1. ROLE AND CHARACTER. Until several years after World War I, Japan had no separate permanent naval landing organization corresponding to the U.S. Marine Corps. Instead, naval landing parties were organized temporarily from fleet personnel for a particular mission and were returned to their ships at its conclusion. This practice was made possible by the fact that every naval recruit was given training in land warfare concurrently with training in seamanship. The results of such training, together with any special skills such as machine gunner, truck driver, etc., were noted on the seaman's service record to serve as a basis for his inclusion in a landing party. Normally, the fleet commander designated certain ships to furnish personnel for the landing party. This practice, however, depleted their crews and lowered their efficiency for naval action. Therefore, in the late 1920's Japan began to experiment with more permanent units known as Special Naval Landing Forces (Rikusentai). Those units were formed at the four major Japanese naval bases: Sasebo, Kure, Maizuru, and Yokosuka, and were given numerical designations as formed; for example, there is a Sasebo 2nd Special Naval Landing Force. They are composed entirely of naval personnel with a naval officer, usually a commander, in charge. These forces, first used against China and later against the Allies, have gone through several stages o evolution as the general war situation has changed. As the present war progressed, and the Japanese Navy became more involved in the seizure and defense of Pacific islands, other naval land organizations came into existence. Examples of these are: the Base Force (Tokubetsu Konkyochitai), the Guard Force (Keibitai), the Pioneers (Setsueitai) and the Naval Civil Engineering and Construction Units (Kaigun Kenchiku Shisetsu Butai).

2. SPECIAL NAVAL LANDING FORCES. a. Use in China. Special naval landing forces were used extensively in landing operations on the China coast beginning with 1932, and often performed garrison duty upon capturing their objective. Their performance was excellent when unopposed, but when determined resistance was encountered they exhibited a surprising lack of ability in infantry combat. These early special naval landing forces were organized as battalions, each estimated to comprise about 2,000 men divided into 4 companies. Three companies each consisted of 6 rifle platoons and 1 heavy machine gun platoon; the fourth company, of 3 rifle platoons and a heavy-weapons platoon of four 3-inch naval guns, or two 75-mm regimental guns and two 70-mm battalion guns. Tank and armored car units were employed in garrison duty and, where the terrain and situation favored their use, in assault operations.

b. Offensive use in World War II. When the present war began, special naval landing forces at first were used to occupy a chain of Pacific island bases. Wake Island was taken by one such force, while another seized the GIlbert Islands. later the were used to spearhead landing operations against Java, Ambon, and Rabaul, where the bulk of the attack forces consisted of army personnel. During this period the special naval landing forces, although heavily armed, were used as mobile striking units. They consisted of two rifle companies (each having a machine-gun platoon), and one or two companies of heavy weapons (antitank guns, sometimes antiaircraft guns, and tanks), a total of 12,00 to 1,500 men. A small number of special troops (engineer, ordnance, signal, transport and medical) was also included. Figure 78 illustrates the composition of this type of unit, and also the change to heavier fire power as compared with the organization of the earlier types of naval landing forces used in China from 1932 to 1937.

c. Special naval landing forces in defense. Special naval landing forces, or similar organizations, are occupying a number of outlying bases, because the Army has been reluctant to take over the defenses of these outposts. Since Japan has lost the initiative in the Pacific, these forces have been given defensive missions, and the Japanese Navy has changed their organization accordingly. This point is strikingly illustrated by a comparison of the organization of the yokosuka 7th Special Naval Landing force (fig. 79), encountered on New Georgia, with that of the Maizuru 2nd (fig. 78). The Yokosuka 7th has a larger amount of artillery, and its guns are mainly pedestal-mounted naval pieces. As first organized, the Yokosuka 7th was deficient in infantry troops and infantry weapons for defense, but later it was reinforced by a second rifle company. This new company consisted of 3 rifle platoons of 1 officer and 48 enlisted men each (3 light-machine-gun squads and 1 grenade-discharger squad), and a heavy-machine-gun platoon of 1 officer, 58 enlisted men, and 8 heavy machine guns.

Other special naval landing forces probably started with an organization similar to that of the Maizuru 2nd, but their gun strengths and organizations most


Figure 78. Maizuru No. 2 Special Landing Force: Organization as of 19 November 1941.


probably have veered toward that of the Yokosuka 7th. This process was found to have occurred in the Gilberts and Marshalls. Under Allied pressure Japan has found it necessary to increase the defenses of some islands by reinforcing the special naval landing force, or by combining two or more special naval landing forces into a new organization known as a Combined Special Naval Landing Force. In New Georgia the Kure 6th, the Yokosuka 7th, and portions of the Maizuru 4th were combined into the 8th Combined Special Naval Landing Force. In the Gilberts a special naval landing force was combined with a guard or base force to form a Special Defense Force.

3. TRAINING OF SPECIAL NAVAL LANDING FORCE. The earlier special naval landing forces received extensive training in landing operations and beach defense, but their training in infantry weapons and tactics does not appear to have been up to the standard of the Japanese Army. More recently there has been a greater emphasis on infantry training for units already in existence. Tactical doctrine for land warfare follows that of the Army, with certain changes based on lessons learned during the current war. The platoon is the basic tactical unit, rather than the company. The Japanese Navy has not hesitated to cut across company lines in assigning missions within the landing force and in detailing portions of a landing force to detached missions.

4. UNIFORMS AND PERSONAL EQUIPMENT. Small arms and personal equipment are similar to that used by the Army. Dress uniform consists of navy blues with canvas leggings. The Japanese characters for "Special Naval Landing Force" appear on the naval cap in the manner in which the words "U.S. Navy" appear on the caps of U.S. enlisted men. Field uniforms are similar to the Army in cut and color, although the color is sometimes more green. The typical Army cloth cap and steel helmet are used, but the insignia is an anchor instead of the star of the Army, (see ch. XI).

5. MISCELLANEOUS NAVAL ORGANIZATIONS. a. Base force or special base

Figure 79. Yokosuka 7th Special Landing Force (As Original Organized).


Figure 79--Continued. Yokosuka 7th Special Landing Force (As Reinforced).


force (Tokubetsu Konkyochitai). This unit is the Naval Command echelon for the defense forces of a prescribed area. In addition to headquarters personnel, the base force has certain heavy coast artillery and also heavy and medium antiaircraft artillery. There appears to be no fixed organization, the size of the base force depending upon the importance and extent of the area to be defended. The following units may be found attached to base forces:

b. Pioneers (Setsueitai). The function of this unit is the construction of airfields, fortifications, barracks, etc. It is commanded by a naval officer, usually of the rank of captain or commander, has attached officers and civilians with engineering experience, and is semimilitary in character. There appear to be 2 types of organization, of 800 and 1,300 men respectively, depending on the size of the job. The unit contains from 1/4 to 1/3 Japanese, and the balance or Koreans or Fomosans. The 15th Pioneers was such a unit.

c. Navy civil engineering and construction unit (Kaigun Kenchiku Shisetsu Butai). This unit appears to be used primarily for common labor, and is of little combat value. It is commanded by a Japanese civilian and is composed mainly of Koreans, with about 10 percent armed Japanese to serve as overseers. its size appears to be around 1,000 men. In combat value, it is inferior to the pioneer unit since it contains fewer armed Japanese.

d. Guard force (Keibitai). This unit is used for the defense of small installations. It is composed of naval personnel, and has light and medium antiaircraft and heavy infantry weapons. its size, armament, and organization vary, and several guard forces may be attached to a base force.


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 division 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 evidence 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:

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 5thh Division and supporting troops and was comparatively weak in artillery. It was organized as follows:

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 (betsudotai) 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:

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. All of these may be combined into a special assault group, or used in various combinations depending upon the objective.

(3) The Betsudotai. 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 Betsudotai as follows:

  1. To threaten th enemy flanks and their rear.
  2. To harass and disrupt enemy rear communications by destroying roads, railway bridges, etc.
  3. To occupy important and advanced positions prior to the movement of the main force.
  4. To carry out surprise attacks in and on unexpected localities.
  5. To ambush.
  6. To assist the main force when it is in a dangerous position.
  7. 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
officers and men
Det 8th SNLF Base Garrison Unit 1 58 59
1 SNLF Platoon 3 75 78
AA Gun Unit 1 29 30
Totals: 5 162 167

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

(2) In the Southwest Pacific, the Merkus Shutbitai in December 193 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 Div. 27
One Ind Wireless Sec. 8
MPs 3
Naval Coastal AA Unit (1 element) 48
Naval Coastal AA Unit (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. Obesrvation posts (coast-watching stations). In areas they have occupied, the Japanese have established a system of observation posts in tended 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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