Saturday 5 October 2013

Japanese Tactics, Summer 1945

"Some notes on tactics and combat application of Japanese army units

It is not possible to give a full and correct evaluation of Japanese tactics using combat experience of the 5th Army, since the main forces on either side did not participate in the most heated battles. The enemy had no aircraft, almost no tanks, and insufficient amounts of artillery. This did not let us observe the co-operation between Japanese infantry and other types of forces. However, small unit tactics deserve our attention.

Small unit, group, and individual tactics in the Japanese army are very well refined. All of Japanese educational institutions, including elementary schools, place high importance on teaching children and teenagers hand to hand combat (fencing with bayonets, epees, rapiers, knife combat, jiu-jitsu, etc). Hand to hand combat techniques develop highly reliable and brave soldiers, even in the face of certain death. For example: on August 17th, 1945, during patrols of the region around an observation point of the commander of the 72nd SK on the nameless height 2 km south-west of Sidaolintzy (3256), a heavy machine gun with crew was discovered. When our patrols approached, they opened fire. Our patrols returned fire from submachineguns and killed the crew, except the gunner. When the machine gun jammed, the gunner opened fire from a rifle. When our patrols approached his trench, he fought back with grenades, and blew himself up when he was wounded. Upon examining the machine gun crew's bodies, we found three bundles of anti-tank mines, with two mines each. These are attached to the end of a pole in order to place them underneath tank treads. Also, a large amount of rifle cartridges, grenades, and one canvas bag with 2-3 kilograms of TNT with a detonator, strapped to a soldier's chest. It is likely that he was a suicide bomber, meant to destroy tanks and other vehicles.

Small unit tactics of the Japanese consist of small units and squads attempting to slow down the advancing army elements by fighting mainly on roads and adjacent heights. Trenches were dug close to roads and on high ground. Groups, or single observers, always watched our forces, and opened fire at an opportune moment. Usually they opened fire at small groups of our soldiers, horse carts, single cars, horsemen, motorcyclists, etc. There were situations where, even after scouring the area with submachinegunners, individuals would conceal themselves, and continue activity in the region. Many single soldiers were found camouflaged next to roads with the goal of sabotage. These individuals, so called suicide bombers, carried explosives, and threw themselves on to approaching tanks and groups of people, killing themselves in the process.

Despite their fanatical bravery and devotion, the suicide bombers were ineffective. In an overwhelming majority of cases, they were destroyed by submachinegun fire before reaching their goal. Only 2% of our tank losses can be attributed to suicide bombers, despite a very large amount of them. Many groups or individuals stalked our officers and generals, and attacked them with knives. For example, on August 11th, 1945, three Japanese soldiers snuck into the region of Colonel Kuchin's command post undetected, chose a good moment, and charged at him with knives. Private Iptap Inyakin shot all three of them at point blank range with his submachinegun. On August 15th, when the headquarters of the 65th SK were setting up near the road to Southern Daimagou, it was surrounded at night by submachinegunners. The distance between guards was 5-10 paces. Also, inside the HQ, a guard was posted at every department, tent, and car, as well as patrols around the departments. At 1 am on August 16th, two Japanese soldiers with grenades and knives crawled up to a submachinegunner. When the patrolman hailed them, they threw a grenade, injuring him, and charged in the direction of the headquarters, where they were eliminated by guards.

Much attention is devoted to night-time operations. As a rule, units acting under the cover of darkness are relieved of excess equipment, frequently acting without rifles, with only knives, explosives, and grenades, and attack our units to kill as many as possible. For example, during the night between August 14th and 15th, in the region of Zasada (14 km west of Mulin), a group of Japanese officers and junior officers, as large as 150 men, armed with knives, explosives, and grenades, attempted to blow up tanks belonging to one of our units and eliminate its men. The group was spotted by patrols, and stopped with submachinegun fire. The enemy, with 15 dead and several injured, retreated to the mountains to the north. One of our men was injured.

The 84th Cavalry Division was deployed south-west of the city of Mulin, in road-less, swampy, and very difficult terrain. During the entire time there, they frequently fought small enemy units that cut off supply lines of the division, attacked carts, and inflicted losses. During the day, these groups were either eliminated, or thrown back far from the only road through the Dashitouhe river valley.  During the night, the enemy cut off the road again, and blocked the division from its rear echelons. The significance of night-time operations for the enemy can  be seen from such examples as forces moving across the Manchurian border through the Syaosuyfynhe, Mulin, and Mudanzyan regions, which were forced to cease all progress at night, deploy patrols on the side of the road, and only continue on during daytime.

Enemy artillery, as a rule, acted with guard squads, and was positioned by the side of the road, in some cases close enough for direct fire. The firing positions are surrounded by protective infantry squads. The main use of artillery was to deny us progress by opening fire on roads. Due to small amounts of artillery, only one or two guns were used in a group. Due to their hurried retreat, there was a problem with ammunition. In many cases, shells were carried to artillery positions by hand. As the result of these factors, enemy artillery was unable to delay our advance significantly, or inflict significant losses.

In rare cases, the enemy would open fire on the road or concentrations of our forces with single mortars. Enemy artillery was most active on intermediary lines of defense, as well as important defensive points such as [the paper is worn, so it's hard to read them] as well as approaches to the city of Mudanzyan. Due to limited application of artillery, we did not learn much about Japanese fire control, and cooperation of artillery with other types of forces.

Tanks were used at Ilyinskiy, Sinyuanczhen, and Mulin, as well as further west on that road. Tanks opened fire from ambushes, acting in small groups of 3-5. Tanks fired directly from large distances. When our tanks or tank destroyers approached, their tanks would retreat to new positions. No enemy SPGs were seen.

Actions of enemy engineers and sappers were only noticed when our forces approached the river Mulinhe and Mudanzyan. Bridges were wired to explode, and sections of the road were mined. Explosives were placed in buildings and warehouses. As our units approached, the Japanese blew up bridges and placed AT mines in regions where our tanks would likely go.

Enemy aviation was absent. There were singular cases of single scout planes spotted in the air.

Chemical preparedness of Japanese units was adequate. Forces had means of chemical protection, as well as chemical attack. All soldiers had gas masks and protective clothing. Large amounts of several types and sizes of poisonous smoke bombs were found, including those armed with diphenylcyanorsin, which irritates the nose and throat, and ones with green stripes, containing chroloacetophenon, which causes significant eye irritation. Also, chroloacetophenon smoke candles were found. Poison bombs and candles were found at warehouses north-west of Hobei, mixed with neutral smoke bombs. There were no confirmed cases of use of these chemical weapons, and one possible case. In the region of the Madaoshi railroad station, a group of enemy soldiers crawled up to a disabled T-34, and attempted to destroy the crew. The crew managed to get back into the tank. The Japanese used some manner of poisoned smoke or fluid to force the crew to leave the tank, shot them, and then got into the tank themselves, to open fire on our tanks, disabling two."

CAMD RF 234-3213-345