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Jungle Warfare

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The Jungle doesn't take anyone's side.

"Status report? The last few months on Okinawa have taken their toll. Morale is low. It's the rain sir... and the mud. Tanks are getting bogged down... Supplies aren't getting through... We can't even get the wounded out... Yes sir, understood..."
Sgt. Roebuck, Call of Duty: World at War

So you have a Hungry Jungle. And then you have soldiers, guerillas, insurgents, etc. trekking through it. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose as two or more factions struggle against dwindling supplies, scarce food, the enemy at every corner, the elements, and of course, the jungle itself. Jungle Warfare is what it says, fighting that takes place in a remote jungle or lush tropical rainforest, usually on a remote island or somewhere far away from civilization. When there are civilians, they're usually confined to a small village, usually near a river.

In these kinds of situations, expect elite troops, usually those specialized or experienced in trekking through remote and hostile environments, sending patrols deep into remote enemy territory, rebels or enemy soldiers planting different kinds of booby traps, and communication and supply problems. If tanks are involved, expect them to be bogged down in mud during a monsoon, knocked out by anti-tank traps, or simply unable to plow through thick vegetation. Expect a mix of Scenery Porn and Scenery Gorn, depending on how bad the surrounding vegetation is removed, and with it the use of Flamethrowers or other forms of flame-based weapons. Often involves soldiers wearing camouflage over their uniforms either moving slowly through the jungle or waiting in ambush, as well as men, guns, or vehicles concealed by trees.

Much like Urban Warfare, Jungle Warfare can be a nightmare for any advancing army that doesen't have a firm grasp of the place. Even untrained militamen or under-equipped soldiers with a vast knowledge of the jungle can wreak havoc on even the most experienced and trained of soldiers venturing in. Unlike the former, the jungle itself can also be as much of a hazard on both friendly and enemy forces. Among these hazards include diseases like malaria and dysentery, local flora and fauna, and even the mere vastness of the jungle itself, where patrols can get lost simply from making a wrong turn in.

In Real Life, it's usually associated with The Vietnam War, as well as World War II's Pacific and China-Burma-India Theater, where such fighting was all too common.

Compare and contrast with the aforementioned Urban Warfare, Winter Warfare, Desert Warfare, and Mountain Warfare where fighting takes place in cities/towns, in cold, snowy conditions, in scorching deserts, and mountains, respectively, though there have been cases where this trope can overlap with the former (Manila during World War II and Hue City during The Vietnam War, for example). Thanks to the climate, a Battle in the Rain is expected almost half the time. And more often than not, this can also easily overlap with Tropical Island Adventure, as a lot of untouched jungles are located on remote islands, and a lot of times the belligerent factions will have to deal with actually trekking through the jungles as well as fighting the enemy.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Armored Trooper VOTOMS second arc is the Kunmen Jungle War, which takes place in a jungle. The arc takes a lot of cues from the Vietnam War (especially as the anime originally aired in 1983, only a decade after Vietnam), including flamethrower boats and guerrillas striking from the foliage while being backed up technologically and logistically by a foreign power.
  • Black Lagoon has the Lagoon Company teaming up with a NSA-backed special forces unit "Gray Fox" alongside Garcia and Fabiola to locate Roberta in the jungles of Myanmar. Gray Fox and Roberta fought each other to a near standstill.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team involves Earth Federation Ground Forces fighting Zeon units in the thick and harsh jungles of Southeast Asia.

    Comic Books 
  • Most Commando stories set in the CBI and Pacific during World War II, and, to a lesser extent, French Indochina and Vietnam, will have this as a staple.
  • The Punisher: The occasional story sends Frank into a jungle setting, mostly providing a Vietnam-themed Mook Horror Show.

  • Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan is another movie about the Australian experience in the Vietnam War.
  • Near the end of The Final Option, the Royal Hong Kong Police Force deploys the Special Duties Unit to a deserted island near Hong Kong to take out a corrupt DEA agent hiding in the forests, accompanied by Hong Kong Customs and Excise Service officers, primarily to delay the corrupt agent's ship from leaving Hong Kong waters. The problem is that they're confronted by an ex-Navy SEAL commando unit that went rogue after a black op mission in the Golden Triangle with the promise of being wealthy through the drug trade. The SDU gets into major trouble due to ambushes with Claymores and snipers shooting them in the arms/legs to hinder their progress through the island. Some of the SDU officers are forced to take cover in a ditch and provide suppressive fire with some of the HKCES officers in tow.
  • The entire Vietnam War segment in Forrest Gump is a textbook example, where pretty much all the characteristics of this trope are seen. Namely, we get Forrest's unit being sent on patrol deep into the jungle, an enemy waiting in camouflage, and the use of flame-based weapons (Napalm in this case).
  • Kokoda, similar to The Thin Red Line below, has Allied soldiers fighting the Japanese in thick jungle in the South Pacific, except this time it's the Australians fighting the Japanese forces in New Guinea.
  • The Missing in Action trilogy is all set in Vietnam. While the first film came out seven months before Rambo II, the series has been credibly accused of copying its plot since its script was based off of the original script for Rambo II with just enough details changed to avoid a lawsuit, and then the movie's release was sped up to get it out first.
  • The Odd Angry Shot follows the tour of duty of an Australian Special Air Service Regiment reconnaissance team in the jungles of Vietnam. It was filmed at the Australian Army's notoriously adverse Jungle Warfare Training Centre in Canungra, Queensland. During the Vietnam War, all Australian soldiers — including draftees — who were to be deployed to Vietnam went through four weeks' specialized training in Canungra.
  • The finale of the 2016 Chinese film Operation Mekong takes place deep in the Myanmar jungle as the special operations group moves to hunt down the drug lord Naw Khar and his militia.
  • Predator takes place in an unnamed Central American country almost entirely covered by jungle. The fighting between Dutch's rescue team and the guerillas involves standard infiltration tactics and a surprise attack. The battle against the title space alien uses tripwires, Claymore mines and physical traps reminiscent of the Vietnam War.
  • Two of the Rambo movies, Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo IV, are set in Vietnam and Myanmar, respectively.
  • Star Wars:
  • The Thin Red Line focuses on members of the US Army as the trek their way through Guadalcanal's dense jungle in order to take the island from the Japanese Army.
  • The Action Prologue of Windtalkers is set in the jungles of the Solomon Islands, implied to be around late 1942 to mid-1943. As expected from the setting, there's Joe Enders' patrol being sent to hold a vital position, several Japanese ambushes, and Enders' squad running out of ammo supplies. The first portion of Saipan counts as well, with Japanese ambushes happening every other time Enders' squad advances further. Averted in the Final Battle, where there's no vegetation thanks to being set in the mountains of the island.

  • Animorphs: In the novel The Forgotten, the Animorphs are inadvertently trapped in the Amazon rainforest in the recent past after a mission to take the Yeerk Blade ship to the White House to expose the Yeerk invasion goes horribly wrong, and they have to fight off both the Yeerks and the jungle's inhabitants in order to return to their own time.
  • Catching Fire: While not "warfare" per se, the 75th Hunger Games takes place in a jungle arena, and the Tributes have to deal with many elements of the trope; stifling heat/humidity, traversing through thick undergrowth, anticipating attacks through limited lines of vision, and even dealing with traps/challenges set by the Gamemakers.
  • Elizabeth Chadwick's novel The Winter Crown describes a situation when Anglo-Norman forces march against the Welsh. Since the former are heavily armed and possess strong castles, the latter use the thick greenery and guerilla tactics to their advantages, ambushing the column and inflicting significant damage with virtually no warning. Other of her books also touch on the difficulties of campaigning against Wales for similar reasons.
  • George MacDonald Fraser's autobiography Quartered Safe Out Here is his account of his part in the Burma war of 1944-45, and folllows his platoon of Border Riflemen as they pursue the broken Japanese down through the Burmese jungle to Rangoon.
  • Rainbow Six: The finale takes place deep in the Amazon rainforest, as Rainbow hunts down the top executives of the Horizon Corporation and slaughters almost 35 of their men who choose to fight back. It helps that they have a heartbeat sensor that allows them to track each enemy through all the thick jungle foliage.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Arrow, prior to the start of the series, Oliver spent several of his years stranded on the island of Lian Yu where he is caught up in the many dangers including militant groups and criminals. He eventually finds allies on the island and partakes in wars with the other side to thwart their plans.
  • The Pacific has the first half of the series full of this trope. Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester, as well as the beaches surrounding Peleliu's airfield, involve Marines struggling between the Japanese, shortage of supplies, disease, and the islands themselves.
  • SEAL Team has several jungle operations in its second season, notably part of the Mexico deployment to hunt down Andreas Doza, and the Philippines deployment where Bravo Team goes up against both Chinese special forces and communist terrorists in the Filipino countryside.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Alien: The Roleplaying Game mentions O'Bannon's World, a single biome moon that was the site of the Dog War, a conflict between the United Americas and the Union of Progressive Peoples over the information stored on a UPP medical ship that crashed on the planet. It features dense jungle dangerous predators, and vines that thirst for warm blood. To make matters worse, the interaction between the magnetic fields of the moon and planet it orbits makes wireless electronic communication incredibly difficult without the use of large, stationary relays, meaning anyone who runs into trouble will have difficulty calling for help. The planet is named for a member of the USCM corps who was killed by aforementioned vines during the Dog War.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The natives of the jungle Death World of Catachan have a culture based on every warfare Trope related to The Vietnam War and films like the Rambo franchise. The chance of surviving to adulthood is maybe one in four, there's no permanent settlements because the plants grow back on/into everything, there're scorpions the size of tanks and toads that explode in a diameter of a kilometer, the jungle is possibly sentient and hates humanity... and consequently, the Catachans are the best damn jungle fighters in the galaxy (even seeing off a Warp invasion with no assistance).

    Video Games 
  • Agent Armstrong has the jungle base levels where Armstrong needs to destroy the Syndicate's forest depots.
  • ARMA III's expansion Apex is set in the Pacific island of Tanoa; the island is sprawling with a thick jungle, although in a slight subversion, the map also offers area where the jungle was deforested to create open fields, farms and some fairly sized towns. There's even a part of the island where the forest is composed by pine trees, probably reforested wood for the nearby sawmill.
  • The second act of Body Harvest takes place in 1941 Java, and the many rivers, muddy waters, and mountainous terrain of the Indonesian archipelago are a major impediment to movement.
  • Call of Duty:
  • Empire Earth: The expansion's Pacific theater campaign has several maps taking place in dense jungle, one of which features disease outbursts, mines, and snipers.
  • The "Jungle" mission in Cuba in GoldenEye (1997), where the thick atmosphere makes visibility hard to see and enemies are packing the AR33 assault rifles, which are much more damaging than the previous guns used. The Wii remake changes the location from Cuba to Nigeria.
  • Medal of Honor:
    • Most of Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault takes place in the jungles of the South Pacific. Of course, the Japanese, who are more experienced in trekking through these jungles, use a number of tactics well-suited for the environment, including laying dead.
    • Medal of Honor: Rising Sun also has Guadalcanal, with the addition of the China-Burma-India Theater as one of the late-game levels.
  • The Metal Gear games have a few examples:
  • Rising Storm has the Guadalcanal, Kobura, Maggot Hill, Phosphate Plant, Hanto, and Otori Shima maps, where US Marines and US Army troops battle against the Imperial Japanese army in thick jungles and low visibility. The only exceptions are Peleliu, Kwajalein, Betio, and Iwo Jima, thanks to constant artillery shelling burning down most vegetation enough to avert this from happening. Saipan, meanwhile, takes place in the middle of an urban area, rather than in the jungles of the island.
  • Rising Storm 2: Vietnam has even more of this than its predecessor, thanks to all the maps being set in The Vietnam War. Maps like Long Tan, parts of Highway 14, parts of Cu Chi, An Lau Valley, and the lowest areas of Hill 937 are full of dense vegetation, and are taken full advantage of by the NVA and VC when defending against attacks by Southern Forces.
  • Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow features this as its major gameplay change from the first game. Almost half the game's missions take place in the Indonesian jungle in broad daylight, so Fisher's stealth tactics require blending in with tall grass and foliage in addition to the usual dark shadows. The first flashback mission of the Essentials PSP game also takes place in Colombia as Fisher looks to rescue Doug Shetland from a FARC terrorist cell.
  • The second game in the Strike Series, Jungle Strike, primarily takes place in a Banana Republic off the South American Pacific coast. One of the major gameplay changes is the ability to pilot a hovercraft for fast movement among narrow waters and small islands.
  • Syphon Filter 3 goes into this territory with a pair of flashback missions that take place deep in the Costa Rican jungle.
  • Total Annihilation: The Core Contingency campaign has a series of missions set on Lusch, a jungle planet with very thick forests and rivers that are a major impediment to ground operations. Hovercraft technology is introduced in this segment, which is invaluable in traversing the jungle terrain.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Despite popular ignorance, World War I actually had jungle warfare theaters because of Tanzania and Cameroon being German colonies. The unforgiving terrain meant German forces were able to hold Cameroon until 1916, and successfully held Tanzania until the end of the war thanks to Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck using guerrilla tactics very effectively.
  • World War II has several examples, as mentioned above, mostly fought in the Pacific Theater and CBI, between the Allies and the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy. The most prominent examples include Singapore, Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, New Guinea, Leyte, and Burma.
  • The Cold War has The Emergency and Konfrontasi, which had British-led military forces honed their fighting skills against the Malayan National Liberation Army and by Indonesia-backed separatists. The experience was later used by Australian and New Zealander forces in the Vietnam War, which led them to be nicknamed "Ghosts" by the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army.
  • Also mentioned above, The Vietnam War, where practically the majority of fighting takes place, at least when it isn't Hue City during the Tet Offensive.
    • Its preceding war, the First Indochina War was also this, and it was just as hellish. In the war's most famous moment, the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ, the French entrenched themselves and the Viet Minh besieged them and launched human wave attacks. The use of artillery, explosives, trenches and the resulting mud transformed the jungle into something akin to the no man's lands from World War I. Điện Biên Phủ was even nicknamed "The Tropical Verdun" by the French.
  • The Congo Wars. Taking place in the jungle-covered Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire), they are known as the deadliest conflict in history since World War 2, with the second war killing more than 5 million people, displacing millions of others internally and externally, and being referred to as the Great War of Africa, the country itself being pummeled into the ground and it's resources pillaged by other Central African countries, various East African countries, Sudan, Namibia and many militias. Even today, the conflict still persists in the form of rebel groups in the east.
  • The Indian Army operates the Counterinsurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJW), which is considered the premiere school where one can learn the finer points of jungle warfare. The school’s motto is “Fight the Insurgent like an Insurgent” and trainees are taught not just to survive in the jungle but to live and thrive for long periods. They are taught scouting techniques, identification and disarmament of various kinds of booby traps and how to plan and execute raids on insurgent bases. Many of the techniques taught here were borrowed from the Chindits’ experiences in WW2, the infamous Selous Scouts in pre-independence Zimbabwe and former members of the Viet Cong.
  • Jungle warfare theaters in the 21st century have mainly focused on anti-terrorist campaigns. The major hot spots are Islamic (with some communist and nationalist) insurgencies in Southeast Asia in the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Thailand. India and Nigeria (and its immediate neighbors such as Chad and Cameroon) also have similar insurgencies raging in their jungle countrysides. Another region is South America which is rife with narco-terrorists such as the Shining Path in Peru and FARC (before they disbanded to be a political party) and the ELN in Colombia.


Video Example(s):


Field test

Bravo Company fight in the jungles of rural Singapore against regular Singaporean soldiers acting as OPFOR.

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Main / JungleWarfare

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