Type 94 Japanese 37mm Antitank Gun on Guadalcanal

The Type 94 was the standard infantry antitank gun of the Japanese Army during World Ware Two. It was developed in the early 1930s as tensions with the Soviet Union rose; there had not been much need for Japanese antitank weapons in China. However, high explosive ammunition was also made for the gun, and it was used in an infantry support role with HE in China as well as in the Pacific.

The Type 94 was small and light, and could be disassembled for transportation without vehicles – a very useful capability on islands like Guadalcanal. Against US M3 Stuart light tanks, the Type 94 was a reasonably potent weapon.

Note that the Japanese also had a Type 94 tank gun, which was not the same as this – and did not use the same 37mm cartridge.

This trip to Guadalcanal was made possible by War Historian Battlefield Expeditions – big thanks to them!


  1. A little closer to home is the Japanese Type 41 75mm mountain gun (a copy of the Krupp M.08 gun of WWI) that sits in Alba Park in downtown Medford, Oregon. It’s across from the Medford Courthouse, and was put there just after WWII to replace a Krupp FK.96 77mm field gun that got swept up in a 1942 scrap drive. Having been cleaned up and painted in 2008, the gun (as of 2014, when I stumbled upon it) is pretty much intact and in nice shape.
    Here’s an article about Medford’s series of public cannon; The Type 41 is at the bottom: https://www.truwe.sohs.org/files/cannonmedford.html
    It’s amazing what you run across in small-town America.

  2. There is one of those with wooden spoke wheels at the Andover war memorial on Rt. 6, in Andover, Ct. It used to be at the VFW in Manchester, Ct. until it closed.

    • there is a type 92 battalion mountain gun in manchester,NH with the original steel wheel hubs.

      it’s rare to see captured japanese guns on the east coast.

  3. Although the guns may not have made it here (USA), the shells were used to make souvenir ash trays. I have one in my garage. Love your work, Ian!

  4. As disappointing as Japanese tank and anti-armor development goes, it was still a little better than whatever the various Chinese forces had most of the time. Worse, it turned out that in some early war cases, Chinese Nationalist tank crews abandoned their vehicles without even firing a shot in anger, and they did so just because of rumors that the Imperial Japanese Army was on its way to ravage their position. Chiang Kai-Shek must have been furious to find his tanks repainted in Japanese colors. I could be wrong.

    • One really should exercise caution in regards to a lot of these apocryphal tales. You hear these stories, which everyone solemnly agrees are true, and then when you go digging for the actual, y’know…? Evidence?

      There usually isn’t any.

      It will remain my contention that anyone that accepts anything they read in the popular history books, newspapers, or other “mainline” sources is just asking to be made to look silly if they repeat it with anyone who was actually there.

      I mean, how long did everyone believe the BS about Germans bayonetting babies, or the incubator stories in Kuwait after the Iraqis went in? Look at how many assholes are saying there weren’t ever any WMD in Iraq, while simultaneously berating the US Army for covering up the exposure of the troops to those non-existent WMD?

      History based on single-source media reports should automatically be suspect. If the “conventional wisdom” tells you something, it’s almost always either entirely wrong, or totally distorted. You can rely on the popular sources for broad-stroke stuff, but the nitty-gritty details? LOL… Fuhgeddaboudit.

      Example: December 7, 1941 saw Pearl Harbor attacked by the Japanese. Credible, factual, true… “Garand ping” getting people killed routinely? Bullshit, repeated by generations of credulous fools that believed whatever they were told by guys who likely weren’t ever even in actual combat.

      You want the truth, or any semblance of accuracy and completeness? You have to go dig for it.

      • Sorry, just venting. I’ve heard a few tales about how dysfunctional the Chinese forces were during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Plenty of that involved the Nationalists, Communists, and the various warlord cliques trying to use each other as meat shields.

        • Oh, I’m not saying Chinese Nationalists were all that great, either. But… The unfortunate fact is, a lot of the common things we’re told about anything are based on hearsay and utter bullshit.

          The problem is winnowing the chaff out of it all, and you almost have to automatically dismiss everything you hear out of hand. It’s like the common misconception that young soldiers of my generation had, that the M16 was a POS. Everybody believed that, and the follow-on was that people didn’t take care of their weapon or try to effectively work around what few issues there were, ‘cos, POS. The sad reality? The M16 isn’t all that bad; you take care of it, and it’ll run and run and run, and in fact it has several notable superiorities to its primary rival of the era, the AK.

          But, because of the BS, we all believed differently, and it took a hell of a long time and a lot of experience before actual evidence convinced us otherwise. When I was a very young man, a tyro soldier, I’d have gladly swapped my rifle for anything else. After my first enlistment, I had grudging acceptance that the weapon wasn’t that bad, and after the second or third, I was pretty much looking at everything else with a jaundiced eye, having learned my lesson the hard way.

          So much of life is full of this sort of crap, and the military is especially rife with it all. Which is why I spend so much time tilting at windmills and puncturing these balloons when I run into them…

  5. I’m curious about the wheels.

    It looks almost like it had sprung steel tires, like the kind you found on bicycles during big wars when rubber got rationed for “essential” purposes. Can’t tell from looking in this video, but I am likely wrong as the wooden wheeled version would have just had metal hoop tires, and no suspension.

  6. A lot of Japanese equipment had the same type / year number.

    ‘It’s all rather confusing, really!’ A big tick for the first to identify the originato of this saying.

      • The US has no room to be making criticism.

        My take on it has always been that they’d be a lot better off if they just assigned arbitrary code words to everything the way they do with reporting names for Opposing Forces equipment. The Army should have assigned Soviet tanks names, rather than T-numbers. Would have reduced a lot of confusion, but also would have been way too simple.

        I mean, it works for hurricanes, right?

        • And the first guy who named hurricanes generally patterned the names after people who really pissed him off!! Yet again, I am probably wrong, as I read that in a kid’s meteorology book.

        • “(…)The Army should have assigned Soviet tanks names, rather than T-numbers.(…)”
          T number for Soviet tanks were assigned so they are unique, having 2 digits are not very hard to remember and inform that item is tank.

          • Yeah, but… Go looking at the reports out of Ukraine, and note how convoluted that has become. Great, I now have how many T-72 variants to worry about? Which don’t actually exist, inside the minds of Soviet/Russian tank manufacturers?

            I mean, T-72 vs. T-80 vs. T-90 vs. whatever BS they cobbled together at the refurb point? Christ, and it does matter, because of all the differences between sight and armor packages. If you’re in a position being overrun, you kinda don’t need to know anything other than “Enemy tank, bad…”, but if you’re the dude sneaking up on one with the improvised AT weapon, it would kind help with your targeting plan to know where the hell the armor is weakest, and what kind of sight system you’re dealing with; thermal vs. passive is a huge, huge deal at night.

            It would have been smarter for them to have eschewed the whole “T-whatever” idea, and just gone by a reporting name scheme whereby you had a means to differentiate between tanks with the same hull yet wildly different capabilities and vulnerabilities. Yeah, that’s maybe a T-72, but which T-72…?

            It has literally gotten so convoluted and confusing that it’s just about useless. And, given the haphazard way the various upgrades get applied? It gets even worse; you’ve practically got to do a forensic examination on the entrails of every vehicle to figure out what the hell it was/is, and what it could/can do…

            When it is easier to sex chicks (the fuzzy yellow kind, although modern life is giving their human namesakes about as much difficulty) than to figure out what the friggin’ tank is, you’ve got a problem with your reporting schema. Something simpler should have been worked up, so that you know instantly that a Soviet/Russian tank with reactive armor and thermals is a “Ivan”, regardless of hull lineage. It’s also kinda important to know whether or not the damn thing still has that single-speed reverse issue, because that also kinda matters when you’re going tanko-y-tanko in the rubble…

            Frankly, if it were me? I’d be advocating for throwing the whole naming scheme we’ve been using since forever out of the damn window, and going to something that was actually useful and centered on capabilities/vulnerabilities rather than whatever the hell the T-system is based on–Because, even that was inaccurate as hell, back in the day.

            Problem with the Soviets/Russians is that they don’t bother to read NATO intelligence handbooks, or conform to them in any consistent way whatsoever. NATO should have picked up on that, and responded rationally. Soviet/Russian tank production pays no attention to what we think; it just is what it is, and the variations between what we call the various models are so wide as to make the scheme we came up with virtually useless.

          • Daweo, did you really look at that list, and then try to put yourself into the head of some kid going through initial entry training…?

            Extract from said list:

            Ob’yekt 172A – T-72A main battle tank 1979-1985.
            Ob’yekt 172M – T-72 ‘Ural’ main battle tank.
            Ob’yekt 172M1 – Ob’yekt 172 version with enforced armor aka T-72A, c1979.
            Ob’yekt 172M8 – T-72S main battle tank.
            Ob’yekt 172MK – T-72K ‘Ural-C’ command tank.
            Ob’yekt 172M-S – T-72 main battle tank version for export.
            Ob’yekt 172M-S1 – T-72M main battle tank version for export.
            Ob’yekt 172M-S2 – Unidentified.
            Ob’yekt 172M1-S3 – Unidentified.
            Ob’yekt 172M1-S4 – Unidentified.
            Ob’yekt 172M1-S5 – Unidentified.
            Ob’yekt 172M1-S6 – T-72M1 main battle tank version for export.
            Ob’yekt 173 – Experimental MBT on the T-64A chassis.
            Ob’yekt 174 – T-72A main battle tank.
            Ob’yekt 174M – T-74 / T-72B / B1 main battle tank.
            Ob’yekt 176 – T-72A / M / M1 main battle tank.
            Ob’yekt 176K – T-72AK command tank.
            Ob’yekt 184 – T-72B / B1 main battle tank.
            Ob’yekt 184-1 – T-72B1 main battle tank.
            Ob’yekt 184K – T-72BK command tank.
            Ob’yekt 184K-1 – T-72B1K command tank.
            Ob’yekt 186 – Unidentified.
            Ob’yekt 187- Ob’yekt 184 with enforced armor, welded turret and new hull, aka ‘Anker’.
            Ob’yekt 188 – T-72BU / T-90 / T-90S main battle tank.
            Ob’yekt 195 – T-95 main battle tank.
            Ob’yekt 199 – Tank support FV on T-72 chassis, aka ‘Ramka-99’ or ‘Terminator’.

            Imma gonna go out on a limb and predict a lot of brain-lock for a lot of people…

            Which may well be the fault of Soviet/Russian tank manufacture. You can almost hear the laughter in the background soundtrack, when the designers/manufacturers are contemplating outsiders trying to make sense of the whole thing…

          • If you are enemy of digits, then use names starting with LEFT-POINTING DOUBLE ANGLE QUOTATION MARK and ending with RIGHT-POINTING DOUBLE ANGLE QUOTATION MARK as shown in https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A1%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B5%D1%81%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B5_%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%B7%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%8F_%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%B9%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE_%D0%BE%D1%80%D1%83%D0%B6%D0%B8%D1%8F
            Т-90ЕА is «Анкер»
            Т-72Э is «Банан»
            Т-80У-М1 is «Барс»
            Т-80УД is «Берёза»
            Т-64БМ is «Булат»
            Т-90А is «Владимир»
            Т-80 is «Гроза»
            Т-62-166 is «Желудь»
            Т-64А is «Кедр» or «Редут»
            Т-84-120 is «Керн»
            Т-84У is «Оплот»
            Т-99 is «Приоритет»
            Т-72Б is «Рогатка»
            Т-95 is «Совершенствование»
            Т-64Б1 is «Сосна»
            Т-72 is «Урал»
            Т-62А is «Уралец»
            Т-84-120 is «Ятаган»

          • After running that link through auto-translate, Daweo… All I can say is that if the Soviets/Russians are striving for security through obfuscation? It’s working. I dunno if the repetition of names is an artifact of translation from Russian to English and transliteration from Cyrillic to Romanic, but… Man. They have achieved the precise opposite of clarity and simplicity with all that!

          • Please be warned that said system was binary, with male names for fighter aeroplanes (e.g. Ki-43 OSCAR) and female for all others (e.g. G3M NELL), is there is such need in case of tank names?

        • What’s amusing is that most of our (American) WW2 names for tanks and etc. were actually British in origin.

          The M4 “General Sherman” medium tank was named that by the British Purchasing Commission, as was the M3 “General Grant”, then the U.S. Army “retroactively” named the other version of the M3 medium tank the “General Lee”. That wouldn’t “fly” today, would it? Any more than naming the M3 light tank the “General Stuart”. (Insert “Dukes of Hazzard” joke of your choice here.)

          The M6 heavy tank that never entered operational service never had a name, either. Naming the M26 medium tank the “General Pershing” was the first time the Army actually sat down and decided on a name before somebody else came up with one.

          The P-51 was known as exactly that to the USAAF. It was the RAF through the BPC that came up with the name “Mustang”. Similarly, the P-40B was named the “Tomahawk” by the RAF, and USAAF again retroactively dubbed the P-40E and later models the “Warhawks”. To Curtiss, they were all just “Hawk 81” with various suffix letters (P-40B/C was Hawk 81A, etc.); “Hawk” was actually a registered Curtiss trademark.

          The rest were named by their manufacturers, not the Army. Boeing named the Model 299 aka B-17 the “Flying Fortress”, mainly due to its being intended as the replacement for coastal defense forts. (Remember, it was sold to Congress as a better coast defense option than a battleship.)

          The B-24 was named the “Liberator” by Consolidated in the hope of selling it to the RAF, when it looked like the USAAF wasn’t interested in having two different four-engined heavy bombers. The “Lib” of course ended up as the most numerous bomber in history; there were almost twice as many B-24s built as there were B-17s, with the RAF’s Avro Lancaster in-between in total numbers built. (I found it interesting that the RAF named bombers after cities, just as practically every Navy other than the IJN named cruisers.)

          Martin named the B-26 the “Marauder” with a contest in the company, a procedure later followed by Consolidated (Convair) in naming the fundamentally pointless B-36 the “Peacemaker”. (Yes, after the Colt Model P Army revolver of 1871-73.) Then Douglas named the A-26 the “Invader”, mostly because “Mosquito” was already taken.

          On the Navy side, all Grumman fighters and etc. had names that Grumman coined, hence every fighter being some sort of feline or other. Chance Vought himself named the F4U the “Corsair”, not BuAer. The PBY was named the “Catalina” by Consolidated, not the Navy, because the company had an “officially unofficial” policy of giving flying boats and amphibians names beginning with the letter “C” like the company’s name.

          On the other sides, only the Italians seem to have bothered naming much of anything. Everybody else, from the Germans, to the Japanese, to the Russians mostly stuck with just giving them numbers. The nickname “Emil” for the Bf109E supposedly came from its suffix letter and was never official, ditto “Gustav” for the G model.

          The Imperial Japanese Army gave aircraft “poetic” names, like the Nakajima Ki.43 Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon), while the Imperial Japanese Navy just gave them numbers and forgot about it. Their designation systems, like their procurement, were such a tangled mess that the Allied Technical Air Intelligence Unit (ATAIU) came up with the famous “reporting names” for Japanese aircraft irrespective of who “owned” them. (Fighters- boys’ names, bombers- girls’ names, trainers- named after trees, and etc.) To Allied forces, the Ki.43 Hayabusa was the “Oscar”.

          WW2 vehicle and aircraft names are an engaging and sometimes hilarious study. Let’s not get into the way small arms were designated, that way lies madness.

          Happy New Year, everybody.



          • “(…)found it interesting that the RAF named bombers after cities(…)”
            So B-29 Washington was named after city at east coast of United States, rather than 18th century general?

            “(…)Consolidated, not the Navy, because the company had an “officially unofficial” policy of giving flying boats and amphibians names beginning with the letter “C” like the company’s name.(…)”
            Wait… that was not Martin? (their design includes Mars flying boat, Mercator mine-layer, Marlin flying boat)

      • The Japanese did take the confusion even one step further, for example they had TWO Type 1 anti-tank guns, a 37mm one and a 47mm one. Why would the Japanese develop and issue two different calibers simultaneously is a mystery to me, but I can only speculate that the 37mm one was intended for China where the enemy tank threat was lesser, but it was still deemed that something better than the “old” Type 94 was required. Does anyone know for certain?

        • According to John Weeks in Men Against Tanks, the two guns were designated under the traditional Japanese calendar system, in which the year 1941 Gregorian was the Imperial year 2601. They just happened to be developed and adopted in the same “fiscal year”.

          As to why there were two guns, by 1941 the IJA had already engaged Russian tanks like BT-5 and BT-7, and the T-28 “fast tank” (forerunner of the T-34) in Manchuria, and concluded that 37mm guns weren’t going to be enough to destroy “next generation” tanks. The 47mm was actually nothing more than a 37mm “scaled up” slightly to use a new round based on Russian 45mm types.

          This was of course about the same time that the Wehrmacht was putting the 5cm PaK40 into service. The U.S. Army noticed all the racket overseas, and decided to go big; the next actual U.S. developed AT gun was the 3-inch on the M1A1 105mm howitzer carriage. The 57mm U.S. was of course just a license-built British 6-pounder.

          And both it and the 3-inch were known as the “M1 anti-tank gun”; you had to add the bore spec (3 inch or 57mm) to make sure you got the right “bits” through the logistics chain.

          Not to mention not getting “bits” for a Garand rifle, a Winchester carbine, or etc.

          The Russians probably had the best solution. No matter what they called any gun, anti-tank, anti-aircraft, naval, or whatever, if it was a 76.2mm it used a single, standard cartridge case that took whatever projectiles, from AP shot to HE shell to whatever, they wanted to shoot. The same for their 85mm guns and 100mm guns.

          This is such a sensible idea it’s no wonder nobody else did it that way. It would be too easy.



          • Interesting as usual, but you didn’t actually tell why the Japanese developed a new 37mm and a 47mm tank gun simultaneously. The reason for the 47mm gun is pretty clear, but it’s the 37mm Type 1 that is the odd one.

            The reason the Soviets 85mm and 100mm guns all used the same cartridge was their origin: the 85mm guns were based on an AA gun and the 100mm guns on a naval dual purpose gun. The older 76.2mm AA guns did not use the same cartridge as the field artillery and tank guns, but a bigger more powerful one for added muzzle velocity.

            The ammo commonality of the 76.2mm guns also created a possible problem: the Model 1927 regimental guns also fired the same 76.2×385mmR cartridge, but only half charge could be safely used. Full charge would presumably lead to badly damaged gun, although I have not read about it actually happening in real life. Probably the ammunition supplies of the field artillery and regimental infantry guns were kept clearly seperate.

          • “(…)T-28 “fast tank” (forerunner of the T-34) in Manchuria(…)”
            T-28 is manœuvre tank, not fast tank.
            Please provide that said type of tanks was actually used in Manchuria.

          • @Daweo

            Now that you mentioned it, I have never read anything else than about T-26s when it comes to Soviet tanks in Manchuria. I am fairly certain that the T-28 was not used, since all sources I have seen never mention anything but light tanks.

          • EW;

            The 37mm was as I said a copy of the German 3.7cm PaK36. Development began in 1937, but since it didn’t reach production until 1941 (2601) it was called a Type 1.

            The 47mm development began in late 1938 and proceeded a bit faster. The reason they ended up with two different guns was they were manufactured by different makers. The 47mm was mostly built by Kokura Arsenal, an Army ordnance establishment. The 37mm was mostly built to Army contracts by outside makers, notably Tokyo Gas & Electric.

            Both remained in production mainly because of production facility limitations. While the Army preferred the 47mm (tests of captured examples by the USMC showed it could penetrate the glacis of the Sherman at 30 degrees incidence at 500 yards), there simply were never enough of them to go around. Hence the 37mm being kept in production, and used where it (hopefully) would not face American medium tanks.

            The reference to the Colt Model P refers to the book Guns of the Old West by Charles Edward Chapel. He points out that the Colt “Model 1873” was actually officially adopted by the U.S. Army in June 1872, and limited troop issues began in August of that year.

            It was initially dubbed the “Model of 1872”- then somebody noticed that there already was a “Model of 1872” revolver in service, the Colt “open top” conversion of the 1860 Army percussion .44 to .44 Colt Centerfire.

            Since the Navy by then (April 1873) had also adopted the Colt Model P as a standard revolver, calling it the “Model of 1873”, the Army changed the designation to agree with the Navy’s to avoid problems in logistics.

            Yes, this sort of thing happens all the time.



          • D; See Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of WW2 by Zaloga. He notes that there were in fact two different “T-28” projects. One was the multi-turret “land battleship” that evolved into the T-35. The other was essentially the prototype of the T-34 medium tank, with a shorter hull and a shorter-barreled 76.2mm main gun.

            He shows a photo of a T-34 “lineup” with a T-28 medium at one end, next to a T-34 Model 1940, and while they look very much alike, you can tell that the T-28 is slightly smaller.

            Reports of “early T-34s” being used against IJA forces in Manchuria in 1938-39 were apparently mostly these early T-28s. Zaloga estimates that about 100 total were built before production switched to the “optimum” T-34/1940.

            And don’t forget, we Yanks had a T-28 and T-34 as well. Ours were two single piston-engined training planes.





  7. A lot of Japanese equipment had the same type / year number.

    ‘It’s all rather confusing, really!’ A big tick for the first to identify the originator of this saying.

    • There weren’t very many Tigers (I or II) in Normandy, simply because there were a limited number of bridges across the Rhine that could support their weight other than on railway flatcars. According to two of my uncles (one a Sherman troop CO), they mostly had Panthers and Panzer IVs in France and Belgium.



      • My father fought on Okinawa, and once mentioned a Japanese “dual purpose gun” was used to kill Gen. Buckner. Any idea as to what that was? He is long gone.

        • If I remember correctly, General Buckner was killed by a 47mm Type 1 anti-tank gun, which like most AT guns could also fire HE shells.

          • My dad always said that there was something funny about that story. His squad had checked the place it supposedly was fired from, and they tried to blame them for missing it. He said they went over every inch of that hill, and wouldn’t have missed a cannon.

          • The fog of war is ever-present, and without a God’s-eye view of the battlefield, you can never really tell what the hell happened to everyone’s satisfaction in every engagement.

            I used to think that it was possible to know everything about every tactical interaction; all you had to do was go look and talk to the participants.

            What I learned at the National Training Center when I was an Observer/Controller is that the participants are usually exhausted and hopped-up on adrenaline. They’ve got tunnel-vision, and their minds go to the most logical easy explanation for what is going on around them and happening to them, personally. Sometimes, they get it right. More often, they’ve missed things that were going on outside the range of their vision, and even right in front of them.

            I no longer take “eye-witness” testimony in anything with any credence whatsoever. Not without thorough and detailed corroboration, as well as physical evidence.

            Even in the middle of a training exercise on a simulated battlefield that’s been wired for sound, and which you’ve been all over for literal years, weird sh*t still happens. I remember a case where we had an engagement where the OPFOR showed up out of nowhere, took out like five tanks and a couple of Bradleys, along with two of my Engineer M113s. At the After-Action Review where the OPFOR unit sent its representative to participate, we were all offering up congratulations on their cunning and skill in maneuvering through the rough ground on that hillside to take the training unit in the flank. OPFOR dude just looked at us like we were all quite mad, and denied that they’d done any such thing. Turned out, instrumentation had gone down in that part of the battlefield, and nobody had been tracking precisely what killed all those vehicles. When we went back up to look for signs of where they’d gotten those vehicles through, and there had to have been at least a platoon of VISMOD T-72s involved to have done that, we couldn’t find any sign they’d been there or gotten there from where the OPFOR had started at the beginning of the engagement… Still, everyone recalled seeing the signature of the fires, and watching the MILES gear on the vehicles activate.

            I’m sure there was a rational explanation for all of that, but it wasn’t readily apparent to any of us on the OC team. I still kinda wish we’d had time to go looking and work all of that out, but we didn’t. It’s still puzzling, years later.

  8. Credit where credit is due.

    The Japanese Type 94 37mm quick-firing anti-tank gun seems as good as any contemporary anti-tank gun of similar caliber, while also being significantly lighter. The capacity of the Type 94 to break down for transport, like a pack artillery gun, is also unique.

    This seems to fit a pattern with many of the Japanese infantry heavy support weapons, of being more mobile yet just as capable. For example: compare the Japanese 70mm Battalion Gun to the German 75mm Infantry Gun.

    • The Austrian and later Italian Böhler 47mm anti-tank gun could also be broken down for transport. It was also rather light (330 kg), although that was achieved by omitting a gun shield, so the weight is not directly comparable to guns with a shield.

    • Additional note: when comparing artillery pieces one always has to keep in mind shell weight and range. The Japanese 70mm Battalion gun fired a 3.79kg shell to 2,800 meters (maximum), whereas the German 75mm Infantry gun fired a 6kg shell to 3,550 meters. Therefore it is really not accurate to say that the Japanese gun was as capable as the German gun. It is another matter entirely to decide which gun was a better compromise between different goals. The Japanese gun favored mobility, whereas the German gun favored range and effect on target more.

      • Also, the Germans could generally count on having well-paved roads to move their artillery and etc., at least until they got into Russia.

        Fighting in China and South Asia, other than European colonial holdings with a few “well-metalled” roads for purely commercial purposes, and a very few surviving ancient Chinese Imperial “high roads”, the IJA was often campaigning in areas where roads were little more than mule trails, if indeed they existed at all.

        Seen in this aspect, the 70mm, which could be broken down and manpacked, actually made pretty good sense.



        • Well, it made sense until they invaded the Soviet Union… Then, not so much.

          It always pays to ensure that your weapons suite is actually optimized to the environment you intend to fight in.

          I can’t remember where the hell I read it, but one of the key and crucial indicators that the Soviets used to reassure themselves that the Germans weren’t going to invade was that they could find no sign, anywhere, that the Germans were working on low-temperature lubricants and the other things that they thought were absolute necessities for combat in their environment.

          So, you had a two-way interlocking set of blindnesses going on with the Soviet “surprise” at Barbarossa kicking off; they looked at the Germans through the lens of their own experiences and understandings of what was necessary for war on the Central Eurasian plains, and the Germans did likewise, projecting that what worked for them in the European environment would work just as well inside the Soviet Union.

          They achieved surprise against Stalin in no small part by sheer accident and lack of preparation. I’ve read analysis saying that the Germans should have better prepared themselves, but at the same time, I’ve never seen any of those bright lights acknowledge that that same lack of preparation served them well in not tipping things off with the Soviets.

          I’ve often wondered whether that was deliberate. I have no idea what the reality is, however–All the Germans who might know had very self-serving reasons not to admit anything of the sort, after the war. You’d think that the Germans would have been picking the brains of the Finns or the refugees they took in from the Baltics, but… Apparently, not.

      • Infantry Guns are not intended as counter-battery indirect-fire artillery weapons. They couldn’t be provided enough ammunition for such a role if wanted. The primary role of an Infantry Gun is to destroy enemy field fortifications and machine-gun nests by direct fire during the attack. As such maximum indirect-fire range isn’t important, but rapid field mobility is.

        By what I’ve been able to gather, the Type 92 70mm Battalion Gun had an HE shell of 4.5 kg weight. Combat weight of the Type 92 was 216 kg, and the gun also had 45 degrees of traverse.

        The German 7.5 cm Infantry Gun had a combat weight of 400(!) kg and a gun traverse of only 12 degrees.

        In contrast to the German WW1 experience with 37mm Infantry Guns, there is no evidence I’ve found to indicate the shell weight of the Japanese Type 92 70mm was deficient. So I’d say the 6 kg shell weight of the German 7.5 cm IG was a poorer tradeoff for the increased weapon weight! Not only is the German weapon less mobile, for the same weight of ammunition carried the Germans would have had considerably fewer shots available.

        • While I agree with you on the traditional role of infantry guns, the Germans did not see it exactly that way. The 75mm infantry gun was direct continuation of WW1 “Minenwerfer” (mine thrower) weapons and in fact it was called as such during prototype phase in the 1920s. Ammunition was of separate loading (with cased charges) type with 5 different charges so that range could be adjusted at high angle fire (indirect mode) more flexibly, which is impossible with fixed type ammunition. The gun was often used similarly to light mortars (just like the WW1 Minenwerfer weapons were) where the crew observed the fall of shot themselves, so no separate forward observer was required.

          In fact the Japanese Type 92 battalion gun also had separate loading ammunition, which means that it was also used to fire with range adjusted through amount of charges. Considering their mission you could say that both guns were obsolescent by the late 1930s, when the Stokes-Brandt type light mortars were already well established as the preferred type for light infantry support weapons under local (company or battalion commander) control. However, firing at low angles in direct fire mode did give the infantry guns a capability that the light mortars did not have. Whether it was truly needed or not is another question; in general light mortars seem to have performed the same basic missions nearly as well while at the same time being much more mobile and less expensive than infantry guns.

          Nevertheless, the longer range of the German gun can’t be ignored as something unnecessary when area targets are considered, even if hitting a point target at such ranges (3,500 meters) was not very realistic, and the heavier shells would have been more effective against both area and point targets. The Japanese gun was a more modern design (a split trail was definitely a major improvement over the box trail of the German gun). Overall, it was perhaps a better compromise between range, effect on target and mobility than the German gun, but the question is more nuanced than simply declaring the Japanese gun as the more capable one.

          • Digging into the weeds always complicates the question. I think we agree more than disagree.

            I maintain that Japan developed infantry support weapons of equal capability to other other nations, while also frequently lighter and/or more foot mobile. Another outstanding example of this, is the Japanese Type 89 50mm Grenade Discharger compared to the the German 5 cm Granatwerfer 36.

            As far as interwar years German weapon designations, I wouldn’t put much stock in that. The Germans used all kinds of deceptive designations to evade the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty. The primary purpose of the German 7.5 cm Infantry Gun was always for direct fire support of attacking infantry. The Germans learned the hard lesson of WW1 that indirect fire could never knock out enough of the enemies field fortifications. The infantry must have accurate direct fire artillery support to successfully attack. For infantry indirect-firepower the Germans always intended to have a liberal supply of 8 cm mortars in the Heavy Weapons Company of Infantry Battalions.

            If anything one could better argue for the dual-purpose role of the Japanese Type 92 Battalion Gun, since it literally replaced the Japanese Type 11 70mm mortar in service. It always was intended for indirect fire support of the Infantry Battalion as well as direct fire. But even this is more of an academic than practical reality, since Japan also adapted an 81mm Brandt style mortar some years later, the Type 97 Infantry Mortar.

            In actual practice, there isn’t much to differentiate the Japanese 70mm Infantry Gun from the German 7.5 cm Infantry Gun. Both were typically employed in pairs for direct fire support of an infantry battalion in the attack. While German and Japanese infantry battalions typically relied upon much more numerous 81 mm mortars for indirect fire support.

            The need for direct fire support for supporting infantry attack was never obsolescent. If anything the German, Russian, and Japanese issuance of Infantry Guns reflected inadequate supplies of armored vehicles to support Infantry Divisions. Even the U.S .realized this need, as it was the driving force behind their WW2 development of the M18 57mm and M20 75 mm infantry recoilless-guns, which both saw extensive successful combat service during the Korean War in the combat role they were intended for.

            But the main habit since WW2, has been to press infantry anti-tank weapons into the direct fire infantry support role, even if those weapons are not very well suited for the task. As when extremely expensive Javelin ATGW were used for attacking machine-gun nests!

            I’d say that even today, there is a gap in most armies that could well use a lightly armored very light and mobile direct-fire infantry-support vehicle. Not some behemoth like the 30+ ton weight 105mm armed “Mobile Protected Firepower” tank the U.S. Army just adapted. More like the nimble 10 ton Ontos Tank Destroyer which provided such sterling service to the USMC in the Vietnam War, able to closely follow the infantry no matter the terrain.

  9. Kirk:

    I have never understood why the Germans were caught without winter clothing in 1941. Sure, they expected to have won by the end of 1941, but having won surely they planned to stay, and if so, they would have needed winter clothing? Strange.

    • That’s a question I’ve always wondered about. Is it a “Dog that didn’t bark” question? Or, were they really that over-confident?

      Certainly, they should have been better prepared for cold weather than they were. Why were they not?

      Of course, charting the course of human folly is going to be full of these things; look at the current abysmal performance of what was supposedly one of the most capable armed forces on the planet in Ukraine. There’s been so much stupidity on display there that I have difficulty believing that they’re really this inept and unprofessional.

      Which is the same thing you see on display, differently expressed, in the German preparations for winter in 1941-42. What the hell were they thinking? Surely there were German officers who were familiar with conditions in the Soviet Union; after all, there were plenty of guys who’d fought on the Eastern Front of WWI. Did they all suffer from collective amnesia, or something? Did they all think “Oh, I’m sure someone else is taking care of this…”?

      It’s one of the enigmas of WWII. There are plenty of others; the cost/benefit ratio of the various V-Waffe have similar “WTF were they thinking?” qualities. I mean, for the love of God, how much did it cost to build the V-2, in terms of how much of the German wartime economy went towards it? I don’t care how you parse it, but the costs work out to “Damn close to what the B-29 cost the US” in terms of scale, and what did they have at the end of the day? A disposable one-shot weapon. A B-29 averaged how many bombing runs, to amortize that cost? Seriously? How on earth did any of that get past the bookkeepers and accountants?

      You could make a damn good case for saying that all those blue-sky German V-Waffe administrators should have been taken out and shot; the resources they drained from the war effort probably shortened the war significantly. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if someone were to tell me that that was the actual intent for the guys like von Braun, although you’d have to produce some damned convincing evidence to convince me.

      WWII is full of so many “WTF?” moments that it’s not even funny. And, the really bizarre thing is, when you first begin reading about it all and studying it, it all seems fairly straightforward, but then you go digging into all the contradictions and you’re like “Huh? They really believed that would work? How…? Just… How?”

      To a large degree, I suspect a lot of the suppression of the clown-show side of things in all the popular histories has rather more to do with making our clowns look better than theirs. Because, if there was one major weapon on the German and Japanese side of things, it was the sheer ineptitude and stupidity of Allied leadership for about the first half of the war, and you could make a case for saying that they retained a lot of that stupidity for the last half. I mean… Singapore? WTF? The opening of the Philippine campaign? The fall of France? Opening acts of Barbarossa? Clown-show, all the way around. And, then it was like they handed the idiot ball off to the Germans and Japanese, and the whole thing turned around.

      I swear to God, if you were to take WWII and try to sell a lot of what happened as a recast series in another historical period, you’d have trouble selling it because of how little logical sense there was to the whole thing. Oh, sure… Yeah, a major player is going to prioritize hauling a decent labor force off to death camps over shipping munitions and other things they need to fight… Seriously? In what world does that make any sense…?

      Irrational actors of low IQ, all around. German winter prep for 1941-42 is entirely consistent with the rest of the stupidity that they demonstrated.

      • The real history of WW2 is messy and convoluted indeed. Popular history prefers simpler more glorious narratives.

        Virtually all the major combatants in WW2 entered the War convinced of many things that turned out fallacious. The Powers that learned from their mistakes and also adapted the quickest, came out the “winners”. If by winning, very unusual for a “winning side” they also suffered most of the casualties, plus the near extermination of all the European Jews. For Hitler that might even constitute his victory?

        The odds were always stacked against the Axis Powers from the start. They were like a snake that convinced itself it could swallow an Elephant. It was an act of Strategic madness. But as you mentioned, the incredible bumbling by the Allied Powers in the early years (from 1935-1942) was the only reason why the Axis Powers came as close to success as they did.

        Of course I’d also say the definition of “Axis” vs “Allied” Powers is contentious, because of the Soviet Union. Was the Soviet Union Axis? Or Allied? Or both? Germany and the Soviet Union cooperated in secret military trade and weapons development after WW1 and before Hitler rose to power. The Soviet Union was also a co-combatant of Germany from 1939 to June 1941, and the food and raw materials that the Soviet Union supplied to Germany were indispensable to nullifying the UK blockade of Germany. Without the German Soviet pact of 1939, WW2 may never have begun in the first place.

        Clearly in the long run, the Allied Powers made fewer mistakes than the Axis. But I’d say unless the Axis won a quick victory, they were always doomed. Even if the Axis performed better than they did in reality, perhaps by Germany going on the defensive in 1942 on the Russian Front, and Japan maintaining offensive efforts in the Indian Ocean with a cooperative anti UK strategy. Even then that only meant that Germany and Japan would have been eventually hit with multiple atomic bombs sometime after August 1945.

  10. I actually have a captured jap 37mm, I’m looking for a site holder if anyone knows someone who would sell or fabricate one that would be truly appreciated.

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