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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

Part I: General Tactical Doctrine

Section IV: Retrograde Movements

1. THE WITHDRAWAL. a. General. There is little military literature obtainable to elaborate on the bare substance of the provisions of the Japanese Regulations governing the withdrawal. In general, the method of withdrawal appears to be standard. It is notable, however, the usual strong insistence on the dangers of a daylight withdrawal is not in regulations. No information has been obtained as to when the Japanese commander considers a withdrawal required or justified since, in the cases studied, the withdrawal was executed on army order and was not considered as imposed by the enemy.

b. Preparations for the withdrawal. The division commander, in anticipation of a withdrawal, first attempts to clear his rear area of supply troops and installations, improves the roads which he expects to use, and orders preparations for demolitions to delay the enemy follow-up. All preparations are made with the utmost secrecy while preserving a bold front.

c. Daylight conduct of the withdrawal. (1) Local covering forces. The breaking of contact of the front line infantry is done under the protection of local covering forces, disposed from 1,500 to 2,000 yards behind the firing line. These troops are obtained from battalion, regiment, or other reserves not committed to the front line fighting. The position occupied is, when possible, to the flank of the line of retreat on commanding ground permitting overhead fire in support of the retiring troops. The local covering forces give support by fire and, on occasion, may execute local counterattacks to aid in disengaging the front line infantry. About the equivalent of one regimental sector in open warfare appears to be an average strength for the local covering forces in the problems consulted.

(2) General covering force (Shuyo Jinchitai). In addition to these local detachments, the division commander organizes a general covering force behind which he reforms the major elements of his command. The division reserve is usually the principal component of this covering force which, in principle, is made up of the freshest troops at the disposal of the commander. The bulk of the division artillery withdraws and deploys behind this covering position to protect the withdrawal. The Japanese try to place the covering position at an oblique angle to the axis of retreat and from 3,000 to 5,000 yards in rear of the front line. The division command post is set up behind the covering position for the purpose of controlling the withdrawal and organizing the subsequent retirement for which the troops on the covering position eventually become the rear guard.

(3) Execution of withdrawal. Protected by the covering forces, the front line infantry withdraws straight to the rear assisted by support units in the second echelon. The Japanese feel that it is desirable for all front line units to pull back simultaneously, but often some must hold on longer than others. The division artillery, the bulk of which already has retired to the general covering position, supports the withdrawal. In some sectors, a sudden local counterattack may be warranted in order to create a favorable situation for the withdrawal. Retreating units reform progressively, arriving by many small columns in the general assembly area behind the general covering position. Here, division march columns are formed and directed toward the final terrain objective of the withdrawal. The engineers execute demolitions to retard the enemy, while columns move off covered by a rear guard. The cavalry and aviation reconnoiter for turning movements around the flanks by pursuit detachments. The aviation may be called upon to attack ground troops which are endangering the success of the withdrawal.

d. Night conduct of withdrawal. (1) General. The night withdrawal differs from that in daylight in the following important respects:

a. The local covering mission is performed by a "shell" of small detachments left in position on the front line throughout most of the hours of darkness.

b. Retiring units reassemble and form march columns nearer the front line than is the case in daylight.

c. A general covering position is ordinarily not organized. Detailed preparation in daylight is necessary prior to a night withdrawal. This includes a designation and marking of roads to be used by retiring units, as well as the usual clearing of the rear area. Secrecy is essential throughout to conceal the intention to withdraw.

(2) "Shell." The breaking of contact by the front line infantry is done under the cover of a thin line of infantry detachments, strong in machine guns and supported by a small amount of artillery. This "shell" simulates the usual sector activity throughout the night to deceive the enemy and, if attacked, sacrifices itself in place to protect the retirement. Its time of withdrawal, usually about daylight, is set by the division commander. The mission of the "shell" may be facilitated by local attacks executed early in the night by front line detachments prior to their withdrawal. Normally no general covering force is needed to supplement the "shell." An exception is the case where the "shell", left in place until dawn, requires protection to get away without undue losses.

In such a case, a small general covering force, strong in cavalry and mobile troops, may be organized for the benefit of the "shell."

(3) Execution of withdrawal. The behavior of the front line units is essentially the same as in daylight. They reform progressively as they retire, assembly areas being somewhat nearer the front line than in daylight. One or two companies of artillery remain until nearly dawn to support the "shell" and carry out normal activity.

e. Comment. Japanese procedure in the withdrawal is generally orthodox. The absence of the customary injunctions against the daylight withdrawal is symptomatic of the Japanese under-estimation of the effects of modern fire power and aerial attack. However, it is unwarranted to assume that, in practice, they will not try to avoid daylight withdrawals when the situation permits.

2. THE DELAYING ACTION. (JIKYUSEN). a. General characteristics. (1) The Japanese do not recognize the delaying action as a separate and distinct form of military operation but include it in the broader term, "jikyusen" (holding-out-combat). The expression is used to cover, in addition to pure delay, a number of types of operations characterized by a desire to avoid a fight to a finish, but in which the idea of delay is somewhat remote. Thus, in addition to the typical delay situations, such as the action of rear guards and covering forces, the Japanese treat under "jikyusen" demonstrations, reconnaissances in force, and night attacks designed to cover a withdrawal. In the subsequent discussion, an effort is made to disregard the elements not bearing directly on delay which the Japanese inject into the treatment of "jikyusen."

(2) The usual purpose of delaying action is to gain time to contain or to divert a superior enemy while avoiding decisive combat. "Although these ends are frequently achieved by defensive action, there are occasions when the mission can be accomplished only by offensive action." The preceding sentence is a literal translation from the Sakusen Yomurei. Elsewhere, the same regulation urges that even when defensive measures are initially better adapted to the situation, the commander must always be ready to take advantage of an opportunity for offensive action. However, when offensive action is indicated, in order to avoid becoming deeply engaged, the division commander designates limited objectives and rigidly controls the number of troops committed to action. In comparison to the meeting engagement, fronts of deployment are wide in such an offensive action.

(3) Mobile troops, well equipped with automatic weapons and artillery, are best adapted to delaying actions. The infantry fire fight generally takes place at long ranges as the engagement is broken off when the enemy draws near. Frontages are wide, and the breadth is obtained by increasing the intervals between occupied key positions. Reserves are kept large to cover withdrawals, to give continuity to the resistance of the delaying force, and to provide troops for such limited offensive actions as the commander may undertake.

b. Choice of a delaying position. While the situation may force the commander to seek the required delay on a single position, such a disposition creates a danger of becoming involved in a fight to the finish or in a costly withdrawal at close range from the enemy. It is thus preferable to delay on successive positions separated by about two to three miles. A delaying position is chosen for its observation, distant fields of fire, and covered routes of withdrawal.

c. Conduct of the delaying action. (1) When the decision has been reached to delay an advancing enemy, the division commander sends out his cavalry to establish and maintain contact and initiate the delaying action within limits of its combat capacity. He then selects the position or positions upon which he expects to gain the required time for the accomplishment of his mission. He often will send forward an infantry detachment of from 2 companies to a battalion to occupy an advanced position ahead of the first delaying position. Such an advanced position is located within range of artillery support from the delaying position in accordance with the principles for choosing an outpost line of resistance. These forward troops assist the cavalry, as the latter falls back to the flanks of the delaying position, and impose some loss of time on the advancing enemy.

(2) The enemy is taken under fire by the division artillery at extreme ranges. Artillery positions are close behind the infantry, and are grouped together for ease in fire direction in the belief that there is little to fear initially from the hostile counterbattery. Eventually, the infantry machine guns join in the fire fight as the enemy comes within range.

(3) The division commander makes every effort to hold out a large reserve. In cases noted, this amounted to from a third to a half of his infantry and a battalion of artillery. The main purpose of this large reserve is not to counterattack (although some of it on occasion may engage in local offensive action) but to reconnoiter, prepare, and occupy the next delaying position from which it covers the withdrawal of the troops of the first position. The Japanese thus contemplate, in effect, delay on successive positions occupied simultaneously, although this form of action is implied rather than clearly defined.

(4) The engineers of the division find their principal missions in road maintenance, route marking, and the preparation and execution of demolitions. The last are carefully planned to cover the flanks and routes of direct approach to the delaying positions.

(5) As in other forms of combat, the Japanese count heavily on measures of deception to assist in accomplishing the delaying mission. Devices used to create this deception are: dummy engineer works; demonstrations; economy of force in wooded and covered areas while strength is displayed in open terrain; roving artillery; proclamations; propaganda. All these measures aim to create an impression of strength which will cause the enemy to adopt a cautious attitude toward the delaying force. In spite of the fact that such measures impose fatigue on the troops and, in extreme cases may lead to a serious dispersion of effort, the Japanese feel that their use is justified.

d. Withdrawal. The troops on the delaying position retire on order of the division commander while the enemy is still at a distance, unless the mission specifically required a long delay on a single position. When the hostile infantry gets within 1,000 yards of the position it is considered time to go, and the troops on the next delaying position cover the withdrawal. Detachments left in the zone between the positions effect intermediate delay. When it has not been possible to prepare and man a second position, the division commander tries to put off his withdrawal until nightfall.

e. Comments. (1) As a defensive form of combat the delaying action does not appeal to the Japanese soldier who thinks first and last of fixing bayonets and moving forward. Influenced by the strength and weakness of this psychology, the Japanese commander often will choose offensive action when the defensive is better suited to the immediate situation. It has been noted that a little fresh encouragement has been given in the new Combat Regulations to the use of offensive action to obtain delay, an encouragement of which Japanese commanders can be expected to take full advantage in order to seek delay through attack. It is felt that this over-aggressiveness may ill serve the usual purposes of delay.

(2) The injunction to hold out a large reserve does not agree with the usual teachings on delay. A reserve suggests the intention to counterattack, whereas a delaying position usually is abandoned before the enemy has come within counterattacking range. In the practice of map problems, this large reserve was always used to occupy a rear delaying position, so that the operation became, in effect, a delay on successive positions simultaneously occupied. Thus, the requirement of holding out a large reserve, in spite of its apparent contradiction, becomes reconciled with tactical orthodoxy.

(3) The Japanese dislike for using their light artillery at long ranges tends to keep successive delaying positions relatively close together (3,000-4,000 yards). It is generally considered that 5,500 yards is the extreme limit of effective terrestrial observation, and it is rare to assign missions beyond that range. Japanese artillery has had little experience in fire with air observation.

(4) It is reasonable to suppose that the Japanese have learned the latest methods of withdrawal as employed by modern armies which place great emphasis on the use of tanks, mobile artillery, motorized infantry, mines, tank traps, aircraft, and a new concept of distance.

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