M4 Sherman vs Type 97 Chi-Ha, The Pacific 1945
Series No.: Duel 43
Author: Steven J. Zaloga
Illustrator: Richard Chasemore
Formats: Book, PDF eBook, ePub eBook, Kindle eBook
Tanks shot holes through each other in the Pacific War. That’s about the only similarity between armored warfare in the Pacific and a world away in Europe. Yet, the gun verses armor race of Europe continued between the Allies and Imperial Japan. Written by armor expert Steven J. Zaloga this Duel
book compares the results by contrasting the American M4 Sherman against Japan’s Type 97 Chi-Ha in 1945.
Japan was very impressed with the potential of tanks after The Great War. Indeed, Japan had the fifth largest armored force in the world in the 1930s. As the civil war in Spain burned, Japanese observers took notes and set to work designing modern main battle tanks from lessons learned. When Japan started hostilities with a China lacking armor and anti-tank weapons, their tanks did well. In the subsequent clash with the Soviets, Japan found they severely needed to modernize. The result was the Type 97 which, while a competitive tank, still had shortcomings against American light tanks during the invasion of the Philippines. A crash up-gunning created the Type 97-kai Shinhoto Chi-Ha (“big turret” Chi-Ha), with a high velocity gun and revised turret. The Philippines fell and Japan prepped for the next round.
On the other side of the Pacific the United States also drew conclusions -- thence engineering plans – from Spain and the Blitzkrieg. Machine gun tanks gave way to gun tanks in the USA, and the M3 Stuart was well received by the British in North Africa. But the M3 was quickly obsolescent and the US created the M4, which the British dubbed the Sherman. While Germany quickly outclassed the M4, the M3 was also struggling in the Pacific, and M4s came to both islands of jungle and coral to fight the Japanese.
While some small tank battles flared across the Pacific, the large scale battles happened during the liberation of the Philippines. Both the US and Japan had tank divisions there, and the M4 and Chi-Ha clashed in traditional tank actions.
M4 Sherman vs Type 97 Chi-Ha, The Pacific 1945
is expertly presented by Mr. Zaloga through 80 pages in 11 sections:
3. Design and Development
4. Technical Specifications
5. The Strategic Situation
6. The Combatants
8. Statistics and Analysis
10. Further Reading
Mr. Zaloga brings his great knowledge of World War II armor to the subject and conveys it in an easily read manner. He presents this story with a good balance of detail and brevity. The gestation of the tanks are followed; different systems are discussed and compared; development and operations described, and their effectiveness (or lack thereof). The same detail touches upon applied extra armor, gun sights, infantry antitank weapons, training, unit organization, and many other subjects ancillary to employing tanks. Furthermore, M4 had a variety of hulls and engines and these subjects, too, are presented. As is nomenclature of US Army Ordnance, such as composite hulls, ammunition wet-stowage, etc. Performance of Japanese antitank rounds against US armor is contrasted against US rounds hitting Japanese armor.
Quotes from participants, diary entries, and excerpts from official after-action reports steer this book well clear from being a clinical rehash of technical jargon and a musty history lesson. Wrote a Japanese tanker:
…the enemy automatic rifle fire sounding like roasting beans, and the sound of our heavy machine guns could be heard intermingled with the enemy’s. Can the sound of the automatic cannon fire be the sign of the approach of the M4 tanks?
A US regimental report recorded:
About 0100 28 January the Japs, after a great deal of preliminary maneuvering, launched an attack with thirteen tanks. The point was well selected: a salient made by the left company of the right flank battalion (l/161st Infantry). Normal barrages of artillery and mortar were called in but did not quiet the Japs. The tanks assaulted in waves of three, each tank followed closely by foot troops. The tank assault position was about 100-150 yards from our foremost elements. Riflemen in pits opposed them with rifle AT grenades, bazookas and caliber .50 machine guns. Two 37mm guns had the tanks within range. The first tank was hit but overran the forward position, spraying blindly with machine guns and firing 47mm point-blank…
Following the background story, the main duel of the book is the US attack on San Manuel in conjunction with the Japanese shielding of San Jose. It features clear examples of how overmatched the Chi-Ha was against the M4, yet that the M4 was vulnerable when facing dug in, camouflaged Type 97s with disciplined crews.
Photos, Art, Graphics
Inside the title page is a key to military symbols. There is also a table of standard to metric conversions.
Dozens of black-and-white photographs support the text. Mr. Zaloga has quite a selection to choose from and this book is full of photos new to me. Many are of knocked out tanks of both sides, including a Type 97 with spare track affixed as supplemental armor. Almost every photo is clear, although a few are stills from motion picture film.
Further enhancing the title is original full color artwork, graphics, sidebars, cutaways and maps. These include:
• Centerfold: 7th Tank Regiment Chi-Ha firing from ambush at M4s of Company C, 716th Tank Battalion, advancing against San Manuel, January 24, 1945
• Color cutaways of the turrets of the M4A3 and the Type 97-kai, with ammunition
• Color illustration of the crew layout of the Type 97-kai and the M4A3W
• Color illustrations depicting the view of enemy tanks through the gun sight of the Japanese 47mm Type 1 Telescope, and the M71D Telescope of the M4. (This includes a sample set of commands by the commander to the gunner.)
• Front, rear and side views of M4A3(W) Medium Tank, Company C, 716th Tank Battalion
• Front, rear and side views of Type 97-kai Shinhoto Chi-Ha Tank, 7th Tank Regiment, 2nd Armored Division
• Map: Destruction of the Japanese 2nd Armored Division, January 1945
• Map: Reduction of San Manuel, January 24, 1945
• Table 1. Armor penetration, 47mm vs 75mm guns
• Table 2. Comparative armor thickness
• Table 3. Comparative performance, M4A3W and Type 97-kai
• Table 4. IJA 7th Tank Regiment organization, January 1945
Impressions and Conclusion
When I mentioned this Duel
to an armor enthusiast friend, his comment was, “Isn’t that like comparing a coke can to a BB gun?”, to which I replied ‘more like a Sherman to a Panther’. Indeed, the 47mm Type 1 cannon could rarely penetrate the 64mm hull glacis of the Sherman, although it could reliably poke holes through the side, as shown in one of the photographs; the 75mm M3 gun could easily ruin a Shinhoto Chi-Ha, anytime, anywhere.
While these tanks rarely went head-to-head, it is interesting to read about them fighting on the central Luzon plains. The numbers of photographs, quality and subject of artwork, and Mr. Zaloga’s expertise makes this a worthwhile book to acquaint one with the M4, the Type 97-kai Shinhoto Chi-Ha, both Japanese and American armor forces, and the fighting in the Philippines. Osprey offers other books on Pacific War armor, and this book is a great companion to them.