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"Japanese Action Against U.S. Tanks" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on Japanese attacks on U.S. tanks in the Solomons originally appeared in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 19, February 25, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


As indicated in the previous article on antitank tactics used by the Russians, tanks must be supported by other arms. A series of incidents involving destruction or loss of American tanks in the Solomons is reported by a member of our armed forced. This report shows the importance, at least in close country, of closely supporting tanks with infantry.

On Guadalcanal a platoon of six light M-3 tanks was sent to aid the infantry forces fighting to the west of the Lunga River. Headquarters tank and tanks Nos. 1, 4, and 5 were moved forward in column to attack enemy machine guns on the edge of the jungle across a clearing from the infantry. Tank No. 4 went into the jungle and has not been found since. Tank No. 5, after entering a short way, backed out of the jungle without having found any targets. The driver of Tank No. 5 said that near the edge of the jungle, the Japanese threw grenades under the tracks. The explosion of the grenades would cause the tank to jump somewhat but did not cause any noticeable damage. This tank was stationary when it was hit on the right forward side of the turret. The shell penetrated the tank and hit the opposite turret wall where it exploded. The driver estimated that the antitank gun which hit his tanks was about 100 yards away. Filling from the shell ran down and began to burn with a yellow flame and bluish smoke. The driver stated that the fumes were sharp and stifling and caused the mouth to dry and pucker. Almost immediately after the first hit, a second hit was received in the right side of the turret. The shell penetrated and spattered filling around, which likewise began to burn on the floor and on the top of the ammunition lockers. Efforts to put out the fire were unavailing and the survivors jumped out of the tank and started for the rear. Japanese troops were moving toward the tank and shortly after it was abandoned, the driver saw it burning fiercely, but did not know whether the Japanese had thrown gasoline on it or not.

The Headquarters tank was disabled by a hit on the right sprocket wheel while about forty feet into the jungle.

Tank No. 1 was circling in the open field in rear of Tank No. 5 when it was hit in the turret. The lieutenant and radioman were killed but the tank was recovered. Fire in Tank No. 1 was extinguished without great difficulty. The diameter of the hole in Tank No. 1 was slightly larger than that of our 37-mm shell.

The company commander estimated that from the number of hits received by his tanks, and the location of the tanks when hit, the enemy had five antitank guns. The caliber of the enemy guns was believed to be 47-mm.

Comment: This is the first (at time reported) encounter with the Japanese 47-mm antitank gun. It easily penetrated turret armor of light M-3 tanks. The action of the shell after entering the tank seems to indicate an explosive filler made from a picrate derivative. The enemy apparently waited for a close range shot before opening fire.

There was no evidence of the use of the magnetic tank grenade although some had been captured previously on Guadalcanal (see sketch below).

Mutual support between tanks and infantry in close terrain is still a necessity.

[Japanese Magnetic Tank Grenade Captured on Guadalcanal]


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