Japanese Soldiers Use an Accountant’s Trick

I haven’t been making any substantial posts to Frog in a Well of late even though I have been buried in fascinating historical materials as I write my dissertation. I have decided, however, to share the occasional short anecdote that pops up in some of the secondary and primary sources I come across.

In his book on wartime Communist efforts in village China, Dagfinn Gatu brings up an interesting technique used by Japanese soldiers. Chinese Communist regular and guerrilla forces were severely short of weapons throughout the war. Since Communist insurgents far outnumbered the weapons available, the capture of one functioning Japanese weapon from the battlefield essentially put one more armed opponent into the field. As in most similar asymmetrical wars, this loss of equipment was taken very seriously by the Japanese occupation forces. However, a Japanese platoon commander who later became a historian, Fujiwara Akira shows how one trick was employed of shifting around one’s losses in reports to superiors:

“In recording combat results greater attention was paid to the amount of captured weapons than to the number of abandoned corpses. For that reason, army units put aside seized weapons to prepare for the eventuality of heavy combat losses by diluting these in reports on battle achievements.”1

  1. Quoted in Dagfinn Gatu, Village China at War, p. 207. Original in Fujiwara Akira Chûgoku sensen jûgunki (Tokyo: Otsuki shoten, 2002) pp. 51-52, 63-65 – not sure which of these page ranges.  


  1. Falsifying battlefield reports has probably been around as long there has been battle. Your story somewhat reminds me of how some samurai would cut off the heads of a deceased enemy that they found but had not killed themselves and then leave the battlefield with the head to claim their reward or credit. I read about this I believe in on of Karl Friday’s books.

  2. Were only the Communist insurgents short of weapons? I guess Chiang-kai-shek’s Nationalist forces were well supplied with American arms, compliments of Mr. Stilwell. Still, thanks for the interesting post. This has inspired me to speak more with my wife’s grandfather about his experiences in China during WW2. He was a telephone operator during the latter part of the war.

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