WORLD WAR TWO. ARMOURED FIGHTING VEHICLES & SELF-PROPELLED ARTILLERY
The Semovente M43 105/25 mounted a 105mm gun. carried a crew of three and weighed some 15,7 tons. This one has German markings. (TM)
The Semovente M41 90/53 mounted the 90mm dual purpose gun, thought by many to be the best Italian anti-tank weapon of World War Two. (TM)
Largest of the Semovente was the 149/40, which was due to go into mass- production by the end of 1943, but was cancelled after the Italian surrender. (TM)
Semovente da 149/40 which mounted a 149mm gun. Space was at such a premium that only six rounds of ammunition could be carried and only two of the crew (driver and commander) could ride hi the vehicle, the rest having to travel hi separate transport, together with extra ammunition. Only a prototype was ever built (now located at the Aberdeen Proving Ground), nevertheless, had Italy not surrendered it would have gone into production. It was a most effective SP and was designed to replace the towed 149/40 gun. It weighed 24 tons, and measured 21ft 3½ins long, 10ft wide, 6ft 7ins high and was powered by a 250hp SPA petrol engine which gave it a lop speed of 22mph.
The Semoventi were an effective part of the Italian artillery force, which had a good reputation and generally fought well. It is difficult to put an overall figure on numbers actually built, however, construction figures for the period 1940-43 totalled 526, so the wartime total can be estimated at around 800 to 850 for all types. Some of those taken over by the Germans were re-armed with a new weapon - the Italian 75/46 ami aircraft gun and saw combat service.
More emphasis was placed on tanks in Japan than on armoured cars, although both armoured cars and halftrack vehicles were developed.
Japan did not begin to start building tars and lorries seriously until the late 1920s, but even then the numbers produced were very small. However, with outside assistance from companies like Ford and General Motors, who established assembly plants in Japan, they did try to make up lost ground. By 1941, the annual output of civilian vehicles had risen to nearly 43,500 and presumably would have continued to rise had not the war intervened. The share of their wartime production capacity which the Japanese gave to the design and building of armoured fighting vehicles was never great, due to a deliberate policy to devote their main industrial capacity elsewhere. This was because they did not see armour as a battle winning weapon as the Germans did, but rather like the French, preferred to use it - if ever they did use it for the close support of infantry. Armoured cars certainly had their uses, as they proved in the war against China, but the role of the armoured car for exploitation or for long distance reconnaissance, did not rate very highly in Japanese military thinking. Nevertheless, they did adapt their armoured cars for use on railway tracks, because in many countries in the Far Fast railways provided a far better and speedier means of traversing an area rather than using the often primitive roads and tracks. A major task for armoured cars in Manchuria, for example, was the protection of railway battalions from guerrillas and bandits.
To put the above quote into perspective one must also remember that the Japanese were never over concerned with the production of AFVs until well into the war, when they realised their mistake but, by that time it was too late to rectify matters. Nevertheless, they did produce some innovative vehicles for both the Imperial Navy and Army. Some of their armoured vehicles were deliberately designed from the outset so that they could be easily adapted to run on railway tracks as well as on roads. They also produced a small number of self-propelled guns, mounted on the CHI-HA medium tank chassis.
The Japanese also produced an interesting range of amphibians, work on them being largely carried out by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Details of these AFVs are to be found in the companion volume in this series: World War Two Tanks so they are not repeated here. In total, Japanese AFV production was insignificant compared with the other main protagonists of World War Two, especially as far as SP guns and other AFVs (less tanks) were concerned. One source puts the total of SPS and other AFVs at only 900 and even that is probably too optimistic. Mitsubishi, for example, built only fifty SP howitzers during the entire war. Many of the Japanese armoured cars had been purchased from abroad in the 1920s and 1930s (mainly from Britain, whilst cars used during World War Two were designed prewar.
To understand the Japanese system of vehicle numbering one must first understand their calendar which began with the legendary founding of the Japanese Empire in 660 BC, To equate to our calendar one must always subtract 660. For example, the Type 2587 entered service in 1927 (subtract 660 from 2587 = 1927). Normally they used just the last two digits to signify the Type.
As far as vehicles markings are concerned, although many vehicles in the Japanese Army slid carry markings, there was apparently no standardisation as is found in other armies, all insignia originating at divisional level or below, apparently at the whim of the commander, so these could change when commanders changed! Nevertheless, the national flag comprising the red disc (the Hi-No-Maru) on a white rectangle was used, but was only painted on Army vehicles. The Imperial Japanese Navy used the rising sun disc with red rays extending to the bonders of the white rectangle. Examples of such flags will be seen in photographs in this chapter.
Japan's war against China had begun in 1937 and continued throughout World War Two, so some of their obsolescent armour was still in use during the war and was, for example, still listed in the official US Army Handbook of Japanese Military Forces. This was first published in 1942. Then revised and expanded in 1944. The Type 2587 (or Type 87), which the Japanese purchased from Britain in 1927, is a case in point. Modernised by fitting pneumatic tyres, this version of the Indian pattern Vickers-Crossley was a reliable, if out-dated, six-wheeled AFV (two wheels at the front, four at the rear), weighing 5.4 tons, with a crew of four, armour 8mm thick mounting two Vickers .303in machine guns and powered by a four cylinder 50 hp Crossley petrol engine which gave it a top speed of 40mph. It measured 16ft 6ins long, by 6ft 2½ins wide and 8ft 6ins high. The machine guns were ball-mounted, so they had limited individual traverse independent of the turret traverse.
Dating from 1928. The same year the Japanese car industry began, the Sumida Type ARM was built based on an Osaka lorry chassis with heavy spoked wheels and solid tyres. On top of the riveted, box-like hull was a conical- shaped turret housing a single machine gun. Osaka was also the location of the Japanese artillery arsenal. Like the Type 87 it was obsolescent by the start of World War Two.
An ex-British Indian pattern Vickers-Crossley, known as the Type 2587 (or Type 87), drives down a street in war-torn China watched by Japanese infantrymen. (TM)
The Sumida Type 2593 (or Type 93) could be swiftly adapted for railway use, as seen here, supposedly in only ten minutes, Photographed on the Chinchow-Peipiao Railway, February 1938. (TM)
The Type 87 was modernised by fitting pneumatic tyres. This vehicle is in service with the Imperial Japanese Navy (note flag). (TM)
There appear to have been both four-wheel and six-wheel Osaka Type 2592 armoured cars produced in 1932 and both were confusingly known as the Type 92. The four-wheeled Type 92 was a Japanese Army armoured car. The six-wheel version was built for the Japanese Navy. The four-wheel Type 92 did not look unlike the Sumida ARM, but was armed with two machine guns, the one in the turret being mounted on a sliding traverse mount and fired through a long elongated slot. The vehicle weighed 6.4 tons with armour 8-11mm thick, had a crew of four and measured 16ft 5ins long, 6ft wide and 8ft 9ins high. Its four-cylinder 35hp engine gave it a top speed of 37mph and a range of 150 miles.
The latter Type 92, a 6×4, was more common. It weighed around 7tons, had a crew of up to six and mounted five machine guns - one in the turret, three in the hull (one in front and one each side) and one AA. Armour was 8-11 mm thick, it was powered by a six-cylinder 85hp engine and allegedly had a top speed of 50mph. The vehicle was 15ft 9ins long, 6ft wide and 7ft 6ins high.
Used extensively in China, the Sumida Type 2593 (or Type 93) 6×4 was designed so that it could be easily adapted to either road or rail use.
The Sumida Type ARM dated from 1928, note the heavy spoked wheels and solid tyres. (TM)
A well-camouflaged naval pattern Type 2592 (or Type 92), built in 1932 it weighed 6.2 tons and had a crew of six. Note the anti-grounding wheels behind the front wheels. (TM)
A Sumida Type 2590, which like the Type 2593 was able to be adapted for railway use. (TM)
On the rails it used six, flanged steel wheels, To be prepared for road use, it was jacked up on four built-in jack/roller units (mounted front and back), then solid rubber tyres (carried on the sides of the hull) were fitted and the vehicle driven off the railway track, using the short lengths of rail which were also carried on the hull, on to the road. It was claimed that this operation took only ten minutes to perform. The 7.5 ton. Type 93 had a crew of six, mounted a single machine gun in the turret, but there were weapon slits in the sides and a small observation hatch towards the rear of the roof of its large body. Dimensions were: 21ft 6ins long, 6ft 4ins wide and 9ft 9ins high. It had armour up to 16mm thick and top speeds of 25mph on roads and 37mph on rails.
The HO-N II mounted the long-barrelled 75mm Type 90 gun in an open-topped turret. (TM)
Built in 1943, the HA-TO mounted an enormous 300 mm trench mortar on the open rear deck. (TM)
A group of Japanese infantrymen ride on a Sumida Type 2593 armoured car, adapted for railway use. (TM)
The SO-KI twin 20mm antiaircraft guns on a lengthened KYU-GO chassis. (TM)
A small number of long-bodied armoured personnel carriers were built during the 1930s, using both Ford and Bedford chassis. All had armour-plated radiator covers with ventilation louvres, a long box-like armoured hull, rear door(s), and in some cases escape hatches in the roof and an anti-grenade fence around the top.
Japan produced a number of satisfactory SP guns - one figure given for Mitsubishi Industries' wartime production being fifty - mainly based upon the Type 97 CHI-HA medium tank chassis. Most common were the HO-NII, H and III. The first of these mounted a 75mm anti-tank gun in a fixed, open-topped turret and was developed in 1942. It weighed about 14.6 tons, had a crew of three and was powered (as the tank) with a 170hp Mitsubishi V12 diesel engine, which gave it a top speed of 25mph and a range of 131 miles. Approximate dimensions were 18ft 3ins long, by 7ft 9ms wide and 7ft 9½ins high. The gun had some twenty degrees of traverse and could elevate from minus five degrees to plus twenty degrees. The five-man, 1.5 ton heavier HO-NI II, was armed with short-barrelled 105mm howitzer, while the HO-NI III was identical except that it was fitted with a 75mm Type 88 anti-tank gun and had slightly better armoured protection at the top and rear of the gunshield.
A larger calibre SP was the Type 38 HO-RO, which also used the CHI-HA chassis, but mounted the larger 150mm howitzer which had a range of nearly 6000 metres, could elevate thirty degrees, but had only eight degrees of traverse. It weighed approximately 15 tons, had a square box-like turret and measured 18ft long, 7ft 8½ins wide and 7ft 9ins high.
Other SPs, reportedly built for the Japanese Navy, included types mounting either a 120mm and 200mm naval gun, both again using the CHI-HA chassis.
The Japanese made some attempts to produce anti-aircraft mounts to fit on both their light and medium tank chassis in open-topped superstructures, but none were used in action. However, there was the SO-KI, which mounted cither a single or twin 20mm AA cannons on the light tank chassis. Also the SA-TO, which mounted a 20mm cannon on an open-topped CHI-HA medium tank chassis, Finally, there was the TA-HA which mounted twin 37mm AA guns on a medium tank chassis, but it is believed that this project was never completed.
Like the Soviet Union, the Japanese used armoured trains, although theirs were by no means as elaborate as the Soviet models. The basis was principally armoured freight cars, the general model mounting four machine guns and with space to carry up to twenty fully- equipped riflemen. There were also other freight cars adapted to carry artillery guns (up to 75mm), machine gun cars, command cars and even trucks carrying the equipment to repair damaged sections of track. The train was drawn by an armoured locomotive and would be made up from a mixture of the various types of armoured freight trucks as the situation required.
It is to overcome the obvious handicap under which unarmoured cars labour that, time and again, armour protection has been improvised for them.
Of course other countries of the world designed and built their own AFVs in addition to sometimes using those produced by the main combatants. This was possible because armoured cars were much easier to design and manufacture than tanks, whilst self-propelled guns could be adapted from existing AFVs. Without doubt the best were those designed and built by Sweden, whilst the strangest were the improvised armoured cars built by the underground resistance forces of neighbouring Denmark, which in many ways resembled the similarly locally manufactured British Home Guard armoured cars (see Chapter 1) or the older and even odder-looking Camion Blindado of the Spanish Civil War. Not all these AFVs saw action, while others were merely used for Internal Security work in occupied countries, however, they do provide a glimpse of the other interesting AFVs which were in existence during World War Two.
Some of the earliest armoured cars in the world, for example, the Daimler Panzerwagens of 1904 and 1905 which were the first turreted armoured cars, had been designed and built in Austria who had possessed the technical ability from before World War One and went on building many more successful vehicles during that war. However, the Versailles Treaty forbade them to build any more AFVs except for a small number of wheeled armoured cars for their own police force. Despite the ban, by the early 1930s the Austro-Daimler Company had begun to design and build new armoured cars in secret, producing their massive 11.5 ton 8×8 ADGZ in 1933.
When Austria like Germany renounced the Treaty it was followed in to production by the ADGZ 1935, which was a much improved version of the model they had built in secret. It carried both light and heavy machine guns in a larger, rounder turret, plus two more heavy machine guns in ball mountings at the front and rear of the hull. The well shaped vehicle was of welded construction and had drive to all eight wheels. It weighed 8 tons and was 20ft 6ins long, 6ft 11ins wide and 8ft 5½ins high. They then went on to produce a second type of armoured car, the 6×6 ADKZ in 1938, which had flat, well rounded mudguards running along the entire length of the vehicle, a radio antenna around the turret and ball mountings for both turret and hull-mounted machine guns. It measured 15ft 6ins long, 7ft 11ins wide and 8ft high. At the front was a large roller which was intended to help the vehicle to transit obstacles when travelling cross-country. The Germans no doubt made use of these vehicles when they annexed Austria, but possibly only for internal security and police duties.
Three lighter vehicles are worthy of mention: the ADSK Kleinerpanzerwagen, a small 4×4 scout car without a turret, built in 1937; the even smaller ADSK Baby also built in 1937 and the diminutive ADMK Mulus wheel-cum-track machine gun carrier, built in 1935.