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"Jap Flame Tank" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A report on Japanese flamethrower tanks captured on Luzon, from the U.S. Intelligence Bulletin, September 1945.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. In most cases, more accurate data is available in postwar publications.]


[Japanese flame-thrower tank]

American troops, particularly those who have seen the powerful U.S. flame-throwing tank in action, may be interested to know that the Japs also have a flame vehicle, and have apparently had it off the production line for some time. U.S. infantrymen, mopping up the northern area of Luzon, have recently captured eight of these fire machines—believed the first enemy weapons of this type to be found.

To date there has been no reported instance of the Japanese using vehicle-mounted flame throwers against our troops. The vehicles captured in northern Luzon were found either concealed and dug in, or parked and camouflaged in forested terrain. Inspection of one of the vehicles reveals that the tank hull was constructed in 1939, but that the interior parts, such as the flame-throwing equipment and the motor, were built in 1940 and 1941. This may indicate that the vehicle was constructed originally for some other purpose, and was later converted to a mobile, armored flame thrower.


This Jap tank is a full-tracked, armored vehicle which should be easily recognized by its unusual appearance. With an over-all length of 19 1/2 feet, and width of 7 feet, the vehicle is approximately 5 feet high. This low silhouette is broken only by a small "conning tower" which rises about 5 inches above the otherwise completely flat top. Perhaps the most outstanding feature, which is found on some of the vehicles, is a horn-like fork arranged over the tracks on each side of the tank front. These forks, which give the tank a weird and distinct appearance, are presumably used for uprooting mines or tearing down barbed wire in advance of the tank. The vehicle is entered by two hatches—one in the top of the conning tower, and the other on top of the tank hull at the right rear corner. Except for the tracks, the forks, and the conning tower, the vehicle when seen from a distance resembles the U.S. amphibious "duck."

The thickest armor plate—1 inch—is found on the front surface of the tank hull, while the sides, rear, and engine covers are 1/2 inch thick. The hatch covers and the top armor, except for the engine covers, are only 1/4 inch thick. This hull armor has the appearance of being face hardened.

This tank, unlike other Japanese models, is mounted on a leaf-spring suspension, with four springs on each side of the tank hull, mounted in pairs parallel with the length of the vehicle. Each side of the tank has eight bogie wheels mounted in pairs, two pairs on each end of a pair of leaf springs. The drive sprocket is at the rear of the tank, and the idler wheel at the front. On some models there are three track return rollers on each side, but on others only two.

The tank is powered by an air-cooled, 6-cylinder, in-line, Diesel engine. Highest reading on the speedometer is approximately 25 miles per hour, indicating a top speed somewhere under that figure.


The armament examined on one tank is not particularly formidable. It consists of two Type 97 7.7-mm tank machine guns in addition to the flame-throwing apparatus. One of these guns is located in a flexible mount in the exact center of the upper front armor. The other is in a similar mount on the left side of the tank, well forward. Both guns have about a 10-degree right and left traverse, and a minus 5 to plus 10 degrees elevation. Although these guns can fire at a rate of from 500 to 700 rounds per minute, they do not have a very wide field of fire, and leave quite a bit of dead space, particularly in rear of the tank.

[Side view of the flame-thrower tank which mounts five flame guns.]
Side view of the flame-thrower tank which mounts five flame guns. Flame fuel tanks for this model are inside the vehicle. Flame gun mounts may be seen on the forward part of the tank on the side and the side-front armor. Another view of this tank is shown above.

Two flame guns of an unidentified type were mounted on the tank examined—one in the front armor to the right of the machine gun, and the other on the right side of the rear armor. Some tanks of this type mount a third flame thrower on the left side toward the front. On another tank, a variation of the same model, there were mounts for five flame guns, one in front and two on each side. In both types of tanks, the flame guns are set in flexible mounts with the same traverse and elevation as the machine guns. On one tank examined there was a flame fuel capacity of 504 liters.

When the flame guns are fired, the fuel is ignited by a carbon arc, the electrical current probably coming from the engine generator. It is believed that these guns have a range of from 100 to 150 feet.

As far as can be determined, these five-man vehicles are used by Japanese engineer troops as assault tanks designed to destroy entanglements and to kill personnel in fortifications. These tanks, however, would be effective only against personnel equipped with nothing more than small arms.

[This model of the flame-thrower tank has the fuel tanks outside the vehicle and over the bogie wheels.]
This model of the flame-thrower tank has the fuel tanks outside the vehicle and over the bogie wheels. It mounts three flame guns, one of which is seen mounted well forward on the side armor. The large tank on the rear of the vehicle is believed to be the pressure tank.


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