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Japanese Tanks and Tank Tactics
Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 26, November 15, 1944
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from a WWII U.S. War Department Special Series publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


The Japanese have made only limited use of tanks up to the present time. In their operations in China, however, they have had an opportunity to utilize tanks much more extensively than elsewhere because of the character of the terrain and the large areas over which the fighting has occurred. As a matter of fact, China has been the great proving ground for Japanese armored vehicles of all types. The Japanese also used light and medium tanks to some extent in the Malayan campaign and in the siege of Singapore, as well as in the Philippines, Burma, Guadalcanal, and Papua. More recently, on Guam and Tinian, comparatively large numbers of Japanese tanks have been in action; on Saipan more than 80 were destroyed, many by aerial and naval bombardment before they could be moved from assembly areas.

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Figure 1.—Japanese Model 95 (1935) light tank ambushed by British troops on a Malayan road in 1941. Note full turret armament: rear 7.7-mm machine gun (left) and 37-mm gun (right), exposed by training the turret sideways.

In suitable terrain the tank is an ideal weapon for the favorite envelopment tactics of the Japanese. Although it is likely that their armored units will continue to be considered primarily as infantry support weapons, the potentialities of tanks in wide encircling movements to cut enemy lines of communications and to disorganize his rear areas hardly will be overlooked. Equipment probably will remain inferior in comparison with armored vehicles used by the other modern armies, but the study of German and United Nations designs is likely to bring about important modification in the construction of Japanese armored vehicles. Japanese industry will be able to provide a volume of production, which, although small in comparison with United Nations standards, will make possible the commitment of tank units on a larger scale than hitherto has been encountered.

All information in Japanese Tanks and Tank Tactics is believed accurate as of 1 November 1944.

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