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Human face of war
In an ordinary situation, a full kit for a Japanese infantry soldier weighed about 28 kg. It consisted of a rifle with 120 rounds, a gas mask, a water bottle, two hand-grenades, a steel helmet and camouflage net, a set of uniforms, one pair of shoes and provisions consisting of four bags of iron rations and six kilograms of rice. However, special adjustments needed to be made for the Port Moresby attack. For example, the amount of ammunition to be carried was reduced to sixty or thirty rounds according to their tasks, and gas masks were not brought to New Guinea.

The most difficult aspect of logistics for the attack was how the troops could secure their supplies. The conclusion was that each soldier would carry 12 kg of rice to last for twenty days. In Rabaul, wooden back carriers, in the similar style used by farmers, were constructed on the spot by soldiers themselves. The total weight of the load was as heavy as 49 kg. For the machine gun unit, packs were heavier still and weighed up to 56 kg. Since those items needed to be piled up on the carriers, the top of the pack was 30 cm higher than a soldier's head.

Each unit transported different equipment to carry out their tasks. TAMURA Hikoichi was a 22 year-old Superior Private who was captured in Oivi on 11 November 1942. He was a member of 55th Engineer Regiment 1st Company which was attached to the 144th Regiment. He told his interrogators that each section in his company, which consisted of twelve men, carried a set of equipment for engineering work: including four shovels, three picks, one axe, one hatchet, one hammer, one pair of wire cutters, and one large saw to cut down trees. In addition, nails and staples were carried by each man. A shortage limited ammunition to only thirty rounds per man.

YAMAMOTO Tarô, 1st class Private in the 3rd Artillery Platoon of the 3rd Battalion of the 144th Regiment, was captured by the Allies on 3 October 1942 at Ioribaiwa. In interrogation sessions, he stated that each soldier in his unit carried sixty rifle rounds. Native carriers recruited in Rabaul carried supplementary supplies of ammunition.. In addition, each soldier carried two shells for battalion guns. Each shell was 50 cm in length, 5 cm in diameter, and weighed about 8 kg. A Type 94 Mountain Gun, which had a total weight of 530 kg was also transported as the troops advanced towards Port Moresby. It could be separated into pack loads, but it still would take seventy-two "healthy and strong" soldiers to transport it manually over the mountain.

Packhorses were used to carry loads of about 80 kg up to Kokoda. A typical load for a horse was ten pairs of wire cutters, five coils of rope, 1800 rounds of machine gun ammunition, and 800 round of SAA ammunition. Beyond Kokoda, they could not use horses due to the rough terrain, and the soldiers needed to carry the load on their backs.

Lack of information on the type of terrain they had to cross could be symbolised by the fact that two companies in the 1st Battalion of the 144th Regiment carried thirty bicycles each as IGAUE, Tokio, 1st Class Private who was captured near Papaki on 15 November 1942 stated in an interrogation report. The bicycles did not prove to be totally useless as sick soldiers rode them on some of the way, but they were eventually abandoned as the road condition became too rough and muddy for bicycles.

Contributed by Keiko Tamura (AJRP)

Bôeicho Bôei Kenshûjo Senshishitu (ed.), Senshi sôsho Minami Taiheiyô rikugun sakusen 1: Pôto Morusubii-Gashima shoki sakusen (Official war history South Pacific Area army operations, vol.1: Port Moresby-Guadalcanal first campaigns), Tokyo: Asagumo Shinbunsha, 1968, p. 344.

Interrogation Reports No. 9, 10, 17, 21, 30 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 of Defense Studies, Nantô Higashi Nyûginia 341), p. 6.

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