Japanese blockhouses in China

Discussions on all aspects of the Japanese Empire, from the capture of Taiwan until the end of the Second World War.
User avatar
YC Chen
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 836
Joined: 29 Sep 2009 13:35
Location: Nanking

Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by YC Chen » 16 Oct 2010 09:55

It seems that these blockhouses, or "gun towers" as they are called by the Chinese, were an important part of the Japanese defense system in China. Many of them are still surviving today.
Are there any pictures or info of them from Japanese source?
Here are photos of some of the biggest Japanese blockhouses in north China.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
hisashi
Member
Posts: 2026
Joined: 12 Aug 2003 14:44
Location: Tokyo,Japan

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by hisashi » 17 Oct 2010 03:56

In Japanese it was called as 望楼 (boro).
Originally this word refered to navy watch post on the high locations nearby seashore. So original boro do not have tower and instead built on a hill or cliff.
In Chinese theater IJA often made a barrack/headquarter by block, locally available. I don't know how a watchtower was essential for the defense but often they had ones and the base itself was inofficially called as boro.

User avatar
Ron Sundby
Member
Posts: 98
Joined: 22 Oct 2008 06:33
Location: Mindanao, Philippines

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by Ron Sundby » 17 Oct 2010 12:01

Were all of these Boros supposedly built by the Japanese? I would suspect that many of them may have been older Chinese fortifications, perhaps strengthened and up graded, and reused by Japanese troops.

Ron

User avatar
YC Chen
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 836
Joined: 29 Sep 2009 13:35
Location: Nanking

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by YC Chen » 17 Oct 2010 15:01

Ron Sundby wrote:Were all of these Boros supposedly built by the Japanese? I would suspect that many of them may have been older Chinese fortifications, perhaps strengthened and up graded, and reused by Japanese troops.

Ron
Yeah, the first "gun towers"(炮楼) appeared in China in late 19th century, and the latest ones were built in 1949. These gun towers were built by wealthy Chinese families to protect their home from being attacked by gangasters. And when Japanese army started to built these blockhouses in China, the Chinese people also call them "gun towers".
I remember seeing some articals said that Chinese gun towers were used by Japanese army, but it seems that these were rare cases.

User avatar
YC Chen
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 836
Joined: 29 Sep 2009 13:35
Location: Nanking

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by YC Chen » 17 Oct 2010 15:14

hisashi wrote:In Japanese it was called as 望楼 (boro).
Originally this word refered to navy watch post on the high locations nearby seashore. So original boro do not have tower and instead built on a hill or cliff.
In Chinese theater IJA often made a barrack/headquarter by block, locally available. I don't know how a watchtower was essential for the defense but often they had ones and the base itself was inofficially called as boro.
Thank you for the info!
It seems that building "watchtowers" was a popular way to form a defense system for Japanese troops in Chinese theater and in many cases these watchtowers were seprate buildings food and ammunitons stored in them.
And accroding to some Chinese sources, over 200 "Japanese engineers" were employed by Chinese general Yan Xishan(阎锡山) who also employed many other Japanese troopers. They designed and built a complex defense system outside the city of Taiyuan which consisted of over 5000 blockhouses and pillboxes.
Do you have any pictures of these Japanese blockhouses from Japanese side?

User avatar
Peter H
Member
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by Peter H » 17 Oct 2010 16:02

One photo here:
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
hisashi
Member
Posts: 2026
Joined: 12 Aug 2003 14:44
Location: Tokyo,Japan

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by hisashi » 19 Oct 2010 16:51

YC Chen wrote: Do you have any pictures of these Japanese blockhouses from Japanese side?
Recently I bought two gooks of reprinted German railroad maps in 1930s and older. I am waiting reprinted Reibert (soldier's manual) and a book on Goring's Carinhall from amazon.de. I spend most of my time and budget on European theater and here I am consulting those commonly known to Japanese military buffs and those easily figured out by searching by right Japanese keywords. I have little special resources and in most theater I have little interest in a picture... oh I love organization charts of course.

If the confronting forces have fairly good firepower, say bazooka, or a 12.7mm HMG and plenty of ammo, an isolated blockhouse would not hold long. It would be targeted and broken down. After 1941 IJA removed many of infantry divisions in China of their artillery pieces. In such a situation, blosktower would have been a formidable strongpoints for sniping and sweeping by MG.

Lastly, but not in the least, I am sorry that IJA often robbed needed blocks from Chinese housed nearby.

User avatar
Sewer King
Member
Posts: 1711
Joined: 18 Feb 2004 04:35
Location: northern Virginia

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by Sewer King » 21 Oct 2010 05:21

Two large blockhouses / boro / gun towers in undated photos:
They do seem large enough to house a small number of troops, with some measure of shelter against the Manchurian winter. The great height of some of these fortifications would seem to serve for the flat terrain of Manchuria.
Japanese blockhouse along RR at Mukden.jpg
Apparently photographed from a train, this blockhouse guarding the railroad bridge looks like it has a ring of large sandbags around its roof. A man is just visible there, standing outside the open door of a conical pillbox. They both give scale to the blockhouse. Without them, it might be mistaken as much larger than it is.
  • Author Stanley mentioned a "Garrison Group" of the South Manchuria Railway which took part in the Mukden Incident. Was this the company's own armed security or police? Might they have manned some of these posts?
=================================
Japanese blockhouse along river in Manchuria.jpg
This tower along a river embankment looks well-finished in concrete. The stepped embrasures for its guns hint at the thickness of its walls, and their design to stop ricochet of small shells from entering.

The tower's shape is hard to tell from its crenelated roofline, but seems to be an irregular polygon. Its ends are angled as bastions, with broadsides to the river on one side and the embankment on the other. There looks like a small river steamboat at bottom left of photo, possibly flying the Manchukuo flag but also showing how close the tower is to the river's edge.

Might it have been armed with some small cannon, say 37mm or 47mm, as well as small arms? The great size and thickness of this blockhouse and others like it looks meant to resist direct fire from light artillery.
  • It has been said by a few authors that architectural-styled fortifications (like this one here) are meant to look imposing to the attacker (and his population) and assuring to the defender.
It would be interesting to know if this particular boro is still standing today, because it would be easily visible on satellite photo.

-- Alan
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Last edited by Sewer King on 21 Oct 2010 13:44, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
YC Chen
Host - Allied sections
Posts: 836
Joined: 29 Sep 2009 13:35
Location: Nanking

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by YC Chen » 21 Oct 2010 11:55

Thank you all for your posts.
Some of the blockhouse which are the same type as the one in the second photo posted by Sewer King still stands. Here are photos of one of the most famous one, near a railway bridge in Harbin:
http://tieba.baidu.com/f?kz=282133317?fr=image_tieba
And here are some smaller blockhouses in Zhangjiakou:
http://www.zjknews.com/bbs/dispbbs.asp? ... 2&ID=40644
And you can find many many links like this in Chinese, just search "炮楼".
There used to be some Japanese blockhouses in surburb Nanking, but most of them has been demolished. Some people even use the bricks from the demolished blockhouses to build their own house.

User avatar
hisashi
Member
Posts: 2026
Joined: 12 Aug 2003 14:44
Location: Tokyo,Japan

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by hisashi » 21 Oct 2010 14:16

Sewer King wrote:Author Stanley mentioned a "Garrison Group" of the South Manchuria Railway which took part in the Mukden Incident. Was this the company's own armed security or police? Might they have manned some of these posts?
Perhaps Stanley referred to independent garrison (dokuritsi shubitai). I explained on them in another thread. It was IJA formation. The railroad company had weapon factory and as an extreme example the company built armored trains but they put them into the use of IJA. It was IJA that manned them.
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 2#p1379940

User avatar
Sewer King
Member
Posts: 1711
Joined: 18 Feb 2004 04:35
Location: northern Virginia

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by Sewer King » 22 Oct 2010 04:51

YC Chen wrote:... Here are photos of one of the most famous one, near a railway bridge in Harbin:
Thank you in return, it is one thing to see faraway fortifications but another matter to see inside with such good detail.
YC Chen wrote:And here are some smaller blockhouses in Zhangjiakou ...
Some of these look as if made with local field stones, a natural move. Being posted in them would seem even more bleak and boring than other sentry duty might be.
hisashi wrote:... Lastly, but not in the least, I am sorry that IJA often robbed needed blocks from Chinese housed nearby.
YC Chen wrote:... Some people even use the bricks from the demolished blockhouses to build their own house.
This comes out as a small historical irony, or at least history coming back around in full circle.

It is noticeable that enough of the blockhouses seen here so far were built of bricks, which would resist small arms and grenades but not the next heavier weapons as hisashi said. These fortifications defended against local Chinese, who were only lightly armed.

There seems no apparent thought of ever having to defend against the heavily-armed Russians. The large crenelated blockhouse photographed on the riverbank looks stronger, firstly for being made of poured concrete as well as having the stepped embrasures.

=================================
hisashi wrote:Perhaps Stanley referred to independent garrison (dokuritsi shubitai). I explained on them in another thread. It was IJA formation. The railroad company had weapon factory and as an extreme example the company built armored trains but they put them into the use of IJA. It was IJA that manned them.
Thanks also as always hisashi, I had missed following that thread earlier, but am studying it now at length. Presumably the various IG units served at least some police functions where they were stationed?

I have heard something of ordnance-related work by the South Manchuria Railway, which made me wonder in another thread if they had built this locally-made-looking armored rail car. They also seem to have had their own strong medical organization.

-- Alan

User avatar
Peter H
Member
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by Peter H » 24 Oct 2010 10:20

From ebay,seller tugsbote.

Blockhouse or fortified house of some sort in background.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
Peter H
Member
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by Peter H » 24 Oct 2010 10:23

Same source.

Curious to know the significance of this tower.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
Peter H
Member
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by Peter H » 24 Oct 2010 10:31

Here it is again,magazine article from 1938.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
Peter H
Member
Posts: 28628
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Re: Japanese blockhouses in China

Post by Peter H » 04 Nov 2010 09:00

From ebay,seller tugsbote.

"Pill-box", note camoflage pattern.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Return to “Japan at War 1895-1945”