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Japanese weakness in tanks

Discussion in 'Tank Warfare of World War 2' started by Zach gibson, Apr 11, 2018.

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  1. Zach gibson

    Zach gibson New Member

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    With most of japans funds diverted to research on aircraft and ships. Why didn't more Japanese commanders request more development of better tanks, or tanks that could be integrated easier in island defence.
     
  2. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    I am no expert on this at all, and I am speaking purely out of opinion here, but I think Japan rightfully spent more money in ship and aircraft development because having a solid Navy and complimentary Air Force was vital for success in any military endeavor the Japanese embarked on. Also the need for any fantastic tank wasn't really necessary when you consider the type of fighting Japan usually found itself in. In China, at least from 1937 to 1941, the Chinese had very few tanks, and the need for a dominant tank similar to that of the Sherman wasn't a priority, most of the time tanks in China and elsewhere basically acted as armored vehicles that supported infantry. They weren't intended to fight other tanks, and you also have to consider these two things: Where they fought, and what limited fuel they had to use. The Japanese fought mostly in Jungle or forested areas, (island fighting made up a small percent of Japanese ground engagements) this alone reduced the need for tanks in large numbers because of the muddy and all around bad conditions that any tank would struggle in, and then of course there is the issue of having very little fuel. Japan wished to use their small fuel reserves for the more important ships and planes, rather than tanks that usually ended up being destroyed, or had a little value in many situations. Japanese tanks were usually only effective when there wasn't an enemy armored presence, and even then they were vulnerable to Anti-tank guns, and Guerilla tactic fighting from both the U.S and Chinese. You could penetrate the Japanese type 95 ha-go with a 30-06 AP round, so that right there tells you that the Japanese tanks were not intended to be slug-fest fighters. Now the Japanese tanks did have some success, in China especially, and in the U.S's first armored clash in WW2, in the Bataan peninsula in 1941, between 5 type 95's and 3 M3 Lee's they managed to destroy 1 and damage the other 2, but for the most part, they simply didn't do enough to convince the Japanese to throw more money and resources into them.
     
  3. Zach gibson

    Zach gibson New Member

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    Yeah. You would think that the limited times they faced Chinese owned Russian tanks, that they would at least increase the armour or with the last stand fighting they, make a fortress type tank at least instead of the type 95 ha-go or type 89 chi-ro
     
  4. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru WW2|ORG Editor

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    Tanks take a lot of materials to manufacture, a lot of resources that the Japanese simply did not have. Not to mention the fuel they would consume, which was always an issue for the Japanese Armed Forces. Naval and Aircraft was a priority, since the Japanese Empire was essentially a whole bunch of islands spread out over the Pacific. Tanks are quite useless in such a situation.

    Why would you build a 'fortress' tank to stick it on an island where it isn't going to move but be an easy target? A bunker would be much more effective. Especially when you consider American Air Superiority in a lot of the battles.

    It would be a wasted investment making bigger tanks for a war that was mostly island hopping.
     
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  5. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Ironically, when they had tanks on the smaller islands like Betio or Iwo Jima, they usually dug them in and used them as pillboxes. As Mussolini said, they might as well have sent in the equivalent amount of weapons and material to build bunkers.

    The American island-hopping strategy meant that many of these tanks would end up in isolated garrisons, never attacked at all.

    Large islands like Luzon had scope for mechanized warfare - the Japanese used tanks in their offensive in 1941-42 - but they would likely be outmatched by the forces by the Americans could bring to bear. A contest of building, fielding, and supporting armored units is not one Japan could win. Mechanized or mobile operations in suitable terrain would also be vulnerable to American air power.

    Ultimately, the defense of islands depended on naval and air power. Once the Americans controlled the seas around an island or archipelago, the Japanese troops on the ground could only impose delay.
     
  6. Zach gibson

    Zach gibson New Member

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    Technically america began the island hopping campaign in 1943. In early 1941 after pearl japan was quickly and brutally invading american held island like wake,attu and gilbert islands. Lets just say that the american fleet was completely destroyed including the four carriers. The next step after hawaii would maybe be California
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Hawaii was even really in the cards even if the whole US fleet was gone.
     
  8. Zach gibson

    Zach gibson New Member

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    I mean if the Japanese decided to go straight for the united states in some weird and wacky timeline. The Japanese would need to improve their tanks in order to outclass the m3 stuats and m3 lees and the m4 sherman didn't come out until 42
     
  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    They don't have the logistics to have a chance at taking Hawaii much less doing anything to the 48.
     
  10. Zach gibson

    Zach gibson New Member

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    Eventually, they would have to improve their tanks to support their snlf if they wanted to take countries like Australia or even if they where bold enough, russia
     
  11. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    I'm afraid that as lwd mentioned, Japan had a very, very, very, small chance of doing anything significant to the Russians, and basically no chance of taking Australia.
    The Japanese put more resources into aircraft so that they didn't need tanks. If you have air superiority, as we saw the Allies had in the Western, North African, and Eastern Front eventually, that was enough to devastate the Axis armored forces on the ground without having to waste lives and machines fighting them on the ground.
     
  12. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

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    Don't know about 'lack of resources/materials'.
    Were all those battleships & aircraft built from bamboo & tatami mats? They seemed quite good at securing materiel when needed.
    Hardly my speciality, though. Really need to read more on Japan one day.

    What!?
    Please, can we send this 'air power destroyed tanks' back to the pre-1990s where it belongs.
    Men on the ground destroyed tanks. Anti-tank guns, other tanks, etc. etc. Air superiority curtailed their usage, sowing caution/(panic even) and enforcing certain timetables & tactical positions, but on the whole did not perform the actual execution.


    I don't often think very hard about Japanese armour.
    Suspect they actually had perfectly adequate machinery for where they had in mind to fight (or imagined colonial usage).
    They also had fairly solid R&D capability that I'm sure would have provided 'something' more substantial if needs be. Certainly a few heftier machines being worked on.
    One more thing: certainly evidence of them being mildly active among their allies as to acquiring/licensing German gear. They might have been a bit stiffed for that Tiger , but if it came to a crunch I can reasonably easily see a licensed production of Pz.IV or Stug of some kind. There were supposed to be Tiger (& probably Panther) microfilms as part of the deal.

    japan_tiger_1.jpg

    pz5_jap.jpg

    (Thread might be of interest on this subject. AeSun proved a little flaky on detail... think he might have had a strop about something else, but there were some nuggets there:
    WW2F - German tanks in Japanese service)


    That's what they said before the Russo-Japanese war! ;)
     
  13. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    They did have a rather limited domestic supply of steel of questionable quality. When the US embargoed scrap iron it made a serious dent in their steel sources. Of course that didn't happen in the 30's. As others have mentioned vs the Chinese and indeed all their likely opponents save the Soviets and the US their tank forces were adequate. Then there's the issue that if you want a decent mechanized force it takes more than just tanks. The resources that go into a good armored division are not cheap. Even the Germans found themselves challenged in that regard.
     
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  14. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

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    How were they on the rarer materials? Tungsten, things for alloying etc.?
    Base steel all very well, there were workarounds & quality can be 'stretched' (as Germany seems to have done) but it does appear to be the shinier components that really choke production. Each tank needs a lot of specialist bits to make it work.

    Quite so about the support needed.
    Not that I can envision many Japanese war aims that might require all that many tanks.
    They did pretty well without much armour. Tyreless bicycles often proving adequate!
     
  15. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Not sure about the alloying elements. The lack of good steel domestically is one of the primary reasons they developed such good swords smiths. Once they had a process to improve the steel (repeated folding) they took it to extremes which give a feudal society isn't unusual. I think one of the big tings pushing them in Manchuria was to increase the sources of iron under their direct control. I think I've seen documents showing what their supply of various metals looked like but don't remember where at this point.
     
  16. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    In the main, this is correct.

    Well, they were...But you have to remember that most every tank design of the early 1930's had thin armor and either a high-velocity small caliber(usually 20mm-37mm) gun or a low-velocity large caliber(57mm-75mm) gun.

    Well, China and Manchuria did have forested areas, but did have large amounts of open area - "tank country", so to speak. The Japanese did use tanks in the jungle, albeit at decreased effectiveness, although they tended to rely on their artillery here. Also, Malaya did have a good bit of tank country, and the Japanese tanks were quite effective there.

    Fuel was not really an issue, per se, Japan had more than enough gasoline(early tanks) and diesel(the majority of her tanks)...Warships use bunker oil and aircraft use a higher octane gasoline. What was the problem was the logistical tail. Japan lacked the logistical supply train to keep several large armored forces operating in the field for an extended period of time. Trains could get the fuel to railheads, but after that, there were a lack of vehicles to deliver the gasoline/diesel far and wide.


    This can be said of most tanks...The Sherman was vulnerable to the Japanese 47mmAT shells from the side and rear, as well as, Japanese AT squads with lunge mines, etc.

    Huh? The Type 95 Ha Go was a very light Light Tank, weighing only some 7 tons compared to the M3 Stuart's 15 tons...even the M1 Combat Car weighed more. It's like saying that American tanks were not intended to be slug-fest fighters because the M1 Combat Car's armor could be penetrated by a 30-06 AP round.

    Also, the Type95 was a design dating from the early 1930's, when it's likely opponents would have the same level of armor and gun power.

    M-3 Stuart light tanks.

    It's not that tanks did not do enough to convince the Japanese to throw more money and resources into them...It is that the Japanese had no money or resources to throw at them.

    You see...Having a large navy is expensive, and having a large army and navy is very expensive. Further, having a large navy, and a large army, and fighting a war in China is tremendously expensive, and the Japanese were almost broke. Continuing along this line, most of the military steel production was going to their navy, the Army only got the leftovers. Also, Japanese engines were not up to the level of other nations, and it was very late in the war that the Japanese developed the more powerful diesel engines needed for heavier tanks.
     
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  17. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The Chinese tanks the Japanese fought were ill-equipped, ill-lead, and operated by ill-trained crews...As such, they offered little in the way of resistance. However, the Russian tanks the Japanese faced at Nomohan did give the Japanese pause, as the Soviet 45mm tank guns could destroy Japanese tank well outside of the lethality range of Japanese tank guns. Hence, the Japanese began a crash program at up gunning their Type 97 Chi-Ha medium tanks.

    There has been speculation that a "fortress tank" was produced, but it was at least on the drawing boards...The 100-120 ton O-I. However, it is much easier to mount large caliber guns in armored turrets placed in the ground, which the Japanese did.

    Still, the Tupe 89 came out in 1929 and the Type 95 was in 1935...A "fortress tank" was well outside the realm of possibility with the technology of the time.
     
  18. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    I am hoping that our friend JJWilson is alluding to the destruction of Japanese armored forces by air power as they being shipped aboard transports...
    [​IMG]
     
  19. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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  20. Zach gibson

    Zach gibson New Member

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    Come to think of it Italy before they where crushed by the allies could have sent some engines to the Japanese if they requested it. Or if they really wanted to make a mission to capture shermans and stuarts. Just like the chinese did with japan and the limited number of chi ha tanks they got
     

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