The notes given below on Japanese combat principles for machine guns and antitank rifles
are paraphrased from a translation of an enemy document, which deals principally with
the tactical employment of the infantry battalion machine-gun company.
A brief discussion on the organization of the machine-gun company and the battalion
antitank section will help the reader to understand the Japanese notes. This
organizational data deals only with the model, or "paper," composition of the
units. Their actual operational strengths are usually flexible, and generally less
than the "paper" figures. The machine-gun company has eight heavy machine guns
and six officers and 130 enlisted men. The company is broken down into four
gun platoons and an ammunition platoon. The gun platoon has two sections, each of
which has one gun and 10 or 11 men. The antitank section consists of
two 20-mm antitank rifles, and 17 men.
2. THE NOTES
Machine guns and the 20-mm antitank rifles operate with the rifle companies to
increase their fire power—these weapons are not designed for independent
In firing machine guns and the 20-mm rifles, it is important to
catch the hostile forces unawares, and to lay down a large volume of fire
within a short period.
These weapons must follow closely behind the rifle companies during an advance.
b. Section Combat
The section leader will inspect the mechanism and the sighting of his gun
before going into position so that firing can commence immediately. He will
move secretly by cover afforded by the terrain, and by shadows and
During combat the section leader will watch the enemy situation and the
operation of his own gun. He will observe the range and adjust the gun
sights as needed, and, if necessary, will fire the gun himself. At suitable
intervals he will report to the platoon commander the amount of ammunition
on hand and the condition of the gun.
c. Platoon Combat
While front-line rifle units are preparing for the attack, the machine-gun units
will move into positions where they can be of the greatest assistance. They
will make thorough preparations and maintain close coordination with the
Before sections occupy positions, the platoon commander will, as far as
possible, inform the section leaders of the plan of occupation, the firing
plan, the range and target, the position of the company as a whole, and the
positions selected for the sections. He will maintain liaison with adjacent
units within the zone of advance, and, when necessary, will regulate the
details of future firing and advance. The platoon commander will usually
order each section to fire at the same general target, but, depending on
the tactical situation, he may order them to fire on different targets.
At suitable times during combat, the platoon will change positions. Usually
all platoons of the machine-gun company will change at the same time, although,
under certain conditions, the change may be made in echelon.
The positions of the 20-mm antitank rifles will be chosen with a view to
giving the gunners a good field of fire and as much natural cover and
protection as possible.
The antitank-platoon commander will usually point out the tanks at which the
gunners will fire, but he also will order the section leader, on his own
initiative, to attack targets which appear to be good ones. Against flank
defenses, the platoon commander will, as a rule, point out the targets
for each section.
Antitank riflemen should not suffer unnecessary losses by firing too
quickly and exposing their positions. They should take no notice of
diversions caused by the enemy at long ranges, but they will fire
against the infantry which usually accompanies hostile tanks. However, if a
tank approaches within close range, the riflemen will fire on it at will, or
upon orders by the company commander. On such occasions, they are to fire
either on the weak spots of the tank or else concentrate their fire on
the loophole and the peephole.
The machine-gun platoon commander, after having reconnoitered his sector as
far as circumstances permit, will see that his guns are sited properly, and
will then report to the company commander whether or not there is "dead
space" between his sector and friendly troops on the flanks. There must be no
weak points in the firing front.
The platoon commander, in order to facilitate the execution of his mission
and to avoid needless losses, will set up several alternate gun positions,
and, if possible, some dummy positions, as well. All positions must be
located far enough back of the front line to prevent their being hit by
friendly gunfire from the rear.
Positions will be constructed so that the gunners may stand up while
firing. Communication trenches for the purpose of changing positions will
be dug so that the men may traverse them by merely stooping.
Each section will prepare a firing plan. In order to simplify firing
commands, as far as conditions permit, the section leader will measure the
distance to the principal point where fire will be massed, and will set up
markers in the forward areas and attach symbols to them. He will prepare a
fire map, mark in the principal lines of fire, and will make communication
The section leader commences firing upon orders by the company commander. The
former will gradually increase his fire against the most profitable targets as
the hostile forces press forward. He will lose no opportunity to fire
the 20-mm antitank rifles at hostile tanks.
Even if the opposition should penetrate our positions, each section will
continue firing in order to facilitate a counterattack. If necessary, the
sections will advance, while firing, to more suitable positions. By not
considering the question of losses, the machine-gun sections will most
effectively cooperate with the unit which is counterattacking.
d. Company Combat
When an assault by front-line rifle units is held up or hampered, the
machine-gun troops, without regard for losses, will direct their greatest
fire power against the hostile forces in order to inflict maximum losses
and give the rifle units an incentive for resuming the assault.
When preparing positions at night for a dawn attack, the company commander
will, as far as the tactical situation permits, reconnoiter the area and
decide on suitable objectives. Upon advancing into their attacking
positions, the machine-gun units will effect immediate liaison with
flanking units, and perform various preparatory duties, which include
After the first-line rifle troops have launched an assault, the supporting
machine-gun units must be able to catch up with them rapidly.
When ordered to assume the defensive, the machine-gun company commander
reconnoiters his area, studies the dispositions of friendly artillery,
infantry, heavy weapons, and front-line infantry, and then plans the
details of his own attack.
Important points in machine-gun defense include arrangements for digging
proper disposition of the ammunition platoon, and antiaircraft, antitank,
and antigas protection.
In case of a [Japanese] counterattack from defensive positions, the
machine-gun company units will advance quickly to new and convenient
positions, or, with rifle troops, they may thrust toward the hostile
flanks or rear, or through openings. They must attack strongly.
During the retreat, machine-gun troops do not think of losses, but
sacrifice themselves for the unit as a whole by firing fiercely against
the strong pressure of the enemy. They make it easy for other friendly
troops to withdraw. The machine gunners will allow the hostile forces
no advantage, and if the latter press close to their guns, the machine
gunners will resist with vigorous hand-to-hand fighting and destroy