has acquired the practical appreciation of the value of parachute troops and the proper methods for their employment, although they have used them only in a limited capacity. The Japanese must also realize that the successful employment of these forces is contingent upon air superiority and absence of ground troops in the areas in which they are used. This assumption, however, should not be given too much weight when gauging expected Japanese action, even though they might lack air superiority. It must be borne in mind that this type of troop employment is in keeping with Japanese principles of surprise and their spirit of sacrifice, and it is reasonable to assume that a parachute troop attack may be attempted by them even though air superiority is not established.

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