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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


The basic tactical principles of the Japanese Army have been carefully developed from studies of foreign army techniques and its own valuable experiences gained in combat under varying conditions. Japanese forces have fought against regular military organizations of several first-class nations and have had considerable experience in combating the constant harassing action of guerrillas on supply lines and rear areas.

They have engaged in tank actions on the plains of Manchuria and in mountain battles in Central and Southern China; they have conducted landing operations under varying conditions of terrain and climate. They have been highly successful in their earlier jungle operations, on terrain where good roads and railroads are practically unknown, and where every type of natural obstacle exists. They are not merely jungle fighters, however, for much of their success has been on terrain where principles of open warfare have been applied effectively. By studying the areas over which they expected to operate they effectively organized, trained, and equipped their forces and evolved techniques designed in each case to fit the terrain and meet the logistical requirements peculiar to their own army.

The Japanese lay great stress on offensive actions, surprise, and rapidity of movement, with all commanders and staffs operating well forward in order to keep themselves constantly informed of the situation. Their tactical doctrine is based on the principle that a simple plan, carried through with power and determination, coupled with speed of maneuver, will so disrupt the plans of hostile forces that success will ensue. Combat orders, in both attack and defense, from the highest to the lowest unit, generally carry the admonition that the "enemy forces will be annihilated." Surprise is an ever present element, while the envelopment is the preferred form of attack. Thorough reconnaissance also is taught, and the practice of infiltration is greatly stressed. The Japanese willingness to attack a position with forces which other nations would consider insufficient for the task, is based on the assumption of their so-called military superiority. An explanation of this assumption calls for an analysis of Japanese psychology, national vanity, and past military successes, which is beyond the scope of this study. To the Japanese officer, considerations of "face" and "toughness" are most important, and they are therefore prone to indulgence in "paper" heroics. They have evinced boldness against poorly equipped troops; however, against first-class, well-equipped forces, it may be expected that they will adopt more circumspect methods.

Despite the opportunities presented during 6 years of active combat, the Japanese have continued to violate certain fundamental principles of accepted tactics and technique. Their tendency to persist in such violations is based primarily upon their failure to credit the enemy with good judgment and equal military efficiency. Whether or not they have profited by recent experiences remains to be seen.

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