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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 V: Special Forces

Section II: Task Forces and Special Defense Units

1. TASK FORCES. a. General. The existence of a large number of independent units in the Japanese Army facilitates the employment of task forces or combat teams temporarily organized for specific missions. Rather than attempt to equip all divisions with heavy components of antitank guns, artillery, tanks, etc., the Japanese have segregated these weapons into independent units for assignment to divisions or task forces as needed. They do not hesitate to divide and/or combine units to form special forces for particular missions. Task forces or combat teams of widely varying strength and degree of combined training have been encountered in the theaters of operations. In the early part of the war well-trained combat teams were instrumental in the rapid advance down through Malaya and the Indies to New Guinea and the Solomons. Lately, facing greater odds and reversed circumstances, the Japanese have shown evidences of more hasty assembling and organization of their task forces, which frequently are thrown into action without the benefit of combined training. In one instance the 6th Independent Antitank Battalion was rushed from Manchuria to Guadalcanal in 23 days to bolster the task force organized late in 1942 to attempt to retake Henderson field.

b. Organization. While there is no uniform type of task force, the organizations of two such forces encountered in the Southwest Pacific will serve to illustrate general characteristics with adaptations for specific missions. A task force on Guadalcanal, organized with the 2nd Infantry Division as a nucleus, comprised a total personnel strength of about 25,000. It was charged with the mission of recapturing the airfield in October 1942 and was found to be organized as follows:

2 Division
16 Inf Regt
29 Inf Regt
230 Inf Regt
3 Bn of 124 Inf Regt
Det 4 Inf Regt
17 Army Arty Gp HQ
2 Fd Arty Regt (less detachments)
2 Co 75 F. A. Regt
2 Bn of 2 Fd Arty Regt
10 Ind Mtn Arty Regt
20 Ind Mtn Arty
2 Co 20 Med Arty Regt
38 Fd AA Arty Bn
45 Fd AA Arty (less detachments)
3 Co 47 Fd AA Arty Bn
2 Ind AT Bn
6 Ind AT Bn
9 Ind AT Co
3 Ind Infantry Mortar Bn (less 3 Co)
3 Co 1 Ind Mortar Regt
2 Engr Regt
1 Co of 7 Engr Regt
1 Pl of 15 Engr Regt
Engr Unit
2 Transport Regt
Transport Unit
Kitao Force
2 Div Sig Unit
2 Div Med Unit
2 Fd Hospital
2 Div Water Purifying Unit
One part of 24 Water Pur Unit
76 L of C Hospital
One part of 67 L of C Hospital
Motorcycle Unit

c. Nankai Task Force. While the above task force was heavily armed with artillery for its particular mission, a contrasting type in that respect was the Nankai Task Force, organized in Rabaul in May 1942 for an overland campaign against Port Moresby. This force was to operate over very rough jungle and mountain terrain where practically all roads were no better than trails. It consisted of elements of the 55th Division with the 41st Infantry Regiment from the 5th Division and supporting troops and was comparatively weak in artillery. It was organized as follows:

55 Division Infantry HQ
144 Inf Regt
41st Inf Regt (from 5th Div)
3rd Co with one AT Gun Section attached, of the 55th Cav Regt
1st Bn 55 Mtn Arty Regt
1st Co and part of Material Platoon, 55 Engr Regt
2nd Co 55 Transport Regt
55 Div Medical Unit (part)
1st Field Hosp 55th Div
Attached Troops:
11th Pioneer Unit
15th Ind Engr Regt
14th Ind Engr Regt
4th Ind Engr Co
47th Field AA Bn (less 1 Co)
55th Construction Co
61st Construction Co
1st Bridge Construction Co of 9th Div
88th Wire Comm Co (1 platoon)
24th Signal Regt (1 Wire Co)
Two Ind Radio Platoons
One Fixed Radio Unit
10th Evacuation Hosp Unit
53rd and 54th Casualty Collecting Stations
67th L of C Hosp Unit (less 1 part)
38th Ind Auto Bn
212th Ind Auto Co
3rd Field Transport Command (part)
55th Veterinary Depot (part)
16th Veterinary Depot (less 1 part)
17th Water Purification Unit
24th Water Purification Unit
55th Water Purification Unit

d. Raiding forces (Teishintai). (1) General. These forces in general are formed for the purpose of delivering attacks on some particular objective independently of the main force. Selected from infantry and other units, they may return to their original organizations after completion of their mission.

(2) The raiding units (teishintai) employed in the Southwest Pacific appear to have been developed from the special forces (betsudōtai) originally encountered in China. During the fighting in the Buna, Gona, and Salamaua areas in 1943, the Japanese on occasion sought to destroy enemy artillery by direct assault, and' raiding units were organized for such purposes. The strength of such units depended upon the number of guns in the objective and whether a surprise assault or storming attack was planned. The Oba Teishintai was formed at Salamaua in August 1943 by order of the 51st Division commander. It was composed of one company of infantry and one of engineers, together with one section of a signal unit. The unit was ordered to destroy an enemy artillery ammunition dump. For attacking and destroying four enemy guns, the basic strength of a Teishintai was found to be about as follows:

Hq group, 1 O, 1 liaison NCO and 1 orderly.
Demolition section and Assault section, about 15 men.
Support section, about 12 men.
Reserve section, about 12 men.

Similar specialized raiding units included small groups organized for raids into enemy territory to destroy bridges and lines of communication; assault (special fire point) units for attacking pillboxes and fortified positions; close-combat forces, a suicide squad to protect some definite point to the last man; demolition forces to remove obstacles such as wire entanglements; and tank-fighting units for direct assault on tanks. AH of these may be combined into a special assault group, or used in various combinations depending upon the objective.

(3) The Betsudōtai. These raiding units, or flying columns, were found in China where open country gave them great mobility. They comprised infantry and cavalry elements in varying strength, and in some cases it appeared that armored cars, tanks, light artillery, engineers, signal, and medical units might be included. Organizational data are meager and highly varied, but the general purpose of the flying columns was to deliver attacks at a considerable distance from the main force in order to disrupt or destroy enemy lines of communication. One source specifies the duties of a Betsudōtai as follows:

(a) To threaten the enemy flanks and their rear.

(b) To harass and disrupt enemy rear communications by destroying roads, railway bridges, etc.

(c) To occupy important and advanced positions prior to the movement of the main force.

(d) To carry out surprise attacks in and on unexpected localities.

(e) To ambush.

(f) To assist the main force when it is in a dangerous position.

(g) To carry out reconnaissance and other duties.

2. SPECIAL DEFENSE UNITS. a. General. Temporary defense of a locality occupied by assault forces may be assigned initially to a garrison unit (Shubitai). If a more permanent defense is required for the area the Shubitai is changed to a Keibitai. The Shubitai is usually established by making the infantry commander of the troops occupying the locality the defense commander in addition to his other duties. He is assigned certain Army and, in special cases, Navy units for defense of the area. For the Keibitai a special defense commander is designated and furnished with service troops and a small number of garrison troops for the nucleus of the defense force. Various Army and Navy troops in the area may be attached temporarily to complete the defense force. An Army or Navy officer may command the Shubitai or the Keibitai.

b. Organization. (1) Kavieng Keibitai. This unit at one time consisted of the following:

          Warrant officers and above         Noncommissioned officers and men         Total
Det 8th SNLF Base Garrison Unit1  58  59
1 SNLF Platoon3  75  78
AA Gun Unit1  29  30

Main weapons: 2 AA guns, 2 Mtn guns, 2 HMG, 4 LMG.

(2) In the Southwest Pacific, the Merkus Shubitai in December 1943 was found to consist of:

1st Co. (temp) of 115th Inf       152  
2nd Co. (temp) of 14th Fd Arty  151  
3rd Fd Hosp of 51st Div27  
One Ind Wireless Sec8  
Naval Coastal AA Unit (1 element)48  
(1 element)13  
Total  402  

This garrison covered a coastal area of approximately 10 miles from Cape Merkus to the Pulie River, in New Britain.

c. Line-of-communication garrison (sector) units. These Keibi or permanent defense units are found on the line of communications between a base and forward areas. Their duties embrace a wide variety of activities, including guard, assistance in moving personnel and supplies, cooperation with shipping-engineer units, inspection of native areas, observation, and labor. Some of the line-of-communication units have been commanded by colonels or lieutenant colonels and have included 4 or more companies in addition to temporarily attached troops. One line-of-communication garrison company was listed as having 5 officers and 165 enlisted men.

d. Observation posts (coast-watching stations). In areas they have occupied, the Japanese have established a system of observation posts intended to give advance warnings of Allied air attacks and landing operations. These posts supplement normal air and surface reconnaissance; their size, spacing, and density naturally vary with the strategic value of the areas and installations. Most of these posts are equipped with radio (WT) sets and in some cases with radar.

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