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"Japanese Tactics in New Guinea" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on Japanese tactics in the Milne Bay area of New Guinea was originally printed in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 22, April 8, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


The following is a brief note on Japanese land tactics in the Milne Bay area (southeastern New Guinea). It also touches on their treatment of their own wounded.

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When the Japanese met our line of skirmishers, they fired all their machine guns into the tree-tops above our men. As soon as this fire was countered by our machine guns, their mortars opened up on our machine-gun positions.

On several occasions, when our line of skirmishers was met, large numbers of Japanese ran forward and were met by withering machine-gun fire. They immediately turned and fled. Our men, with the usual cry of "After the b******s," rushed after them with fixed bayonets. Immediately, the fleeing Japanese threw themselves on the ground and our troops ran into machine-gun fire from the Japanese rear.

In the Milne Bay area, the Japanese plan was to advance and attack during the night and then to withdraw during the daytime, leaving dozens of their men at the top of coconut palms and in the jungle, with machine guns and Tommy guns. As our forces advanced the next day, they were harassed by these remnants. Often the Japanese were tied in the tops of palm trees and remained there after they were shot. (The Japanese practice of advancing at night and hiding during the day may have been dictated on the spot by the constant strafing and reconnaissance by Allied aircraft.)

The plan eventually developed by our own forces as they advanced during the day was to drop a platoon or two each 400 or 500 yards as they advanced; eventually, they would meet the main Japanese forces. By nightfall each of the independent units and our main force would slash a perimeter clearing of about 200 yards' diameter around their positions, rig trip wires at the edge, and then confidently await the Japanese night attack. This appeared to upset the Japanese plan and proved very successful.

Considerable numbers of the Japanese wounded were evacuated by warships, but a number of cases were found of badly wounded men who apparently were considered not worth removing, having been shot through the heart by their own troops.


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