A clue as to why the Japanese defenders of Peleliu behaved so differently in some respects than had their compatriots in previous island operations is furnished by a captured document entitled: "Palau Sector Group Training for Victory."1 This was issued at Group Headquarters on 11 July 1944, over the signature of Lieutenant General Sadai Inoue, over-all commander, but internal evidence, substantiated by post-war interrogations, indicates that it was mainly if not entirely the work of Inoue's chief of staff, Colonel Tokechi Tada, generally regarded as one of the most capable staff officers of the Imperial Army.
This document is of special interest in revealing certain departures from previous Japanese military thinking and as the first tangible intelligent effort to profit by past experience. The portion dealing with basic tactics and initial defense is quoted here, omitting extraneous matter and the inevitable bombast which Japanese officers appear to consider necessary for inspiring their troops.
. . . Victory depends on the officers and men of the entire army concentrating . . . on our thorough application of recent battle lessons, especially those of Saipan.
The ultimate goal of this training is to minimize our losses in the severe enemy pre-landing naval and aerial bombardment and, on the very night of the enemy landing, to take advantage of the fact that their equipment is not yet fully consolidated, to destroy their bridgehead in one blow. . . .
Compared with our "short sword" the Americans have a "long spear" with which to do battle. . . . We must first resolutely penetrate to the enemy and then we shall display our short swords and slash to the very marrow of his bones. . . .
We must recognize the limits of naval and aerial bombardment. Every soldier and civilian employee . . . will remain unmoved by this, must strengthen his spirits even while advancing by utilizing lulls in enemy bombardment and taking advantage of the terrain according to necessity--without incurring damage or exposing other areas too quickly or thoughtlessely. . . .
We are ready to die honorably. . . . (But) even if we die delivering our territories into the hands of the enemy it will not necessarily contribute to the opening of a new (and favorable) phase of the war and how can we carry out our mission? (TN: That is, mere dying is not enough). . . .
We must preserve personnel and ordnance psychological and material strength. . . . We must detect the opportunity for opening up accurate fire and recognize that it is unavoidable for the enemy either to increase his range or move his target, as his landing craft approach. . . .
It is most advantageous to be able to repel groups of landing craft before their arrival at the beach by means of strongly prepared beach positions but we cannot expect to accomplish this completely. . . . Moreover it is most urgent, in addition to attempting to destroy and confuse enemy landing craft by means of these strong points, to lead the enemy to confusion and destruction by concentrating rapidly disappearing fire power from our strong points remaining in his midst, even though partially
trampled under foot by landings,2 and to carry out strong counter-attacks from previously planned and prepared positions in order to destroy the enemy that has landed, by dawn of the next day.
In order to do this it will be necessary to carry out this counter-attack with men who have been withdrawn from non-active fronts or else to use as a nucleus well-selected reservists who have been previously withdrawn. . . .
Small sector unit COs and sector unit COs, if they are able to judge the enemy landing front with certainty, should seize the opportunity to move reserve troops to this front. . . .
In view of the tendency of the enemy . . . by means of an overwhelmingly superior naval and aerial bombardment to intercept and control our reinforcements . . . it is absolutely necessary that the movements of those aforementioned reserve units and troops drawn from other sectors should make practical use of terrain, natural objects, lulls in enemy fire, weather, atmospheric phenomena (especially squalls, clouds, mist, and smoke) in selecting their routes and, in addition that they plan and prepare before hand all necessary equipment and works. There will be no rapid exhaustion of battle strength if we pay careful attention to these details. . . .
Without concerning ourselves with the great explosive bursts or the strong local effect of naval firing, the destructive power wrought upon personnel is not very great. Especially when we consider that originally the object of naval guns was to sink ships and that their shells possess the special quality of falling low, their physical power is not very great against men who are advancing at a crawl, utilizing terrain, natural objects, and shell holes.
Aerial bombardment is almost identical. . . . By observing very carefully the activity of enemy planes and the bombs while they are falling, avoiding thereby instantaneous explosions, and by taking advantage of gaps in bombardment in order to advance, it can cause no great damage. The only fearful thing next to great physical power is the psychological effect upon ignorant and inexperienced personnel. . . .
It is certain that if we repay the Americans (who rely solely upon material power) with material power it will shock them beyond imagination. . . .
Heavenly aid on the road to victory falls only to those commanders who have a thorough control of command. . . .
1. For reference purposes translation of this document is listed as CinCPac-CinCPOA Item #11,190.
2. This passage describes the tactic of "passive infiltration" (i.e., hiding out in overrun positions in order to be in the rear of U.S. troops) which played such a prominent part in the operation.
Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation