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"Japanese Ruse - A Decoy Ship" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. military report on Japanese decoy ships during WWII was originally printed in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 16, Jan. 14, 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 use of dummy positions, installations, etc. presents nothing new in principle. When properly used, however, they can offer considerable protection against bombing attacks if not disclosed by close study of air photos and careful direct observation.

An effective example of the principle here involved has, at least in one instance, been used by the Japanese. A Japanese supply ship, in the harbor of an island captured by them, was beached (or anchored very close to the beach). She was repeatedly attacked by United States planes and remained in the same position for an extended period of time, apparently so badly damaged as to be unable to put out to sea. In a subsequent attack on this harbor, our planes observed two ships, one in the old position near the beach, and what appeared to be a newly arrived ship farther out in the harbor. The planes bombed and hit the ship out in the harbor. The wrong ship was attacked.

When the planes returned to their base, air photos taken during the mission were studied. They showed that the old damaged ship was the one out in the harbor; its former position near the beach had been occupied by the newly arrived ship. Except for the bridges, both ships were practically identical in general appearance and size. Barges were located alongside the damaged vessel in its new position, but careful scrutiny showed its hatches to be covered. The new ship had no barges alongside, yet it was noted that its open hatches disclosed a partially unloaded cargo.

It is obvious that the intention was to protect the newly arrived ship by making it appear to be the old damaged vessel. The ruse was at least partially successful in that the enemy gained valuable time in which to unload the new ship.


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