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"Japanese Armor" Topic

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©1994-2022 Bill Armintrout
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Tango0103 Dec 2020 10:01 p.m. PST

"Besides the numerous guns and emplacements on Betio, a number of Type 95 "Ha Go" tanks were available to the Rikusentai. They had a three man crew with one 7.7mm machine gun in the hull and a 37mm main gun with a second 7.7mm machine gun located in the turret. The WWII Japanese Army Website gives an excellent description of this type of tank. The two most important sources for the invasion of Tarawa disagree on the exact number of Japanese tanks on Betio. According to Stockman, fourteen Japanese tanks were stationed on Tarawa. His cites an intelligence study, "Jap Defenses of Betio Island, Part I, JICPOA" and information from 2nd Marine Division reports. Shaw, for some reason reports only seven tanks in the History of Marine Corps Operations in WWII.1 At least six of these Japanese light tanks are featured below.

During the battle some of these tanks roamed Betio while others were dug in as immobile pillboxes. The only tank battle on Tarawa happened somewhere around Red Beach 1. One of the new Marine M-4 Sherman tanks, named China Gal, was advancing across the beach when a type 95 suddenly appeared. China Gal's commander, Lt Edward Bale, fired his tank's 75mm gun at the Japanese light tank, destroying it. However, whoever this Japanese tanker was, he was fast. His incredible shot went right down the tube of China Gal. That 37mm round destroyed China Gal's main gun making it an armored machine gun for the rest of the battle.2

One of dug in Japanese tanks was knocked out by Sgt Roy W. Johnson. His squad and the entire right flank of his company was held up from the continuous fire of this tank. "Without regard for his own safety," reported Leatherneck in 1944, "Johnson fearlessly crawled through fire to the tank, climbed to the turret and then with great coolness opened the escape hatch and dropped a grenade into the tank. With keen presence of mind he slammed the hatch and sat on it until the grenade exploded, completely knocking out the tank out of action. Sgt. Johnson was later killed in action fearlessly leading his men."…"


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21eRegt04 Dec 2020 2:01 p.m. PST

Can't even call most Japanese tanks a steel coffin. More of a tin foil one. Thanks for the article.

Garand04 Dec 2020 4:30 p.m. PST

I think the Japanese get the award for "worse tanks used in WWII" award. Luckily for the Italians, they dropped out before they could get that distinction…


Legion 404 Dec 2020 4:31 p.m. PST

I agree with both of you …

Tango0105 Dec 2020 12:04 p.m. PST

A votre service mon ami! (smile)


Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2020 12:32 p.m. PST

I can see a reason the Japanese did not concentrate on tanks. They had the best tanks in China (after the Russians left) and for the time being, did not have to worry about the Soviet Union and could not have matched them if they tried. Defensive battles on islands would not involve tank warfare either and their navy probably had more control over steel production.

They didn't need tanks to defeat the British in SE Asia either and it was not tank friendly ground either. Anti-tank guns are what they really needed and I don't think they got their 47mm gun into action until Saipan. At close range, it was deadly to the Sherman M4A2.

Supposedly, the Japanese apparently knew nothing about the Sherman when the Type 1 was designed, but once they received reports of it they began to design a counter to it. Design work on the Type 3 Chi-Nu began in May 1943, with completion in October of that year and production under way soon afterwards. The Type 3 initially had a 75mm gun derived from a French field piece, mounted in a large hexagonal turret atop a modified Type 1 chassis. It was too little, too late.


Warspite106 Dec 2020 6:00 a.m. PST

Japan was basically an infantry/artillery army that never embraced or fully understood the power of the tank in 20th century warfare.
Meeting the Russian tanks in the late 1930s was a severe shock and occurred far too late to enable a change of armour policy.
This link:
attributes most Soviet tank losses to anti-tank guns and field artillery. And remember these were BT-5 and BT-7, the Japanese had not met the T-34 yet.

Besides which the Japanese navy and air force were monopolising strategic production such as steel. One Yamoto-size battleship could have produced two full divisions of useful medium tanks if materials had been diverted and if there was a suitable design. There was no such design available.

Legion 406 Dec 2020 9:06 a.m. PST

I agree with both Wolf & Warspite, for all the reason mentioned. They were a light infantry army that found success in most places they went based on terrain, and their aggressiveness, plus many were not prepared to defend against their onslaught.

greenknight4 Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Dec 2020 1:51 p.m. PST

Take a break

Garand06 Dec 2020 6:39 p.m. PST

Yes, the navy got the lion's share of resources & budget, which means not much money was left over for tank development. The Japanese were perenially behind everyone else for this reason. But when your main opponent for the last decade had very few tanks, & nothing especially advanced at that, having A tank was just as good. So the Japanese invested heavily in building lots of light tanks, instead of developing better medium tanks. And when they did start developing better medium tanks, they were so far behind that it was difficult to catch up. The Sherman was to the Japanese as the Tiger was to the US in Europe.


Archon6406 Dec 2020 8:59 p.m. PST

I was expecting something involving Samurai, but OK.

Legion 407 Dec 2020 8:32 a.m. PST

Take a break
From what ?

uglyfatbloke10 Dec 2020 8:04 a.m. PST

Japan's tanke were crucial to their victory in Malaya – perhaps in Netherlands East Indies and the Philippines too. When the Chi Ha and Ka Go models were new (1930s) they were pretty much as good as anyone else's tanks if not better, but there was little improvement thereafter.

Legion 410 Dec 2020 9:45 a.m. PST

Agreed, and in many cases they did not go toe-to-toe with other Allied armor.

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