Until several years after World War I, Japan had no separate permanent naval landing orgnization corresponding to the United Dtates 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 waefare 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 thefr crews and lowered their efficiency for naval action. Therefore in the late 1920's Japan began to experiment with more permanent units kown as Speci Naval Landing Forces (lukusentai). 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 and a Kure 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 of evolution as the general war situation has cbanged.

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 Nava] Civil Engineering and Construction Units (Kaigun Kenchiku Shisetsu Butai).


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 perfonnance was excellent when unopposed, but when determined resistance was encountered they exhibited a surprising lack of ability in infantry combat. These early special naval lauding forces were organized as battalion, 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 fom· 3-inch naval gun or two 75-mm regimental guns and two 70-mm battalion gUns. Tank ancl annored car units were employed in gai.Tison d11ty and, where the terrain and situation -favored their use, in assault operations.

b. Offensive use in World War II.
When World War II 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 they 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 antitaircraft guns and tanks), a total of 1,200 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 defense of these outposts. Since Japan has lost the initiative in th 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 (figure 79), encountered on New Georgia, with that of the Maizuru 2nd (figure 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 infanntry 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 lightmachine-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 organization most 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 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 8lh 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.


Rifles 800 Battalion howitzers, 70-mm 4
Pistols 800 Light armored cars 2
Light machine guns 55 Command cars 5
Heavy machine guns 12 Searchlights 5
Grenade dischargers 33 Radios (continuous wave only) 5
13-mm machine guns 4 Radio (short-wave, portable) 1
Flame throwers 10 Radios (walkie talkie type) 5
Regimental guns, 75-mm 4 machine gun carts 8

Figure 78 Maizuru No.2 Specal Landing Force: Organization as of 19 Novermber 1941.


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 aheady in existence. Tactical doctrine for land warfare follows that of the Army, with certain changes based on lessons learned during World War two. 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.


Small armS and personal quipmenl 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 cap 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).


a. Base force or special base.

120-mm guns 8
80-mm guns 16
75-mm antiaircraft guns (AA) 4
40-mm automatic guns (Auto) 2
13-mm machine guns (MG) 10
Heavy machine guns (HvMG) 4
Light machine guns (LMG) 6
Searchlights 2
Grenade dischargers (GD) 9 (?)
Officers (O) 20
Warrant Officers (WO) 41
Enlisted Men (EM) 1,377
Total 1,438

Figure 79 Yokosuka 7th special landing force (as originally organized).

120-mm guns 8
80-mm guns 16
75-mm antiaircraft guns (AA) 4
40-mm automatic guns (Auto) 2
Antitank guns (37-mm) 2
13-mm machine guns (MG) 10
Heavy machine guns (HvMG) 12
Light machine guns (LMG) 24
Light trench mortars 4
Searchlights 2
Grenade dischargers (GD) 41 (?)
Officers (O) 26
Warrant Officers (WO) 44
Enlisted Men (EM) 1,750
Total 1,820

Figure 79-b 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:

  • Aircraft.
  • Small naval surface units (patrol boats).
  • One or more special naval landing forces,
  • One or more guard forces.
  • Pioneer units.
  • Navy civil engineering and construction units.

    b. Pioneers (Sets~eitai).
    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 ·ontai11s from ¾, to lJs Japanese, and the balance are Koreans or Formosans. 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. 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.


    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 divisions 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 evidences 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:

  • 2 Division
  • 16 Inf Regt
  • 29 Inf Regt
  • 230 Inf Regt
  • 3 Bn of 124 Inf Regt
  • Det 4 Inf Regt
  • 17 Army Arty Gp HQ
  • 2 Fd Arty Regt (less detachments)
  • 2 Co 75 F. A. Regt
  • 2 Bn of 2 Fd Arty Regt
  • 10 Ind Mtn Arty Regt
  • 20 Ind Mtn Arty
  • 2 Co 20 Med Arty Regt
  • 38 Fd AA Artv Bn
  • 45 Fd AA Arty (less detachments)
  • 3 Co 47 Fd AA Arty Bn
  • 2 Ind AT Bn
  • 6 Ind AT Bn
  • 9 Ind AT Co
  • 3 Ind Infantry Mortar Bn (less 3 Co)
  • 3 Co 1 Ind Mortar Regt
  • 2 Engr Regt
  • 1 Co of 7 Engr Regt
  • 1 Pl of 15 Engr Regt
  • Engineer Unit
  • 2 Transport Regt
  • Transport Unit
  • Kitao Force
  • 2 Division Signal Unit
  • 2 Division Medical Unit
  • 2 Field Hospital
  • 2 Division Water Purifying Unit
  • One part of 24 Water Pur Unit
  • 76 L of C Hospital
  • One part of 67 L of C Hospital
  • Motorcycle Unit

    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, here practically all roads were no better than trails. It consisted of elements of the 55th Division with the 41st Infantry Regiment from the 5th Division and supporting troops and was comparatively weak in artillery. It was organized as follows:

    55 Division Infantry HQ:
  • 144 Inf Regt
  • 41st Inf Regt (from 5th Div)
  • 3rd Co with one AT Gun Section attached, of the 55th Cav Regt
  • 1st Bn 55 Mtn Arty Regt
  • 1st Co and part of Material Platoon, 55 Engineer Regiment
  • 2nd Co 55 Transport Regt
  • 55 Div Medical Unit (part)
  • 1st Field Hosp 55th Div
  • Attached Troops:
  • 11th Pioneer Unit
  • 15th Ind Engr Regt
  • 14th Ind Engr Regt
  • 4th Ind Engr Co
  • 4 7th Field AA Bn (less 1 Co)
  • 55th Construction Co
  • 61st Construction Co
  • 1st Br idge Construction Co of 9th Div
  • 88th Wire Comm Co ( 1 platoon)
  • 24th Signal Regt ( 1 Wire Co)
  • Two Ind Radio Platoons
  • One Fixed Radio Unit
  • 10th Evacuation Hosp Unit
  • 53rd and 54th Casualty Collecting Stations
  • 67th L of C Hosp Unit (less 1 part)
  • 38th Ind Auto Bn
  • 212th Ind Auto Co
  • 3rd Field Transport Command (part)
  • 55th Veterinary Depot (part)
  • 16th Veterinary Depot (less 1 part)
  • 17th Water Purification Unit
  • 24th Water Purification Unit
  • 55th Water Purification Unit

  • 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 in.fantTy 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 ammunilion dump. For attacking and destroying four enemy guns the basic strength of a Teishintal was found to be about as follows:

  • Hq group, 10, 1 liaison NCO and 1 orderly.
  • Demolition section and Assault section, about 15 men.
  • Support section, about 12 men.
  • Reserve section, about 12 men.

    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 pillhoxes and fortified positions; close-combat forces, a suicide squad to protect some definite point to the last man, demoliLion 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 wer 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 th general purpose of the flying column 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:

    (a) To threaten the enemy flanks and their rear.
    (b) To harass and disrupt enemy rear communications by destroying roads, railway bridges, etc.
    (c) To occupy important and advanced positions prior to the movement of the main force.
    (d) To carry out surprise attacks in and on unexpected localities.
    (e) To ambush.
    (f) To assist the main force when it is in a dangerous position.
    (g) To carry out reconnaissance and other duties.


    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 Any or Navy officer may command the Shubitai or the Kejbitai.

    b. Organization.
    (1) Kavieng Keibitai.
    This unit at one time consisted of the following:

    Warrant officers and above Non-commissioned officers and men Total
    Det 8th SNLF Base Garrison Unit 1 58 59
    1 SNLF Platoon 3 75 78
    AA Gun Unit 1 29 30
    5 162 167

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

    (2) In the Southwest Pacific, the Merkus Shubitai in December 1943 was found to consists of:

    1 1st Company of 115th Infantry 152
    2 2nd Company (temp) of 14th Field Artillery 151
    3 3rd Field hospital of 51st Division 27
    4 One Ind Wireless Section 8
    5 MOs 3
    6 Naval coastal AA unit (1 element) 48
    7 (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 observalion and labor. Some 0f 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. Observation posts (coast-watching stations).
    In areas they have occupied, the Japanese have established a system of observation posts intended 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.