Tank Formations of IJA

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The birth of IJA tank troops

The first tank IJA had was a British Mark IV tank, arrived in 1918 for experiment. In 1925, IJA raised the first tank troops. IJA organized the 1st tank batallion in 1926, but it took long time for the number of tanks to grow up enough for a batallion. In de facto war between China, tank troops were used in in very small unit, at times one by one. Meanwhile, IJA raised many tank troops, and In 1937, IJA decided all four tank batallion they had to put into China theater. Especially, the 3rd and 4th were included in the 1st independent combined brigade, the first combined-arm motorized formation of IJA. This troop achieved no outstanding record because of the ignorance in IJA generals about tank troops and poor supply ability of IJA. After the theater was settled down, the brigade was disbanded. In this period, tank batallions were upgraded into regiments, which have four companies as before.

Tank Divisions

After the 1st ICB was disbanded, IJA used each tank regiment separately. Most tank regiments subordinated to tank groups (sensha-dan) for administrative convenience, but tank groups was insufficient as an operational HQ. As late as in 1942, IJA raised the tank 1st and 2nd division as repulse forces against potential war between Soviet Union. Similarly in 1943 the tank 3rd division was raised in 1943. Even after tank divisions were raised, IJA often abstracted tank regiments from divisions, and Japanese tank divisions have very little battle record as a motorized combined-arms troop. IJA created the tank 4th divisions for the defense of main land Japan in 1944 from men and equipments of various training schools. It lacked infantry and artillery formations, so it resembles the tank brigades as discussed later. The only difference was that tank 4th division had three tank regiments, instead of two. After Pacific War began, IJA organized 1st tank army in July 1942 as a mobile repulse force against Soviet army. It consisted of tank 1st and 2nd divisions and tank exercise brigade. In October 1943 it was disbanded so that tank troops engage in the defense of islands in the Pacific, and Japan herself.

#tank regimentsraised inrecord
11,3,5,91942Raised in North-East China. 9th rgt. abstructed to Guam and Saipan (eliminated there, not reorganized) in 1944. 3rd rgt. dispatched in 1944 to South China under 11th army until the end of war. The rest moved to Japan in 1945 for the defense of the northern neighboring area of Tokyo.
26,7,10,111942Raised in North-East China. 6th rgt. fought in Malaya and Singapole in 1941-42. In 1944 moved to Luzon Island (portions, Leyte Island), Philippine. Eliminated in 1945. 11th rgt. was abstructed to Shimushu Island, the northern end of Kuril Islands. In 1945, The regiment surrendered after short battle against Soviet Army.
3(8),12,13,171942Before the division was raised in north China, 8th rgt. dispatched to Bismarck Island in September 1942 and spent all tears there, isolated. After 1944 The division fought in middle and south China with 12th rgt. left in North China. When the war ended, the division was moving nearby Peking, while 12th tank rgt. defended Seoul.
428,29,301945Defended the northern neighboring part of Tokyo.

Tank Brigades

When IJA raised tank 1st, 2nd and 3rd divisions, four tank regiments in each division were oraganized as two tank brigades. As mentioned, IJA often used tank regiment one by one, and tank brigade seems not to have worked well as an operational HQ. The following is the chart of six tank brigades and attached regiments, just for readers' curiousity.

Brigade #Tank Rgt. #
1st1,5
2nd3,9
3rd6,7
4th10,11
5th8,12
6th13,17

In 1942, IJA organized 23rd and 24th tank regiments into tank exercise brigade and assigned it to help tank crew school in northeast China under 1st tank army.
In the last stage of war, April 1945, IJA raised nine independent tank brigades in Japan and north-east China for mobile repulse troops. They consisted of two tank regiments and a AA machine gun troop.

Brigade #Tank Rgt. #
1st34,35
2nd2,41
3rd33,36
4th19,42
5th18,43
6th37,40
7th38,39
8th23,24
9th51,52

Tank Regiments

IJA raised 46 tank regiments in total. At the beginning of Pacific War, a tank regiment consisted of a light tank company and three medium tank companies. Perhaps in 1942, when tank divisions were formed, a gun-tank company was added.

It seems that IJA often equipped tank troops with any vehicles available. Even near the end of war, a record states that tank 1st regiment in Japan had 30 type 95 light tanks, which suggest this regiment had two companies equipped with light tanks. Especially, so little number of gun-tanks (self-propelled guns operated by armor troops) that they were substituted by type 97 medium tanks or any available weapons.


# of rgt.raised inrecords
1st1933Malaya and Singapole in 1941-42. see Tank 1st Div.
2nd1933Burma in 1941-42. reserved in Japan, and attached to 2nd ITB. note. tank 2nd batallion became tank 8th regiment. 2nd regiment was created from tank troop of Chiba Infantry School.
3rd1937Nomonhan in 1939. see Tank 1st Div.
4th1938Nomonhan in 1939. Luzon (Manila) in 1941-42. Java and Sumatra in 1942. stationed in Indonesia until the end of war.
5th1937Stationed in northeast China until attached to tank 1st div. see Tank 1st Div.
6th1937Malaya and Singapole in 1941-42. see Tank 2nd Div.
7th1938Luzon (Manila) and Corregidor in 1941-42. see Tank 2nd Div.
8th1938fought in China as tank 2nd batallion from 1937. see tank 3rd div.
9th1939see tank 1st div.
10th1940raised in northeast China. see tank 2nd div.
11th1940raised in northeast China. see tank 2nd div.
12th1939raised in north China. see tank 3rd div.
13th1939created from several independent armored car companies, and engaged in many battles in China even before tank 3rd division was raised. see tank 3rd div.
14th1939Viet Nam, Thailand, Malaya, Singapole and Burma in 1941-42. Imphal in 1944. At the end of war this regiment had been almost eliminated in Burma.
15th1942stationed in Nicobar Islands in Indeian Ocean from 1943 to the end of war.
16th1942When 23th (infantry) division lost 79% of personnel in Nomonhan in 1939, the division was rebuilt in northeast China with heavier equipments. Tank unit of this division was reorganized in 1942 as tank regiment. Perhaps this regiment stationed in northeast China with 23rd division, and dispatched separately to Wake Island in 1944. When the war ended the regiment kept fighting in Wake.
17th1942see tank 3rd div.
18th1942stationed in north Kyushu Island, Japan. attached to 5th ITB.
19th1942stationed in north Kyushu Island, Japan. attached to 4th ITB.
22nd1942stationed from 1944 in Hokkaido, Japan.
23rd1941raised in northeast China. attached to tank exercise brigade in 1942. moved to Shizuoka prefecture, Japan in 1945, attached to 8th ITB.
24th1942The same as 23rd rgt.
25th1944raised in north China. moved to Taiwan in 1944.
26th1944eliminated in Iwo-Jima. the commander was 'Baron-Nishi' lieutenant colonel Nishi, an Olympic gold medalist of horsemanship.
27th1944stationed in Okinawa, eliminated there except 3rd company defended an isolated island.
28th1944see tank 4th div.
29th1944see tank 4th div.
30th1944see tank 4th div.
33rd1945raised in northeast China. moved to Chiba prefecture, Japan. attached to 3rd ITB.
34th1944stationed in northeast China until the end of war. attached to 1st ITB.
35th1944the same as 34th rgt.
36th1945stationed in Chiba prefecture, Japan. attached to 3rd ITB.
37th1945stationed in south Kyushu Island, Japan. attached to 6th ITB.
38th1945stationed in Ibaraki prefecture, Japan. attached to 7th ITB.
39th1945stationed in Ibaraki prefecture, Japan. attached to 7th ITB.
40th1945stationed in south Kyushu Island, Japan. attached to 6th ITB.
41st1945stationed in Kanagawa prefecture, Japan. attached to 2nd ITB.
42nd1945stationed in north Kyushu Island, Japan. attached to 4th ITB.
43rd1945stationed in south Kyushu Island, Japan. attached to 5th ITB.
44th1945stationed in Iwate prefecxture, Japan.
45th1945stationed in Shikoku Island, Japan.
46th1945stationed in north Kyushu Island, Japan.
47th1945stationed in Shikoku Island, Japan.
48th1945stationed in Chiba prefecture, Japan.
51st1945raised in northeast China ten days before surrender. attached to 9th ITB.
52nd1945the same as 51st rgt.


Independent Tank Companies

In the early days of IJA tank troops, a small troop dispatched to places in military conflict was sometimes given the name of 'independent tank company'. It seems temporal formations.

In July 1942, independent tank 1st company was raised again. Later in the war IJA raised many ITCs as GHQ units.

#record
1steliminated in Guadalcanal in 1942.
3rdeliminated in Saipan in 1944.
4theliminated in Saipan in 1944. A troop with the same name appears in the list of troops fought in north Philippine, 1944-45.
8thfought with 105th div. in north Philippine, 1944-45.
9thfought with 103th div. in north Philippine, 1944-45.

Tank Troops (Tank Units)

IJA often attached a tank troop to infantry divisions, brigades, or rarely even to a infantry regiment. They seems at most company-size units. The tank troop of 19th (infantry) division, eliminated in Peleliu Island, had 17 type 95 light tanks. Some of them were designated as tank companies.

'Armored Cars' in the IJA

As in other countries, cavalries had outstanding tradition and political influence in the army. Type 94 and Type 97 Tankette were designated as 'Armored Car' because cavalries used them in reconaissance regiments of infantry divisions.

Independent Armored Car Company

IJA had some independent armored car companies as GHQ units for China theater. I know little of these formations.

Glider Tank Troops

In July 1943, IJA glider exercise group received four type 95 light tanks. IJA developed this troop to 1st glider tank troop, which consists of a tank company (14 type 2 'ke-to' light tanks), a (non-glider) infantry company, and a motorized transport company. Without glider, this troop continued exercise on combined attack with tank and infantry until the end of war.

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