THE HISTORY OF BATTLES OF IMPERIAL JAPANESE TANKS

PART I



The Manchurian Incident

Date : Jan., 1932
Place : Harbin, Manchuria
Opponent : Chinese Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

1st Special Tank Company

Captain Hyakutake

One tank platoon (Renault FT17 and Renault NC27 tanks)


When the Manchurian Incident happened, the IJA organized a temporary tank unit and sent it to Manchuria. It paticipated in the battle around Harbin. However, tanks had little chance to fight, because the Chinese forces had withdrawn seeing the Japanese forces heavily armed.

In this battle, the Japanese tank force saw action for the first time.

manchuria.jpg
Renault NC27 tanks in Manchuria



The Shanghai Incident

Date : Feb., 1932
Place : Shanghai, China
Opponent : Chinese Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

2nd Independent Tank Company

Captain Shigemi

5 Type 89 Medium Tanks, 10 Renault NC27s


By the influence of the Manchurian Incident, a battle between Japan and China occurred in Shanghai. Japan sent a tank company in order to support the Shanghai SNLF, which were fighting in Shanghai.

In Shanghai there were lots of creek and houses were crowded, so the attacks by the tanks were frequently checked by the Chinese forces.

During this battle, the tank made in Japan had shown a good performance in action. On the other hand, the suspension of the Renault tank was fragile and caused lots of troubles. Renault tanks had been retired after this battle.

shangai.JPG
Type 89 Medium Tank in Shanghai



Operation Jehol

Date : Feb., 1933
Place : Jehol Province, China
Opponent : Chinese Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

1st Special Tank Company

Captain Hyakutake

11 Type 89 Medium Tanks, 2 Type 92 Combat Cars


After the Manchurian Incident, the Renault tanks of the 1st Special Tank Company were replaced with Type 89 Tank. The 1st Tank Company launched the attack from Chaoyang in March 1, and reached at Chengde in March 4. The 1st Tank Company had advanced by 320km in 3 days, fighting with Chinese forces. It was a remarkable performance in those days.



The China Incident

Date : Sep., 1937
Place : Hebei, China
Opponent : Chinese Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

1st Tank Battalion

Colonel Baba

78 Type 89 Medium Tanks, 41 Type 94 Tankettes

2nd Tank Battalion

Colonel Imada


By the incident at Lukouchiao (Marco Polo Bridge), the conflict between Japan and China became the overall war. Japan sent two tank battalions to China from Japan proper.

Two tank battalions were assigned to the 1st Army in Hebei. The 1st Army started to attack the Chinese in the south of Peking in Sep. 14, and advanced towards south-west. Tanks were used for infantry support and tank battalions were attached to infantry divisions.



Operation Quhar

Date : July, 1937
Place : Quhar Province, China
Opponent : Chinese Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

1st Independent Mixed Brigade

Major General Sakai

12 Type 89 Medium Tanks
13 Type 95 Light Tanks
12 Type 94 Tankettes
4 Armored Engineer Vehicles


When the China Incident happened, the 1st Independent Mixed Brigade stationed in Munchuria moved to Hebei and fought near Peking. Then the Brigade was ordered to participate in the offensive in the Quhar Province. The Brigade marched via Chengde and Dolonnur and reached at Zhangbei in 5 days. The distance of this long march was 700km.

During the battles in Quhar, the brigade was dispersed and not used concentratively. Regarding this usage of the brigade, Commander Sakai was opposed to Major General Tojo, who was the highest commander of the Quhar expeditionary force. Tojo became the highest commander of Japanese forces later.



The Second Shanghai Incident

Date : Aug., 1937
Place : Shanghai, China
Opponent : Chinese Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

5th Tank Battalion

Colonel Hosomi

32 Type 89 Medium Tanks, 15 Type 94 Tankettes

Tank company of Shanghai SNLF

6-8 Type 89 Medium Tanks


When the Sino-Japanese war began, the Chinese attacked the Japanese in the settlement of Shanghai. There, the Shanghai SNLF (2,500 men) was defending the settlement, but they were outnumbered by the Chinese (50,000 men). Japan sent two divisions and other units including one tank battalion to Shanghai.

The Japanese forces landed on the north of Shanghai and fought with the Chinese in the suburbs of Shanghai. However, there are many creeks and the Chinese were resisting strongly, so the Japanese fought desperately to raise the siege of the Chinese. After one month fight, the Chinese were driven away from Shanghai.



Battle of Taierchwang

Date : April, 1938
Place : Taierchwang, China
Opponent : Chinese Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

Special Tank Company/China Stationed Tank Unit

Tamura

7 Type 89 Medium Tanks, 5 Type 94 Tankettes


Though they are exaggerated in Chinese propaganda, the Japanese at Taierchwang were actually small (about 10,000 men) and there were only a dozen of tanks, which were dispatched from China Stationed Tank Unit. When the Japanese retreated from Taierchwang, a few tanks (probably, two or three) were stuck and abandonned. The Chinese captured these tanks and announced that 40 Japanese tanks were captured at Taierchwang.



The Battle of Hsuchou

Date : May, 1938
Place : Hsuchou, China
Opponent : Chinese Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

1st Tank Battalion

Colonel Iwanaka

24 Type 89 Medium Tanks, 8 Type 94 Tankettes

2nd Tank Battalion

Colonel Imada

36 Type 89 Medium Tanks

5th Tank Battalion

Colonel Hosomi

32 Type 89 Medium Tanks, 15 Type 94 Tankettes


By the pressure of the Japanese forces, more than sixty Chinese divisions were gathering around Hsuchou. Japan intended a siege against Hsuchou and deployed the North-China Expeditionary Army to the north and the Central-China Expeditionary Army to the south. The North-China Expeditionary Army had 4 divisions and the Central-China Expeditionary Army had 3 divisions.

The 1st and 2nd Tank Battalions were ordered to advance to the westen flank of Hsuchou and to prevent the Chinese forces from withdrawing westward. The 5th Tank Battalion was used to support the infantry division.

Japan could win the fierce battle of Hsuchou, but the most of the Chinese troops escaped from the siege and Chinese forces were not annihilated. The Japanese were too small to besiege the large Chinese forces.

jyosyu.JPG
Type 89 Medium Tanks of the 2nd Tank Battalion in Hsuchou



Operation Nanchang

Date : March, 1939
Place : Hsuchou, China
Opponent : Chinese Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

5th Tank Battalion

Colonel Ishii

76 Type 89 Medium Tanks
59 Type 94 Tankettes

7th Tank Regiment

Lieut. Colonel Kusunose

9th Independent Tankette Company

Captain Fujimoto


In those days, it was usual that tanks were attached to infantry troops and fought in support of infantry. However, in case of Nanchang battle, tanks were concentrated under one task force commanded by Col. Ishii and the Ishii tank force did a maneuver behind the enemy line.

Due to this maneuver, Chinese forces were routed and the Japanese achieved the occupation of Nanchang with lesser loss than that had been expected. This fact indicates that some of Japanese officers were understanding the thought of Britzkrieg.



The Nomonhan Incident

Date : June, 1939
Place : Nomonhan, Manchuria
Opponent : Soviet Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

3rd Tank Regiment

Colonel Yoshimaru

26 Type 89 Medium Tanks
4 Type 97 Medium Tanks
15 Type 94 Tankettes

4th Tank Regiment

Colonel Tamada

8 Type 89 Medium Tanks
36 Type 95 Light Tanks
4 Type 94 Tankettes


After Manchukuo was established, conflicts between the Japanese and the Soviet frequently happened in the border of Munchuria. In 1939, a conflict expanded a battle and both countries deployed large forces including tanks and airplanes along the Khalkhin river in the north of Manchuria. Japan sent a tank group, commanded by Major General Yasuoka, which had two tank regiments, 3rd and 4th Tank Regiment. This battle is called as the Nomonhan Incident in Japan.

In Nomonhan, Japan first experienced the battle of tank vs. tank. The 45mm gun of Soviet tanks could easily penetrate a thin armor of Japanese tanks at a long distance. By the other hand, the short-barreled gun of Japanese tanks was effective againt Soviet tanks only within a short distance. Yasuoka tank group had lost its tanks by 40% in 10 days' battle and was ordered to withdraw.

After that, Soviet took the offensive with large forces and routed Japanese from Nomonhan. Japan was totally defeated in the battle of Nomonhan.

nomonhan.JPG
Type 89 Medium Tank(Left) and Type 97 Medium Tank(Center) in Nomonhan



Malaya

Date : Dec. 1941 to Feb., 1942
Place : The Malaya Peninsula
Opponent : British Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

1st Tank Regiment

Colonel Mukaida

31 Type 97 Medium Tanks
17 Type 95 Light Tanks

6th Tank Regiment

Colonel Kawamura

25 Type 97 Medium Tanks
12 Type 95 Light Tanks

14th Tank Regiment

Colonel Kita

45 Type 95 Light Tanks


As soon as the Pacific War began, Japanese forces landed in the Malaya Peninsula. Japan planned to go down along the Malaya Peninisula and attack Singapore from behind. For this operation, Japan prepared three tank regiments, of which the 1st and 6th Regiment were equipped with Type 97 Medium tanks, the latest model of Japanese tanks. The 14th Tank Regiment was the light tank regiment, equipped with Type 95 Light Tanks.

The Malaya Peninsula is a jungle terrain and only few roads were passable for large forces. The British-Indian forces attempted to delay Japanese forces in some points on their way. However, the smash of Japanese tanks was very keen and the British lines were broken through one by one.

On Feb. 8th, 1942, the final stage of the battle in Malaya began. Three Japanese infantry divisions crossed the Johore Bahru Channel and landed in Singapore. The 1st Tank Regiment and the 14th Tank Regiment followed. After the fierce battles in Singapore, Lieut. General Percival, the highest commander of the British-Indian forces had agreed with a surrender.

malaya.JPG
Type 97 Medium Tank in Malaya



The Philippines

Date : Dec. 1941 to May, 1942
Place : The Philippines
Opponent : US Army, Philippine Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

4th Tank Regiment

Lieut. Colonel Kumagaya

38 Type 95 Light Tanks

7th Tank Regiment

Colonel Sonoda

34 Type 89 Medium Tanks
14 Type 95 Light Tanks
2 Type 97 Medium Tanks


After the American air forces in the Philippines had been annihilated by the air raid of Japanese air forces, Japanese ground forces landed in Lingayen Gulf of Luzon on Dec. 22, and advanced towards Manila.

On the Philippines, there were two American tank battalions equipped with M3 light tanks. M3 light tank was superior to any Japanese tanks regarding to the armor and firepower. However, the Americans were not prepared for flighting and they were confused with a sudden war. They tried counter-attacks by tanks but they could not stop the Japanese forces.

After abandonned Manila, American forces withdrew to the Bataan Peninsula. The Bataan Peninsula was covered by jungle and the tank could not work in this battlefield. It was the Japanese artillery who played a decisive role in the battle of Bataan. The IJA deployed large artillery forces into Bataan and bombarded heavily. The Americans in Bataan surrendered in April, 1942.

The last stand of the Americans on the Philippines was the Corregidor Island. Japanese artillery and airplanes bombarded the Corregidor fortress for one month and destroyed all coastal guns of the fortress. On May 5, Japanese ground forces attacked the Corregidor and succeeded to land 3 tanks, 2 Shinhoto Chi-Ha tanks and one captured M3 light tank.

At that time, the production of Shinhoto Chi-Ha had just started and few numbers were available. After the encounter with M3 light tank, the Japanese transported Shinhoto Chi-Ha tanks to Philippine in a hurry. It was the first time for Shinhoto Chi-Ha to see action.

The appearance of Japanese tanks panicked the garrisons of the Corregidor. Gen. Wainwright gave up the resistance and surrendered on May 6.

corregidor.JPG
Shinhoto Chi-Ha in Corregidor Island



Burma

Date : Dec., 1941 to May, 1942
Place : Burma
Opponent : British Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

1st Company/2nd Tank Regiment

First Lieut. Okada

12 Type 95 Light Tanks


At first, the Japanese tank unit in Burma was only one company, which was sent from the 2nd Tank Regiment in Jan., 1942. The 1st Tank Regiment and the 14th Tank Regiment were reinforced in April.

The British sent the 7th Armored Brigade to Burma, which had been planned to send to Malaya. In Burma, several tank battles happened and Japanese tanks were every time defeated by M3 Light Tanks. Japanese 37mm AT gun was also ineffecive against M3 Light Tanks. After all, the closed infantry attack was only way to destory M3 Light Tanks.

Though Japanese suffered with M3 Light Tanks, Japanese pressed British forces and UK decided to withdraw from Burma. The battle in Burma ended in May, 1942.



Dutch East Indies

Date : March, 1942
Place : Dutch East Indies
Opponent : British Army, Dutch Army, US Army, Australian Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

4th Tank Regiment

Lieut. Colonel Kumagaya

38 Type 95 Light Tanks*
5 Captured M3 Light Tanks

2nd Tank Regiment

Colonel Mori

31 Type 97 Medium Tanks
6 Type 95 Light Tanks

* The number before the battle of the Philippines

In the battle of The Dutch East Indies, the Allied strenghts were 81,000 men and Japanese strenghts were 40,000 men. However, the result of the battle was the hollow victory of Japan. Allied forces were disordered and their morale was low. Japanese tanks drove mostly with slight resistance and the Allied in the Dutch East Indies surrendered.



Milne

Date : Aug., 1942
Place : Milne
Opponent : Australian Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

Tank Platoon/Kure 5th SNLF

2 Type 95 Light Tanks


Two SNLF tanks were used for the landing combat at Milen Bay. After securing the landing area, SNLF troops advanced to the airfield, but tanks were stuck on the muddy road and abandonned on the way.



Guadalcanal

Date : Oct., 1942
Place : Guadalcanal
Opponent : US Marine

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

1st Independent Tank Company

Captain Maeda

10 Type 97 Medium Tanks
2 Type 95 Light Tanks


The 1st Independent Tank Company was converted from the 4th Company/2nd Tank Regiment after the battle of Dutch East Indies. Two tanks were damaged after landed on Guadalcanal and the remaining ten tanks participated in the battle of Matanikau River on Oct. 23rd. During the fight, they were all destroyed.

guadalcanal.jpg
Type 97 Medium Tank on Guadalcanal.



Tarawa

Date : Nov., 1943
Place : Betio
Opponent : US Marine

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

Tank Unit/Sasebo 7th SNLF

Ensign Ohtani

14 Type 95 Light Tanks


The SNLF tanks were deployed on Betio and fought with the US Marines.



Makin

Date : Nov., 1943
Place : Makin
Opponent : US Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

Tank Unit/Makin Detachment of 3rd Special Base Force

3(?) Type 95 Light Tanks


One tank was destroyed in combat and two tanks placed in revetments were abandonned without being used in combat.



Kwajalein

Date : Jan., 1944
Place : Kwajalein Atoll
Opponent : US Army/Marine

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

Tank Unit/6th Base Force

9 Type 94 or Type 97 Tankettes
Type 2 Amphibious Tank



Eniwetok

Date : Feb., 1944
Place : Eniwetok Atoll
Opponent : US Army/Marine

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

Tank Company/1st Sea-mobile Brigade

First Lieut. Ichikawa*

9 Type 95 Light Tanks

* Ichikawa was absent when the Americans invaded Eniwetok.



Biak

Date : May to June, 1944
Place : Biak
Opponent : US Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

Tank Company/222nd Infantry Regiment

First Lieut. Iwasa

9 Type 95 Light Tanks


On the morning of May 29th, three American M4 Sherman tanks advanced on the road to the airfield. Four Japanese light tanks fought with them, but they were all destroyed by American tanks. Three more Japanese tanks attacked but they were also destroyed. Commander Iwasa was killed in this fight. The last two tanks were destroyed when the Americans attacked the airfield on June 15th.



Marianas

Date : June, 1944
Place : Saipan
Opponent : US Army/Marine

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

9th Tank Regiment
(Less 1st & 2nd Company)

Colonel Goshima

31 Type 97 Medium Tanks
4 Type 97-Improved Medium Tanks
12 Type 95 Light Tanks

Navy tank unit (55th Guard Unit, Yokosuka 1st SNLF)

Type 95 Light Tanks
Type 2 Amphibious Tanks


In the afternoon of D-Day on June 15th, the 4th company/9th Tank Regiment made a counterattack against the 6th Marine Regiment landed along the Saipan beach near Charan Kanoa. Japanese tanks rushed into the beach and they were destroyed by the Marines' Bazookas. The Japanese counterattack of D-Day was failed.

On the day after D-Day, Japanese undertook a large counterattack with all their forces. About 30 tanks in the van of Japanese forces began to attack after the midnight and rushed into the beachhead. The Marines concentrated all their firepowers upon them and defeated Japanese forces completely. In the next morning, only a few Japanese tanks could withdraw from the beachhead. The 9th Tank Regiment had vanished in this night battle.



Date : July, 1944
Place : Tinian
Opponent : US Marine

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

Tank Unit/18th Infantry Regiment

First Lieut. Sikamura

9 Type 95 Light Tanks


On the night of D-Day, six Japanese tanks made a counter-attack accompanied with infantymen and five tanks were destroyed in combat. The remaining tanks of the tank unit were lost during the defensive fight of the inland.



Date : July, 1944
Place : Guam
Opponent : US Marine

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

1st Company/9th Tank Regiment

First Lt. Yuki

17 Type 95 Light Tanks

2nd Company/9th Tank Regiment

First Lt. Kumagai

10 Type 97 Medium Tanks
1 Type 97-Improved Medium Tank
3 Type 95 Light Tanks

Tank Unit/29th Division

Captain Hideo Sato

9 Type 95 Light Tanks


On the night of the D-Day of July 21th, Japanese troops accompanied with 5 tanks of 1st Company/9th Tank Regiment attacked American beachhead in the south of Agot, but they were replused by the Amercians and all tanks were destroyed by Bazookas and Sherman tanks.

The 2nd Company/9th Tank Regimen and the 29th Division Tank Unit were ordered to participate in the general attack of July 25th. However, they lost their way and could not participate in the attack.

The remaining tanks fought delay combats and they were destroyed one by one. On Aug. 10th, last 10 Japanese tanks attacked the American tanks and they were annihilated by American tanks.



Sarmi

Date : July, 1944
Place : Sarmi, New Guinea
Opponent : US Army

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

Tank Unit/36th Division

Captain Fujimura

17 Type 95 Light Tanks


While the 36th Division was fighting at Toem, the tank unit was staying in the rear near Sarmi and two Type 95 Light Tanks was deployed at the airfield in Wiske as the outpost. On July 3rd, they encountered two American amphibious tanks, which would have probed the airfield. A Type 95 Light Tank fired and destroyed one amphibious tank. Knowing a friend tank was destroyed, another amphibious tank had run away.

After that crash, several fights occurred between the Japanese and the Americans. But, they were mostly jungle combats and Japanese tanks were hardly used in combat. Because the Americans had no intention to sweep the Japanese in Sarmi, the tank unit survived until the end of the war.



Peleliu

Date : Sep., 1944
Place : Peleliu
Opponent : US Marine

Tank Unit

Commander

Tanks

Tank Unit/14th Division

Captain Amano

17 Type 95 Light Tanks


On D-Day of Sep. 15th, 16 Japanese tanks accompanied with one infantry company rushed into the landing beach. This couterattack was checked by the Marines who had already been prepared for the defense. Japanese tanks were all destroyed by the Marines.