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Nations at war
Jowett, Philip S. Rays of the Rising Sun: Armed Forces of Japan's Asian Allies, 1931-45, volume 1: China and Manchukuo. Solihull, UK: Helion & Company, 2004
viii + 139 pages
Author's Note and Acknowledgements; Introduction; Chronology; tables; OBs; photos; color plates; Bibliography
Appendices: Orders of Battle; Puppet Military and Civil Leaders 1931-1945; Nanking Army Commanders 1940-45; Japanese Officers involved in China and Manchukuo 1931-1945
With thousands and thousands of books available about World War II, when we review a new title it's usually easy enough to compare and contrast it with earlier works on the same topic. That's not the case with Philip Jowett's new publication; there simply isn't much out there focusing on the same subject matter. Even studying Jowett's bibliography reveals mostly general works about Japanese and Chinese forces, and very little immediately related to the forces of Japanese "allies" in Asia. That dearth of directly comparable books makes it tough to evaluate Jowett's work and place it in suitable context, but it also means the author has filled a gap in the literature.
He will likely continue to fill gaps in the literature, because this is the first volume in a planned series of books about the armed forces of states joining Japan in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The title refers to "Japan's Asian Allies," but for the most part, as the text concedes, these allies were nothing more than collaborationist governments either directly or indirectly under Japanese control. Even so, the puppet states were allowedeven encouragedto maintain their own forces for internal security and, at least in theory, to support Japanese occupation armies. Joyce Lebra's Japanese-Trained Armies in Southeast Asia, one of the few other English-language books to seriously investigate these forces, emphasizes the political side of the equation, offers relatively little on TOEs, OBs, and equipment, and excludes the Sino-Japanese theater. In this volume, Jowett covers that region: armed forces of Manchukuo and assorted Chinese puppet governments. It's important to note, by the way, that almost the entire book is concerned with military forcesespecially TOEs, OBs, and equipmentwhile providing relatively little background information about the governments or the political-diplomatic milieu.
After Chapter One provides a brief introduction and chronology, the chapter on the Manchukuoan Army jumps right into its earliest antecedents following proclamation of the new Japanese-controlled state in what was formerly Manchuria in 1932. Jowett gives OBs as of 1932 and 1935 with names and strengths of units, a Soviet estimate of the Manchukuoan OB for 1944, outline TOEs for various types of units, notes on equipment, and information about training, the "Mongol Military Academy," and Japanese advisors. Several pages cover "anti-bandit" operations against guerrilla forces, and more pages cover Manchukuoan participation in the invasion of Jehol in 1933, in miscellaneous border conflicts with the Soviets from 1931 through 1945, in the Changkufeng Incident in 1938, in the Nomonhan Incident in 1939, and during the Soviet invasion in August 1945. Jowett also examines some specific forces and units such as White Russians in the Manchukuo Army, the "Eastern Jewels" Anti-Bandit Force, the Mongolian Independence Army, the Korean Support Infantry Detachment, and so on.
Here's some of what the author writes about the forces of Manchukuo:
Heavy Equipment of the Manchukuoan Army
As with the small arms in service with the Manchukuoan Army the heavier equipment came initially from captured Chinese sources. The Chinese Nationalist Army was short of heavy field guns and most of the artillery in
use with them in Manchuria in 1931would have been light infantry and mountain guns. These guns were the
Austro-Hungarian produced 75mm M13 and German 75mm M14 mountain guns and a handful of Austro-Hungarian 75mm M11 and 104mm M14 field guns. The number of artillery pieces in service in 1933 was 281
infantry guns, 88 mountain guns and 70 field guns. As with the small arms it was soon decided to standardise
the Manchukuoan artillery with Japanese equipment. The two main types of Japanese artillery which were
issued to the Manchukuoan Army were the Model 38 (1905) 75mm field gun and the Model 41 (1908) mountain
gun. A number of the Type 11, 37mm flat trajectory infantry guns were also in service and these were usually
used in the anti-tank role.
Anti-aircraft artillery in use with the Manchukuoan Army was all of Japanese makes with the main type
being the Type 88 75mm model. A strong emphasis was put on the anti-aircraft defences of Manchukuo due to
the fear of possible Soviet bombing from the base in Vladivostock. Because of this fear a fair number of anti-aircraft guns must have been in service but no exact numbers are available. What is known is that ten 12cm
high-elevation guns were removed from the vessels of the Manchukuo Navy in 1944 to be used as anti-aircraft
guns in defence of An-shan Iron Foundry. The Foundry was at that time coming under heavy air attack not from
Soviet bombers but from US B-29 bombers based in China.
Manchukuo Armoured Forces
Armour used by the Manchukuo Army included a handful of British-made Wolseley armoured cars as well as
French Renault armoured cars of unknown types. About 30 Japanese Type 92 heavy armoured cars were in service as well as a number of improvised models built on Japanese truck chassis. The improvised or 'homemade'
armoured cars were large ungainly vehicles with small 37mm cannon mounted in a rotating turret. Most of the
armoured cars were operated by the armoured branch of the military academy. The Manchukuo River Defence
Fleet also operated armoured patrol cars on the frozen Sungari River in winter, when it was impassable to their
gunboats. These large home-made cars were able to carry up to 15 or 16 men and were also built on truck
Tracked armoured vehicles used by the Manchukuo Army included 8 Renault NC27 light tanks, 20 British
made Carden-Lloyd MK VI tankettes and possibly a handful of Renault FT-17 light tanks left over from the
Army of the Young Marshal Chang Hsueh-liang who controlled the province of Manchuria until thrown out by
the Japanese in 1931. The Manchukuoan Army received little in the way of new tanks from the Japanese until
the last few years of its existence. In 1943 the Japanese Army did condescend to "loan" the Manchukuo Army
10 obsolete Type 94 tankettes which were used to form an Armoured Company.
Strength of Manchukuoan Army 1940-45
According to Soviet intelligence sources in 1944 the Manchukuoan Army had a strength of 200,000 to 220,000 men in the following units:
1 Pacification Division (3 infantry regiments, 1 artillery regiment)
1 Guards Brigade
9-10 Infantry Brigades (each with 2 infantry regiments of 2 battalions and 1 mortar company)
21 Mixed Brigades (each of 1 infantry regiment, 1 cavalry regiment and 1 battery of mountain artillery)
2 Independent Brigades
6 Cavalry Brigades (each with 2 cavalry regiments and 1 battery of horse artillery)
1 Cavalry Division (with 2 cavalry brigades, 1 battalion of horse artillery)
7 Independent Cavalry Regiments
11 Heavy Artillery Units (1 per district)
5 Anti-Aircraft Regiments
As Japan occupied additional chunks of China, the invaders set up various puppets and clients to help administer the conquered regions, and each government formed its own military forces. Jowett divides this material into two chapters1931-1940 and 1940-1945and in those chapters surveys important officers, campaigns, equipment, and forces such as the East Hopei Army, the Provisional Government Army, the Reformed Government Army, the Inner Mongolian Army, the Great Han Righteous Army, the Great Way Government Army, the Ta-Tao Paramilitary Police, the Army of the North China Political Council, the North China Armed Militia, the Inner Mongolian Army, andmost importantlythe Nanking Army. That latter force, and the Nanking government, comprise the greatest portion of Chapter Four, including sections about operations alongside the Japanese against Nationalist and Communist armies.
Here's part of the information Jowett provides about equipment of the Nanking forces:
The equipment and weaponry used by the Nanking Army from 1940 to 1945 came from various sources. With
only a few arms factories in Nanking-held territory, the regime had to rely on captured Nationalist arms or
those donated or sold to them by the Japanese.
The quantity and quality of weaponry used by the various Nanking units varied greatly, with some units
receiving the best available rifles, while others were lucky to receive any kind of firearm. Soldiers who came
over from the Nationalists often did so as whole units with their commander and would obviously have
brought their rifles and other arms with them. The Chinese Nationalist Army itself was armed with such a variety of rifles that obviously the same would follow for turncoats from that Army. Two of the main types of rifle
in use were the Chinese-manufactured copy of the Mauser 98k rifle, known popularly as the 'Chiang Kai-shek',
and the Hanyang 88, a copy of an earlier 1888 Mauser. In fact, numerous additional types had been bought by
the Nationalist government to equip their army. and these would have found their way into Nanking Army
service. Some rifles were manufactured in arsenals under the control of the Nanking Government, although
usually in small quantities. The Ordinance Technical Report # 27 states that late in the war, small scale production of rifles in these arsenals took place. The Kwangtung Arsenal certainly manufactured Chinese Mauser 98k's
during the period of Japanese Occupation. Small-scale production of the Japanese Nambu 19 automatic pistol
also took place in a small arsenal in north China. Although they may have been produced for Japanese use,
some probably were issued to Chinese 'puppet' officers. In 1941 the Japanese did sell the Nanking Government
about 15,000 Mannlicher rifles from their 'war booty' stocks and these were supplied to the Nanking Army units
most loyal to Wang Ching-wei. Up to 30,000 new Japanese Arisaka rifles were also supplied by the Japanese and
were reserved for the best Nanking units. Reports state that the Capital Garrison divisions and the Salt Tax
Police received all these weapons.
The well-organised arsenal in Taiyuan under the control of the 'semi-puppet' Yen Hsi-shan produced copies
of the US Thompson sub-machine gun and some of these were sold to 'puppet' soldiers in the region. Machine
guns in use were again of various types, with the Czech ZB-26 light machine gun in being in widespread use.
When Japanese machine guns were issued to the 'puppet' soldiers they were not surprisingly the oldest models,
with the Nambu Model 11 (1922) light machine gun and the Type 3 (1914) medium machine gun being the most
common. French light machine guns were also reported in use with 'puppet' soldiers in the south of China, near
the border with French Indo-China. These were presumably handed over by the Japanese from stocks taken
from the Vichy French Garrison who were effectively under their control.
Mortars had historically always been widely used in China in place of other artillery pieces, which were
always in short supply. The manufacture of Stokes-type mortars was relatively easy, and many local Chinese arsenals produced them. Many 'puppet' units had to rely totally on mortars for artillery support with the heavier
calibre pieces being held at divisional or army level. Smaller calibre mortars of Chinese or Japanese manufacture
were issued at regimental and battalion level, although there were only a few per unit. The better equipped
'puppet' units had up to 4 mortars per battalion while others were not so well off, with only about 1 per unit.
When small arms were not brought over by the defecting Nationalist soldiers they were supplied by the
Japanese from 'war booty'. These arms were not usually supplied free, and the Nanking government had to buy
them from the Japanese. Some very poor quality captured small arms were given to the Nanking Army without
charge, but these must have been virtually useless. The Nanking Army units nearest to the capital were
generally better armed than the units stationed in the outlying provinces.
Even when a 'puppet' soldier was issued with a rifle, the amount of ammunition he was allowed was strictly
limited by the Japanese. The 'puppets' were usually limited to, at the most, 30 rounds of ammunition, and in
fact some were only issued with 5 bullets each. Japanese thinking was that even if the 'puppet' soldiers went
over to the Nationalists or Communists they could not take too much ammunition with them. Some Japanese
rifles were issued, but their war industry had enough problems supplying their own troops without equipping
the large number of 'puppet' troops as well. One 'puppet' unit in north China was given the task of garrisoning a large strongpoint called 'Mafeng' from 1944, after the Japanese troops guarding it had been withdrawn.
The 50 'puppet' troops holding the strongpoint were given 'old' and 'discarded' rifles and were issued with a
bare minimum of ammunition by the Japanese.
The Japanese kept their 'puppet' troops short of heavy weapons, as they simply did not trust them not to go
over to the Nationalists or Communists when the opportunity arose. When artillery was used by Nanking units
during anti-bandit operations it was usually kept under the control of their Japanese advisors. Historically the
Chinese Army had always been short of artillery and even during the civil fighting of the warlord era from 1912
to 1928, when millions of men were under arms in China, the number of field guns in service was small. The
best equipped Nanking forces in the region of the capital under the direct control of Wang Ching-wei had the
majority of artillery available and this still only totalled 31 field guns. In the spring of 1941 the Japanese did sell
a small amount of equipment to Wang Ching-wei, and this included ten Model 1917 mountain guns.
The Nanking Army also had very few armoured vehicles, although 18 Japanese Type 94 tankettes were
supplied in 1941 to give them at least a token armoured force. Reportedly the Japanese also supplied the
Nanking Army with British heavy equipment they had captured at the fall of Singapore in early 1942. There
were huge amounts of equipment captured at Singapore, including Bren gun carriers, Marmon-Herrington Mk
III armoured cars and 4.5" howitzers. Much of this equipment had already been issued to the Japanese-backed
Indian National Army, and it is not known what was left to issue to the Nanking Army. There is no photographic or other evidence as to what equipment was issued, but the large number of Bren or Universal carriers
available would suggest that some of this type of vehicle were amongst those supplied. The Japanese had
enough problems trying to supply their own forces with new tanks and other armoured vehicles. They were not
willing to sell or give new armoured vehicles to their Chinese 'puppet' allies in any quantity. Any armoured
vehicles that they were willing to give them would be from captured stock or very obsolete Japanese types.
Records show that the Japanese supplied the Nanking Army with 20 armoured cars in spring 1941, and about
24 motorcycles These could not obviously come from captured British stocks as Japan did not go to war with
the Allies until 8 December that year.
Chapter Five devotes fifteen pages to navies and air forces of the puppet states. Chapter Six, amounting to almost twenty pages, covers uniforms and insignia.
All the chapters are filled with unusual photossome a bit fuzzy, but that's understandableof exotic troops, uniforms, and equipment that often make the forces and conflicts almost medieval in appearance. Jowett also packs much data into tables of strengths and units and aircraft and warships. OB enthusiasts will be thrilled by the information included in each chapter as well as the "Orders of Battle" appendix. Three other short appendices provide biographical sketches of key military and civilian figures. The book also includes two pages of Osprey-like color illustrations of uniforms and two pages of color aircraft profiles. It would have been helpful to include a map or two, and the index is completely missing in action. The only other complaint is that the author has neglected to include footnotes, so it's not possible to know his sources for specific material.
With the caveat that we have no basis for comparison to determine the accuracy of his work, it appears that Jowett has done a splendid job of assembling a great deal of information about these very obscure armed forces. Although the data sometimes remains ambiguous and in some cases Jowett can only speculate about the facts, even with those limitations Rays of the Rising Sun offers much that is new and exciting about military forces in this theater. While it's true that every day World War II recedes farther from the contemporary world, no other part of the war seems more remote, exotic, and mysterious. Even among those who study the Second World War, prior to this book few would have had the slightest clue about, for example, the military strength available to Wang Ching-Wei and his Nanking government. This is a valuable addition to the library of anyone interested in the war in China or WWII military forces.
Recommended, and we definitely look forward to upcoming volumes in the series.
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from Helion & Company and its US distributor, Casemate.
Thanks to Casemate for providing this review copy.
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Reviewed 20 February 2005
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone