Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Type 97 Chi-Ha (九七式中戦車 Kyunana-shiki chu-sensha)

From December 8 1941 and in early 1942, during the Battle of Malaya and the Battle of Singapore, Type 97 tanks were used by the 3rd Tank Group’s 1st, 6th and 14th Tank Regiments under Lieutenant-General Yamashita's Army. The 1st Tank Regiment was under IJA 5th Division, which was among the first to land at Singora (Songkla) in southern Thailand. One of its medium tank companies was the 3rd Tank Company under First Lieutenant Yamane (ten Type 97 medium tanks and two Ha-Go light tanks), forming part of Saeki Detachment. The company was in the vanguard of the attack. One key to the Japanese success in Malaya was the unexpected presence of their tanks in areas where the British did not believe tanks could be used. The wet jungle terrain did not turn out to be an obstacle. The 3rd Tank Group's tanks were particularly effective at the Battle of Slim River on 7 January 1942, where a company 20 tanks under the command of Major Hajime Shimada, destroyed the better part of the Indian 11th Infantry Division in about five hours. Later, the 2nd and 14th Tank Regiments participated in the Burma Campaign.

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