The Jungle theatre...?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by down_under, Aug 23, 2007.

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  1. After reading the Gen Percival thread it got me wondering about something. A little off topic for there so I'll start this thread and hopefully it's not too daft. Why do you reckon it took a while for the allies to get the measure of the Japs, note not calling them slopey eyed ones :D , in the jungle theatre? Much to my own shame I should know this, but I have always been interested in the desert/European campaign history. d_u :oops:
  2. A number of reasons,

    1.While the war raged in Europe & North Africa, Malaya & Singapore still had the "cushy" peacetime posting syndrome. There is no excuse for not being better prepared.

    2. After getting battered in France and accepting the nature of warfare had changed, this experience was not transferred to the far east where the allies were thinking in terms of the last war.

    3. The Japanese infantry were just magnificent!! Tough, hardy, motivated, superbly trained for the kind of war they expected to fight, they were really up for it!.

    It took time to develop the troops & tactics to counter the Japanese army.
    In Malaya despite the overall disaster that unfolded, when British,Indian & Australian troops were able to make a stand and the Japanese were not able to use their by passing tactics, the Japanese were often repulsed at local level.
  3. 3. The Japanese infantry were just magnificent!! Tough, hardy, motivated, superbly trained for the kind of war they expected to fight, they were really up for it!.

    I agree they were hard little nutters, which leads me to another question. How would we have gone if they weren't let down by their HighCom and left to starve/fend/Banzai attack for themselves. I would like to think that we would have worked them out and destroyed them... :? Like what happened on the Kokoda Track.
  4. From a strategic point of view, when they failed to knock the US out of the war at Pearl Harbour it was always going to be a tough fought but foregone conclusion. Lack of stategic assets and an inability to keep up with US industrialisation producing ships, materiel etc. would be the killer.

    The Jap Army were hard barstards; coupled with this was that Churchill very much viewed the Far East theatre as a secondary one - before the Japs invaded Malaya.

    However the British at the time never fully appreciated how to conduct jungle warfare at the Startegic level (and until the likes of Spencer Chapman etc) or even the tactical level.
  5. A point rarely mentioned is that the Japanese were battle hardened troops who had nbeen fighting for years in China while on the British side , no disrespect meant, there were mainly poorly trained troops who were not , in many cases, acclimatised or equipped adequately. The fact that all the defences were built on the assumption that the attack would be from the sea obviously didn't help.
  6. I always loved the qoute, "awakened a sleeping giant...", which is no doubt what they did. Which then leads into yet another 'what if', if they hadn't pissed off the Yanks by bombing Pearl and bypassed that bit and attacked Singapore etc...??? I realise this could go on and on but I love history, specially what ifs. :D :?
  7. This subject would require a thesis to summarise!
    To add to aghart's points; the Japanese were prepared for war, had planned it meticulously and executed it ruthlessly. Their Malayan campaign demonstrated to perfection what theorists now define as manoeuvre warfare, and the IJA did not fall into the western mindset that mobility requires mechanisation. The IJA routinely employed combined arms tactics against ill prepared infantry-centric linear defences (What? Tanks in the jungle? Never!). When faced with defence they simply took to the jungle on foot or bicycle, and subsequently bypassed defenders leaving follow on echelons to envelop and destroy.
    Also don't forget that the IJA had been fighting for some time in China, and enthusiastically applied the lessons learned there to Malaya as relevant.

    At the tactical level, there were a number of reversals of the Japanese advance, some significant - Bakri, Parit Sulong, Gemas and the Muar River spring to mind. These were not co-ordinated at the operational level however, and never exploited. As stated above, the IJA would simply apply their main effort elsewhere, thereby keeping the defenders on the back foot. This had the effect of forcing the allied high command into a state of paralysis, with attempted mitigation being poorly thought out and rushed decisions being made that saw forces commited piecemeal and too late to do anything but be enveloped themselves.

    As for turning the tide and breaking the myth of Japanese invincibility? If you discount the tactical successes in Malaya, Milne Bay saw the first defeat on the IJA that affected their operational level plans, thus resulting in the preferred flanking manoeuvre to Moresby being abandoned, with the main thrust taking the overland route and thus resulting in the 39th Bn's successful defence of Kokoda, although that was a close run affair. The inability of the IJA to penetrate saw a stalemate, whereby the long supply lines required by the Japanese saw a degredation of combat power, whilst the Australians enjoyed very short supply lines, allowing for relatively rapid build up of forces and materiel. This in turn led to the gruelling campaign to push the IJA back to the North coast of PNG, climaxing in the battles of Buna and Gona.

    In Burma, the British and Commonwealth forces under the superb leadership of Slim, also turned the IJA back. Simultaneously, the Americans had embarked on their unstoppable island hopping campaigns in the Pacific - no nation or army can claim that they beat the Japanese by themselves.

    The IJA were not abandoned by their High Command. They were simply faced with more problems, casualties and fronts than they could deal with. The emerging allied air and sea power seriously interfered with reinforcement and resupply, thus leading to isolated outposts of Japanese continuing to fight on without support.

    Enough drivel. Malaya is a fascinating campaign to study, yet despite holding magnificent examples of bravery and tactical genius on both sides, seems to remain as the poor cousin of more popular campaigns.
  8. Question - do you really think the Japanese intention was to "knock the US out of war"? From what I've read in the past it seems more realistic that they wanted to damage the US sufficently to allow them time to create a defensible perimeter for their so-called "East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" which would be too costly for the US etc. to assault successfully. US industrialisation was the key factor in why the Japanese ultimately lost.

    Agreed. I've got a copy of Col. Spencer Chapman's book "Jungle Green" at home and it is an excellent read. Whilst it gives some interesting insight into guerilla warfare from a Brit perspective I'm not that convinced on its ultimate value in the conduct of jungle warfare - after his interim sabotage efforts against the Japanese transport networks his major concern was one of survival. His effort at the time seems more in line with the "Popski Private Army" approach i.e. cobbling together whatever we had to damage the enemy as best we could.

    Bernard Fergusson's work, "Beyond the Chindwin" is more suited to the jungle warfare issue and gives a good examination of the role of the Chindits in 43/44 as they tested the relevant theories of the day in terms of tactics and human endurance.

    Mind you if you check out the works of Slim and George Macdonald Fraser (of Flashman fame) its clear that the fighting in the Far East and Burma in particular took place in a variety of landscapes other than jungle including desert so the fellas out there needed to be pretty flexible throughout.

  9. @ Blue_red_blue colonial and lancslad, great posts, and from that I remember the yarns of the Chindits in their efforts against the occursed yellow devil were second to none especially the efforts of moving in some places a 1000k with donkey, SMLE and hard rats. Harder men will never again be found... IMHO :D
  10. Its a moot question and a good one. From the quote you made (sleeping giant .......terrible resolve) I think the Japanese High Command was split. The Army wanted it to be a hammer blow to deter any US intervention in the Greater Japanese Co-Prosperity fear but Yamamoto knew the US very well and wasn't overkeen on causing a problem with the US or indeed the West, particularly Britain.
  11. Just a small point. the title of Spencer Chapman's book is not Jungle Green but "The Jungle is Neutral". That said the book shows that had stay behind parties (including local people) with pre postioned equipment and hidden camps been available from the start the japanese advance would have been severly hindered. This didn't happen for 2 reasons.
    1. The traditional view of many senior officers regarding "bandits"
    2. The local European land owners who were ideal material for these groups were needed to maintain tin and rubber production.

    Defence I'm afraid came at the bottom of the list of priorities.
  12. Correct - my bad. Confused myself with another book I have on Malaya, a fictional account of the Suffolks during the Emergency which is excellent given the background of the author (Arthur Campbell MC) and his own experience of the emergency.

  13. IMHO Racism pure and simple was behind most of the 'Nip' mentality.
    Wavell considered them 'Rabble' according to Maj Gen Kay, P149 of 'Leadership in War'.
    Their treatment of wounded and prisoners helped forment the idea that they where subhuman.
    My own father could 'shiver' when he first started to speak of his time in Burma and I have seen the same action when my 87 year old friend occasionally speaks of his time there.
    They where Hard troops, most I will suggest where poorly educated but had that well known absolute devotion to the Emporer, and any officers order was deemed to be a direct Order from him.
    Some years ago I purchased a copy of 'Japanese Soldiers Talking' extracts from letters and interviews with japanese troops of that era.
    I found it most disturbing, they spoke as I would expect Brit troops to do,
    not as the Mad Raving Killers of 'The Knights of the Bushido".
    Many have mentioned their continual adhearance to orders, stupid orders, continual frontal attacks against well defended positions. Poor patroling tactics are often mentioned and I have read refereances that state that once Brit/Allied troops had knowlegdge of jap and his tactics they did not rate them highly.
    The troops that invaded Malaya / Burma where veterants led by expireanced officers. The Brit defenders where not veterants and the command failed.
    Much is madeof the jap navys aknowledgement that the day of the battleship was over,yet even they continued to build the Yamoto class ships altho the third of class was completed as a carrier.
    I have an elderly Japanese couple live in the next appartment to me and even in a country where the locals are noted for politness and curtisy my nieghbors outdo them all.
  14. I've certainly read things (sorry, no sources immediately to hand...) that substantiate rickshaw-major's view of a Japanese split, with the army ('Northerners') favouring land war in China and the navy ('Southerners') tending to favour what happened 1941+.

    Given how many troops and treasure were used up in the China campaign, another 'what if?' might be could the Japanese have been more successful if they'd stuck to one of the expansionist options instead of splitting their forces? Reminds me a bit of 'what if?' Adolf hadn't invaded the USSR...

    Reference 'The Jungle is Neutral': there was an early edition on one of the 'decorative' bookshelves in Bangkok's 'The Dublinner' - at least until it left under someone's shirt one night :oops:
  15. The effect of stay behind parties certainly offered the potential of strategic level impact, however was harder to achieve than anticipated. Certainly, Chapman pioneered the theory, however he and his band found it difficult to properly execute.

    The two Australian Independent Companies who fulfilled such a role in East Timor (sequentially following a relief in place, not simultaneously) did conduct guerilla war for some eighteen months, and were successful to the point of diverting some 20 000+ Japanese Troops from reinforcing the New Guinea campaign at it's deciding point, in order to secure the Japanese lines of supply (namely Dili port and airfield).

    The downfall of the Independent Coys was the reliance on the tacit support of the population. Whilst initially, the Timorese provided all manner of assistance, the Japanese employed their usual methods of persuasion against the populace, which resulted in the gradual, yet irreversible waning of support. Eventually, many once loyal 'guerillas' were coerced into informing on their former allied comrades in arms. The inability to trust the population meant that the only tactical counter was for the Independent Coys to 'go it alone', and avoid interaction with, or observation by the Timorese. Given the impossibility of achieving this, with compromise a matter of course, the Australians lost any vestige of initiative and therefore the capability to strike, as their sole efforts were aimed at remaining hidden. Thus, the Independent Companies were withdrawn, having indirectly achieved a significant shaping effect on the conduct of the regional campaign

    Chapman encountered similar problems, as did the largely 'forgotten' guerilla units of the Phillipines; who, having avoided capture, fought on until the end of the war. Without the reliable cooperation of the locals, such forces were not feasible. Incidentally, this contributed to the evolution of the Australian SRD and the now popularised 'Z Force', who were employed as the fore-runners to today's SF organisations; namely to conduct strategic raids without reliance on local infrastructure or population. Z Force conducted a fairly spectacular raid on Singapore harbour, sinking many tonnes of Japanese shipping, however tried to do the same thing again; were captured by the Japanese (who had cunningly enlisted the support of a massive, local informer network); and all ended up dead.