By Sgt. DAVE RICHARDSON|
YANK Staff Correspondent
From Yank the Army Weekly
British Edition Vol. 3, No. 14, Sept. 17 1944
BEHIND JAPANESE LINES IN NORTHERN BURMA .
There's been plenty of hocus-pocus in this jungle war ever since Merrill's Marauders first popped up here.
The magic show started within a week of the Marauders' arrival in Burma. The night before their first sneak around Jap strong points, a Jap reconnaissance plane droned over the Marauders' bivouac area. Before they could stamp out all their campfires, the plane had spotted the position.
Next morning, when the Marauders pulled out Brig. Gen. Frank D. Merrill ordered a few men to stay behind. For several nights they lit campfires in the original bivouac area. And each night the Jap plane returned to circle the area again, its pilot apparently satisfying himself that whoever was camped there hadn't moved.
Meanwhile the main body of Marauders marched steadily into enemy territory over little used native trails, lighting no fires or even cigarettes after dark. When they finally bumped into startled enemy outposts, they were well behind Jap lines.
The Marauders opened their bag of tricks again during an eight-day battle on a hill named Nhpum Ga. One night a Marauder unit set up part of its perimeter only a stone's throw *am camouflaged Jap machine-gun positions. Anxious to check on the location of these emplacements, but not wanting to risk men prowling around in the darkness, the Marauders shoved a pack mule out in front of the perimeter and started him walking toward the Japs.
As the animal rustled through the jungle underbrush, the Japs figured it was a patrol and opened up with their machine guns, thereby revealing their positions. Next morning the Marauders outflanked the Jap pocket and wiped it out.
They found the mule lying dead a few feet from one of the machine guns, its hind quarters neatly butchered. The hungry Japs, cut off from supplies, had eaten Missouri mule steak before dying for the Emperor.
Speaking of animals, the Japs thought up a slick way to guard themselves against Marauder booby traps along the narrow jungle trails. They sent dogs down the trails ahead of their patrols to trip the booby-trap wires. But a Marauder pioneer and demolition platoon countered this move by rigging up the traps in relays. After that, when a Jap dog romped down a trail a dozen yards or so in front of a patrol and tripped a booby-trap wire, nothing happened to the dog, but traps exploded at intervals all the way back down the hill, killing or wounding some of the enemy. Even after the Japs discovered this trick, there was little they could do about it they had to stick to jungle trails or risk getting lost.
The Marauders smoked tell-tale cigarettes, talked in loud voices and jiggled the mule saddles.
The old power of suggestion helped beat the Japs at another stage of the campaign. for several days the Marauders had been trying to break through a pocket of Japs dug in strongly on a razor-backed ridge along the only trail in the area. The steep sides of the ridge made outflanking next to impossible. The only way to get through was by frontal attack, and this was costing the Marauders a number of casualties. They pounded away with mortars, raked the ridge with machine guns and BARB, and staged one attack after another. But the going was painfully slow a few yards a day.
One night the Marauders decided to try another method. A few men and mules set out on the trail leading up to Marauder forward positions from the rear. The men smoked tell-tale cigarettes, talked in loud voices and jiggled the mule saddles to make plenty of noise. Each time they reached the front, the men doused their cigarettes, turned around and silently withdrew to their starting points. Then they began all over again, keeping it up for three hours.
When the Marauders attacked the ridge again the next day, they pushed through easily. Only a couple of Japs were still there; the rest had pulled out. They had been fooled into thinking that all the noise and movement of the night before were reinforcements for a big attack. One of the most valuable tricks in the Marauder repertoire was a variation of the Statue of Liberty play in football. It was used in attacking a series of Jap strong points on high ground.
The CP long-range radio called for air support to soften up the Jap hill positions. Soon some P-40s came roaring over. Directed by air-ground radio, they went to work on the Japs, dive-bombing and strafing enemy emplacements on the crest of the hill. After each pass they zoomed up, circled around and attacked again.
The Japs scrambled down the back of the hill and huddled there for protection while the bombs and tracers chewed up their positions. But as soon as the planes finished their dives and roared away, the Japs crawled right back up the hill again and resisted the Marauder advance as stubbornly as before. This went on for several days, with the Japs defending one hill after another in the same way against air and ground attack. All that beautiful air support didn't seem to help much.
Then a Marauder officer suggested the Statue of Liberty play. He radioed the planes to make a few fake passes after they had completed their regular bombing and strafing runs. The pilots dived their ships at the emplacements just as though they were going to let loose with 500 pound bombs or .50 caliber slugs, but they pulled out without doing a thing except scare the hell out of the Japs.
Up the hill came the unsuspecting Japs to reoccupy their old positions. As soon as the planes began these passes, the forward Marauder platoon rushed up the hill and climbed into the vacated Jap positions. When the dummy passes ended and the planes went away, the fun began. Up the hill came the unsuspecting Japs to reoccupy their positions. The Marauders cut them down with automatic-weapons fire.