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Japanese Tanks

in 1952, received his BA in
History from Union College,
and his MA from Columbia
University. He has published
numerous books and articles
dealing with modern military
technology, especially
armored vehicle development.
His main area of interest Is
military affairs in the former
Soviet Union and Eastern
Europe in World War II,
and he has also writlen
extensively on American
armored forces. Steven
lives and works in Maryland.
PETER BULL graduated from
art cC!"ege in 1979 and
has worked as a freelance
illustrator for over 25 years.
He has created both
traditional and digital art
for publishers worldwide,
and also runs the Peter Bull
Art Studio, based in Kent, UK,
which he founded in 1975.
Typ 9 medium tank
Type 92 avail)' tank
Type 94 tank tt
Type 95 Ha-Co light lank
T pe 97 Te-Ke tank tte
Type 97 hi-Ha medium tank
Armored warfare in hina and Ian huria 1937-39
Tanks of the reat ian War] 941-45
ew light tank
If-propelled gun
Improving the hi-Ha Medium Tank
New m dium tank
avy tanks
ASIAN WAR 1941-45
The outhwe t Pacific campaign 1942-43
h Central Pacifi 1943-44
cti n in the hina theat r
Th Philippines] 944-45
The final Pacific campaign
August Storm: Manchuria
The final campaign: defen e of the Home 1 land
B oks
Magazin format
New Vanguard 137
Japanese Tanks 1939-45
Steven J Zaloga . Illustrated by Peter Bull
Forst in B<rtan in 2007 by ClspNy
Mockld _. WIst Ode,,' UK
4Q "-South. New -. NY 10016, USA

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Technical note
_ during WorIa War __o-ognated by 'Nr- lit cIfiaaI
.....,. _ on 'N.Nroanese caia'W;Ior. in 'Nr- 01
_ nabcn'slcunding in 160 BC. lh.-aIofe. 25M! CO,MIIlO'.Ie ... .,... 1929.
o-g..litoo. __..-.ty Ie'" _two,,01"" r-. 10'"
T"I'M 25M! tri ..-.ty _ .". Type 5.
apan was the onl counu-y outside Europ and orth America
to manufacnlr a ignificam numb l' of tanks in ""orld '''tar II.
Ind d, Japan tank produ tion in the 1930 was mu h gr at r
than that of man 'ur pean anni ,due to the on1ict in hina. Japan
was in th for fr nt of tank technolo in the 1930 ,introdu ing a number
of innovati n uch as di I tank engine. B 1940, the Japan e tank
forc was th fifth larg tin th world, following tho e of th ovi t nion
Franc, Britain, and rman .Japan tank uni played a k y rol in the
arl vi torie of Decemb r 1941-Janual 1942 again t th Arm in
the Philippin and th Briti h Arm in alaya. However, aft r 1941, the
hift in trategi fo u f th Japan e war effort changed indu trial
prioritie from th n d of th arm I t wal hip and aircraft con tructi n
o that tank pr duction fi II in th lat r ears of the war. Likewi e, th
d v I pm nt of ne, tanks \ tymi d b th I w priority afford d t
arm r quir m nts. Briti hand e ments ofJapan tanks
weI' unfavorabl after mbat n um rs in the ampaign of 1944-45
becau e in mo t as th Alii w r fa in tanks de igned a d ad
earlier.Japan' m t m d m tanks w I' re rv d for a last-cUt h d fen f
the Hom I lancls in 1945 - a final batt! that never took place.
The Type 3 Chl-Hu w!'s the last
Japanese tank of World War II
built In significant numbers.
Anned with a powerful 75mm
gun, It was one of the few
Japanese tanks comparable to
the US M4 Sherman tank or
Soviet T-34-85. However, they
were reserved for the tank
divisions remaining in Japan for
the final defense of the Home
Islands, and did not see combat.
(HARA) 3
Type 89 medium tank
In the early 20th century, Japan recognized its backwardness in man
aspects of military technology, and it looked to Europe to h Ip catch up.
pattern emerged of acquiring the be t Eur p an te hn logy and adapting
it to Japanese requirements, most notably in war hip c n tru tion, in
whi h British t hnology played an important rol . Aft I' "'arid ar T,
Japan b gan to modernize its army bas d on th Ie on learn d from that
conflict. mall numb I' of tanks were acquired for trial purpo es, starting
with a ingle Briti h Mark IV in October 1918 and followed b about six
British M dium A Whippet tanks and 13 Fr nch Renault IT tanks in 1919.
They were used mainly b the ImperialJapane e Arm (IJ ) Infantry and
avalry chool, altJlough two vVhippets were deplo ed to Vladi a tok WitJl
Japane e occupation troops towards the end of the Rus ian Civil War. he
fir t tank units weI' formed in 1925, WitJl five Renaul ITs being d played
WitJl th 1st Tank Deta hm nt of the 12tJl Division and the Whipp ts
forming a tank deta hment at the Chiba 1nfanuy School. arly experience
with these tanks led to me formulation of requirements for Japan'
first indigenous tank. he requirements \ ere given to the 4th Militaly
Laboratory of m IJA 11 chnical Bur au in the Okubo Di trict, whi h was
I' pan ible for vehicle d v lopment. Th fir t prototype was on tru ted
of oft teel and fitted with a main turret in tJl center and ubsidiary
turrets front and rear, similar to the French hal' 2 . Although completed
in the summer of 1926 a the Osaka Arsenal, at 18 tons (16.3 meDic
tonnes) it was too heavy. It later volved into th Type 91 and ype 95 heavy
tanks, neitJler of which was accepted for IJ service, as no need was een
for uch cumbersome de ign. U1-ing me cour e of its development,
Britain's Vick rs offered the sale of a Model prototype, which was
d liver d in March 1927. Durin trial ofth Vickers Mod I ,m gasolin
engine aught fir ,promptin m Japan diner t pr for a die I
Japan's early tank force
depended on imported designs,
like this detachment of Whippet
tanks acquired from Britain
in 1918. (NARA)
The 'l'ype 89 underwent continual
improvement during production.
This is the late configuration of
the 'l'ype 89B with the revised
flat turret front, split turret
hatch, and external machine-gun
mounting on the right rear turret
side. (NARA)
Although intended primarily for
the IJA, some 'l'ype 89A tanks
were also used by the Special
Naval Landing Forces of the IJN,
such as this one being fOllowed
by a Carden Loyd Mk. VI tankette.
The 'l'ype 89 set the pattern for
Japanese tank turret design, with
alternate gun and maChine-gun
armaments. In this case, the
machine gun is positioned
forward, while the 57mm gun
is aimed aft. (NARA)
n in opti n r th ir wn new tank. cond light tank d ign
w undertaken, and it was a pted r rvi in 1929 the Type 9
Yi o. It " recl ified as a m dium tank du t its wight of 10 ton
(9.1 metri tonne).
Produ ti n f th Typ 9 \\ as i n d to the agami
its limit d indu trial capabiliti bli d agami to ub ontra
th on tru lion to private finn n tablr MilSubi hi H a
( HI), \ hi h P iail built a n w tank plant for the yp 9. Th initial
produ ti n run was p \V r d b a 11 hp gasolin engine. Thi valiant was
d ignat d as th yp 9 until a 120hp Ii ubi hi di 1\\ finail read
in 1934, lading t th Typ 9B tsu. The de i n detail of the Typ 9
changed r p atedl during manufa tur bas d n tr op expeli nee. For
exampi ,the commander' cupola on th turr t \ hang d on th later
pr du tion run from a mall "top hat" d ign on the initial typ to a m r
pra ti aI upola with a pHt hatch for entilation and a c
Becau e production of th
did not begin until 1931,
ordered about ten Fr n h R nault
N 1 tanks in 1930. The Renault
took part. in the earli st a tion of th
U tank for e. hIt pial Tank
mpan with R nault IT and
tanks \\ ent to Man huria aft r
th an hurian Incident in Janual
1932. The ompan a\ fightin
n ar Harbin. ptain higemi' 2nd
Ind p ndent Tank ompan, ,,'th
fiv Typ tanks and t n Renault
tan' , took part in th han hai
In id I1l in F bma 1932. Although
th n w Typ 9 perform d w II, th
u p n ion of the Renault was
u' ubi m, and the typ was reur d. 5
a re ult, when the 1 t pecial Tank Company aw combat with hin
troop in theJ h I Provin e in Mar h 1933, it was equipped olel with the
Type 89 tank.
Production of the Type 89 did not become ignificant until 1933
when the die el-powered Type 9B becam the predominant typ ,with
291 of the 404 manufa tured by the time produ tion end d in 1939. It
is worth noting that the Typ 9B was th world' first mass-produced
dies I-powered tank. The cale of Type 89 production, a prompted b
growin Japane e unease over challenge to its influ n in Man huria,
e tablished after the 1904 Ru so-Japan e War. On on hand Ru sia
app ared to be re urging after a decade of w akn s from its defeat in
World War I and its ubsequent ivil war. dditionally, th civil war in
China hinted at future opportunities to the more militaristi I m nts of
the IJA leadership.
Th tart oflarg -s al tank produ tion led to the formation of the fir t
thr Japan stank r gim nts, in 1933: the 1 t R gim nl, based on the
R nault ITdetachment at Kurume; the 2nd Tank Regiment, based on the
Whipp t d ta hm nt at the hiba Tank chool; and the 3rd Regiment,
al 0 form d at Kurum. he 1 tank Regiment wa the fir t deplo ed into
a combat th at r, being nt to th Kwantung 'm in hina.
Type 92 cavalry tank
Th Japan cavalry examined the Type 9 and found that its mode t
sp ed of 15mph (24km/h) was not ufficient for mobile operations.
Japane e officer examined the hri tie tank in the nited tat in 1932,
but they turned down an export offer du to th m chanical pr bl m
6 een during a demon tration at berd en Proving round. As a r ult, a
The late production version
of the Type 89B established
the pattern for the unique form
of Japanese tank turrets with
their distinctive asymmetric
shape resulting from the use
of a secondary machine-gun
position In the rear of the
turret. This particular vehicle
has the turret machine 9un
mlssln9. (NAAA)
The Type 92 Jyu-Sokosha
cavalry tank was a short-lived
design which suffered technical
problems, including a weak
suspension, welding problems,
and inadequate 6mm annor.
It was anned with a Type 92
13mm machine gun and
a Type 91 6.5mm machine
gun. (NARA)
The Type 94 tankette was
the most widely manufactured
Japanese tank of the 1930s,
used for support and
reconnaissance by the
Japanese infantry divisions
in China. It was anned with
a single machine gun, either
a Type 91 6.5mm or Type 97
7.7mm. (NARA)
n , d ign was tart d b th I hikawajima Motor Works (toda' I uw),
and the Typ 92 nt r d pr du ti n in 1933. It w igh doni 3.9 ton (3.5
m ui tonn ) b a its thi k t armor wa ani 1< in. (6mm), and it was
arm doni wilh rna hin gun. The de i n pro ed to be ad quat , but
it uff< red from p r hull widing and f, ebl ombat performan . Th
su p n i n had to be I' d ign d thr tim . Althou h ext n iv Iud in
mbat in hina, it' c1earl a fail d d ign and pI' du tion, limited.
Type 94 tankette
mar imp rtant influen e on Japane tank d v lopm nt wa the
tank tt fad in Europ in th ad 1930, pitomiz d b the Briti h
ard n L d Mk. VI tank tte. Th lJ ord red ix f th , which were
deliver d in 1930. J pan offi fi It lhat the de ign , as t mall to
be practical, , th imilar Fr n h of the period. '" ith its tracked
u-ail r, however, the E was ri nt d m re tO\ ard infantry uppOrt.
Thi help d to in pire the Tokushu Kminsha ( p cial ractor), or TK,
d v I ped b the Hino Motor ompan. Th TK wa larger than lh
ard n La d and more imilar in la out to the Vick rs Ii hL tanks of th
period, having a front-mounted engine and a turreted machine un a
its main armament. Like the French Renault E, the TK was equipped
with a tracked tractor. It was classified as the Type 94 and wa intend d
as an infantry support vehicle capable of providing fire support with its
machine gun, as well as carrying uppli s in the battl area. These w r
deploy d in th infantry division in a tank tte ompany, ach with four
platoons of four tank tt . The Typ 94 was the mo t widely pr duced
Japanese tank of the 1930s and was wid I used in hina. Hm e r, th
main impetus for its larg - cal produ tion wa til r vi ion ofJapane
war plans in 1934. The e plans w r ba d on th po sibility of a future
war with the oviet Union over Manchuria and tile need to m d rniz
30 infantry division, of which 24 would be deployed in the Man hurian
theat r of op ration. Th tank tt r main d in production even after
th advent of b tter de ign ,such as the Typ 95 light tank, b cau e til y
w re in xpensive to manufacture and operat . F r exampI ,the Type 94
tankette cost only 0,000 compared to 9 ,000 for the Type 95 light
tank. In later years, they were built without the trailer.
A variety of specialized
derivatives of the Type 94
tankette were developed.
These included a pair for
chemical warfare, an offensive
type which used a mustard
gas-dispersing trailer, and
a defensive type such as
the Type 94 Ko-Go for
spraying a bleaching powder
disinfectant, seen here near
Kyushu in 1945. (NARA)
The Type 95 was cramped
inside, with the right side of
the hull filled by an ammunition
stowage locker for the 37mm
gun and the driver immediately
in front, as seen in this interior
view. (NARA)
Type 95 Ha-Go light tank
Early experiences with the new Type 89
m dium tank and Type 92 cavalry tank
in China were sari factory, but units com-
plained that th Typ 9 was too slow to
keep up with motorized infantry units,
while th Type 92 cavalry tank was too
lightly armed and protected. In Jul}' 1933,
tile infantry and cavalry s hools completed
a d sign study for a new light tank based
on featur of th twO existing designs.
Th n w tank weighed about 7.7 tons
(7 m tri t nn ), but it was anned ~ t h a
37mm gun. It was powered by the same
diesel engine as the ype 89B but weighed
only half as much, offering better road
speed. onstruction was handed 0 er to
8 Mitsubi hi and a prototype b an trial in
The Type 95 Ha-Go followed the
classic layout of Japanese tanks
with the asymmetric turret and
rear machine-gun position.
This particular tank is in
the markings of Lieutenant
Sikamura's tank company of
the 18th Infantry Regiment
on Tinian. (NARA)
June 1934. tef xten ive te ts by both the infantry and cavalry, th light
tank was modified and hipp d t th n w lnd p n nt Mix d Brigad
in northern Manchuria. The cold weatb r trial w Ilt extrem Iy w II,
and a second prototype was built by Mitsubishi in Jun 1935, ba ed
on th Ie on learned from the t ts. The de ign was 0 sati factol)'
that it was acc pted for production as the Type 95 Ha-Go light tank.
Th prototyp w r arm d with a 37mm un in a one-man turr t,
but b r larg - cal production comm nc d th Ywere modified to
include a eparat ball-mounted machin gun in an ext n ion on th
rigl t r ar id of th turr t, pattern d after the Type 9B turret. This
modifi ation allowed the tank ommand r t use either the 37mm gun
or th machine gun, dep ndil (j on the mission, by traversing the appro-
pl-iate weap n fonvard. Other chang s were also incorporated into the
pr du ti n v hi I , uch a xt nd d hull id to provide more storage
space for ammunition.
Som of the first production tanks w re di pat hed t units in
north rn Man huria where a p culiar problem wa' uncov red. The
troops f, und that th v hi I had po r p rforman wh n moving
a ro farm fi Ids plant d with kaoliang ( or hum) b ause th distanc
b tw n th furrow oin ided with th pacing b tw n th tank' road
whe Is. D pr v nt thi probl m, a modifi d u p nsion was developed
\ ith a mall wheel u p nd d at th c nt r of a h bogi . A portion of
the yp 9- produ tion nll1 wa manufactured with this "Manchurian"
suspen ion, but the majori was built with the standard de ign. 9
1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 Total
Type 94 tankette - 300 246 200 70 5 2 823
Type 97 tankette - 1 56 217 284 558
Type 95 light tank - 31 80 53 115 422 701
Type 92 cavalry 42 49 44 32 167
Type 89A 5 9 8 31 30 15 15 113
medium tank
Type 89B 7 11 61 80 28 36 29 19 20 291
medium tank
Type 97 110 202 315 627
medium tank
Other AFV 1 1 1 2 50 22 9 11 115 212
Total 12 21 112 161 404 410 347 317 570 1,138 3,492
Type 97 Te-Ke tankette
Aft r om exp rience with the ype 94 tankette in China, the IJ
wanted to tandardize its fuel upply for armored vehicle and hift
ntirely to diesel engine. The IJ que tioned the need for the tracked
trailer u ed on the Type 94 and debated the efficienci of gun and
machine- un armament. A prototyp fitt d with a n w Ik gai di I
engine and a Typ 94 37mm gun wa compl t d by th Hino otor
ompany in 1936. It follow d the configuration of th earli r Typ 94
with the en ine in th front and th turr t at the r ar. Trial w re not
entirely ati fa tory, and an alternative layout wa propo d with th
engine moved farther to the rear. A second prototype \Va completed in
Novemb r 1937, and it wa accepted for ervice a the Type 97. Onc the
bug were ironed out, it r pia ed th T P 94 on the production line at
Hino Motor in 1939. Th T P 97 tankette wa primarily u d b the
re onnai ance regiments of the infanuy divi 'ion .
Type 97 Chi-Ha medium tank
Althou h the T p 9 Ii rmed the ba kbon of th tank for e in China, by
1935 it was widely r co niz d to b obsol te, parti ularly in telms of its
The Type 97 Te-Ke tankette
switched to a more conventional
layout than the 'TYpe 94 tankette,
but its most important
improvement was the use of a
37mm gun for armament, Instead
of the previous machine gun.
This 'TYpe 97, cross-sectioned for
technical display at Aberdeen
Proving Ground after the war,
shows some of the tankette's
10 interior detail. (USAOM-APG)
As can be seen here, the small
size ot the 'n'pe 97 tankette
prevented the use ot the
traditional rear turret
machine gun. (NARA)
limit d I' ad peed. new m dium tank de ign began in 1 35, partl
in pir d b ne\ of the Briti h 6 tank with a 7mm gun. The main
mph i of the new de ign wa to in I' ase t11e tank' pe d to k ep up
~ t n w light tanks uch as th Type 95. Th armam nt I' main d t11
low-v I city 57mm un u ed on the T p 9. Armor prot ction I' mained
light due to th army's de ire to k p the \ ight, and h nc th co t, to a
minimum. The thicke t armor on the tank was th gun manLlet at 33mm,
and the turret ides at 26mm. h r maining panels ranged from 20mm
n the hull lIper tructure to 12mm on upp r urfac . The fabricati n
was ntirel riveted. ""hile not lInu uall thin b mid-1930' landaI'd, it
armor prot tion became increasingl vulnerable after th war expand d
in 1941.
wo Mi ubi hi d ign w I' C n id red: the hi-Ha, pow I' db a
170hp di I, and th Ii hter and h ap I' hi- i, pO' er d b a 135hp
die el. he d i i n b t\ n th two all mative cam in th umm I' f
19 7 aft rthe utbreak of \ ar with hina. B au th miliLa bud et
had b n gr atl expanded, th IJ upp rL d the mol' apabl of th
t\vo d ign, ptin for the hi-Ha configuration for the n \ T P 97
medium tank. Th Typ 97 hi-I fa inh rit d the u pen ion d vel ped
for the T pe 95 light Lank, but it ~ atur d 'ix I' ad \ h el in t ad H ur.
Four m n 0 upied th vehi Ie, \ ith a driver and bO' machin -gunn I' 11
In the hull and two men in the turret. Production began in 193 , and
orne Type 95 tank were deployed t hina and Manchuria with the n w
tank regiments.
Armored warfare in China and Manchuria 1937-39
v\ar in China had been on a low immer since the Manchurian In id nt
in 1931 and the ub qu ntJapan e 0 cupation ofth rest of Manchuria.
The war exploded onJuly 7, 1937, with the arco Polo Bridge Incident,
leading to an outbreak of full- cale warfare by the IJA again t hiang Kai-
Chek's Kuomintang Arm . The campai n that followed wa hi hly mobil,
as Japane e for es moved south from Manchuria again t key hine e
citi s, induding Beijing. he were supported by the Is and 2nd Tank
Battalions equipped with 7 Type 89 medium tanks and 41 T pe 94
tankettes. The Ind p nd nt Mix d Brigade had b n t: rm d at
Kungchuling in Man huria in 1934, and it indud d two tank battalion,
a motoriz d infant! I' gim nt, and a I' connai an company. Th
brigade took part in a tions in the Quhar Province in northern hina in
1937 with mix d r suits, du t th rou h terrain and the di p rsion of its
units. Three tank battalion al 0 took part in the 1938 campai ns, and
while the were intended to support infantry divi ions or corp, hin s
resi tance \ as often 0 di organized that the battalions carried out
independent deep-penetration mi ion. How ver, th vast majol-ity of
tank actions were by tankettes and light tanks attached to th infantry and
cavalry. hina's tank for was limit d to thr tank battalions quipp d
with ick rs exp rt tanks, G rman PzKpfW I light tank, and Italian CV.33
12 tank ttes. iven th vastne of the battJefield and the mini cule ize
The ~ 97 ChlHa medium tank
followed the general layout of
the earlier ~ 95 light tank
but with a longer chassis which
permitted a larger turret and a
more powerful 57mm gun. This
particular example was one of
those captured on Guadalcanal
from the 1st Independent Tank
Company. It was fitted with a
new smoke mortar system with
a rack on the left turret side,
as well as a pair of dischargers
fore and aft. (NARA)
The Type 97-Kai Shinhoto
Chi-Ha tank introduced a
new enlarged turret with the
more effective 47mm tank gun.
Although the first pilot models
used the same hull configuration
as the earlier Chi-Ha, the
standard production version
had a modified protective
cover over the side engine
grills. This is the tank of
Colonel Goshima, executive
officer to the commander
of the 9th Tank Regiment
on Saipan. (NARA)
of the tank ~ I' ,th I' weI' ~ w if any tank-v I' us-tank n ounters,
althou h th hin s Drc did lose many of their tanks in ombat,
e'peciall during th fighting ~ r hanghai. In g neral, the IJA \ as
quite pi as d with the p rforman e of their tanks, though the need for
improvements was noted.
The war in the hina theater threatened to broaden even more sharpl
in 193 over a Mongolian border incident near Lake Khasan betwe n
Japane e and oviet for . ension erupted again in ay 1939 along the
Halka River (Khalkin-Gol) in an action that became known to theJapalle e
a the omonhan Incident. Both ides built up th ir forces in the region,
and full-s ale fi hting broke out in the summer. The Japane e K mat-
ubara For e was built around the 23rd Division, supported by Lieutenant
eneral Ma aomi Yasuoka' 1 t Tank Group from the former Independent
Mixed Brigade. Thi force included the 3rd and 4th Tank Regim nts with
26 Typ 9B 0 us, eight Typ 9A Yi- as, four Typ 97 hi-I-Ia medium
tank, 35 Type 95 Ha- 0 light tanks, t n Type 94s, and four Typ 97
tankett . In addition to th tank units, theJapane e infantry and cavalry
had about 50 tank tte and armored ar. The oviet tank force in th area
was far mor sub tantial. It in Iud d five mechanized bJigade of 5 0 tanks
and about 450 armored ars. The fighting went very badly for th Japane e
armor d units right from the tart of th attack. The Yasuoka deta hment,
including th tw tank I' gim nts and twO infantry regiments, managed
to p n trate the defen of th o ~ t 9th Moto-Armored Brigade on
July 2, 1939. How vel', in four day of fighting the Japanes tank force was
decimated, with about 42 of its 73 tanks put out of commi ion. Most of
the e weI' knocked out by oviet45mm tank and antitank gun, which had
b tter range than theJapanese weapons. TheJapanes tank crews claimed
32 oviet B tanks and 35 armored car . Japanese 10 se were somewhat
mitigat db the fa t that all but 13 tank were I' covered and r paired. The
failure of ule Japane tanks led to Ul ir recall on July 9, 1939, and uley
were nt ba k to garri n.
he oviet armored brigades played a critical role in the defeat of
the Japane e Kwantung my in the ensuing offensive in ugust 1939.
he earlier defeat along the Halka River had profound repercussion in 13
Japane e trategic planning, tactical doctrine, and army equipment
requir ments. From a strate ic per pective, the vigorou Soviet defen e
of th Mong lian fr ntier di coura ed the Japanese Arm from an
further military op ration in this region. It also ncourag d Japan to
turn to oft rand m r lu rativ targets in outh a t ia. From a
ta tical p rspe ti e, the dominant role of mechanized force by the Red
Army for ed th Japan e army to pay more attention to th n ed for
ind pendent armored formations. This set the tage for the sub tantial
enlargement of Japane armored force. mechanized headquarter
wa finall tablish din pril1941 and plans began to con olidat the
catt r d 1] tank units into ten armor d division. From a technical
tandpoint, th fighting r vealed the ignificant short omings of existing
Japane e tank d ign, particularly when confronted by enemy tanks.
Th plan wa to incr a e tank production from its 1939 level of about
500 annually to 1,200 annuall .
One of th imm diate con equence of the Halka River fighting was the
d lopment of a new tank gun, the Type 1 47mm, designed pecifically
in r pon e to the oviet 45mm tank gun. his was incorporated into a
new turret that wa fitted to the Type 97 and r -designated as th Typ
97-Kai (improved) Shinholo Chi-Ha (n w turr t hi-Ha). Produ tion of
this version began in 1942 and became the standard production type in
1942-43. In addition, about 300 of the older ype 97 with 57mm guns were
r built with th n w turret. Thi type had not been deployed at the time of
the war' xpan ion in D c mb r 1941.
In th wak of G rmany' tunnin defeat of the French and British
armi s injun 1940,Japan ign d the TI;partite Alliance with elmanyand
Italyon eptember 27, 1940. The erman Vlehrmacht became the new
model for IJ de elopment, and a delegation headed by General Tomoyuki
Yama hita tOured German to tudy the lesson of the recent urop an
fightin . Yamashita' report empha ized the need for mechanization and a
witch to medium tanks. uriou Iy enough, it also warned against any war
with the United tates, Britain, or the oviet nion, in view of the backward
tat f IJ equipment. In pite of Yamashita's recommendation, the UA
14 was on trained in carrying out the mechanization plans by the limitation
The Type 89 medium tank
formed the backbone of
Japanese tank units in the
China theater. This is one
of the ori91nal Type 89A,
on operation in Manchuria
In the late 1930s. (NARA)
The Japanese tank force
enjoyed a brief moment of
glory in December 1941 and
January 1942 as it spearheaded
the IJA drive into Southeast Asia.
Here, a column of Type 97 Chl-Ha
medium tanks marches through
Singapore on February 15, 1942.
of theJapanese economy. \l\ThileJapan i an industrial superpower toda , in
the late 1930s it was a rural country with fledgling industrie . PriOI"it for
armor plate and teel went to the Imperial Japane e ary (IJN) and the
anny had t mak do with th leftovel.
Tanks of the Great Asian War 1941-45
By th b ginning of the war in the Pacific in December 1941, theJapanese
armor d rce had gr wn due to increased tank production in the lat
] 930 . The lJA wa fom1ing more than a doz n new tank I' gim nts
intended to act as th shock for e of offi n ive op ration. The my' ten
main infantry divi ion ea h had a tank ompany, usually with nin ype
95 Ha-Go light tank, as w II a a patrol ompany in many infantry
regim n with Type 94 tankette ,I' placing traditional hoI' avalry.
Tn the fall of 194], with the oviet Arm crippl d by Germany'
Operation Ba'rbamssa, the Imperial General Headquarters decided
to hift th trat gi u of Japan' military op ration fr m th
J wan tung Army in China to the TJN and the outhem rmy. Th se
forces would act against the outh ea po ssion of th nited
tate, Britain, and the therland. This bold and ambitiou plan was
intended to eize the Philippine, alay ia, Burma, and the Dutch a t
Jndie (today's Indone ia), and to ripple lIied military pow r in the
Pacific with attack again t th fl t in Pearl Harbor and Britain'
main fortified garrison in Singapore. Th atta k began on D mb I' 7,
]941, with carrier-born air trik again t P arl Harbor, follow d by air
attacks again t th oth I' k Ytarg ts. Th lJA planned to mak exten iv
u e of its burg oning tank for during th op ration, v n tho Igh it
had no experience injungle warfare.
The Briti h my felt that the rough terrain around ingapore
made it impa able to tank and difficult if not impo ible to traver e by
an large military formations. he Japane e di agreed and taged
amphibious landing at the northern neck of the Malay P nin ula on
December ,1941. General Yama hita' 25th Army deplo ed 21] tank
in the 1 t, 6th, and 14th Tank Regim nts. Th 1 t Tank Regiment
(40 Type 97 hi-Ha medium tanks and 12 T pe 95 la-Go light tanks)
penetrat d Lieut nant General P rcival's Jitra lin on D cember 1],
1941. The mo t important tank battle followed on January 7,1942, when
the Japane e 6th Tank Regiment 0 ercame the lim Riv r lin north of
ingapore. ingapore fell on F brual 15, du in no mall m a ur to
the effective u f tank.
p arh ad d b the 2nd and 14th Tank R gim nts, th Japane e
Army truck into Burma, hopin to fi ht all th way into India. The
Briti h 7th Arm ur d Brigad had r ntl arriv d fr m rth Africa
and was ta k d with topping th Japan advan e on India. he Briti h
2nd Royal Tank R giment fought a ri of 0 tl r arguard action in
Burma, in luding ev ral tangle with th Japane e 14th ank R gim ne
By th tim the survivor f th unit I' a h d Briti h line in India, onl
on Stuart tank remain d in action.
Th Japane a ault on th Philippine took pia at th Lingay n
Gulf on Luzon in D c mb r 1941, and it in Iud d th 4th and 7th Tank
Regiments. The first tank-v r u,tank engagement of the Pacific War
took pia e on ecemb I' 22, 1941, \ hen ype 95 Ha-Go light tanks
of the 4th ank Re iment ambushed a patrol of M3 Ii ht tanks from th
'my's 192nd Tank Battalion near Damorti . The e two oppo in
tank units continued to kirmish a the force retreated towards the
Bataan Penin ula. Following the fall of Bataan, a pedal Japane e unit
was formed to upport the landing on the i land fortre of orregidor.
Th Japane 7th Tank R gim nt had criti ized the 57mm gun on the
Type 97 Chi-Ha as incapable of penetrating the armor of the U M31i ht
tank, 0 a few of the improved T pe 97-Kai hinhoto hi-Ha were el t
a replacements. Two hinhoto hi-Ha took part in the Ofr gidor
landing, along with one aptured M3 light tank c mmand d by th
16 d ta hm nt 1 ad r, Major Matsuoka. Th sudd n appearan f the
This Type 89B is from the
1st Company of Colonel Sonoda's
7th Tank Regiment. It is shown
crossing an improvised bridge
on January 3, 1942, during the
fighting in the Philippines. The
bridge was erected to bypass
Highway 6, north of Manila.
This company used a white
star as its unit insignia. (HARA)
The only enemy tanks ever to
land in North America were a
couple of Type 95 Ha-Go light
tanks from a company of
the 11th Tank Regiment.
The regiment reinforced the
3rd SNLF that landed on Kiska
in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska
during the amphibious assault
there on June 6-7, 1942. The
island was abandoned prior to
the US counterattack in August
1942. (NARA)
Japanes tank n ar the main orregidor
tunnel and the absence of an
antitank weapons wa one of th k Y
rea n for the final ollap of the
d f n . The 1J 4th Tank R giment,
a veteran of both the Khalkin 01 and
Philippin campaign, was hipp d to
Ja a in March 1942, though mo t of th
Dutch East Indi s had all' ady fall n.
Japan's ad vi tori in the Pacific
War di play d a killful and imaginative
us of tank in t rrain that the British
and m rican commanders thought
prohibited their u e. Having \ on C1-itical
early victorie again t the Allie, Japane
trateg now hift d to a d fen i
orientation, and indu trial priority wa
given to the war hips and aircraft that
bor the br II1t of the new d fi n iv naval
campai n . In spite of their important role in th 19 1-42 victorie',
tank produ tion actually fi II after its peak in ] 941. ot only did tank
produ tion uffi 1', but n w tank de ign stagnated becau Japan had
b en d p ndent on Europ an influen s to h Ip dir tits t hnological
, advancement. Th Ii d tank ncountered in 1941-42, notably th M3
tuart light tank, did not particularly impres th Japanese and weI' littl
bett I' thanJapan's most modern tank, the T pe-97-Kai hinhoto hi-lla.
Japan attempted to I am about newer tr nd in Europ an tank de ign
from their German allies, but technolo tran'fer wa 0 slow as to be
almost useless. G rmany soldJapan a pair ofPzKpfw III in 1943, one with
the 50mm gun and one with the short 75mm 10, but b the time they
an-ived in Japan they were already obsolet. erman' later old Japan
on Panth I' tank and one Tiger tank in ptemb 1'] 943, but by the time
th y weI' ready in 1944 it wa no longer possible to ship tllem to Japan
du to Allied naval int rdicti n.
WAR 1941-45
1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 Total
Type 97 tankette 3 35 5 15 58
Type 95 light tank 705 655 239 1599
Type 98 light tank 1 24 79 104
Type 2 light tank 29 5 34
Type 97 medium tank 507 28 535
Type 97-Kai medium tank - 503 427 930
Type 1 medium tank 15 155 170
Type 3 medium tank 55 89 144
Type 3 gun tank 15 16 31
Type 2 amphibious tank 112 70 182
Type 3 amphibious tank 12 12
Type 1 75mm SP gun 26 26
Type 1 105mm SP gun 14 20 20 54
Other AFVs 181 124 631 554 126 1,616
Total 1,397 1,395 1,522 925 256 5,495
Even thoughJapane e tank de ign tagnated, th
organization of the Japane tank force continu d
to mature. The Nom nhan battle in 1939 and the
success of German blitzkri g tacti . in Europe in
1939-41 led to Japan' reorganization of the tank
roup in Manchuria as tank di i ions, and in July
1942, Japan attached the new 1 t and 2nd Tank
Di ision under a n w M hanized rm head-
quartered at sopingchi h. In 1942, th 3rd Tank
Division ,a formed in China and th 4th Tank
Division \. as formed at the Chiba Tank School
in Japan.
New light tanks
In 1938, a program was begun to develop a new light tank to replace the
Typ 95 Ha- o. Alth ugh th Ha-Go was generally viewed as sati fa tory,
its armor was too light and vuln rable to heavy ma hin -gun fir . Th aim
of the new program wa to d v lop a tank the am wight as the Typ 95
but to increa e the armor thickn ss. Thi m ant th d sign would have
to b somewhat mall r to ac ommodat th ] 6mm armor that was
specified. he program was developed competitivel betw en the main
Type 95 manufacturer, the Hino Motor Compan , and its main tank-
manufacturin rival, Mitsubi hi. Trial were conducted, and the arm
favored the Hino design du to its b tt r ro ountry p rformance.
Although the hi- i Model was accepted for production as the Type 98
light tank, no erious pI' duction began until] 942 b au th arm was
not onvinced that th new d ign was n d d. Even when it nt r d
production, it wa overwh 1m d b th continued pr du tion of the
ucce Eul Type 95 Ha- o. In an fort to improve its pro p cts, the turret
\Va altered to give the gunn r/commander more pace. Additionally,
the newer Type 1 37mm un \Va introduc d, offering Ii htl better
p rformance. Thi din was a pt d for production as the Typ 2
K -To light tank, but pl'odu ti n began onl in 1944 and onl a handful
wer compl ted. Both th T pe 9 and Typ 2 Ii ht tanks were very rar ,
with only 138 manufactured compar d to 2,300 Type 95 Ha-Co light
tanks. Th Type 98 and T)'Pe 2 light tanks a\ little if any combat use.
The conversion of some 97s
with the Shinhoto turret freed up
turrets used to reann the Type 95
Ha-Go Into the 1\tPe 4 Ke-Nu light
tank. This example is preserved
at the NIIBT Museum at Kubinka,
near Moscow. (Author's collection)
The Type 2 Ke-To light tank
was intended as a replacement
for the prolific Type 95 Ha-Go
series. It shared a similar turret
to the Type 2 Ka-Mi. This rear
view shows an example brought
back to Aberdeen Proving
Ground for evaluation after
the war. (USAOM-APG)
The Type 1 Ho-Ni 1 was the most
widely used self-propelled gun
derived from the Chi-Ha tank
chassis. This one served
with the 2nd Company of the
2nd Mobile Artillery Regiment
on Luzon In the Philippines
in 1945. (NARA)
The Type 4 Ho-Ro was a hasty
Improvisation, mounting a
Type 38 150mm howitzer
on a converted Type 97 tank
chassis. Two were rushed to the
Philippines in 1945, serving with
Captain Sumi's Independent gun
company of the 2nd Tank
Division. (NARA)
Self-propelled guns
japan's deci ion to create annored divi ion also reat d the n d to
mechanize its divisional artillery. Thi was done in an expedient fashiol ,
using th yp 97 tank has is. he Ho- i I on i ed of the 75mm Type
90 field gun mounted in an open casemate on a modified Type 97 chas is.
This program began injune 1941 with the til t conv rsion. A mall I;al
production of the Type 1 Ho- i I followed in 1942 but total d only 26
vehicl . It was upplant d by th Ho- iII, whi h pIa d a ] OOmm Type 91
howitz rna Typ 97 has i in a lightly diff< r nt typ op n a mat.
The first Type 1 Ho- i II was campi t d injuly 1942, but production did
not begin until 1943, and anI 54 w re campI t d through 19 . Th final
m mb r of the Ho- i family was a tually intended as a fire upport tank to
r pIa th hort-lived Typ 2 gun tank m nrion d below. It mounted the
am Typ 90 75mm gun as th J 0- i T but fitt d in a fully n 10 d
as mat. Thi was manufa tur d b Hita hi, and of the 57 ordered, onl
31 Type 3 Ho- i III gun tank were completed.
he poor firepower of mo t Japane e tanks led to tl1e development
of elf-propelled tank de troyers mat used tank chassi but were armed
wim more potent guns in a flXed casemate. tank d troyer ver ion of tl1C
Type 95 light tank was de igned, armed with a 47mm antitank gun as
the Type 47mm Ho-Ru tank de troyer, but only a ingl prototype was
ompleted, injun 1945. In vi wofthe limited fir power ofth 47mm gun,
the U decided to m unt short, large-<:aliber howitz on tank has i
be au e there w r new shaped-<:harge antitank warhead that could
penetrate the herman. 120mm howitzer was mounted on th Typ 95
light tank as the Ho-To, but no edes con ersion took pIa e before the nd
of th war. h Type 4 Ho-Ro tank d troyer mated th Typ 3 150mm
howitz r on a r built Typ 97 chassi. uriou Iy nough, two of th wer
rushed to the Philippin wh r they wer quickly lost in combat. Th
heavi t of th tank de tro e was th Ho-Ri, based on th Typ 5 tank
chas i and arm d with a n \ 105mm tank gun plu a 37mm gun in th hull
front Two configuration were under consideration, the Ho-Ri 1 with a
nter-mounted ngine and rear fighting compartm nt patterned on the
G rman 1 fant, and the Ho-Ri 2 with a conventional center casemate, pat-
tern d after the G rmanJagdtig r. Although the new 105mm gun reached
the te ting stage, neither Ho-Ri was acmally built before the war ended.
here were other plan to manufacture self-propell d artillery,
including elf-propelled antiaircraft guns and self-prop lled h a\
mortar, but none reach d th produ tion stage durin th war du to a
lack of re ources.
Improving the Chi-Ha medium tank
By '1942, with the production of the Typ 97-Kai hinhoto hi-Ha
und rway, Mitsubi hi turn d to po ible modernization of the design. The
maximum armor thickn s of the Type 97 was only 30mm, making it
vulnerable to mo t existing tank guns, such as the
37mm gun or the oviet 45mm gun, as had
been shown during the omonhan Incident in
1939. a result, in 1941 work was begun on a
modiiied design with frontal armor thicken d to
Omm. Th front glacis plat was simplified using
a traight flat plate, and more ext nsive u e of
wIding was introdu d to I' du th risk of rivets
bing shattered inward if hit in combat. 0 accom-
modate th add d weight, the improved Type 100
engine was developed, offering 240hp compared
to the 170hp of the earlier versions. Although it
20 was accepted for service as the Type 1 hi-He, the
As an eXpedient method to
quickly ann the Type 1 Chi-He
with the 75mm gun until the new
enlarged turret was ready, Hitachi
built a small number with fi.xed
casemates as the Type 3 Ho-Ni 3
gun tank. This one belonged
to the 4th Tank Division and is
seen near Fukuoka on Kyushu,
surrounded by Type 3 Chi-Nu
medium tanks. (NARA)
The Type 1 Chi-He was an
attempt to modernize the
Chl-Ha using more resilient
welded annor and a more
powerful motor. It could
be distinguished from the
Shlnhoto Chi-Ha from the
front by its revised straight
glacis plate and welded front
hull. (Patton Museum)
The Type 3 Chi-Nu was the
ultimate derivative of the basic
Chi-Ha family, combining the
improved hull of the Type 1
Chi-He with a new turret
armed with a long 75mm gun.
This Type 3 Chi-Nu is seen here
at the Kagushima Tank Park in
late 1945, part of the 4th Tank
Division. (NARA)
US occupation troops
discovered a number of
unusual tank variants in the
Home Islands in 1945, intended
for the final battle. The naval
yard at Sasebo up-gunned about
a dozen Shinhoto Chi-Has with
120mm antisubmarine guns,
as seen here. (NARA)
tank program had uch low priOl'ity tha produ tion did not b gin until
late 1 43 in pia of th T P 97-Kai. he n wde ign was reserved for the
tank divi ion in Japan and apparently never aw combat u e.
Ithough the IJ was happier with th antitank performan of the
Type 47mm gun us d on the ype 97-Kai and the Type 1, the majority of
combat engagements were again t enemy inJanu where its high-velo it)'
antitank round wa not particular! u eful. In addition, the 47mm gun had
a light r high xplosive round than the old r 57mm gun. a I' ult, th r
was om intere t in a weapon ben I' uited to tile infantry los -suppOrt
role. In 1942, the hort 75mm Type 99 gun in a 11 pe 97-Kai turret was
in orporat d, re ulting in til Typ 2 BOoI gun tank. The intention was to
create a fire support company in each tank regiment with the e vehi les.
o w v l ~ tile project had such low priority that production began only
in 194 and merel 31 were built. Production was 0 dela ed Ulat instead
of n \ con truction, all w re c nverted fr m Typ 1 medium tanks.
m ntioned abov , it was upplem nted b til Type 3 BOo i 3 that had
the mol' powerful 7 n m field un in a fLX d a emate.
By 1943, it wa be omino- videm that the hi-Ba and its volutionary
derivative' weI' simply too poor! arm d to d feat I od rn medium
ta.nks. The IJ learned about new Allied tanks uch as the Sherman from
their military attache in Berlin, and thi led to a requirem nt in 194 for
a new medium tank. inc an entirely n w d ign would tak time to
prepare, an xp di nt wa accept d. A tank-gun v rsi n f the Typ 90
75mm field gun was ac ept d for u e as th Typ 3 tank gun, and it was
mounted in an enlarged turret on a modifi d yp 1 medium tank hull.
though the new design was accepted for service in 1943 a the ype 3
Chi- u medium tank, production of the Typ 1 continu d at Mitsubishi
until ovemb r 1943. yp 3 producti n did not b gin until ptember
1944. Th bombing attack in 19 5 caus d havo in th Japan
indusu-ies, and as a result, Typ 3 production fell far short of plans with
only 144 completed by the end of the war. They all r mained in th
lome I lands for the final defen ofJapan. This wa th mo t powerful
Japan tank of th war built in any i nifi ant numb r .
New medium tanks
The Typ 3 hi- u learly stretch d the hi-Ha hassi to its limit, and an
furth r dev lopm nt would r quire a new chassis. In 1943, work b gan on
the Chi-To. It re embled the Chi-Ha in general layout but was substantiall
tar er with a 400hp engine, and it wa armed with th n w Type 4
75mm gun derived from the Type 88 75mm antiaircraft un. The de i n
substantially increased armor thickne with a maximum protectiOl of
75mm on key front plates, and the design was primarily welded with some
cast armor components. This was b far the most ophisticat d Japan s
tank to reach production. The plan was to manufacture th m at a rat of
20 per month at Mitsubi hi and flv per month at Kob iko. Iowever,
at war's end only ix chassis had b n built and onl two tanks ompi t d.
A heavier de 'ign, th Type 5 hi-Ri, was also planned. It was initially
armed with the T pe 4 75mm gun, but e entually an mm gun in the
turret and a 37mm econdary weapon in the hull front were incorporated.
Thi tank was expe ted to be powered by a 550hp BMV\ aircraft engine.
prototype without the main gun wa completed in la 1945, but further
work wa halted in favor of concentrating attention on the more practi al
Type 4 hi-To. 1 here have al 0 been rumors that work was underwa I
on a 120-ton super heavy tank called the Oh-I, but no do umentation
22 survived the war.
The Type 4 Chi-To was the last
medium tank design completed
before the end of the war. It was
a Japanese equivalent of the
German Panther, anned with a
long 75mm gun. The first units
were completed only weeks
before the end of the war, and
they never saw combat. (NARA)
The TYpe 2 KaMi was the
best designed amphibious tank
of the war, capable of operating
in open ocean and in high surf.
This example shows the two
pontoons and engine trunk, but
the trunk over the turret is not
fitted. (NARA)
The last of the Special Craft,
the TYpe 4 Ka-Tsu was an
unarmored transport rather
than a true tank. Its final
armament, a pair of
13mm machine guns and
twin torpedoes, is not present
on this example preserved at
the US Marine Corps museum
at Camp Pendleton, California.
(Author's collection)
Navy tanks
The IJ had its 0' n marine contingents knm n as the pecial laval
Landings For es ( LF). he units \ er fr qll ntly r infor d with .light
tanks, most oft n witl1 th Typ 95 Ha- o. Th j LF was inter 't d in a
tank mol' uitable for amphibiou landings. In fa t, tI1 arm had toyed
witl1 om mall xp rim ntal amphibious tanks for re onnais ance units
in tI1e 1930s. Th navy \V'"dnted a tank capable of op -rating in op n 0 an
and t11rough high urf, and' m I' robll t p rforman e in water wa
reqllir d. DlI to Mitsubi hi's arli I' \ ark on the army pI' ~ cts, in 1941 tI,e
firm was a sign d th d v fopm nt of tl1e Ka-Mi "p ial l-afi:." Thi was
intend d to b an amphibioll analog of tl1 new Type 2 light taJ k, and
t1,ey hard similar turrets. Th vehi I u p nsion was d )-iv d from tl1at
of the Typ 95 I a- o. The method of amphibioll nan 'port was through
m 1I 'of twO pontoons fitt d for and aft wim a sy t m of mall clasp tI,at
could be I' leased from witl1in the tank to drop the pontoons on on land.
In addition, a trunk was fitted over th engin air intak on th rear d k
to pI' vent wat r fr m flo ding into tI1 ngine ompartment. i k e ~ e,
there was a d ta hable tow I' over tI1e turret hat h to pI' vent wave from
washing into me fighting ompartm nt. Th d ign was a pt d as m
Type 2 Ka-Mi pecial Craft, and production began in 1943. Th w r
deployed in 1944 and saw action on Saipan and eyre.
With th suc es ful d si n of th Typ 2 Ka-Mi, the navy added a
r quirem nt for th Ka- hi pial raft, whi h w' an amphibiou tank
analog of the Type 1 Chi-H medium tank. Mitsubi hi was also as ign d
to thi proj t, and it f; 1I0wed the g n ral onfiguration of the Ka-Mi
exc pt bing si nificantly lar r for suffi ient buo anc . The prototyp
wa omplet d in D emb r 1943 and was nt to asake Island off
Kure in JanuaI 1944 for trials with th n w "econd la s Tran port"
amphibious landing hip that wa de igned to laun h it. A doz n of these
were built in 1944, but the project abruptly ended due t th pro ram'
low priority. ost of these tanks remained at the Yokosuka avy Yard and
so far as is known, non wer deployed outside Japan. Th Typ 5 To-Ku
was also consid r d, but too lat to hav b n manufactur d.
Th fightin in the olom ns in 1942 and tl1 difficulty in re upplying
Japan e for e in thes ituations prompted th I to start an amphibiou
u-ansport u-actor pro ram in 1943 as th Ka-T:u. nlik tl1 oth r pial
raft, the Ka-Tsu was intended primarily to carry cargo ashore. Th r for ,
it was not armored except for ome modest shields for the crew. Its rno t
ingenious feature was the hermetic ealing of the engine compartment and
the electric final drives. It wa designed thi way because the Ka-Tsu was to
be delivered by submarine. The first unit \ a completed in late 1943, and
trial were conducted in March 1944 ofI" Kure as the Type 4 p cial I-aft.
By the time development was complete, some IJN offi ers prop S d a
more exotic role for tl1e Ka-T: u: to attack U battleship anchor d in atolls
uch as lithi that could not be attacked by more onv ntional means.
The Ka-T: u would be dropped b submarine away from th atOll, propel
itself to the outer reef, urmounl the reef u ing its u-acked su pen ion, and
U1 n enter the lagoon on the other ide of the re f. The Ka-T: u would be
armed with two torpedoes for thi mi ion. though te ts were ucce fully
conducted and the Ka-Tsu modified for tl1is secret mission, the war nd d
before they could be deployed in thi wa.
Ten Type 97 Chi-Ha tanks of the
1st Independent Tank Company
spearheaded a Japanese attack
across the Matanika River on
October 26, 1942, In which
most were destroyed by Marine
37mm antitank guns midstream.
The tank still carries the insignia
of its parent unit, the 4th
Company, 2nd Tank Regiment,
a Masu insignia in blue on the
hull side. (NARA)
A: Type 89B medium tank,
7th Tank Regiment,
China, 1939
B: Type 95 light tank, 2nd Compan.y, 7th Tank Regiment,
Luzon, Philippines, December 1941
C1: Type 2 Ka-Mi special craft, Ito SNLF, Leyte, 1944
C2: Type 3 Ka-Chi Special Craft, Kure SNLF, 1945
IWO JIMA, 1945
15 Mitsubishi A6120VO diesel engine
16 Oil filler cap
17 Tank repair jack
18 Tank tools
19 Idler wheel
20 Power-train to transmission (cover omitted
for clarity)
21 Helical compression springs under
armored cover for suspension
22 Return roller
23 Front Type 97 7.7mm machine gun
24 Road wheel in twin bogie mount
25 Drive sprocket
26 Transmission
Crew: 3 (commander, driver, hull machine-gunner)
Combat weight: 8.1 tons (704 metric tonnes)
Power-to-weight ratio: 16.2hplT
Overall length: 172in. (4.37m)
Width: 81 in. (2.06m)
Height: 84in. (2.13m)
Engine: Mitsubishi A6120VD 120hp six-cylinder
diesel engine; 5-speed (4 F, 1 R) transmission
Fuel capacity: approx. 27gal main tank + 7gal
reserve (104 liter main tank + 27 liter reserve)
Max. speed (road): 28mph (45krnlh)
Max. speed (cross-country): 18mph (29km/h)
Max. range: 130mi (209km)
Fuel consumption: 5Ami/gal (2.3krnlliter)
Ground clearance: 15in. (OAm)
Armament: Type 94 or Type 98 37mm tank gun
(U46.1 cal); two Type 97 7.7mm machine guns
Main gun ammunition: 130 rounds 37mm;
3,300 7.7mm machine rounds
Muzzle velocity: 2,300fps (701 m/s)
Penetration: 40mm at 90 degrees @500m with
Type 1 AP projectile @0.67kg
Max. effective range: 1.8mi (2.9km)
Gun depression/elevation +20 to -15 degrees
Armor: 12mm hull and turret front, turret side
and hull side, turret and hull rear; 9mm top
and bottom
1 Steel tracks
2 Brake pads for vehicle steering
3 Tank headlight
4 Driver's forward visor
5 Driver's instruments (electrical switches)
6 Driver's seat
7 Main gun trunnion
8 Right side m m u n ~ o n stowage for 37mm gun
9 Type 94 37mm gun
10 Turret 37mm ammunition ready rack
11 Rear turret Type 97 7.7mm machine gun
12 Engine muffler
13 Engine bulkhead
14 Air intake for engine
F1: Type 97-kai Shinhoto Chi-Ha, 3rd Company, 7th Tank Regiment,
2nd Armored Division, Luzon, Philippines, December 1944
F2: Type 1 Ho-Ni 1 self-propelled gun, 2nd Mobile Artillery Regiment,
2nd Armored Division, Luzon, December 1944
G1: Type 5 Chi-Ri medium tank, Japan, 1945
G2: Type 97-kai Shinhoto Chi-Ha, Chinese People's Liberation
Army (PLA), 1949
The 7th Sasebo SNLF on Tarawa
was reinforced with seven Type
95 Ha-Go light tanks that were
knocked out during the savage
fighting there on November 20,
1943. (NARA)
WAR 1941-45
The Southwest Pacific campaigns 1942-43
Th num rou i lands ofth ouLh\ e t rn Padfi weI' the tage for mu h
of the fightin between the S and Japan in 1942-43. The i lands were
often heavil fore ted and hill, which proved to be difficult terrain for
tanks, e' ept along the oasts. The Japane e seized ew Britain and ew
Ireland in ugust 1942, and the IJA garri 'on d Rabaul \ ~ t h the th Tank
Regim nl. In ept mb r, th IJ conduct d amphibious landings at Miln
Bay upported by Type 95 Ha- 0 light tanks of th Kure th LF. The
Marin us d tanks in small numb rs on Guadal anal in 1942, and based
on their 'ample, the umi 0 hi Force was landed on uadal anal \ ~ t J
its own tank contingent in late 0 tob r for a counteroffi n ive again t
lhe Marine. The 1 t Independent Tank ompany was equipped wi h a
dozen T p 97 hi-Ha medium tanks manned by veteran crews of the
4m ompany, 2nd Tank R giment. Th tanks p arhead d me Japanese
atta k a ross th Matanika Riv r, but mo t of th tanks w r de tr y d
by arine 37mm antitank guns midstream, putting an abrupt end to
Japan armor op ration on uadalcanal.
The Centra' Pacific 1943-44
he t rrain of th Central Pacific i land wa mor suitabl fi r tank
op rations than th jungl t rrain of th earlier battJes and saw mar
exten iv tank u y both id . Given the small iz of th battl fi Id ,
an independent rol for tanks was out of the que tion, and th y erved
in tead in their u"aditional role of providing direct fire support for the
infantry. Th tanks w re a major threat to Japan se infanu)', who
lacked an ad quate antitank un until the Type 1 47mm gun began to
arrive in i nifi ant number in the summer of 1944.Japan e tank w re
not a uffi ient antidote because both the T pe 9 light tank and the
Type 97 medium tank lacked the firepower to pen trate tJ1e armor of tJ e
American M4 medium tank and both Japane e type were vulnerable to
a \vide range of Amet-i an weapons. As a re ult,Japane e tanks were often
d plo ed in tati entr nchments to redu their vulnerability in the
hopes that the might b abl to ambu hAm rican tanks by firing again t
tJ1eir weak r id and rear armor. 33
The first of the ntral Pa ific batt! s, Tarawa, be an on the coral
atoll in the ilb rt I land n v mber 20, 1943. The main Japane e
defen e were n Betio, and th )' in luded even ntren h d T P 95 light
tank of th 7th a bo S F. Two other F Typ 95 tanks w r on
neighboring Makin Island. Alt!10ugh one of the Type 95 tanks on Betio
charged out of its revetment durin the initial fighting and di abled
a Marine M 2 before being bla ted apart, the remaining tanks \ ere
employed a tatic pillboxe and were de troyed one b one. The next
objective for amphibiou force wa Kwajal in, the world' large tat II.
Japane e defen e included nine tankett ,a compan of Typ 95 light
tank, and two atta h d LF companie of Type 2 Ka-Mi amphibiou
tanks. TheJapan se tanks w r in ffe tive against th attack and were
ov rwhelmed in an unequal so-uggl .
The Marianas w re the fir t large island in Japan' inner defen b It
to be attacked b)' the U . Two of me island, Guam and aipan \ ere
dangerou Iy 10 nough t Japan to rv a pot ntial airba e for
bombers. As are ult,japan arri on were reinforced b tl1e 9t!1 Tank
Regiment, the fir t iz abl japan tank force encountered b
forces since the 1941-42 Philippine campai n. he 9ti1 Tank Regiment
wa plit up \Vim me 1 t and 2nd ompanies on uam and the 3rd, 4th,
and man aipan. he companie on aipan had a mode t number of
me newer T)'pe 97-Kai hinhoto hi-Ha, me anI)' japanese tank wim an)'
chanc f knocking out an Am rican M m dium tank. In addition,
th r w r nin Ha-Go light tank f the 1 t Yoko uka LF n aipan
and a imilar numb r with t!1e 24th Ind p nd nt Tank mpan)' n
uam. The Japan se infantry in the Mariana wa b tt r quipp d than
thos on th Mal" hall, having finall), begun to r eive th n w T p ]
47mm antitank gun. he Marine land d n aipan n Jun 15
with two tank battalion, a h with 46 4A2 m dium tanks and 14 to
24 M3Al atan flamethrow r tanks. On tl1 night f th landing, the
Japan e F tag d a poiling raid near Garapan again t the I ft
flank of th north rn landing beache, upported b), thre Typ 2 Ka-Mi
amphibiou tanks. he arine called in naval tar hell illumination,
and me T pe 2s oon fell victim to Marine bazookas and tank gun . Thi
34 wa the first wide- cale use of bazookas in t!1e Pacific and marked et
The 1st Yokosuka SNLF staged
a spoiling attack on the US
Invasion beaches on Saipan on
the night of June 15-16, losing
their three Type 2 Ka-Mi
amphibious tanks. (NARA)
Some of the Type 97 Chi-Ha
tanks of the 9th Tank Regiment
on Saipan were fiUed with an
improvised rack on the hull
rear to carry additional infantry.
This was one of the tanks that
strayed into marshy ground
during the disastrous night
aUack of June 16-17, 1944,
which decimated the regiment.
anoth r di advanta faced b the Japan s tanks. At dawn, the Japane e
LFT pe 95 Ha-Go compan and the 4th ompan, 9th Tank Regiment,
attacked the beachhead with upportin infantry and were devastated b
tank fire. OnJune 16, the S Arm ,'s 27th Divi ion landed, upported b
two light and one medium tank companie .
he tead progre of the attack led Vice- dmiral agumo to
order the garris n commander to laun h an all-out counterattack on
the night of Jun 16-17. p arh ading th atta k w re the 44 tanks of
th 9th Tank R gim nt. Th Marines hard th ounds of th tanks as
th y gather d around Garapan to load up with infantry. ailing for
reinforcements, a Marine 4A2 plat on arrived along with everal M3
75mm half-tra k tank d stroy rs to r inforc the prim t r. Th large t
ingleJapan tank atta k of the Pa ificV\ar b gan after midnight in the
early morning hours of Jun 17. Th tanks au mpted to char acro
op n ground but naval tar hell quickly illuminat d them. Th Matin
op ned fir with baz okas at1d 37mm antitank gun with deadly effect. A
few Japan tanks rash dint Mat"in lin but w r quickly kno ked
ut at clo rang. On f th Typ 97 plat n tumbl dint mar hy
areas, becoming oapped. theJapanese attack wilted in a hail of gunfire,
the Maline tanks began moving forward, destroying the o"apped tanks.
dozenJapane e tanks managed to escape the l u g h t l ~ but on June 24
mo t of the e survivors were knocked out in an unequal duel with Marine
tank near arapan. The re t were lost in scattered encounters with
S Army 5 1 light tanks. On July 24, Marines assaulted nearby Tinian,
supported by the two tank battalions. 0 t of the Type 95 light tanks of
the Japanese tank company on the island were lost that night during a
predictable night-banzai charge.
Th 3rd Marin Division a ault a ainst uam was supported by more
than tw tank battali n . Japan tank units on th i land includ d th
1 t and 2nd ompani f the 9th Tank R gim nt with 29 hi-Ha and
I a-Go tanks and th 24th Ind pend nt Tank Company with nin Ha-Go
light tanks. Mo t f th Japan tanks w r kn k d ut in a ries of
d pelat c unteratta k n th fir t day, but th r mainin tanks of th
2nd ompany f the 9th Tank R gim nt wer withdrawn north and were
gladually xpend d in a eri f fer i us night atta ks.
The Marianas campaign was cI ar evid nc of th hop I t chni al
imbalance b tween theJapane e tank and weaponry. The Marine
and army troop had an array of w apon including the bazo ka, the 35
37mm antitank gun, and th 75mm tank gun that could readily knock ut
th Japan tanks. Th Japane tank guns, with the x ption of th
47mm gun on the Type 97-Kai hinhoto Chi-Ha, were ineffecti e against
S medium tanks. hi situation would not improve to any ignificant
xtent for the remaining ear of the war.
On eptember 15, 1944, th Maline 1st Division landed on PeleHu
in the Palau I land, a heavil fortified coral outcropping, painfull
remini cent of blood arawa. PeleHu ,vas defended by the Japanese
14th Infant! Divi ion. That aft moon, th division' light tank company
launched a banzai attack acro the open airfield. The 15 ype 95 Ha 0
tanks had b n fitted to carry troop b lashing mpty fuel drum, with
infantrymen ramm d in id them on their rear fend rs. Th attack vap-
orat d under a massi barrag of arine firepow r from bazo kas, .5O-Cal.
machine gun , 37mm antitank gun , 75mm half-track tank de troy rs,
thr M4A2 m dium tanks, and naval gunfir. hearine tanks w r
b wildered wh n th ir annor-pi rcing (AP) ammunition s med to hav
no effect on the Ha-Go . In fact, th shell w r p netrating th Japane
tanks on on sid, and passing I ar through th other. The Am ri an
gunners witched to high explo ive , blowing the small tanks apart. Th
d tru tion fame of the Type 95 light tanks was so campi te that the
Marine lat r found it difficult to d termine how manyJapanes tanks had
actually been us d in the atta k. By 1944, the Type 95 tank was nearly a
d cad old and learly obsolete.
Actions in the China theater
By th summer of 1943, the Chine e Army in Central China was in deep
troubl. he Japan Imperial neral Headquarters began planning
!chi-Go (Op ration 1) to deal a final kno kout blow. t th ame time, thi
would op n rail links between a upied hina and Indo hina as well as
aptur base bing prepar d for S Army Air Force op rations against
Japan. Operation 1 was laun h d b th hina Expeditionary my in
pril 1944, mainl along the railroad lines in Central China. Although
primarily an infantry operation,Japane e tank units were e ten ively used
36 in a upporting role. The larges annor operation was conduct d by the
The "TYpe 97 tankette was
widely used in the China theater.
This one was knocked out by
a Chinese bazooka team of the
3/112th Infantry, 38th Division,
in December 1944. (NARA)
General Yamashita ordered the
2nd Tank Division to disperse
its units as a blocking force
in static defensive positions
on Luzon. This Type 1 Ho-Ni 1
tank destroyer is seen here
in an elaborate entrenchment
with camouflage cover near
Santa Ie. (NARA)
quipp d with about 255 tanks. Its attacks ulminat d in
th d feat of thr hine e divi ions defending Luo ang and the apture
of the ity on Ma)' 24, 1944. Th fighting ontinued thr u h Decemb r
1944, finall pu hing down th rail line to Indo hina.
Although th op ration u ce ded in oven helming man Arm
Air Forc air ba and sever I injuring the Kuomintang Arm)', it failed
to deliv r a fatal blow to th hinese. Furthermore, the Army Air
F I' e b gan emplo)'ing the long-range B-29 bomber from base de p in
th zechwan Provin ,b )'ond the rea h of th IJ . The bomb r ' fir t
air raid wa ondu t d on June 16, 1944, and in time, air raft ba ed
in China were abl to interdi t the n w rail conne tions. a re ult, a
s ries of attack w r plann d in earl 9 4 ~ and the hina Expeditionary
Arm)' initiat d a major p ration again t th Kuomintang Arm and the
airbas '. Th 3rd Tank Divi ion was as igned to th 12th rm, taking
part in the succe sful March 1945 offensi e that seized the airbase at
Laohokow in the Hubei Province. The 3rd Tank Di i ion remained in
hina until the end of the war, headquarter d near Beijing. The e w re
the la t ucce ful Japanese tank op ration of "'orld "'ar II but are
largel unknown in the We t.
The Philippines 1944-45
The campaign in the Philippines involved the lar e t tank operations by
either ide in the Paciii War. It was a1 0 the fir t and onl time that the
Japanese Arm committed one of its tank divi ion, th 2nd on Luzon,
again t for . Th Arm d plo)'ed s v n tank battalion, thr tank
de tro)' r battalion " and a parat tank ompan)' during th Philippin
ampai n, totaling over 500 tanks and tank destro)'ers.
Th initial fightin on Le te in Oct b r 1944 aw th quick d tru tion
of the old T)'P 9B tanks of th 7th Ind p nd nt Tank Compar1)' wh n
it tried to counterattack th S landin n ar Dula . Th ltoh SNLF
attempted an amphibiou count rattack a ain t th landings at Ormoc
with a d ta hm nt that in Iud d t n T)'P 2 Ka-Mi amphibi u tanks.
Th NLF J) rc was hit whil landing, and onl a handful of Ka-Mi tanks
r ach d th h r , wh re th )' w r qui kJ)' d tro' d. R inforc ments 37
were ru hed to eyte, including th 1 t Divi i n upp rted b tJle 1 t
and 2nd lnd p ndent Tank mpanie from th 2nd Tank Divi ion on
neighboring Luzon. Ea h divi ion had t n Typ 95 Ha- 0 light tanks.
Thes tanks were 10 t in attered en ountel with infantry, u 'ually
to bazookas and tow d antitank gun .
Following the full of Leyte, the turned its attention to Luzon. The
ommand r fth 14th Ar a Army, neral Tomoyuki Yamashita, doubt d
that tJle tanks of the 2nd Tank Divi ion c uld stand up to S firepow r in
a dir t mas d onfrontation. He ord r d that th divi i n b di P rs d t
stiffen defen e in key town and village, witJ1 tanks to b no' n h d in
adobe revetments and covered with foliage. Most of tJle defensive po irion
included multiple tank nIT nchments, 0 that the tan could mo e
around if n c ary. Yamashita al forbad th tank command r to
conduct th typ of banzai har that had led to the de !Tuction of
th 9th Tank R gim nt n ipan. M d attack was to b u ed onl
wh n it was evident that th local d fi n were on the er e of failing. The
d n ity of tank mplac m nt val; d from villa to ilia . Th malle t
d tachm nt at rdan ta had only nin tanks, but the hi mi d tachment
of th 7th Tank R giment at an Manu I had 5 tanks, and tJl Ida
d ta hm nt of th 6th Tank R gim nt at Mun z had 52 tanks. Th divi i n
wa extremely well equipped byJapane e tandard, with over 200 Type 97
and Type 97-Kai medium tanks, 20 Type 95 light tanks and a val;et of the
new self-propelled guns.
De pite tJle large number ofJapane e tanks on Luzon, there were ery
few large- ale tank-ver u -tank encounter. When the m landing
began on December 15, 1944, the 7th Tank Regiment wa ord red to
stage a ounteratta k against tJle Linga en landing ite. tank compan
and motoriz d infantry battalion mount d the attack on tJle night of
December 16 but were ambu hed b)' infanu and d cimated. Th
advancin units mad fir t contact witJ1 the outer belt of the 2nd Tank
Divi ion position near Binal nan lat r in tJl monm. The first ignm ant
tank battl t ok pia e on January 24,1945, at an Manu I. Th 161 t
Infantry R giment attack d th town, supported by M7 105mm howitzer
This "TYPe 97-Kai Shinhoto
ChiHa was head of a column
of 2nd Tank DiVision, hit by
bazooka fire on January 30,
1945, near Umungan on Luzon.
The column was a"empting a
night retreat. The crew added
a length of spare track to the
turret front In an a"empt to
reinforce its armor. (NARA)
Colonel Nishi's 26th Tank
Regiment, converted from
the 1st Tank Division's
reconnaissance regiment,
had 11 'TYpe 97Kai Shlnhoto
ChlHa tank.s on Iwo Jima,
primarily deployed in static
entrenchments. (NARA)
motor arria e (HMC) and a compan of M4 medium tank. Opposing
them w re 40 Typ 97-Kai medium tanks and five Type 95 Ii ht tanks
of th hig mi deta hment. Th MTs 105mm howitzer uc eeded in
blasting away th adob tank r v tm nts, and theJapane e position were
graduaJly reduced b infantl attacks. Led b the ten remaining 1] tanks,
a final banzai harg ~ laun h d in th arl hours ofJanua. 2 . Th
attack uffered a predictable fate again t 37mm antitank gun.
Th Ida d ta hm nt at Munoz m t a imilar nd in the fir t week of
February, and when surviving Japan s tanks attempt d a breakout, they
w r de imated b artill ry and a tank atta k. The 2nd Armored Divi ion's
last I-egiment, th 10th Tank R gim nt at Lupa , was hatt r d during th
fighting there on February 7-8. By March 5, the Japane 2nd Arm r d
Divi ion had been de troyed, already having 10 t 203 Chi-Ha and 19 Ha- 0
tanks, and two n w 150mm Ho-Ro tank de tro ers. heir aClifice did nOt
sub tantiallyaffi t th campai n, becau th poor quality of theJapane e
tanks was n t a S Ii u threat t th Am ri ans. n of the mo t curiou
in idents of the campaign curr d in April 1945 when U force
appr ach d Yam hita' h adquart rs i. Baguio, which was defended by
th division's fiv surviving tanks. Yamashita fitted large explo i e charges
to th fr nt of th Typ 97 and Type 95, which w re then camouflaged
with bru hand hidd n along th road id . When S M4 m dium tanks
app ar d aro md a b nd on R ut 9 on th morning of Aplil 17, the t\ 0
Japane e tanks raced fonvard, and in a kamikaz - tyl atta k, rammed th
tan ,blowing up two in the pro e
The final Pacific campaigns
ike Tarawa, 1woJima would go down in leg nd as on of th most bitter
battle of the Pacific V\ar. Th onl Japane armor on th island was a
portion of the 26th Tank Regiment b cau on of th regim nt's com-
panie' was being deployed on a neighboring i land. Lieut nant olon J
i -hi hoped to use hi hinhoto hi-Ha tank as a roving fire brigad ,
but h wa' ord red to deplo them as enu"enched piJlboxe . The 1 t 39
mpany was d pi Y d in th uth, n ar th Marin landing bach s,
and fought a s ri s of d laying action until wip d out in the fight for
Hill 3 2. The 3rd ompany attempted to d nd th S cond Airfi ld and
wa de tr yed in th proc s. Th 2nd ompany r main d hidd n in
caves on the northern end of the island and laun hed an attack again t
the 21st Marines on the morning of February 28. he Japane company
was decimated by bazooka fire.
The largest combined amphibious operation of the war took place at
Okinawa in April 1945, following the Iwo Jima campaign. he Okinawa
fighting was the first battle on Japanese soil and a brutal foretaste of the
expected in asion of th Home Island. ter the fruitle waste of the
2nd Armored ivision in the Philippin , th IJA decid d t h Id its b t
armor for that anticipated assault. The only major Japane e tank unit on
Okinawa was the understren tl1 27th Tank Regiment, with onl 13 Ha-Go
and 14 hinhoto hi-Has. Th ucce of U tanks in the Marianas, in the
Philippin , and on IwoJima, I d t th U deci ion to commit its h aviest
armored force ever. The force indud d eight Arm and two USMC tank
battalion, totaling v r 800 tanks. G n raJ Sh ph rd of the 6th Marine
Divi ion lat r comm nted that, "if anyone supporting arm can b singled
ut a having c ntribut d m r than any oth r durin the pr gr S of
th campaign, th tank would c rtainly have to be elected." The same
could not b aid for theirJapan s counterparts, defeated in th ill-fated
May 4-5 count rattack.
Burma saw the most extensive use of tanks outside the entraJ Pacific
area. After the succe ful u of tank in th 1943 Arakan fighting, Briti h
and Indian forces cam to depend more and mor heavily on tanks for
cl upport of infantry. Th onl armor that th Japan s committ d to
But'ma wa th 14th Tank Regim nt, which had remain d inc the] 942
campaign. It was 0 po rly quipp d that its 4th Company us d Stuart
light tank captur d from the retreating Bt;ti h 7th Armour d Brigade
in 1942. This Japanese unit was committed to the di astrou March 1944
ImphaI campaign, b the end of which it had been reduced t only four
tanks. This was also the first Japanese encounter with the ee medium
40 tank, a typ that was obsolet b European standard but which pro ed
This Type 95 Ha-Go bears the
markings of the 3rd Company
of the 14th Tank Regiment,
which fought against British
and Indian forces at Imphal
and in the final Burma
campaign. (NARA)
Japanese encounters with Soviet
tank units in the August 1945
fighting were not widespread.
These are the Type 97 Chi-Ha
tanks of the 34th Tank Regiment,
located near Mukden In
Manchuria in 1945. The
regiment's klkusul marking
is evident on the turret in
the variant used by the
2nd Company, and there
Is an AI-koku presentation
marking on the hull side.
(Patton Museum)
very effective in British and Indian service in Burma. The 14th Tank
Regim nt, r built near Mandalay, re ntered the fray at Meiktila with the
n w Type 97-Kai hinhoto hi-Ha. In March 194 , its last tanks were
wip d out on th Mandalay Road by h rman of255 Tank Brigade.
August Storm: Manchuria
Although the Man hurian Op ration of August 1945 was the larg st tank
operation of th war in ia, it i one of th least known outside of
Ru sia. Th Sovi t Union nt r d th war in August 1945, ov rrunning
the Kwantung Army in Manchuria in two w ek by a rapid pincer
mov ment. .an huria had traditionall be n th main operational area
for Japane e tank formation, but in late 1944 Japane units in th
hina theater were tripped bare to prepare for the defense of th
Home Islands. B 1945, the Kwantung Army had only the inexperienced
1st and 9th Tank Brigades at ukden and sopingchieh, plus a few small
divisional tank compani s.
Th ovi t attack was a three-pronged pincer involving over 5,000
armor d vehicl s, mor than at Kursk. There "cas v ry Iitt! tank-versus-tank
fighting during this campaign, as the war ended before the Red Army
r ached the main defens line where the IJA tank brigades ere stationed.
The Red Army captured 369 Japanese tanks and 35 armored cal during
the AU'-ust 1945 campaign.
Th only major ovi t combat with Japane tanks came after the
Japane e surrender on Augu t 15, 1945. On Augu t 1 , t!1e R d Army
stag d an amphibiou landing on himushu I land in the Kuril s, hom
to th 11 th Tank R gim nt, quipp d with 39 Typ 97 m dium tanks and
25 Type 95 light tanks. Th garri n had b en inform d ofth urrend r,
but Tokyo grant d th right to "self-d fense if attack d." Under the
command of Ion I Ida, th regiment d id d t r si t, and it attack d
th b achh ad. A confu d batt! wa fought in th fog for two hours with
the oviet antitank gun kno king out 21 tanks but 10 ing over a hundr d
troops in the pro e . A cea e-fire agreem nt wa r ached on August 20,
making the battle for Shimushu the lastJapanese tank battle of th war. 41
The final campaign: defense of the Home Islands
On rea on for the relatively limited u e ofJapane e tank in the final
year of fighting in the Pacific wa the deci ion to re er e th n w t and
be t equipment for the final defen e ofth Hom I lands. Th 4th Tank
Divi ion wa formed in the ummer of 1944 at the hiba Tank hool
and attached to the 36th orps, which al 0 ontroll d th 1st ank
Divi i n in Tochigi. Japane e tank strength in the Hom I land in th
umm r of 1945 totaled 2,970 tanks in two divisions, six brigad s, s ven
indep ndent regim nts, and several smaller units. he urr nder f
Japan in ugu t 1945 led to the occupation ofth Hom Islands and
the subsequent decision by the gov mm nt to de tro all Japan s
military equipment. In total, for es inJapan and outh K rea 10 at d
9 armored car, 633 tank tt ,5,2 6 tank and oth r armored vehicle.
All were de troyed x ept for 405 unarmed armor d ehicle, mo t1y
half-tra ks and armor d uppOrt v hi Ie , \ hi h were turned over to the
Japan s govemm nt for re on tructi n purpo S.
U1;OU Iy enough, Japan e tank ontinued to fight on in other
th at 'rs, und r new owners. Japan tank aptur d by the oviets were
lat r turn d ov r to th il- r gi nal alii ,By th end ofl949, the Chine e
Pe pi ' Lib ration Army had a fOI" e of 349 tanks, consisting mainl of
Japanese Type 95 light tanks and Type 97 medium tanks, and 'mall r
number of American tanks captured from the Kuomintan during th
civil war, handful of captured Japan tank w r uppli d to the
orth Korean People's Army for training. Fr n h r S r turning to
Indochina also eiz d the Type 89 m dium tanks and Typ 95 light tank
of the 2nd Reconnaissance Regiment in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, whi h
were used until more modem equipment arrived from Fran e.
Th r is an nom10U amount of publi hed material on Japane e tanks,
42 and not surpri ingly, most i in Japane e. Even for non:Japane e readers,
Japanese tanks captured by the
Soviet Army, such as these Type
97-Kai Shinhoto Chi-Ha tanks on
parade in Beijing, helped form
the core of the Chinese People's
Army in the late 1940s. (Patton
lbis is 1I0t an entirely hopeless case as the \'aSl lIl:yorilY of the published
Jl1,uelial is heavily iIItISlr:ltcd. The most prolific source of public.uions 011
Japanese !;mks has 1x.'C1l Japanese magazincs. These include specialisl
milila'1' maga7jnc:.'S, such as 'Iflllk (Sel/$I/(/) and Koku-Fllll, as well as many
general interest mag-.-tzines. Soflco\'er mag;tZine specials are a popular
fornlat in Japan. and man)' of the Ill.yor publishers ha\"c released publi-
cations in lhis fOllllat o\'er the ycou'S. as can be seen from the list below.
'\Iany of these arc mini-ellc)'clopcdias lhal rehash lhe same malerial o\'er
and over again. bUl some arc SCliOllSI)' researched sLUdies \\ilh new malerial.
Besides the full-length magazine spt:cials, there has been an enOllllOI.lS
amounl of malerial on Japanese tanks in the Japanese military press,
especiall}' in Tank and 1Il'Ig'"dzines in the 19705 and 1980s, and
more recently, in Croll/Ill l'QTUU mag<tZine. For example, Ground pfR.lJf:r"
No.12 (2003) has all extcnsi\'e article on the T}l>e 95 lighl lanl:, whilc
No.4 (200'1) has a dctailed article on the Type 9i medium Lank.
In tenns of dc:.'(licau.'d sludies. the Har.:l books are the bible ofJap.... nese
Lank de...e1opment accounlS. Ueutenalll General Hara was invol\'ed in
Japanese milk tk...c1opmelu from its bq.';nnings in 199-.5, and he later
headed its drOll.. His book on lhe subject remains the cornerstone of
Japanese tank research. Unfon.lIllately, neitller edition has been published
in English. ahhough Ibr.:l did spin off some of tile malerial into AI-V
Profilts.. which appean::d in the K in the 19705.
Asidc from thc I-lara J1/'V lhere is surprisingly liuJe on
Japanese tank dt."\"CIopment in English, although there is somewhat more
cO\'erage of lank operalions and org<miZ<ltion. Many of lhe early studies
from the 1970s are lillIe more thall reiterations ofwanime imelligence
documents. Tlwy arc neilher "ct)' del'lilcd nor entirely reliable, due
to the ob"ious limitations. Leland Nesss. jane's U0rld HllT II 'fill/Its ({lid
Fighting \'fhides: TIle CmlllJlete Gllit{(' has an excellent chapler on Japan
and is the only reliable published source on Japanese wartime tank
produclion. TIle best recent source is Andrl.ej Tomczyk's multi-\'olume,
bilingual Polish/English seric:.'S from f\J Press in Poland, allhough its
accem is on combal openniolls. On lhe lnlernel, Akir..l "Taki" Takizawa's
Imperial Japancse Army sile provides cxtensivc co\'erage of Japanesc
tanks and lank hisl.Ory (www3.plala.orjp/takihome/).
For readet's seeking morc detail 011 tank comb;lt in lhe Pacific War,
there is extensive co\'erage in the US Army Green Book series and the
corresponding volumes of the official US Marine Corps histolies. These of
cOlll'se at'e from lhe US perspective, but considering tJlal tJlere wcre no
Jap,lnesc survivors in many ballles. these will havc to do. A study especially
worth mentioning is the exceptional Alvin Coax lWD-volume history of lhe
batlJc ofNomonhon/Khalkin Gal. It providl.'S tile most detailed accoullI of
Japanese lank actions, fi'om theJapancsc pcrspective, available in English.
Coox. Ahin. NomollllOlI:ja/J(lI/ against Russia 1939, Stanford Uni\'ersity.
PaloAllo.CA (1985)
Handbook oJ111'ja/J(lIIeY Mililaf)' Fmus. US War Deparunelll, Washington.
DC (1945). reprintc:."(\ 1' Greenhill Books, London, England (1991)
Hara, Tomio, el al..ja/J(II/CiI! Tanlts (lml Annornll'dlicles*, Shuppan Kyodo
Publishers, Tokyo.Jap'lIl.two volumes (1969), updated single-w)lume
reprilll (1978) 43
Larkum, Trevor, and Allan Kelly, Preseroedja/JlIIlese Tiwks,
Annour Archivc, Northhamplon, England (1999)
Mclean, Donald, Tank,f, Tactics alld Anti--Illllk \\'eupons,
Nonnount Tcchnical Publications. Wickenburg, Arizona (1973)
Roland, Paul, /mperia/ja/mllese Tallks /9/8-1945, Bellona Publicalion
Bmckncll, Berkshirc (1975)
Tantum, W. 1-1., et al.,jajxllll'9' Combat Weapons oJthe. Secolld WorM War,
Wc Inc., Old Greenwich, ConnecticlU (1968)
Tomczyk, AndrLej, ja/Kmska broil jxl1lce.rrlll/japalles#J Annor, Aj Press,
Gdansk. Poland, fivc ,'olumes (2002--Q6)
ndcmood,john,jajxllle5e Annoml Units ill \''Orld I\or 11, Nafzigcr,
West Chestcr, Ohio (2000)
Undcn\'ood.john, (cd.) , jajxmesL Annor ill Manchuria 1931-45.
Naf-I.igcr, WCSI Chcster, Ohio (2001)
Fisual lVgimentall-listory: The lllh 1lmk Regimmf*, II th Sensha Rentai
Association (1978)
bloga. Steven. Annour of the Pacific \'hr, Osprc)' I)ublishing, Oxford.
England (1983)
- Tank IJnIlIes oJthe Pacific Uhr. Concord Publications, Hong Kong
Magazine format
-Armor of the Pacific \\'ar (I ),- Groulld Power, Special No.11 (1994),
Galileo Publishing
-Battlcs along the Khaikin-Col Ri,"cr
,- Fronlline lIIustmte.d/Prrmt(Jl)(l)'fI
illusfmtsi),a. No.2 (2002), Moscow, Russia
-Bauk'S ncar the Khaikin-Col River II May-16 September 1939**.-
MiLitm)' Chmllides/\loemlll)'a l1toj)is, No.2 (2001)
-Hislory of the IjA Tank Corps*,- "'libra (2005)
-lmpcrialJapanesc Ann)' Ordnance Review*,- \ViM Mook.
Spccial Issue 35 (1979)
-lmperialJapancse Tanks. Cun Tanks & Self-Propellcd Cuns,- Cahhl'll,
Special Issuc 34 (2002)
-Japanese Combat Vehicles ofWWII*,- Ground Power, Spccial No.11
(1996), Galilco Publishing.
-Japanese Tanks and Armored Vehiclcs*," Koku Fall Speciallssuc
(OtlObcr 1968)
-Japanese Tanks and Armored Vehicles*," The Maru GmlJhic SIHxillt,
No.8 (Slimmer 1971)
]apancsc Tanks and Military Vchides*,- Graphic AClion $cries (2005)
Tan ks lil 1945*," 'J(mh Special Issue (April 1992)
-Japancsc Tanks of \Vorld War Two*," Kohli Fan Special Issue
($cptcmber 1974)
-Light Tallk Type 95*," Tank Mflgazilu Special No.3 (1980)
-t\kdilllll '(link Type 97*.- 1(II/k Magm.ine. Special No.6 (1981)
Chamberlain, Peter, and Chris Ellis. -Light Tank Type 95 K}'u-go,-
Armour ill Profit!'. No.22 (1967)
Hara, Tomio, -japtuuy M"llium 'llmks, IlI-Y Pmfiles. No.49 (1972)
Hanl. Tomio, -Japanese Comb'll Cotrs, Light Tanks and Tankcttes,-
l>'vfiLes. No.54 (1973)
44 *Japancse lexi / ** Russian text
Through the 1930s, Japanese tank camouflage painting
gradually became more standardized. Tanks were generally
painted in camouflage, usually over a base of a dull brown
color, sometimes called "Japanese artillery brown" by US intel-
ligence, as it was the standard finish for Japanese ordnance
through most of the war. This was usually supplemented by
large patches of dark mahogany brown and dark green. In
some cases, the colors were separated by a thin black line.
One of the unique features of Japanese tank camouflage was
the frequent use of bright yellow disruptive stripes over the
base camouflage colors, often intersecting on the turret roof
to create a rough cross appearance, if viewed from above.
Japanese tank interiors were usually painted in a very light gray
finish, although some of the plants apparently used silver paint
instead. Certain practices remained standard through much of
the war, such as not painting the machine-gun ball socket or
machine gun covers. Ukewise, army-supplied external tools
such as jacks and shovels were usually provided in artillery
brown. IJA tanks had a brass star fixed to the front while in the
case of SNLF tanks, an anchor emblem was substituted.
In 1942, the IJA attempted to standardize its camouflage
colors. The use of black edging and yellow stripes was officially
dropped. Astandard three-color finish was adopted, consisting
of a base coat of "parched grass" primer (also called khakQ.
It corresponded to DIC350 (Dai-Nippon Ink and Chemicals
industrial color standard) and roughly corresponded to the
Wehrmacht 1942 dark yellow color. This was a rust-preventive
paint and was even supposed to be applied over the tracks of
the vehicles. The two principal camouflage colors were a dark
olive that ranged from a dark olive green to an olive drab
(corresponding to DIC510/DIC531) and a dark mahogany
brown (corresponding to DIC521). These colors could be
applied in hard-edged patterns, but after 1943 they were
increasingly applied with feathered edges, using spray guns.
This basic color scheme was intended for the Home Islands
and China, while a Southern Army alternative was also
introduced, substituting a lighter and brighter willow green for
the dark olive. Samples collected by US technical intelligence
show willow green to be a medium green, and in some cases,
quite vivid. Some components, such as the gun and gun
housing, continued to be delivered from arsenals in standard
artillery brown.
Japanese tank unit insignia was idiosyncratic to the
regiments, though certain styles were common. The use of
traditional symbols was also common, especially those
associated with samurai traditions. Some regiments used
different symbols for sub-formations, usually companies. Other
regiments adopted simple geometric shapes, helping to
distinguish each company. Tactical numbers painted on the
hull side and sometimes on the front were common in the
1930s, but the practice largely disappeared after 1942. Instead,
many units painted names or other writing on the hull side.
In some cases, these were Japanese geographic names, but
Only a few Japanese annored vehicles survived the
US demilitarization program of 1945. It was usually the
unanned types that were turned over for reconstruction
purposes, such as this modified "TYpe 1 Ho-Ha half-track in
use In Tokyo In October 1946. Its rear annored compartment
was cut off and replaced by a more useful work bed. (NARA)
there were many variations on this practice. Another type of
marking sometimes seen on tanks was the Ai-koku marking, a
dedication to recognize the contributions of Japanese civilians
who contributed to the purchase of the weapon.
The SNLF had its own practices. Although some tanks in
the 1930s were painted in IJN dark gray, many tanks were
provided from army stocks, and they remained in army colors.
Some items specifically acquired by the IJN, such as the Type
2 Ka-Mi amphibious tank, was originally delivered in IJN dark
gray. However, by 1943 this practice was ended in favor of
overall green, probably the brighter willow green. The IJN
imperial standard, the famous "sunburst" flag, was frequently
use on the SNLF tanks rather than the regimental insignia
common on IJA tanks.
The 7th Tank Regiment had a standardized set of markings in
China in 1938-41, which remained in use through operations
in the Philippines in 1941-42. Each company had a geometric
symbol as seen here: a star for the 1st company, and so on.
This was usually painted on the turret side and the hull front.
Four-digit tactical numbers were carried as well: the Type 89
preceded by "89" and the Type 95 light tanks with "95."
This plate shows a typical camouflage scheme for China in
the late 1930s: a base color of artillery brown with patches of
light sand, mahogany brown, and dark olive green with the
yellow disruptive stripe. The two front views show tanks of the
1st and 2nd Company.
When the 7th Tank Regiment was assigned to the Luzon strike
force, its markings and camouflage remained essentially the
Delays in producing the Type 89 led to the purchase
of Renault NC tanks from France. These were used by
Captain Shlgeml's 2nd Independent Tank Company during
the Shanghai Incident In February 1932. Their fragile
suspension led to a quick retirement. (NARAI
same as in China. The newer Type 95 light tank was painted in
the more common three-color scheme of artillery brown, dark
olive green, and dark mahogany brown with the characteristic
yellow stripe. On the Type 95, the company insignia was
painted on the turret and the tactical number on the hull side,
and repeated on the lower bow.
LEYTE, 1944
The Ka-Mi amphibious tanks were originally finished in dark
IJN gray when first manufactured. In 1943, the overall finish
shifted to green. As was common with many SNLF units, this
tank company painted the IJN "rising sun" standard on the
turret side, along with a tactical number.
The Type 3 Ka-Chi was never manufactured in large numbers,
and the only extant photo of the type shows it in a plain overall
finish, presumably dark green.
IWO JIMA, 1945
This Type 95 light tank is finished in normal IJA colors. The
basic finish is the later 1942 parched grass base coat with
patches of willow green and mahogany brown. The 37mm gun
and gun cover remain in the artillery brown color in which they
and the tools were delivered. The tanks on Iwo Jima lacked the
usual regimental insignia, an upwards-pointing blue arrowhead
on a white oval, because their original shipment had been sunk
by US submarines and replaced with new tanks prior to the
start of the battle.
The 9th Tank Regiment had some of the most elaborate
markings of any Japanese tank unit of the war. The 5th Tank
Company had this elaborate Kikusui (chrysanthemum over
flowing water) insignia painted on the turret side, a design
associated with the 14th-century hero Masashige Kusunoki.
The regiment as a whole used geometric company insignia
painted on the rear turret side or on an attached plate in
white and green. Painted on the hull side is Mitate (shield of
the Emperor), and the final letter "te" is repeated within the
company tactical insignia, probably indicating the 3rd Platoon.
The camouflage scheme is the pre-1942 style consisting of
artillery brown and dark green with yellow stripes. In spite of
the new 1942 camouflage changes, older vehicles were not
necessarily repainted.
This Shinhoto Chi-Ha is in the standard 1942 finish of overall
parched grass with bands of willow green and mahogany
brown. Some elements of the 7th Tank Regiment retained
The Type 5 Chi-Ri was intended to be the Japanese
equivalent of the Tiger tank, armed with an 88mm gun.
It was impractically large, and the program was halted early
in 1945 in favor of the lighter Type 4 Chi-To. (Patton Museum)
their company markings as shown on Plate A but in a less
visible form. In this case, it is the oka (cherry blossom) of the
3rd Company. The marking in front of it is the traditional
"Tomoe" design, derived from the family crest of Oishi
Kuranosuke, leader of the legendary 47 ronin warriors of
1702. On the side of the gun cover is an Ai-koku presentation
marking, consisting of two stylized circular characters above,
"No. 125" in the center, and the symbols for Dai Nippon
(Greater Japan) below.
The self-propelled guns of this regiment were finished in
the usual 1942 scheme of parched grass, willow green, and
mahogany brown. At least two variations of the insignia were
seen on these, probably distinguishing batteries; one with a
red disc and the other in white with a hollow rectangle within
the center disc.
This plate is a "what if" representation because no Type 5
was ever completed by the end of the war. It shows how the
Type 5 might have appeared had any been completed, in the
usual late-war scheme of parched grass, dark olive green,
and mahogany brown.
The Chinese tank force was originally based on Japanese
tanks captured by the PLA from Japanese units near Beijing,
as well as from equipment captured by the Soviets. Much
of the equipment was left in original Japanese camouflage
colors, but a number of tanks were smartly repainted in
overall dark green for parades in Beijing in 1949 to celebrate
the final victory over the Kuomintang Army.
Fill"rl."S in bold ref"r 10
I'l<lles arc ....n ,,'jlh I)O'K" :md calnion
IOCdlt>'"lI. in
Afl'I"roji1t5 43
IJarballl<Ull.Oper.llion 15
Blitain H. 15
mnls of 4. i. 12. 16
Bunn.. 15.16. oJO..-ll
C'dlllOunagc 4!>--<16
chemical ..-arrarc 8
Chih:.a T:mt School 6. 18.42
China 6. 8. 12-15. $-37
tank fore." 12
Libe....l1ion Anm
dk-sd engines ......:..6.8. 10
Dutch .aM Indies 15.17
Far East European 15
Fr.lllee 14. 42
lallK$ of 4.5. i. 46
funher i"fonna,;oll .. 2--44
Genu,lll\' H. 15
r:Illhof 12.17
Gilbcl'l 34
Grolllld I'm,," (Ill"If.l1inc) 43
Gu:!tl;,lc"n:,1 33
Guam 34.35
Hinn ,\luwr Comp:lIly 7. to
frhi-Go. 3li-!17
lmpcrialJapallcsc Army (lJA)
!<lilt 18
tank rq.:imCnl.' 6. ][,. I(i
hal)' .'.
t,mks of 12
h.... Jim" 3!J.--<IO
ja",i HorM 1I<1f /I'Iimh fwd "'gIl1;"&
IWtkkl: .. 3
J;lpan: ddcIIS<! of Home 42 induSlrv
impons -1.4. 5. i
production 3. 6
(1931-'10) 10
KllOminlang Annr (ChiJu.-sc) 12. 3(>-3i
Ami}' U"pml<--se) 13. 15." I
Lapao 39
I...<--e medium 41).41
Lcpc 37-38
LU"lOII 38 lighl ranI:. (US) 16. Ii
Manch"ria 5.8. 12-15.41
Marco Polo Bridge IrKident 12
II. 18. 20. 23. 24
frontier 13. 14
1\'a8lmlo. VAdm 35
1\'etherlands 15
Sishi. LtCoI 39
;";omonham Incidem 13. 18.20
Sonh Korean People's ,\nll\' 42
Okina".. 40
celltl,.1 (1943-44) 33-.36
"'>luh"'<-'SI (1942-'1:'1) :'13
1':.l<Iu Islands 36
I'c... rl Harbor 15
I'eleli .. ;16
I'crcl",!. LIGen Arthur 16
Philippines 15, If,.... I i. 37-:'19
S;,ipan 34-35
selfpropelled gun Irpes
I "milank 47111m 33.34
I Chi-I-Ie 20.20
I I-Io-"";i i5"'m 19. 19. F2 (31. 47)
2 1-10-[ 75m", 21
3 1-I001\'i i5mm 20.22
4 I-Io-Ro 150mm
5 Ho-Ru 4imm "1Il1:. d<-'SIW)'er 20
951-10-To lightl'lII1:. 120m", 20
ChiHa 20
I and 2: 20
Shanghai 5
Shennan "... ks
Shimllshll Island 41
Sing:tpore 15-16
Solomon isl....ds 24
So\icI Union
I'ml:. 13. 41
1,,,,1:. I}'p<-'$
I (;hi-lie 20.21. 22
2 (amphibiolls) 23.23-24.
3-1.38. C (27, 46)
in combal 34.:54. 37
2 Kc-To. lighl 18.18
3 ... m<--dill'" 3. %0. 21. 22
4a'i-To 2'1.%2.47
4 (Ir.tnS!K>ncr) 23.24
4 Kc-1\'ll.light 18
;; Olt-IU mediulll 2'1. Gl (32.47).47
89 \" mediulII 4-6. S. 6. 12.
13. 1<4. 16. A (25. 46)
in combat 37
!)t: 4
9'1J)"u-SoI:.O"ha. en....]" 6-7.7
!H t"nleue 7.7--
95 I-Ia-Go. lighl 4. 8. 8-9. 9. B (26. 46).
o (28-29. 46--47). 33. 34.
in combat 33, lH. 35. 36.
97 Chi.lla. mt"dium 10-12. 13. 13.
15. 17. 24. E (29. 4i). FI (30.47).
G2 (32. 'Ii), 41.42
in c<>mba.1 33. 35. 35. 38. 39
improvements 20-22
97-I\;.i ShinholO Chi.11" 42
in combal .'\
39, -10. -II
l:ml:.ctle 10.10, II.
m:l.lighl HI
fut'lhe" inf"..m:uion un -12-'1-1
I\;.chi Special emf! 2-1
Oh1 22
"11110'''''. halllc fo.. 23. 3-1
Tini;tn 35
Trip'II'1ile Alli:mce i'I
trucks: tn"" 1 1-10-11:1 halftr.tck 45
United StatL'S 14.15,16-17,20,
33-36. 36, 37
World W r II: tanl:. {/e.clopmcms
y.llnashil.... Gen Tomon.l:.i 14. 15.38
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The design. development. operation and history
of the machinery of warfare through the ages
Japanese Tanks
Full color artwork
Cutaway artwork
Unrivaled detail
Th Japan e Army u ed tanks
to great effect in the build-up
to World War II. In pic d
by Europ an design, in the
1920s and 1930 an innovative
tank program facilitat d Japane e
campaign in hina prior to th
Pacific War. uring the ensuing
war against the Allie tanks were
deployed imaginatively in jungl
terrain pr viou Iy thought
impa sable by such v hiel ,
and were integral in aJaya
and th aptuIe of ingapore.
How ver, tank development was
increa ingly neglected in fa or
of naval priori tie and Japanes
tanks becam outmoded and
ineffective. teven J Zaloga
u es detailed photograph and
colorful artwork to explore
these Japanese d ign.
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