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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Japanese Tanks

Perhaps the most popular Japanese tank of the war was the Chi Ha - also known as Type 97. This was a medium tank design and produced by Japan prior to WWII as an infantry support combat vehicle. Chi means medium and Ha is the model number: 3. It carried a 4 man crew: driver, gunner, loader and commander, with the latter two located in the turret. One interesting and distinguishing fact is that the radio antenna was installed horizontally around the edge of the turret. The Chi Ha first saw action during the invasion of China in 1937. At the time it was adequate for the type of combat that it faced. Armed with a 57 mm gun and average armor -33mm at the front-, it did not encounter significant threats until the entry of the United States into the war, particularly when the Sherman tank joined the jungle battlefields of the Pacific. By 1942, the Chi Ha's gun was 'upgraded' to a 47mm high velocity gun. About 2000 of them were produced up to 1943 when it was replaced by heavier tanks. Unfortunatelty for the Japanese, the Chi Has were never used in sufficient numbers to make a difference. In terms of affordable tank models, there is a serious lack of options as you can see below.
Classic Toy Soldiers Chi Ha Tank

Entirely made out of plastic, a bit undersized and without a lot of detail. I am hoping that once it is painted it will look better. The turret rotates and it is removable. The hull MG also needs to be attached. For lack of better options, if you want to give your Japanese infantry some support, this is the tank for you.

The only other Chi Ha I have ever come across was a metal model -from Figarti I believe -costing 2 or 3 times as much as a typical FOV tank. It was fully painted, in a nice cammo scheme, with lots of detail and a nice heavy feel to it, but if you wanted to equip your unit with several tanks you would be trading a lot of plastic models for those few Chi Has...

Click here to see a post about Japanese Infantry


  1. Ah, the Classic Toy Soldiers armour! I was hoping someone would bring that one up. As you say, they are a bit undersized (are they intended to be true 1/35th rather than 1/32?). And they are lacking in detail. I suppose if you painted them, and put them in deep background with no true 1/32 scale figures near them, they will do to fill out a battalion of tanks. That goes not just for the Japanese tanks, but the Shermans and Tigers, etc., as well.

    On the subject of undersized tanks, you are familiar, I know with the M-60s that typically accompany Timm-Mee Vietnam-era soldiers. When I was a kid, I inherited from my older cousins (I was born in 1964, they in the early 1950s) a pair of what looked like Shermanish tanks in molded plastic like the Timm-Mee tank, in the same scale. Like the Timm-Mee M-60s, these were even smaller than the CTS tanks. I think the turrets rotated. I lost those decades ago, and have no clue who made them. I have periodically scanned eBay for plastic toy tanks, but have never seen them.

    Have you run across them, or have any clue about them?

  2. Yes, I had resited buying any of the CTS tanks. When I first started collecting armor, for almost the same amount of money you could get a 21st century vehicle with much greater quality and detail. I only got the Chi Has because they are the only option available. But I have to admit that when I placed my order I also ordered a couple German Panzers. I still have not received those... About the M-60 tanks that you ask about, unfortunately have not seen them or know where to get them... If you find them let me know. I'd like to see them. Good luck!

  3. Well, a couple of hours on eBay can produce some interesting results. The tanks in question, which accompanied all my Marx Battleground GIs into battle, though they seemed a little small for the guys, were produced by Auburn Rubber (not Tim-Mee as I thought). They had the same axles with wheels between the tracks that the early Tim-Mee M-60s had. Wonder who copied whom. Here is a link to a current auction with pics of the tanks:

    Now that I can field a whole company of 15 FOV, 21st Century, and Monogram Shermans, seeing that these are so much smaller, I don't see any reason to pay 10 bucks for one just for the nostalgia.

  4. The interesting question, of course, is why toy manufacturers in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s produced toy tanks not in scale with the soldiers who were to accompany them into battle. Marx did it with the tanks that went with the Battleground playset (and the planes are even more ridiculously under-sized!). These Auburn Rubber tanks (plus halftracks and howitzers, I see, after searching eBay for Auburn rubber tanks), are too small (and the commander firing the MG is the best indicator of that). Tim-Mee looks like they were just going with the trend with the size of its M-60s.

    Maybe they did not foresee that the kids who bought them then, or got them as Christmas and birthday gifts, would grow up to be discriminating collectors.

    The CTS tanks look to me to be a half-way step towards proper scale.

    But I am one of those guys who will not start collecting Department 56 or Lemax Christmas village figures until they make the figures in scale with the houses, so that they can actually walk in any of the doors without bending double to get through!

  5. I can relate to this... sometimes the memory of a toy os better than it actually is when you find it again. The thing is, at the time, there was nothing better so back then it was really special. Now that you can compare to much better models, some of these older toys are a bit disappointing, particularly if you are trying to setup a realistic scene. I guess that's also the difference between a toy and a model. Toys don't try to be accurate. Models are.

  6. Whilst fully understanding the comments about the CTS Japanese tanks being 'underscale' I have to say that it has not spoilt our enjoyment Pacific Theatre games one jot. They trundle along with a mix of Deetail, TSSD, Airfix, CTS etc figures and fight and brew just as well as bigger ones would! ;-)

    We painted ours, which as commented here does help of course - they are no longer shiny plastic. Even a simple brown/dark wash makes a world of difference IMHO.

    I am now looking at the model to see if I can convert it into something for the early WWII French force I have been working on...any other ideas???

    1. I am with you. I am willing to mix figures and vehicles of different scales as long as they are in the ballpark. I like how you put it: they fight and brew just as well :-)
      About models kits for the early WWII French, we'll have to see if someone else has some suggestion. I don't really know much about those.