History

How GIs trained to take out Japanese tanks

(Mark Pellegrini)

American troops in World War II didn't just face enemy tanks in the African and European theaters. German Panzers get much of the attention when it comes to WWII-era armor, so it might surprise you to learn that Japan also used tanks in both the Pacific and China-Burma-India (CBI) theaters. That being said, there're good reasons why Japanese tanks haven't enjoyed the same level of hype as their counterparts from Nazi Germany.

One of the biggest of those reasons is the nature of the theaters themselves. Pacific campaigns were dominated primarily by air and naval battles. Most of the ground fighting there was done on small islands — the terrain didn't allow for much tank-versus-tank action. As for the CBI theater… well, that was largely a sideshow — and much of the attention there was spent on the Flying Tigers.

But occasionally, Allied infantry would find themselves facing off against a Type 95 Ha-Go light tank — it's a good thing they were prepared to take them out.


Over 2,100 Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks were produced between 1936 and 1943. As was typical of a light tank in the pre-World War II era, it had a 37mm main gun and two medium machine guns.

Note the tread arrangement of the Type 95 — it's one of the tank's weak points.

(Mkethorpe)

This tank, as it turns out, wasn't exactly the best of the bunch. While German tanks, like the Tiger, held an edge over many of their Allied opponents in the European theater (a deficit the Americans arguably inflicted upon themselves), American tanks usually had a huge edge over Japanese armor.

Even when Japan was "running wild" in the Pacific, Type 95s were easy to kill.

(Australian War Memorial)

Although Japanese tanks were able to do real damage to the large but under-equipped Chinese Army, they were quite easy for American troops to deal with. These tanks could be disabled by landing a well-aimed rifle shot in the tread's front-most bracket. Additionally, they didn't stack up well against American armor. For instance, comparable M3 Stuart light tanks were nearly 25% faster than Type 95s (the M3 had a top speed of 36mph compared to the 28 of the Type 95), making them easy to outmaneuver and outgun.

This Type 95 was destroyed and became something for Marines to check out.

(National Archives)

In fact, one of the biggest problems of the Type 95 was its turret design. It had an exploitable gap that an American GI could jam with a canteen, a bayonet, or rock, completely disabling it.

To learn more about how American GIs were trained to take on this tank, watch the instructional video below!