Japanese Tanks...

Discussions on all aspects of the Japanese Empire, from the capture of Taiwan until the end of the Second World War.
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Post by Robb » 07 Nov 2005 14:15

I have seen a Japanese tank in a museum in the Philippines (Villa Escudero about an hour or so south east of Manila). I wouldn't even have been able to fit in it, it was so small (mind you I weigh approx 120kg!). The armour was very light and could have been penetrated very easily. I am not surprised that the Shermans had to use HE instead of AT to knock them out as was mentioned above. Incidentally the museum had a great collection of artefacts from Philippine history including quite a few old Japanese weapons.

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Post by hisashi » 07 Nov 2005 15:20

It is a type 89 medium tank built in 1929. The thickest armor was only 17mm. A piece of this type in Aberdeen was captured in Philippine.

Perhaps Villa-Escudero has a 1/1 model of type 89. Its height is 2.56 meter, width 2.18m, and length 5.75m. They say IJA picked up short soldiers for tank crew.

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Post by tom! » 07 Nov 2005 17:09


Well, I know Kuni´s site and I´m in exchange with him on various topics.

My main source for early japanese tanks are various japanese websites more or less translated by babelfish etc. Secondary sources as you said.




There are two issues of AFV Weapons by Profile Publications written by HARA Tomio (former IJA-Lieutenant-General ?) dealing with japanese armoured vehicles until 1940. Don´t realy know if this is a better source.

I decided to learn reading japanese as most first-hand informations are japanese only.


tom! :wink:

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Post by Tim Smith » 08 Nov 2005 00:57

maisov wrote:http://www.differo.net/gallery/Villa-Escudero/IMG_8407
It is a type 89 medium tank built in 1929. The thickest armor was only 17mm. A piece of this type in Aberdeen was captured in Philippine.

Perhaps Villa-Escudero has a 1/1 model of type 89. Its height is 2.56 meter, width 2.18m, and length 5.75m. They say IJA picked up short soldiers for tank crew.

Excellent links, thanks!

I pity the poor Type 89 crews who had to go up against M4 Shermans in their hopelessly obselete machines.....I'd rather get out of that deathtrap and fight on foot!

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Post by cactusjack » 10 Nov 2005 00:15

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Post by zstar » 10 Nov 2005 12:03

I recall by the time the Okinawa campaign started the Japanese used their tanks as makeshift pillboxes and placed them in trenches.

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Post by Peter H » 10 Nov 2005 13:15

Baron Takeichi Nishi's 26th Tank Regiment (with 22 tanks) on Iwo Jima dug themselves into static positions.

Photos here:


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Japanese Tanks

Post by tigre » 12 Nov 2005 04:41

Hello to all, in the following article you can find a japanese armored exploitation in battle, this time against british troops in Malaya early 1942. I hope be of interest.

A Study In Armored Exploitation
The Battle of the Slim River: Malaya, 7 January 1942
by Lieutenant Colonel Martin N. Stanton. Armor - may jun 1996

For the most part, the story of Japanese armored employment in the Pacific war was a ismal tale of small units employed in static or infantry support roles. The Malayan campaign is the one instance in WWII where the Japanese used armor effectively in an exploitation role. The best example from this campaign occurred in the battle of the Slim River on January 7th, 1942. Although overlooked by most U.S. Army students of armored warfare, it holds some important lessons in exploitation, improvisation, and junior leader initiative.

The British defeat in Malaya has been the subject of much misconception, the greatest being that it came about due to the superior jungle fighting ability of the Japanese. In fact, little fighting was done more than a few kilometers from trafficable roads. The battle for Malaya was a battle for the maneuver corridors through the Malayan mountains and jungle. These corridors were from 50 meters to several kilometers wide, and were cultivated with rubber tree plantations as well as other agriculture.

Towns dotted the main roads and railroads that ran down the length of the corridors. Although certainly lush with vegetation, the corridors could not truly be classified as jungle. Significantly, the rubber plantations had numerous side roads that connected with the main road and allowed parallel trafficability.

By January 5th, 1942, the British were in full retreat from northern Malaya. They had suffered through a month of disastrous engagements, forced out of position after position by Japanese envelopments. On more than one occasion, the roadbound British units had to attack through Japanese roadblocks to be able to retreat. This unbroken string of disasters had left its mark on all the British units engaged, particularly the 11th Indian Division, which had done much of the fighting.

The men who were to occupy the defenses at Slim River were punchdrunk with fatigue and suffering the low morale of constant defeat. The Japanese, on the other hand, were on a roll. Although fewer in aggregate numbers, they were able to more effectively mass their combat power along the maneuver corridors. Their tactics were simple but effective.

Their advance guard, a reinforced battalion of combined arms elements, including infantry (often mounted on bicycles), armor, and engineers would advance down the maneuver corridor until they made contact. If not able to immediately fight through, the Japanese would launch battalion- or regimental-sized infantry envelopments to get behind the British positions, cut their lines of communications, and attack them on their unprotected flanks.

The key to the Japanese success was their ability to sustain momentum and keep the pressure on the British. By January 4th, the 12th and 28th Brigades of the 11th Indian Division moved into positions forward of Trolak and extending in depth back to the vicinity of the Slim River bridge. The division commander, General Paris, hoped to forestall the previous effects of shallow Japanese envelopments by placing his troops in depth. To quote him:
“In this country, there is one and only one tactical feature that matters — the roads. I am sure the answer is to hold the roads in real depth.”1 This statement is not as unreasonable as it may first appear.

Although the Japanese logistical tail was considerably shorter than that of the British, it still had to use the road system to sustain its force. General Paris reasoned that any Japanese attempt to conduct a short envelopment through the jungle, as previously experienced, could be counterattacked by the brigade in depth. The maneuver corridor did not present much more than a single battalion’s frontage, even considering outposts and security elements placed up to a kilometer into the jungle on either side. Instead of trying to extend their forces into the bush to confront the Japanese while they were infiltrating, the British would commit reserves to counterattack them when they appeared. This would keep their forces mobile along the road system.

The 12th Brigade took up forward positions with its battalions arrayed in depth, beginning in the vicinity of mile post 60 and extending back to mile post 64 (see map, following page). Two battalions of the Indian Army occupied the forward positions; the 4/19th Hyderabad occupied the initial outpost position and the 5/2nd Punjabi occupied the main defense about a mile back.

A third British battalion, the Argyl and Sutherland Highlanders, was positioned in the vicinity of Trolak village, where the jungle began to open out onto an estate road. The brigade reserve, the 5/14th Punjabis, was positioned at Kampong Slim with the mission of being prepared to move to a blocking position one mile south of Trolak near mile post 65. The 28th Brigade’s positions were south of the 12th along the maneuver corridor, and were arrayed as single battalions in depth, much like the 12th Brigade. However, on the early morning of January 7th, the brigade had still not occupied the positions, having been instructed by General Paris to rest and reorganize. The British infantry units had 12.7-mm antitank rifles and 40-mm antitank guns. The AT rifles were only marginally effective. The AT guns would penetrate any Japanese tank with ease.

A key to the defensive scheme would be the defenses and obstacles along the main road. The British should have had enough time to construct defenses that would have precluded a quick Japanese breakthrough. The British were also in the process of preparing to demolish numerous bridges along the main road. However, several factors were to conspire against them.

The first factor was fatigue. Their forces were tired, to the point where they didn’t do a good terrain analysis when setting in their defense. There were many sections of the old highway running parallel to the newer sections that had been straightened. These old sections ran beside the main road through the jungle and were excellent avenues of approach. There were also numerous side roads through the rubber plantations, and many of these roads were overlooked. Others were noted, but did not have sufficient forces allocated to them.

Secondly, the British units had all suffered numerous casualties. Many of their formations were under new and more junior leadership. These leaders were trying to cope with the monumental task of reorganizing their stricken units while conducting defensive preparations, and they were suffering from fatigue as much as (if not more so) than their troops.

Another critical British deficiency was communications equipment. The 11th Indian Division had lost a great deal of its signal equipment in the month-long retreat prior to the Slim River battle. As a result, there was not sufficient communications equipment to lay commo wire between the brigades.

This lack of communications, combined with fatigue, also prevented the British artillery from laying in and registering its batteries to support the infantry positions. Lastly, the Japanese had complete mastery of the air. This precluded the British from moving up their supplies in daylight and severely limited the extent of their defensive preparation.

All of these factors combined to rob the British of their opportunity to build a cohesive defense. They had sufficient barrier material, in the form of mines, concrete blocks, and barbed wire to construct an effective obstacle system in depth, but at the time of the Japanese attack, only a fraction of it had been brought forward. In the location where the Japanese actually broke through, there were only 40 AT mines and a few concrete blocks emplaced when the Japanese attacked.3 On the afternoon of the 5th, the British 5/16th (the covering force) withdrew, and soon afterward the advance guard of the Japanese 42nd Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, made contact with the forward elements of the Hyderabad battalion. The Japanese probed the Hyderabads’ forward positions and were repulsed. The Japanese advanced guard commander, Colonel Ando, decided to wait for tanks and other supporting troops. The 6th of January was spent by the Japanese reconnoitering the British defenses and preparing for their usual infiltration along the British flanks.

Major Shimada, the commander of the Japanese tank unit attached to the 42nd Infantry (a company plus of 17 medium and 3 light tanks from the organic tank battalion of the Japanese 5th Infantry Division) implored Colonel Ando to be allowed to attack straight down the road. Ando was at first skeptical, but finally acquiesced, reasoning that if the tank attack failed, the infiltration could still continue.4 The Japanese tank company, with an attached infantry company and engineer platoon in trucks, was set to begin the assault at 0330 the next morning.

The Japanese attack began with artillery and mortar concentrations falling on the 4/19th Hyderabad’s forward positions, while at the same time infantry units assaulted the forward positions of the Hyderabads, and engineers cleared the first antitank obstacles along the road. At approximately 0400, the Japanese armored column started forward, crewmembers initially ground-guiding their vehicles through the British obstacle.

The Hyderabads had no antitank guns, but did manage to call artillery fire on the Japanese, which knocked out one tank. The rest of the Japanese column swept through the breach and continued down the road to the next battalion position. Behind them, the remainder of the 3rd Battalion, 42nd Infantry, completed the destruction of the Hyderabad battalion, leaving only disorganized and bypassed elements to be mopped up later.

The Japanese column moved on. By 0430, it had reached the main defensive belt of the 5/2nd Punjabi battalion. The lead tank hit a mine and was disabled, and the remainder of the column stacked up behind the disabled vehicle almost bumper to bumper. The Punjabis attempted to knock out the Japanese tanks with Molotov cocktails and 12.7-mm antitank rifles, but were largely stopped by a heavy volume of fire from the Japanese tanks and infantry. At this point, the Japanese found one of the unguarded loop roads that paralleled the main road and took it, bypassing the Punjabi defenses and taking them in the flank. The Punjabis’ defense collapsed into a series of small units fighting where they stood or trying to escape. The Japanese armor continued on, leaving the tireless 3d Battalion, 42nd Infantry, and other elements of the Japanese advance guard to complete the destruction of the Punjabis.

Unfortunately for the British, this was the last prepared defensive position facing the Japanese. The Punjabis had emplaced only a single small minefield. In spite of this, they somehow managed to hold the Japanese for almost an hour, taking heavy casualties from the tanks’ fire, before the Japanese found another loop road and were off again. It was about 0600; the Japanese were exploiting like broken-field runners. Almost 1,000 British and Indian soldiers were dead, prisoners or fugitives in small groups heading south along the edge of the jungle.

Tragically for the British, no word of the fiasco had reached either the remaining battalions of the 12th Brigade (the Argyls and the 5/14th Punjabis) or the 28th Brigade. The Japanese armored juggernaut, (about 16 tanks strong at this point), with what remained of the accompanying infantry and engineers, continued south at a fast pace.

The next unit they encountered was the unsuspecting Argyl and Sutherland Highlanders, who had established two roadblocks in their defensive sector. The speed of Japanese movement, and the abysmal nature of British communications, caught the Argyls unaware and unprepared. The Japanese column burst through the first blocking position almost before the Argyls could offer any resistance. The fight at the second roadblock took only a little longer, with the Japanese destroying several British armored cars before continuing on. The remainder of the Argyl battalion was engulfed by the follow-on Japanese infantry in much the same manner as the other battalions.

To their credit, the Argyls fought ferociously in small groups and held the Japanese infantry longer than any of the other battalions. This, in turn, increased the distance between the Japanese armored column and the followon infantry. Had the 28th Brigade been in a better defensive posture, this might have made a difference. As it was, the Argyls’ sacrifice was in vain.

The Japanese tankers took full advantage of the confusion in the British defense to continue their advance down the main road towards the Slim River bridge. Upon reaching Trolak, they scattered the engineers who were preparing the bridge for demolition. The lead tank platoon leader, Lieutenant Watanabe, personally dismounted from his command tank and slashed the demolition electrical wires with his sword.5 The lieutenant and his company commander sensed that they had the momentum in this drive and that it was urgent to keep the pressure on the disorganized British. The Japanese tanks and the few remaining infantry and engineers that had somehow stayed with them raced ahead. It was approximately 0730. South of Trolak, the Japanese armor encountered the 5/14th Punjabis, who were moving along the road in march column towards their designated blocking position. The tanks literally raced through the surprised battalion, machine-gunning a large number of the Punjabis before they could even get off the road. In only a few minutes, the 12th Brigade’s reserve ceased to exist as an effective unit. The Japanese armor continued its unchecked advance along the main road.

The British had lost track of the battle. General Paris was not informed of the breakthrough until 0630.6 He immediately ordered the 28th Brigade to occupy its defensive positions and to detach its antitank battery forward to the 12th Brigade. Unfortunately, the battery met the Japanese while moving up the road and was destroyed before it could unlimber its guns and engage the enemy. Thus, one of the few units in the 28th Brigade that was capable of stopping the Japanese armor was eliminated at the outset of that brigade’s fight. Incredibly, the 28th Brigade had not received word of the complete penetration of the 12th Brigade.

The Japanese armor slammed into the 28th Brigade while it was moving to its defensive positions and swept it aside in a series of short bloody encounters. Like the 5/14th Punjabis, the 2/1st Gurkhas were surprised in march column on the road while moving to their defensive positions and suffered severe casualties before they could get out of the way of the Japanese armor. The other battalions of the 28th Brigade, 2/9th and 2/2nd Ghurkas, tried to engage the Japanese armor, but with no antitank obstacles and only a few 12.7-mm AT rifles, they were quickly bypassed.

The Japanese armor continued to move down the road, shooting up transport columns and disrupting demolition efforts on the road and at three lesser bridges. The Japanese tanks had by now completely outrun their accompanying infantry and engineers. The follow-on infantry battalions continued to fight through the disorganized defenses bypassed by the armor. The Japanese tanks next shot up two artillery batteries of the 137th Field Regiment before reaching the Slim River bridge at approximately 0830. The antiaircraft defenses of the bridge consisted of 40-mm Bofors antiaircraft guns.

These engaged the Japanese tanks but were ineffective — their shells would not penetrate. Their crews took many casualties from Japanese return fire. The antiaircraft gunners and the engineers preparing demolitions on the Slim River bridge scattered. Lieutenant Watanabe (who was wounded by this time) directed the machine gun fire of his tank against the wires to the bridge demolition and succeeded in severing them. The Japanese force (by this time consisting of about a dozen tanks) left two of their number to guard the bridge and continued south along the main road. Finally, after continuing for two more miles, the Japanese ran into another British artillery battalion, the 155th Field Regiment. This artillery unit deployed its 4.5-inch howitzers in the direct fire mode and engaged the Japanese over open sights at less than 200 meters. The lead Japanese tank commanded by Lieutenant Watanabe) was destroyed and the entire crew killed. Other Japanese tanks were damaged. Checked at last, the Japanese tankers returned to the Slim River bridge to guard their valuable prize.

The Japanese infantry accompanying the tanks, not less than a company in strength, arrived a few hours later. The main body of the 42nd Infantry Regiment did not link up with the armored unit until almost midnight. The Japanese had lost about eight tanks, some of which were recoverable. Their infantry losses had been moderate, but replacable. Their morale was sky high.

Regards. Tigre.
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Japanese Armor

Post by tigre » 12 Nov 2005 04:49

Japanese Armor at Slim River.

The Japanese used two types of tanks at the Slim River battle. The main medium tank used was the Type 94, which was the most common Japanese medium tank throughout the early part of the Pacific war. The light tanks used were Type 95s, which were encountered by Allied forces throughout the entire war.

The Type 94 was an older design that was first introduced in 1934. Weighing 15 tons, its armor was only 17mm at its thickest. The tank had an advertised maximum speed of 28 mph, although 20 mph or less was the norm due to its being relatively underpowered. The 57-mm gun was a good infantry support weapon; however, there was no coaxial machine gun — the turret machine gun faced out of the turret rear. In addition, there was a hull machine gun.

The Type 94 did carry a large amount of ammunition: 100 57-mm rounds and 2,800 rounds of machine gun ammunition. It was cramped for its crew of five men, and visibility from it was poor. There was no radio to communicate with other vehicles, communication being done by flags or shouted orders. The Type 94 had an unrefueled range of 100 miles. (See illustration on pp. 26-27.)

The Type 95 light tank was a slightly newer design that had some of the same problems of the Type 94 as well as many of its own. The 10-ton tank had even thinner armor than the Type 94 (14mm). It was slightly faster than the Type 94 and could achieve its maximum speed of 25(+) mph. It was armed with a 37-mm gun, as well as two machine guns in a similar arrangement to the Type 94. However, the three man crew could not operate all the weapons at once. The commander was particularly overtaxed, having to load and fire the main gun or turret machine gun, as well as command the tank. The Type 95 also had an operational radius of about 100 miles.

Source:"Defeat in Malaya". Arthur Swinson pp 70, 71; quoted in Armor - may jun 1996.

Regards. Tigre.

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Post by tom! » 12 Nov 2005 13:26


An addition/corrections to the Malaya report:

In Malaya the 3rd Tank Brigade was attached to the 25th Army:

1st Tank Regiment
Colonel Mukaida
37 Type 97 Medium Tanks
20 Type 95 Light Tanks

6th Tank Regiment
Colonel Kawamura
37 Type 97 Medium Tanks
20 Type 95 Light Tanks

14th Tank Regiment
Colonel Kita
45 Type 95 Light Tanks

This OOB doesn´t mention the type 89 Otsu tanks (misnamed type 94 in the report). I think it´s an error of the author.


tom! :wink:

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Post by Daniel Leahy » 12 Nov 2005 19:48

Here's a link I thought people might like in regards to surviving Japanese tanks:
(Check the PDF from this site. Apologies if this is already known).

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Post by cengitu » 19 Mar 2007 06:18

Regarding the battle of slim river..

British were failed to counter attack and to recaptured back the lost ground. They should reinforced the area where 155 Field Regiment stop the tank movement and pushed further up to Slim River bridge and destroy the tank which they guarded the bridge. Why they simple leave the scene and retreat to Tanjung Malim were puzzled me.

Infact several tanks guarding the area can be simply be destroyed and a small section of attached infantry can be wiped out of General Paris send reinforcement to Slim River brigde from Tanjung Malim.

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Post by Paul kyre » 27 Mar 2007 14:26

Robb wrote:I have seen a Japanese tank in a museum in the Philippines (Villa Escudero about an hour or so south east of Manila). I wouldn't even have been able to fit in it, it was so small (mind you I weigh approx 120kg!). The armour was very light and could have been penetrated very easily. I am not surprised that the Shermans had to use HE instead of AT to knock them out as was mentioned above. Incidentally the museum had a great collection of artefacts from Philippine history including quite a few old Japanese weapons.

Good for that tank
for all of the japanese tanks in the philippines, mostly perished, are sold for scrap after the war
or some of it are sent to america to be examined then perished and sold for scrap

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Post by asiaticus » 27 Mar 2007 23:22

I didnt realize the

4th Tank Regt. had Type 92 tankettes with it in 1937. When did they phase those out. I thought they found it was a bit of a dog and moved on to the Type 95.

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Post by Carl Schwamberger » 31 Mar 2007 15:56

Visting a local tank collection & restoration facility (Ropkey Armor Museum) I was told something a bit interesting by the chief mechanic. The type 95 example they had displayed two paralle cracks in the front. The mechanic told me they had rebuilt another Japanese tank a few years earlier and were unable to weld similar cracks. Samples of the tanks hull were sent to a metalurgy lab & judged to be "cast iron". I looked over the tank they had & the edges of the fractures & exposed surface elsewhere werre characteristic of cast or unalloyed iron, not steel.

For those not familar with metals raw or cast iron is extremely brittle. While a vehical built from it could resist lead rifle or MG bullets anything heaiver will shatter it. I've been able to shatter cast iron over six millimeters thick with a ten pound (four kilo) hammer.

The use of cast or similar inferior grade of iron of steel suggests several possiblities. 1. If this were specified the designers were not expecting anything larger than a MG to be fired at the tank. 2. priorities for other weapons made higher grades of steel unavailable for these tanks. 3. The manufacter of these tanks cheated on the specifications & built some of inferior metal.

Does anyone else have any detailed knowledge of the metals used in Japanese tanks, that might explain the armor of these two tanks?

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