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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 XII: Conventional Signs and Abbreviations

Section I: Introduction

1. SOURCES. a. The geographic signs included under paragraph 1 of the next section are selected from those appearing on maps of the Japanese Empire prepared by the Imperial Land Survey Department. Variant or supplementary signs used by the Japanese Hydrographic Office are listed in paragraph 2.

b. The military signs and abbreviations included under sections III and IV have been selected from Supplement No. 1 of Japanese Field Service Regulations (Military Signs), August 1940 (Sakusen Yomurei Furoku Sono Ichi, Guntai Fugo), and are supplemented by information from other sources. The grouping of the Army signs follows that adopted by the Japanese; the Navy and Special Naval Landing Force signs are arranged arbitrarily. The abbreviations are arranged alphabetically.

2. GENERAL PRINCIPLES. a. Military signs. (1) General. A study of the lists of Japanese military signs will reveal certain basic signs and principles, a knowledge of which will aid in the interpretation of the signs. It is emphasized, however, that the Japanese do not exhibit a great degree of consistency in the formation of their signs. Furthermore certain signs considered obsolete may recur, and individual initiative in the drawing of extemporary signs, with explanatory notes if considered necessary, is condoned by the Japanese.

(2) Basic signs. Examples of basic signs follow: , field artillery; , cavalry; , engineers; , air (Army); , air (Navy);  or , tank; , shipping; , signal; , radio; , gas; (placed over the rest of the sign), established depot.

(3) Headquarters. Headquarters, down to the battalion level inclusive, usually are distinguished by flags and/or circles. Brigade or group headquarters, however, are indicated by six-pointed stars . The appropriate basic sign may be added to indicate the arm. For example: , area army headquarters; , division headquarters; , cavalry brigade headquarters; , infantry battalion headquarters; , field artillery regimental headquarters.

(4) Units. The normal method of designating units is by adding a rectangle below the sign (in full or abbreviated) of the particular arm or weapon. For example: , medium mortar, , medium mortar unit; , engineer (basic sign), , engineer unit. (An exception to this principle should be noted: , field artillery, , field artillery ammunition train.)

(5) Motorization. In order to show that a unit is motorized, two rings (representing wheels) are added either below or at the side of the particular sign. For example: , field artillery ammunition train, , field artillery ammunition train, motorized.

(6) Compound signs. Basic signs such as those described above may be combined into compound signs. For example: , antiaircraft artillery regimental headquarters.

(7) Classification. An appropriate symbol, number, or abbreviation (either English letters, "kana", or characters) may be added to a sign when it is necessary further to classify the unit or equipment indicated by the sign. For example: , mobile ground radio station, , No. 3 type mobile ground radio station; , ship (general), , water supply ship (the character included means "water"), , armed ship; , motor truck, , repair truck, , truck loaded with machine guns; , tank; , light tank. The most common of such examples are noted in the list of signs.

(8) Boundaries, directions. Boundaries of districts or limits of fortified areas are shown by lines; directions of shooting, points of attack, and changes of direction of troops are shown by arrows.

b. Military abbreviations. (1) English letters, both capital and small, normally are used in military abbreviations.

(2) The basic army abbreviations appear in most cases to be derived from German words and, in the case of most recent additions, romanized forms of Japanese words. For example: BA (Bergartillerie), mountain artillery; SeE (Sempaku eiseitai hombu), shipping medical unit headquarters.

(3) Naval abbreviations are derived largely from English words and less frequently from romanized forms of Japanese words. For example: BC, battle-cruiser; cdg, combined destroyer group; AtB (Attached "butai"), attached force.

c. Numbers. The numbers of units and weapons are shown by placing the appropriate figure, either Arabic or Japanese, with necessary additions, in parentheses after the particular sign or abbreviation. For example  (2), two airplanes; A  three battalions of field artillery (the two characters in the parentheses are, respectively, "three" and the first character of the Japanese word for "battalion").

d. Identification. (1) When it is necessary to distinguish between enemy and friendly forces, the Japanese show signs for the former in red, for the latter in blue.

(2) In indicating the organizational numbers of units, Arabic numerals usually are used for all units except battalions, for which Roman numerals are used. The number of the lower unit precedes that of the higher organization of which it is a part, the two being separated by a slanting line. For example: 18 P, the 18th Engineers; III/2i, 3d Battalion of the 2d Infantry Regiment. II St/IA, 2d Battalion Ammunition Train of the 1st Field Artillery Regiment.

(3) Platoons and sections usually are shown as fractions of a company. For example: 1/4 2/1P, 1 platoon of the 2d Company of the 1st Engineer Regiment; 1/16 2/5i, 1 section of the 2d Company of the 5th Infantry Regiment.

(4) Missing units of an organization are indicated by numerals, preceded by a minus sign, in parentheses. Units attached to an organization are shown similarly with a plus instead of a minus sign. For example: 2i (-7.8), 2d Infantry Regiment less the 7th and 8th Companies; 1(+iP)/2i, 1st Company, plus a labor unit, of the 2d Infantry Regiment.

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