Special Naval Landing Forces
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The Special Naval Landing Forces (SNLF), (海軍特別陸戦隊 Kaigun Tokubetsu Rikusentai) were the marine troops of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and were a part of the IJN Land Forces. They saw extensive service in the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific theatre of World War II.
|Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF)|
Kaigun Tokubetsu Rikusentai
The ensign of the Special Naval Landing Force
2018–present (as the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade)
|Country||Empire of Japan|
|Allegiance||Emperor of Japan|
|Branch||Imperial Japanese Navy|
Soviet-Japanese border conflicts
World War I
World War II
|Commander Masajiro Hayashi|
Before the late 1920s the IJN did not have a separate marine force, instead it used naval landing forces or rikusentai formed from individual ships's crews, who received infantry training as part of their basic training, for special and/or temporary missions.
In the late 1920s the navy began to form Special Naval Landing Forces as standing regiments (albeit of battalion size). These forces were raised at — and took their names from — the four main naval districts/bases in Japan: Kure, Maizuru, Sasebo, and Yokosuka. These SNLF units saw action in China from 1932 in the January 28 Incident and at the Battle of Shanghai in naval operations along the China coast and up the Yangtze River and its tributaries during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Soon, they became involved in successful Japanese seaborne assaults throughout South East Asia.
Other SNLF were later raised from IJN personnel in China, at Hankow, and Shanghai, for service in Canton and on the Yangtze River. On 7 December 1941 there were 16 SNLF units, this increased to 21 units during the war. The strengths of each SNLF ranged from the prewar peak of 1,200 to a later 650 personnel. There was also a special detachment in the Kwantung area, garrisoning the ports of Dairen and Ryojun.
Initially, the SNLF was not a marine force, but was instead sailors who had basic infantry training and were employed in landings during the Russo-Japanese War and the Boxer Rebellion. Soon their training and equipment were improved upon drastically, and their forces were given a variety of other operations as well. In 1941, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Yokosuka SNLF were converted to parachute units. They conducted more combat drops than Japanese Army parachute units during World War II. The SNLF paratroopers were successfully used during the attack on Celebes and the Battle of Manado. Aside from the paratroopers, there were also elite squads who conducted reconnaissance and raid operations.
From that point onward, the Landing Forces were influential in Japan's expansion of territories during World War II, and their tactics of surprising their enemies through sea invasions proved effective. The original SNLF personnel were well-trained, high-quality troops with good morale and they performed well against opposition across Southeast Asia. However, like all landing forces they often experienced heavy casualties when faced with determined resistance, such as at the invasion of Timor and the Battle of Milne Bay. This was due to their unwillingness to surrender, and when completely out of ammunition, they would often resort to hand-to-hand fighting with their swords and bayonets. To combat highly defended positions in the Pacific, the Landing Forces created new tactics and techniques, that would later be adopted by the Allies in their sea-borne invasions.
The SNLF gained the distinction of being the first foreign forces to establish a foothold on American soil since the War of 1812, when 500 troops landed on Kiska Island, Alaska without opposition on June 6, 1942 and occupied the island as part of the Aleutian Islands Campaign during World War II. After a year of occupation, with reinforcements from thousands of Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) soldiers, they completely evacuated on July 28, 1943 two weeks before Allied forces landed.
- Kure Naval Base
- Maizuru Naval Base
- 1st Maizuru SNLF
- 2nd Maizuru SNLF
- 4th Maizuru SNLF
- 5th Maizuru SNLF
- Sasebo Naval Base
- 1st Sasebo SNLF
- 2nd Sasebo SNLF-Under 32nd Special Base Force, 3rd Fleet
- 5th Sasebo SNLF
- 6th Sasebo SNLF
- 7th Sasebo SNLF
- 8th Sasebo SNLF Shanghai Naval Base (Operated along the Yangtze river, China)
- Sasebo Combined SNLF (Combined 1st and 2nd Sasebo SNLF)
- Yokosuka Naval Base
- 1st Yokosuka SNLF (Originally an SNLF Para formation)
- 2nd Yokosuka SNLF
- 3rd Yokosuka SNLF (Originally an SNLF Para formation)
- 4th Yokosuka SNLF
- 5th Yokosuka SNLF
- 6th Yokosuka SNLF
- 7th Yokosuka SNLF
Special Guard DetachmentsEdit
- Ryojun SNLF: special naval guard detached in Ryojun port, Kwantung belonged in Ryojun Guard District.
- Shanghai SNLF (746 men): special naval guard based in Shanghai port, China belonged in China Theater Fleet. Later merged into Canton Special Base Force based in Guangzhou area.
- Yangtze SNLF: special river squadron detached along the Yangtze river area inside of 1st China Fleet.
- Hankow SNLF: special naval guard based in Hankow and Wuchang ports,belonged to Middle River Division,inside Yangtze River Fleet and 1st China Fleet.
- Canton SNLF: special naval guard detached in Guangzhou port, Kwangtung belonged inside of Canton Special Base Force.
Paratroopers of the SNLFEdit
See article:Japanese marine paratroopers of World War II
- Yokosuka Naval Base
Tank and Armor UnitsEdit
See article:Imperial Japanese Navy Armor Units
- Shanghai SNLF Tank Company
- Milne Tank Platoon of Kure 5th SNLF
- Tarawa Tank Unit of Sasebo 7th SNLF
- Kwajalein Armor Unit of Sasebo 7th SNLF
- Navy tank unit of 55th Guard Unit,Yokosuka 1st SNLF
- Itoh Armored Detachment SNLF
- Makin Armor SNLF Detachment of Navy 3rd Special Base Force
SNLF Training UnitsEdit
- SNLF infantry training centers: Located in main bases of Kure, Maizuru, Sasebo, Yokosuka along special training centers of Ryojun and Dairen in Kantogun.
- SNLF paratrooper school: Recruits were trained at the army/navy paratrooper training base on Kanto Plain.
- SNLF land armor school: Created in the Tateyama IJN Ordnance School that was across from Tokyo on the Boso Peninsula.
- SNLF amphibious armor school: Was established in the IJN aquatic armour unit at Q-Base on Nasakejima in 1943 and the first trained units were sent to Rabaul (New Guinea) and the Marshall Islands in October of same year.
Uniforms of the SNLFEdit
On board ship the sailors of the SNLF wore their standard IJN blue or white uniforms but when on land the SNLF wore a uniform similar to that of the Imperial Japanese Army. Originally they wore their shipboard dress during ground combat as well, but in the mid 1930's it was replaced with a specialized land uniform. The land uniform consisted of a green single breasted tunic with a stand and fall collar with three buttons which ran down the front, which is often referred to as Rikusenfuku (陸戦服). These uniforms were also worn by regular Naval troops temporarily deployed on the ground. The SNLF usually wore this uniform with the collar open over the IJN's white trimmed teeshirt, or a heat resistant button-up shirt later in the war. Towards the closure of the war, the uniform was replaced by a similar four button green uniform known as the Class III (三種), which was intended to be the standard combat dress for all members of the Imperial Japanese Navy. In the final stages of the war, what was left of the SNLF could be seen wearing the previously mentioned uniforms, a green five button work uniform or even just a button-up undershirt and trousers. Officers wore their uniform with a shirt and tie, sometimes opting to not wear the tie during combat and in hot conditions. The tie was originally dark blue but was later changed to green. Green long trousers or pantaloons were worn as standard along with the wool puttees or canvas gaiters for enlisted and leather gaiters for officers. All, except mounted troops (who wore breeches and high leather boots), wore this uniform with horsehide, pigskin or leather ankle-boots.
Originally green rank insignia was used for SNLF officers. These were worn on either shoulder boards or collar tabs. Enlisted men wore red on green, or red on blue round ratings on the upper sleeves. Later the standard black Japanese Naval collar rank was adopted and worn by officers. The enlisted men went to a black on yellow shield rating. During the war most enlisted men wore a cloth name tag affixed above their left breast pocket bearing information such as their name, rank and unit.
The ankle boots had either a hobnailed hard leather sole with metal heel J-cleat or a rubber sole with rubber cleats. When off duty, sailors could wear tabis, although they sometimes wore them in combat as well.
SNLF officers were not usually issued uniforms so they had to procure their own, thus there was a wide variety in the details, color and texture of their uniforms, with uniform colors ranging from pale to dark green. Collars were stiffer and materials were of a higher quality. All ranks later wore a single breasted version of the IJA M98. Officers could wear straight trousers with their M98 uniforms as a walking out uniform and later they could also wear the tunic with the collar open over a white or gray green shirt.
The first helmets used by the SNLF was an Adrian helmet styled helmet purchased from the IJA. The first variation, the Type 1 had a metal anchor on the front and was nicked-named the "star vent" helmet as it had several open vents on the top in the shape of a star. The second variation, the Type 2 was an improved star vent helmet with a metal sakura attached above the vents to prevent rainwater from entering the helmet and had a less flared rim. Along with these helmets, some other early SNLF prototype helmets can be seen. In 1934 the IJN ordered the first batch of Type 3 helmets, essentially a copy of the IJA's Type 90 helmet. It was officially called tetsubo (steel cap) but was called tetsukabuto ("steel helmet") by troops. It was made in the shape of a dome with a short protruding rim all the way around it evenly, unlike the frontally flared rim on the IJN's Type 1 and 2. This helmet was made of a thin inferior chrome-molybdenum steel with many proving to be fragile, being easily pierced by shrapnel and/or gunfire. The IJN Type 3 was even thinner and cheaper made than the Type 1 and 2. An anchor for the IJN was fixed to the front with two bendable prongs attached to the back of the badge. They passed through a slit in the front of the shell and were then bent over to secure the badge to the helmet. The helmet and anchor were then painted in an earth brown color. Late into the war the IJN simplified their helmet production and removed the metal anchor from the design, replacing it with a rivet and a yellow anchor painted on the front. A tan cover known as a first pattern was adopted in the late 30's, it featured a two layer, fiber reinforced olive linen cover with a wool/felt two piece anchor sewn on the front. The second pattern cover had a one piece embroidered anchor insignia sewn on the front. The third pattern was further simplified with a bevo woven anchor insignia sewn onto its front. Nets were then used to add a camo effect. The helmet was secured to the head by an elaborate set of straps descended from those of the Kabuto samurai helmet, although IJN helmet tapes were tied differently from the way the IJA tied them. It was also able to be worn over a field cap. Camouflage nets were widely worn over the helmet especially in the Southern theatre and Pacific island campaign.
- Tropical helmet -
- Type 90 - was like the cork helmet issued by the European imperial powers. It had a metal ventilator at the top, a couple of ventilation eyelets on either side and a brown leather chinstrap. It was mostly worn by officers.
- Type 92 - This was a cork version of the Type 92 steel helmet. It was covered with six segments of cloth, and several versions were available. It was issued to all ranks. Officers usually wore a white cover on theirs. A similar helmet was later worn by the Viet Cong.
The SNLF carried a variety of items, some of it IJN produced material and others being borrowed from the IJA.
- Ammunition Belt - A leather belt with a brass buckle was worn by enlisted members of the SNLF. For riflemen it carried two front ammunition pouches and a rear pouch with an oiler, along with a bayonet attached to the left side. Secondary support troops in the SNLF generally wore the belt just with a bayonet attached on the left side, accompanied by a pistol holster secured by a secondary belt that went over the right shoulder.
- Haversack - Enlisted troops were issued a haversack similar to IJA troops, but the material differed and it was a slightly smaller size. The haversack was normally worn with the strap tucked under their ammunition belt on the left hip and carried rations and items necessary for daily use.
- Canteen - Japanese navy issue canteen, distinct in appearance from the IJA canteen, was standard for all SNLF troops. The canteen had a metal body with a khaki or olive green canvas cover, along with an aluminum cap that was gold, silver or black in color, connected to a shoulder strap by a small chain. For enlisted men the canteen was commonly worn on the right hip and with the strap tucked under the ammunition belt.
- First Aid Kit - Most of the SNLF troops were initially intended to carry a small medical pouch marked with a red cross on the top, held by an adjustable shoulder strap. Inside of it were medical items for troops to conduct emergency first aid should an injury occur during combat.
- Gas Mask - Some troops carried a Japanese navy issue gas mask with them. The gas mask was stored in a canvas bag secured by a small belt. A flexible tube ran from the gas mask to a canister worn on the back with adjustable canvas straps supporting it. The two common gas masks were the Type 93 and Type 97, which saw use by the SNLF extensively during the late 30's, with sporadic use continuing throughout the entire Pacific War.
- Signal Flags - In SNLF units some of the troops were issued two signal flags, one red and one white, stored in a canvas pouch worn on the belt. These flags were intended to be used for communication with Japanese aircraft operating within the area.
- Bugle - Although not common with later war units, initially the SNLF had many troops carry bugles for communication. They carried the same three-looped Type 90 bugle as the IJA and in some cases older double-looped bugles predating the Type 90. Unlike the IJA who held their bugles sideways while playing, SNLF held their bugles straight.
- Heat Resistant Fatigues - Light-khaki cotton fatigues consisting of an open collared three button tunic with a single breast pocket along with shorts were adopted as a work uniform for hot weather, and in some rare circumstances were worn in combat. The fatigues were often worn with white tube socks and a white cotton navy cap or a khaki bucket hat.
- Tenugui (手ぬぐい) is a multi purpose cloth or towel in the Japanese culture, usually made of white cloth, printed with an anchor or patriotic phrases often accompanied by patriotic symbols as well. These were sometimes worn under the helmet or during work as a "Hachimaki" (鉢巻) headband.
- Senninbari (千人針) were a red-sash 1,000 stitch belt sometimes worn around the waist of their uniforms. They were supposed to bring good luck, confer courage, and make the wearer immune from bullets.
Weapons of the SNLFEdit
- 75mm regimental guns
- 70mm Type 92 Gun
- 3-inch (76mm) naval guns mounted on wheeled carriages
- Type 97 81mm Infantry Mortar
- Type 11 37 mm Infantry Gun
- Type 94 37 mm Anti-Tank Gun
- Type 1 37 mm Anti-Tank Gun
- Type 1 47 mm Anti-Tank Gun
- Type 92 13.2 mm AA machinegun on a twin mount
- 25 mm shipboard AA gun adapted for land use
Armor and TanksEdit
- Naval Type 88 Tankette (Carden Loyd tankette)
- Type 92 Heavy Armoured Car (tankette)
- Type 89 Chi-Ro Medium Tank
- Type 95 Ha-Go Light Tank
- Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tank
- Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha Medium Tank
- Short Barrel 120 mm Gun Tank
- Type 2 Amphibious Tank Ka-Mi
- Type 3 Amphibious Tank Ka-Chi
- Type 5 Amphibious Tank To-Ku - prototype only
APCs and Armoured CarsEdit
- Vickers Crossley Armoured Car
- Type 2592 Chiyoda Armoured Car
- Sumida Model P Armoured Car, a variant of the Type 91 Sumida M.2593 used by the IJA
- Type 93 Armoured Car a/k/a Type 2593 Hokoku, Type 93 Kokusanor or "Type 92" naval armored car
- Type 4 Ka-Tsu Amphibious APC Vehicle
Amphibious Trucks and Land TrucksEdit
- Type 95 Mini-truck
- Toyota Amphibious Truck "Su-Ki"
- Type 92 bipod-mounted MGs
- Type 92 13.2 mm heavy machine gun
- Type 3 heavy machine gun
- Type 92 heavy machine gun
- Arisaka rifles
- Type I Rifle
- Hamada, Nambu pistols and Type 26 revolvers
- Sugiura pistol
- MP 18 and MP 28 submachine guns
- Type 100 submachine gun
- Model 2 submachine gun
- Light Mortars
- Grenade launchers
- Grenade launcher rifle
- Light AT weapons
- Military swords
- Pacific Files
- Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces
- Rose, Lisle A. , Power at Sea, Volume 2: The Breaking Storm, 1919-1945, University of Missouri (December 30, 2006) p. 141. ISBN 978-0826217028
- Donaldson, Graham (1999–2000). "The Japanese paratroopers in the Dutch East Indies, 1941-1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942. Archived from the original on 2015-07-08.
- Imperial Japanese Army and Navy Uniforms and Equipment by Tadao Nakata and Thomas B. Nelson
- Imperial Japanese Army and Navy Uniforms and Equipments by Lionel Leventhal Limited
- Rottman, Gordon L.; Takizawa, Akira (2008). World War II Japanese Tank Tactics. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1846032349.
- United States Army's TM-E 30-480 Handbook On Japanese Military Forces
- Zaloga, Steven J. (2007). Japanese Tanks 1939–45. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-8460-3091-8.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces.|
- L, Klemen (1999–2000). "Japanese Uniforms, 1941-1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942.
- Taki's Imperial Japanese Army Page - Akira Takizawa
- Yaklitch, Alsleben and Takizawa. "Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces". The Netherlands East Indies 1941-1942.