by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Japanese Tanks 1939-45
Series: New Vanguard
Author: Steven J. Zaloga
Artist: Peter Bull
This title provides students and modelers of WW2 Japanese armor a well-illustrated and concise history of the machines and their use.
Following the First World War Japan quickly imported foreign tanks. Their experiments were favorable and Japan’s limited industrial base began manufacturing their own designs. While European militaries tested their metal in the Spanish Civil War, Japan successfully tested their armor against China, and unsuccessfully against the Soviets. Digesting lessons learned, Japan had the fifth largest tank force in the world when the Second World War began.
Japanese armor rampaged across China. After Japan ignited the Pacific War, their tanks lead the attacks in the Philippines, against Singapore, and across Burma in blitzkrieg worthy of Germany’s Panzerwaffe. After the initial attacks, Japan deployed their armor across their Pacific conquests for defensive purposes.
Japan’s tank units did not fare well for the rest of the war. As the Allies counter attacked with modern armor, Japan’s tanks proved obsolescent. Japan tried to update their armor and fielded a new 47mm tank gun, yet limited resources went to the Imperial Navy and progress was stymied; promising designs were kept in Japan for the final battle.
A few interesting vehicles were fielded in small numbers; an ingenious armored transport was designed to carry supplies to island garrisons after launching from submarines – it was later adapted to carry torpedoes to attack Allied ships in harbors! Japan had the best amphibious tank of the war, and used it. I was surprised to learn that, while not a tank, Japan also fielded an armored halftrack.
Surprisingly, little tank-verses-tank action occurred when the Soviets attacked Japan in the closing hours of WW2. The major action occurred a few days afterthe war during the Soviet landing in the Kuriles, when Tokyo authorized “self-defense”! In the end, despite early success through1942, Japanese armor was thrashed wherever it was encountered.
Mr. Zaloga is a recognized authority on armored warfare. His style of writing and balance of technical information and narration is concise and very effective. He presents Japanese Tanks 1939-45 in 48 pages with four main sections, references, and a color plate commentary and index:
PRE-WAR DEVELOPMENT AND DEPLOYMENT
• Type 89 medium tank
• Type 92 cavalry tank
• Type 94 tankette
• Type 95 Ha-Go light tank
• Type 97 Te-Ke tankette
• Type 97 Chi-Ha medium tank
• Armored warfare in China and Manchuria 1937-39
WORLD WAR II DEVELOPMENT AND DEPLOYMENT
• Tanks of the Great Asian War 1941-45
• New light tanks
• Self-propelled guns
• Improving the Chi-Ha Medium Tank
• New medium tanks
• Navy tanks
TANK COMBAT OF THE GREAT ASIAN WAR 1941-45
• The Southwest Pacific campaigns1942-43
• The Central Pacific 1943-44
• Actions in the China theater
• The Philippines 1944-45
• The final Pacific campaigns
• August Storm: Manchuria
• The final campaign: defense of the Home Islands
• Magazine format
COLOR PLATE COMMENTARY
Mr. Zaloga includes some interesting details, such as why the initial Type 95 Ha-Go had trouble crossing sorghum fields, and the remedy to the problem. Supporting the narratives and technical descriptions are two data tables:
- Japanese Tank Production of the Great Asian War 1941-45
- Japanese Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV) Production During The China Wars 1931-40
Data concerning the performance of Japanese tank guns is minimal. I am pleases that this book includes an explanation of Japanese nomenclature based on their calendar. Also greatly appreciated is a description of Japanese camouflage colors and unit markings.
Photographs and Illustrations
This book is generously supported with photographs. Many are by Allied Intelligence and of excellent quality. Naturally, many are from the combat zone, shot both by trained photographers as well as by amateurs.
Artist Peter Bull enriches the book with 10 color illustrations, including a cutaway of a Type95 found on Iwo Jima. While most are profiles, two are “in-action” scenes of Japanese armor engaging American forces in 1941, and on Saipan in 1944.
This book answered many questions that I had regarding Imperial Japanese armor. Mr. Zaloga penned another exceptional title. The artwork and photographic support is high quality. I would prefer more data about Japanese tank gun performance. Overall, this is a very good overview of Imperial Japan’s tanks. I certainly recommend it to students of Japanese weapons and the Pacific War.