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Friday, May 24, 2013

Bolt Action - Review: Battle Honors Type 97 Chi-Ha Japanese Medium Tank

Armored units are an often overlooked branch of the Imperial Japanese Army.  In our movie-minded version of the War, tough as nails Marines struggled against an unseen Japanese foe in the jungle islands of the Pacific.  Rarely does an accurate depiction of Japanese armor make its way onto the silver screen.  However this is not the historical case.  The Imperial Japanese Army developed and fielded armored elements, which were utilized in many of its campaigns against the Chinese, Soviets and Western Allies.  For example, the Japanese used several hundred tanks against the British during the Malaya Campaign. Of all their tanks one of the best and most reliable tank was the Type 97 ShinHoTo Chi Ha.

Type 97 Shinhoto Chi Ha
From Wikipedia

The Type 97 medium tank Chi-Ha was the most widely produced Japanese medium tank of World War II, with about 26 mm thick armor on its turret sides, and 33 mm on its gun shield, considered average protection in the 1930s. Some 3,000 units were produced by Mitsubishi, including several types of specialized tanks. Initial versions were armed with a low-velocity 57 mm gun, but from 1942 onwards, the Model 97 was armed with a high-velocity 47 mm cannon, mounted in a larger turret taken from the Type 1 Chi-He medium tank. This version was designated Shinhoto Chi-Ha ("new turret") and is considered by many to be one of the best Japanese tank designs of the war.

Japanese Army observers had watched tank developments in Europe and studied as avidly as any European military the operational experiences gained by German, Soviet, and Italian tanks in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). In order to improve the anti-tank capability of the Type 97 Chi-Ha, a new turret armed with a high-velocity 47mm gun was combined with the Chi-Ha's hull. This is where the word "ShinHoTo", meaning "New Turret", comes from.

When the Type 97 entered service, properly equipped and supported mechanized infantry units were realized. The Type 97 ShinHoTo Chi-Ha first saw action at Corregidor Island of the Philippines in 1942. The skill with which Japanese commanders maneuvered their mechanized infantry divisions was then best seen in Malaya, where the lighter weight of Japanese medium tanks allowed for a rapid ground advance so heavily supported by armor that British defenders never had a chance to establish effective defense lines. The Type 97 ShinHoTo Chi-Ha served against allied forces throughout the Pacific and East Asia as well as the Soviets during the July-August 1945 conflict in Manchuria. While vulnerable to most opposing Allied tanks (M2/M3 Light, M4 Medium, and T-34), the 47mm high-velocity gun did give the ShinHoTo Type 97 a fighting chance against them.

My Type 97 ShinHoTo Chi Ha is from Battle Honors.  I picked it up in a trade and the sticker said it was $17.  You may be hard pressed to find tank models from Battle Honors anymore.  Old Glory 15's who casts and distributes Battle Honors, doesn't appear to be making Battle Honors tanks anymore and I have been unable to locate them anywhere else on the web.

If I had to take a guess I would say this is a 1/56 or 1/50 scale tank.  It is a bit smaller in scale when placed next to my 1/48 models.  Unlike all my other plastic models kits, this kit is made entirely of metal, which made assembly a breeze.  The turret was three parts, there was a hull MG, a hull and two tracks.  There was also no assembly guide, but it wasn't need.

The kit required very little clean up, but the cast was a bit rough and bland.  The tracks were a bit fiddly and thin and I felt like I was going to break them when I was handling them.  There looks to be an MG missing too.  All the photos I found of the Type 97 ShinHoTo Chi Ha showed a rear facing turret MG.

Overall not a bad little tank kit.  I give it 6 out of 10 Rising Suns.  I would score it higher, but the fact that the kit looks to be OOP and it being a bit rough marked it down a good point or two.

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“Craig Baxter is the Director of the WWPD Northern Research center in Anchorage, AK. When he’s not contributing to he is busy blogging, painting, modeling and rolling dice. You can find more of his work and articles at”

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