Japanese Armor, Camouflage & Markings 8, AJ Press Book Review

Japanese Armor, Camouflage & Markings 8

By Wawrzyniec Markowski and Andrzei Tomczyk

Hardcover on glossy stock, no dust jacket, 232 pages

Publisher: AJ-Press, January 2011

Language: English / Polish

ISBN-10: 8372372101

ISBN-13: 978-8372372109

Dimensions: 8.3 x 11.8 x 0.9 inches

This book is nothing less than a “must have” for modelers of Japanese armor.  It is not a history and doesn’t pretend to be, it is entirely devoted to the camouflage and markings of Japanese tanks from the war in China through the end of the Pacific War.  The story is told mainly through well-captioned photographs and computer rendered full-color illustrations organized by vehicle type.  With very few exceptions, the photographs presented were all new to me.  They are sharp and printed large on glossy paper making them particularly useful for modelers.  The color renderings are spectacular and well-described, printed two or three views to the page.  Most tank types are shown in profile with a smattering of front and back views thrown in, but the Type 97 Chi-Ha and Shinhoto Chi-Ha illustrations are in perspective.

Unfortunately this book is out of print and is commanding collector’s prices on the used book market.  However, it is a unique and an especially valuable reference especially when considering the general lack of English language works on the subject.  Highly recommended.

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Imperial Japanese Army Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tank, Dragon 1/72 Scale

The Type 97 medium tank was the standard Imperial Japanese Army tank during WWII. Entering service in 1937, it first saw service in China and later against the Russians during the Nomonhan Incident.  It was armed with a 57 mm low-velocity gun for use against fortifications.  Later, a new turret was designed for the Type 97 which carried a high velocity 47 mm gun for better armor penetration, this was known as the Shinhoto Chi-Ha.

This is Dragon’s 1/72 scale Type 97 which represents an early production machine, kit no. 7395. Molding is excellent and features slide-molded turret and hull pieces.  It also includes a small fret of PE for the muffler covers and Dragon’s famous DS tracks.  The model goes together quickly with no surprises.  The sprue lay out gives no indication of a follow on issue of a Shinhoto Chi-Ha or of a Type 3 Chi-Nu even though the basic hull was common to all three.  My example carries the markings of the 34th Tank Regiment which saw action against the Soviets in Manchuria in 1945.

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Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha Japanese Medium Tank Interior

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The starboard side of the turret of the Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha displayed at the Ropkey Armor Museum. Note the applique armor applied to the front of the turret, secured at the rear with four rivets.  In the middle of the turret is a small hatch (with pistol port) for discarding spent shell casings.  It was possible to reach inside the turret with a camera through this hatch.
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The interior is unrestored. While there is some obvious deterioration, the original colors and coatings remain.  The loader’s hatch is above in this view, the gun breach is to the right.
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Looking up into the commander’s cupola. The armored glass blocks cover vision slits cut into the armored ring, similar to those seen for the driver and gunner in the previous post.
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Looking down into the port side of the hull. The gun breach is to the right, a ready service locker for ammunition is to the left.
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Bins at the back of the turret for additional ammunition. Total ammunition load-out for the main gun was 104 rounds.
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The breach of the 47mm gun. This appears to be natural metal covered in an amber varnish.  This type of finish was used by the Japanese on a variety of equipment.  Painted surfaces appear as an off-white.
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Looking down into the forward hull. The elevation wheel is under the gun, the turret train wheel is at the far right.

Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha Japanese Medium Tank

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This is a Type 97 Shinhoto (new turret) Chi-Ha captured by US Marines on Iwo Jima, February 1945. Most Japanese armor on Iwo Jima was dug into defensive positions and camouflaged.
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The tank appears relatively intact, although the 47mm gun is at its maximum depression. The 47mm gun was only effective against the frontal armor of the US M4 Sherman tank at point-blank ranges, although it could penetrate the Sherman’s side armor more easily.
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The pioneer tools are still in place on this vehicle. The left front fender has some minor damage, and the screens protecting the mufflers are missing, exposing the support frames underneath.
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This is the Shinhoto Chi-Ha which was on display at the Ropkey Armor Museum in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The museum closed in July 2017 following the passing of its owner, Fred Ropkey.
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Detail of the front of the Type 97. One unusual feature is the presence of narrow vision slits cut into the armor which can be seen on either side of the driver’s visor and outboard of the machine gun.
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The port fender on this Type 97 is also damaged and has the penetration associated with the dozer blade. This has lead several authors to claim that this is the same tank captured on Iwo Jima but this is not the case.
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One difference between this Type 97 and the Iwo Jima tank is this one has additional armor plate applied to the turret sides. The armor can be seen in the upper right of this photograph butted up against the gun mantlet and secured with four rivets.
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A view of the engine deck and rear of the turret.
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Muffler covers and stowage boxes at the back of the tank. There was almost no armor protection at the rear.  The head of restoration at the Ropkey Museum reported that Japanese armor plate was quite brittle compared to American armor.
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The 47mm gun which replaced the 57mm gun of the previous Chi-Ha series. While the bore diameter was smaller, the 47mm gun had a higher initial velocity and more penetrating power.