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Human face of war
The morale among the troops was high as the South Seas Force was getting ready for the Port Moresby attack across the Owen Stanley Range. After the Force left Shikoku in late November 1941, the troops had series of extraordinarily successful campaigns. Their attack of Guam on 10 December 1941 and its subsequent occupation went smoothly. On 22 January 1942, the landing in Rabaul was successfully carried out without many Japanese casualties. After experiencing these impressive victories within a short time since the Pacific War began the South Seas Force had begun to feel invincible.

Some Japanese troops, however, were aware that the Australians would not be easy to beat. They acknowledged the considerable logistic advantage of the Allies in supplies, weapons and ammunition. Furthermore, they were aware that the Australians were formidable foes in combat - after the Force's advance party encountered strong defence by the Australians at Kokoda, the main contingent was cautioned that "The fighting spirit of the Australian infantry soldier is strong". Furthermore, the Australians' fighting spirit was regarded to be superior to that of the American troops in the area and their skills in marksmanship and use of cover and grenades were acknowledged.

The Japanese Army believed that its fighting spirit was much superior to the Allied soldiers and that the mental power of Japanese soliders would manage to overcome the obvious disadvantages in material power. General ADACHI, Commander of the 17th Army, called it "the unique and peerless spiritual superiority of the Imperial Army". The belief that strength of the spirit would overcome any type of difficulty and that it would eventually bring about victory was corrected to a certain degree after their defeat and withdrawal from Buna in January 1943. The appreciation which was written after those battles acknowledged the importance of providing supplies to the combat soldiers, but it still emphasised the importance of mental power. The 13th point of the general items of the appreciation stated as follows:

13. It is especially important for soldiers to train their mental power and boost their morale in order to carry out the campaign when they have to endure all types of difficulties and overcome disease. It is needless to say that strength and health are required, but those without sufficient mental power would often became ill and die within a short time.

In contrast, some of the soldiers on the ground had more realistic views on the cause of their defeat. IGAUE, Tokio, 1st Class Private in the 144th Regiment who was captured near Papaki on 15 November 1942, pointed out two reasons for their defeat to his Allied interrogator. According to him, the Japanese force underestimated the Allied strength and could not get supplies. (ATIS IR-17)

The obvious fact that morale of the soldiers could be sustained only with sufficient supplies of food and weapons was not appreciated properly throughout the war, and caused horrendous casualties among Japanese troops. Often, campaign plans were ordered to proceed without well established logistics support which would secure supply of weapons, ammunitions and most importantly, food to its troops.

Contributed by Keiko Tamura (AJRP)

Mark Johnston, Fighting the enemy: Australian soldiers and their adversaries in World War II, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 125-26.

Interrogation Report No. 17 in [Allied Translator and Interpreter Section, South West Pacific Area] Interrogation Reports Nos 1-50 (AWM55 6/1).

"Appreciation of battles in Buna and Giruwa and future operations" (National Institute for Defense Studies, Nantô Higashi Nyûginia 341), p. 2.

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