All paratroopers jumped with an 8mm semi-automatic pistol, either the Type 94, 1934 #1, or Type 14, 1925 #2; a Meiji Type 30, 1897 bayonet with 15Y in blade #3; and at least two HE grenades, Type 97 1937 #4 or Type 99 1939 #5. The 21b 11 oz Type 99, 1939 magnetic anti-armour charge #6, used for attacking tanks and the steel doors and shutters of pillboxes, was issued in a pouch, with the fuse/detonator packed inside in a two-piece metal tube; the fuse was screwed into the 99 hako-bakurai, and the igniter struck against a solid object to initiate a 10-second delay. The IJN initially used the 6.5mm Meiji Type 38 (1905 carbine #7. Modified “take-down” tera rifles for paratroopers first appeared in 1942/43. A 1941 prototype of the Type 38 carbine with a hinged butt proved too fragile to be adopted. The first IJA attempt to develop a rifle that could be carried on the jump was the 7.7mm Type 100 1940 – the Type 99 short rifle modified with a detachable barrel; the locking mechanism was inadequate, and only small numbers were issued. An improved purpose-made version was adopted as the Type 2, 1942 #8, #9 & #10 in May 1943, and was widely issued to IJA and IJN parachute units from late 1943. Take-down rifles were carried on the jump either in a canvas chest bag, or separated in two leg bags lowered on a short rope after the parachute opened. The Type 1, 1941 paratrooper bandoleer #11, of canvas and leather, was worn around the lower torso; it had seven pockets each holding two five-round rifle charger clips, and two grenade pockets – grenades were carried upside down, so leather bottom extensions accommodated the fuses.
The standard 7.7mm Type 99 (1939) LMG, which already had a detachable quick-change barrel, was provided with a detachable shoulder stock and hollow forward-folding pistol grip; this model came into use in1943 #1, #2. At 46’/ in long, this weighed 231b, took 30-round box magazines, and had a rate of fire of 850rpm. Few sub-machine guns were initially used, but larger numbers were issued for the deployments to the Philippines in 1944; although they were not listed on organization tables, a Takachiho paratrooper veteran stated that they had about 100 per regiment. Three versions of the 8mm Type 100 (1940) were employed. The original 1940 version #3, which already had a detachable barrel, was modified in 1942 with a folding stock and the removal of the flash hider #4a, #4b; length was 34in, or 22.2in folded; weight, 7lb; and rate of fire, 450rpm. The much altered 1944 version #5, without a folding stock, weighed 81 lb, measured 36in, and fired at 850rpm. All used 30-round magazines. The Type 100 bayonet issued with the SMG had an 8in blade #6. The 5cm Type 89 (1929) grenade discharger #7 – popularly but mistakenly called a “knee mortar” by Allied troops – weighed 10.31b; a 1943 paratroop version had a detachable base plate #8, although the standard model base plate and firing mechanism could already be unscrewed and reversed inside the barrel for compact carrying. This valuable weapon fired HE #9a or WP #9b shells out to 700yds, and Type 91 1931) hand grenades fitted with propellant charges #9c to 200yds; a range of smoke and pyrotechnic rounds included this 3-star red flare #9d. The discharger was carried in a canvas case slung from the shoulder, and paratroopers were provided with a chest pack. Some IJA officers carried 3.5cm Taisho Type 10 (1921) flare pistols #10; the IJN used the 2.8cm Type 97 (1937) #11. The IJN 17-pocket paratroop bandoleer is shown at #12.
Japanese army and naval-infantry forces relied on a standard assortment of small arms in World War II. These arms can be grouped into rifles and carbines, pistols, light machine guns, and submachine guns. Heavy machine guns, while not normally considered small arms, will also be covered under this topical heading. Japanese small-arms ammunition could be identified, in many instances, by the following colored bands: pink (ball), black (armor-piercing), and green (tracer).
The two basic rifle models in service by the Japanese were the 38 and the 99. The Model 38 (1905) 6.5-mm rifle, also known as the Arisaka, was based on the German Mauser bolt-action design and fitted to take the Model 30 (1897) bayonet. A carbine version of this rifle, the Model 38 (1905) carbine, which was shorter and lighter than the original model, was also manufactured. A carbine variant, the Model 44 (1911) carbine, was slightly longer than the Model 38 carbine and came with a folding spike bayonet. A sniper’s version of the Model 38 rifle, the Model 91 (1931), was essentially the same as the original except for the inclusion of a telescopic sight. Some Italian-made 6.5-mm rifles were also used by the Japanese.
The Model 99 (1939) 7.7-mm rifle succeeded the Model 38 as the need arose during the war for a more powerful service rifle. It was basically the same as the Model 38 except it was shorter and had a larger caliber. A long variant of the Model 99, a sniper variant, and an experimental model reworked to use light-machine-gun magazines were also produced. Both the Model 38 and the Model 99 rifle could be fitted with spigot, rifled, and cup-type grenade launchers, which fired fragmentation, smoke, and high-explosive antipersonnel grenades. Toward the end of the war, a few Japanese 7.7-mm semiautomatic rifles, based on captured U.S. Garands, were also manufactured.
The standard Japanese pistol design was based on the Nambu (1914) 8- mm pistol. Modeled in appearance after the German Luger yet different in its internal functioning, this semiautomatic pistol is named after its Japanese inventor, Colonel Kijiro Nambu. A wooden combination shoulder-stock-holster was developed to turn this pistol into a carbine but was obsolete prior to the war in the Pacific. The Nambu was superseded by the Model 14 (1925) 8-mm pistol, a significantly modified version. The Model 14 was mass-produced and became the major Japanese pistol used in World War II. A rare 7-mm version, reserved solely for the use of staff officers, was also manufactured.
Two other Japanese pistols were also in service. The Model 94 (1934) 8- mm pistol was of poor design and initially produced for export, mostly to Japanese living in South America. It was supplied to aircraft crews and infantry forces during the war. The model 26 (1893) 9-mm revolver was based on a hinged-frame Smith & Wesson model. It was the only revolver ever produced in quantity by the Japanese. The Model 11 (1922) 6.5-mm light machine gun was based on the French Hotchkiss yet was hampered by its reliance on 5-round ammunition clips fed into a hopper instead of a more standard feed system. At one time standard to the Japanese infantry squad, this weapon was replaced by the Model 96 (1936) 6.5-mm light machine gun. Although the Model 96 externally resembled the British Bren gun, with its magazine feed and carrying handle, it was based on French and Czech internal designs. This light machine gun had a bipod mount and was fitted to take the Model 30 (1897) bayonet. The Japanese also used other machine-gun models during World War II. The Model 99 (1939) 7.7-mm light machine gun was basically the same as the Model 96 except that it was based on a larger caliber. The BRNO, ZB (1925) 7.92-mm light machine gun also saw considerable service. Originally of Czech manufacture, it was purchased by the Japanese prior to the war, looted from the Chinese, and produced in their captured arsenals. Because of the large quantities of British ammunition seized by the Japanese, attempts were made to produce imitations of Allied weapons.
The Japanese used very few submachine guns in the war because they did not appreciate their value until well into the conflict. Those machine weapons that were encountered were mostly German Bergmanns, Swissmade Solothurns, or captured Allied models. Still, three Japanese submachine-gun designs were manufactured either in small quantities or as prototypes. The Type 0 (1940) 8-mm submachine gun was used by Japanese naval infantry and by paratroopers at Leyte in 1944. The experimental 6.5-mm light machine gun was a cheap, easy-to-make weapon produced during the final Japanese emergency and is notable for its blowback operation. The experimental 8-mm machine gun, which was very compact and had a special rate-of-fire selector, was never placed in production.
The Model 92 (1932) 7.7-mm heavy machine gun represented the standard Japanese heavy machine gun. It was a modified Hotchkiss-type weapon and was mounted on a tripod for use against ground targets; however, an adapter allowed it to be used against aircraft. A Model 92 variant based on the Lewis-type machine gun, which was drum-fed rather than strip-fed, also existed. Another variant, known as the Type 0 heavy machine gun, was lighter than the standard Model 92 and simpler in design, making it one of the best heavy-machine-gun designs of the war. The Model 93 (1933) 13-mm twin heavy machine gun, which was tripod-mounted and had a steel chair for the gunner, was used against both tanks and aircraft. Model 93 ammunition has a different colored-band system than standard small-arms ammunition: black (ball), white (armor-piercing), and red (tracer). A single-barreled version of this heavy machine gun was also produced.
FURTHER READING Chamberlain, Peter, and Terry Gander. Axis Pistols, Rifles, and Grenades (1976). Smith, W.H.B. Small Arms of the World: The Basic Manual of Military Small Arms (1948). U.S. War Department. Handbook on Japanese Military Forces, TM-E 30–480. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1 October 1944 (1991 reprint). U.S. War Department. Japanese Infantry Weapons, special series, no. 19, U.S. Government Printing Office, 31 December 1943.