Categories
China Pre-1950

M4A2 Sherman (Chinese Service)

republican flag Republic of China (1947-1949?) – 7? Donated
 Chinese PLA (C. 1949) – At least 1 captured
Medium Tank

From USMC to KMT to PLA

The only known photograph of a Chinese M4A2 (Sherman) shows one in PLA (People’s Liberation Army) service on a victory parade in 1949, apparently with a non-standard main gun. The history of this specific tank, with the  serial number “012403”, is not fully known. However, the only other confirmed user of the M4A2 in China was the United States Marine Corps’ 1st Tank Battalion, who were repatriating the Japanese after WWII, thus giving some clues as to the origin of “012403”. However, as this article will show, more questions are raised than answered about the history of the M4A2 in China.

Context: The Chinese Civil War

The Chinese Civil War was a struggle between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese Nationalists (the Kuomintang / KMT / Guomindang / GMD) which began as early as 1927. Typically, however, the Chinese Civil War refers to the period of 1945-1949, which led to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the Republic of China in Formosa (Taiwan).
For an excellent introduction to the Chinese Civil War, see “Decisive Encounters: The Chinese Civil War, 1946-1950” by Odd Arne Westad.

USMC M4A2s in China, 1945-1947

Prior to the discovery of the photo of “012403”, the only M4A2s in China were thought to belong to the USMC’s 1st Tank Brigade, who were part of a repatriation programme to return Japanese nationals home.

Context: Japanese Repatriations from China

At the end of WWII, an estimated 1.5-1.6 million Japanese were left in China, with 1.1 million being in Manchuria (formerly Manchukuo), and just over 500,000 in other areas (overwhelmingly these were in Formosa, nowadays Taiwan, with 479,000, but Hong Kong and other areas also hosted thousands).
In the years 1945-1948, a mass repatriation effort was initiated by the United States under Kuomintang auspices to repatriate those nationals back to Japan. This was chiefly because it was in the US’s interests to have a strong central government in China – regional instability would be intolerable as it may lead to further war – but also it was necessary for that government to be headed by the KMT because of the threat of communist expansion in the region, especially considering the Soviet invasion of Manchuria (9-20 August 1945) and its subsequent occupation. The existence of so many Japanese nationals with an effective refugee status presented questions of law and order, and therefore the KMT regime’s stability. Similarly, these nationals presented an implicit threat to the KMT because many of them had extensive military, economic, and technical expertises, and could be used as pawns in the civil war by the Communists. This fear was not unfounded, as on at least one occasion the Communists were able to force Japanese technicians to repair tanks to equip the first ever armored division of the PLA. (See Gongchen Tank for more).
The resumption of the Chinese Civil War in 1946 meant that the potential for trouble between the Japanese, CCP (Chinese Communist Party), and the Kuomintang was high. Even without the outbreak of war, such a large number of people would need policing by the military to maintain order. Therefore, repatriations in northern China were highly militarised and done with the supervision of US Marines.

The 1st Tank Battalion in China

Included in the USMC’s efforts in northern China were the 1st and 6th Tank Battalions. The former was equipped with M4A2 Shermans and the latter with M4A3s. Towards the end of WWII, the M4A2 was being phased out of US service because of its diesel engine. Put simply, diesel engines complicated logistics because most other US vehicles were petrol-fuelled, meaning that two types of fuel would have to be supplied if the M4A2 was kept in service. Therefore, it was logical to phase the tank out as soon as possible.
The 1st TB was left with only seven M4A2s after the Battle of Okinawa (April-June 1945), along with some M4A2 wrecks, but was not immediately re-equipped with new tanks. This is because the Battalion was not expected to participate in fighting immediately after the Battle of Okinawa. Instead of being earmarked for participation in the next major part of the war against Japan, Operation Olympic (an invasion of Kyushu scheduled for November 1945), the 1st TB was instead going to participate in the later Operation Coronet, a landing at the Kanto Plain near Tokyo which was scheduled for some-time in 1946. As a result, sending the 1st TB new equipment was not a priority and no immediate plans were drawn up for the re-equipment of the 1st TB. However, these Operations were scrapped due to the surrender of Japan in September 1945, and the 1st TB was scheduled for deployment to China as part of aforementioned repatriation operations in October.
For this, the 1st TB was originally going to be reequipped with new M4A3 (105)s, which were stored among new and old equipment in the 5th Depot in Guam. However, when these tanks were requested by the 1st TB, the Lieutenant-Colonel in charge of the depot claimed he did not have them in his inventory. After protests by the 1st TB, the Lieutenant-Commander of the depot was reprimanded by Lieutenant-General Keller E. Rockey, and the base was searched. Sixty M4A3 (105)s were found, but too late to be prepared for deployment to China due to the debacle. As a result, the 1st TB’s M4A2s were sent from Okinawa to China instead.
The 1st TB had its headquarters in Tianjin (Tienstin) from October 1945 until May 1947. They made regular convoys of trucks between Tianjin and the 5th Marines’ garrison in Beiping (nowadays Beijing), a journey of roughly fifty miles. These convoys were mail and supply runs, typically carrying drivers only.
Robert M. Neiman, the commanding officer of the 1st TB, records in his memoirs that one of these convoys was stopped by a fallen tree in the road (the date is not given, but presumably this is before he went back to the US, working in insurance and lumber industries some-time in 1946). When the drivers tried to remove the tree, they came under fire from unknown assailants (possibly bandits or even Communist guerrillas) forcing them to return to Tianjin. As a result, a platoon of M4A2s (reported as ‘almost half of the available tanks’ by Neiman) was attached to the convoy including one with a dozer-blade. When the tanks arrived at the scene, the tree was still in place, and the dozer tank went to move it. The convoy then came under small arms fire again (believed to be just from mere rifles), but the assailants were sent running by the 75mm guns of the tanks. Several tanks were left there to camp the night, surrounded by some concertina wire with noisemakers attached to them. That same night, the noisemakers were set off and the M4A2s lit up their headlights and fired their machine guns, killing ‘a couple of intruders’. From then on, convoys were escorted by tanks, but these tanks were worn-out. Therefore, they were sent out in sections to this camp from Tianjin or Beiping, so that no tank had to cover the full distance in a single run.

Changing Ownership

The 1st TB was eventually relieved from China and sent to Guam in January 1947, except for Company B. Company B remained in China presumably until May 1947, when the entire Battalion was sent back to the US mainland (except Company A, which presumably stayed in Guam). The KMT was handed control over the 1st TB’s camp, likely in January 1947, and was later given the M4A2s when the new M4A3 (105)s arrived for the 1st TB as replacements (presumably these were for Company B and arrived in January 1947) – consider also that the USMC wanted to phase the tank out anyway. It is unknown, however, whether the KMT ever fielded these M4A2s.
Regardless, at least one M4A2 was captured by the PLA, but exactly when, where, how, and if any others were captured remains unclear.

Number of M4A2s

With the 1st TB: In 1944, the average USMC Tank Battalion would have had 46 tanks, but it is unlikely that by 1947 the 1st TB fielded this many. Tanks, especially larger vehicles such as Shermans, are known to have been particularly strained by the Chinese climate, meaning that many would have needed serious repairs. (For an example of the Chinese climate’s effects on tanks, see the Panzer I in KMT service). Seven tanks were serviceable after the Battle of Okinawa, which may give a very rough indication on numbers. Neiman’s memoirs seem to indicate there to have been no less than a dozen tanks.
With the KMT: When the tanks were given to the KMT, they almost certainly did not come with spare parts and maintenance equipment. This means that of the tanks left by the 1st TB, only some of them are likely to have been serviceable, and for how long these tanks could be kept running is unclear. Nota bene – There is no evidence that the KMT even used these tanks at all.
With the PLA: Rather like the PLA’s T-26 M1937, it is very possible that there was only one M4A2 which made it into the PLA. Other M4A2s that were left for the KMT may have been destroyed in combat, too badly damaged, or in need of far too many repairs to be pressed back into service.

Where, when, and how

Neiman remarks that the Chinese Communists eventually captured the 1st TB’s camp after it was given to the KMT, which he believes explains the M4A2 in the Beijing Tank Museum (see below). However, this may not necessarily account for every M4A2’s loss, seeing as though there must have been more than one.
The PLA did not come to control Beiping and Tianjin until January 1949 (as part of the Pingjin Campaign, November 1948 – January 1949), meaning that if the KMT fielded these tanks (indeed, a large ‘if’), then the M4A2s could have been captured at any point between May 1947 (when the 1st TB withdrew) and October 1949 (when the Chinese Civil War ‘ended’), and at any possible front.
However, with regards to the only known M4A2 in PLA service, “012403”, it is most likely that the tank was captured directly from the 1st TB’s former base(s), like Neiman suggests for the one in the Beijing Tank Museum, which is likely to be the very same tank (see below).

M4A2 ‘012403’ of the PLA

One sole photo shows M4A2 “012403” of the PLA’s East China Field Army in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, circa October 1st, 1949. The tank is on a local parade for the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China (the main parade took place in Beijing), and the vehicle’s markings reflect this. All PLA tanks around this time appear to have been marked with the large ‘8-1 star’ (typically on the turret), and the six-digit serial number stencilled on the vehicle in white (typically on the hull). It is unclear if the tank was repainted to the common ‘PLA tank green’, but quite probable given the other decorations.
Some of the vehicle’s technical features (such as the radio mount) are hard to see, not only because of the low resolution of the image, but also because the men on the tank obscure them. Nevertheless, the tank also appears to have some type of box attached to the rear of the engine deck – likely a locally-built stowage box set, perhaps for fuel cans. This remains a mystery, however.

012403’s Main Gun

Whilst ‘012403’ clearly has a heavy machine gun mounted on the turret rear (almost certainly an M2 .50cal), it does not appear to have the standard main gun. There is something in its place which resembles a gun of a much smaller caliber.
Exactly what this new gun is has attracted some debate, with suggestions including: 1. A second M2 .50cal machine gun in a non-standard mount. 2. A 20mm gun of some sort. 3. A Ha-Go’s 37mm gun. 4. A dummy gun for parade purposes. Again, the quality of the image makes it very difficult to suggest any of these with any degree of certainty.
Close analysis of the photo suggests that the original M34A1 mantlet is in place, thus the most likely conclusion is that the gun is simply a dummy gun for the parade. Having established that the gun is a dummy, with part of the original mantlet in place, this means that the M4A2 Sherman in the Beijing Tank Museum is almost certainly ‘012403’ (see below).
It is unclear why the main gun might have been modified. It is possible that the gun was damaged during a battle, whether in service with the USMC, KMT, or PLA. However, more likely is that ‘012403’ may have had its original main gun removed by the KMT and taken as a spare part, or destroyed by the KMT to prevent the PLA from capturing and reusing the vehicle. ‘012403’ may never have actually been operational with the KMT at all, because when the USMC left it behind, it could have been wrecked beyond their repair capabilities but needed scuttling all the same. This may also explain the lack of evidence for the KMT use of the M4A2s. PLA engineers, nonetheless, may have decided and been able to repair at least one M4A2 and replace the missing main gun with something – as mentioned, most likely a dummy gun.

Standard M4A2 Specifications

Dimensions (L-w-H) 5.84 x 2.62 x 2.74 m
19’2” x 8’7” x 9′
Total weight, battle ready 30.3 tons (66,800 lbs)
Crew 5 (Commander, Driver, Assistent Driver/Bow Gunner, Loader, Gunner)
Propulsion General Motors 6046 twin inline diesel engine; 375 hp (280 kW)
Transmission Spicer manual synchromesh transmission, 5 forward and 1 reverse gears
Maximum speed 22–30 mph (35–48 km/h)
Suspension Vertical Volute Spring (VVSS)
Armament (Standard) Main: 75mm Tank Gun M3 Sec: 1x Browning M2HB 50. cal (12.7mm), 2 x cal.30 (7.62 mm) Browning M1919A4
Number in Service Unknown


Artist’s rendition of the M4A2 ‘012403’ of the PLA’s East China Field Army in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, circa October 1st, 1949.

The only known photo of the Chinese use of an M4A2 Sherman. This one is in PLA service in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, circa October 1st 1949. Source: xdza.gov.cn

M4A2 in the Beijing Tank Museum

There is an M4A2 on display in the Beijing Tank Museum, which is missing its main gun. This tank used to have a barrel of an M4A2(76) fixed in place (probably captured during the Korean War 1950-1953, seeing as though China would not have come into contact with such a gun elsewhere), but this has since been removed by the museum. It is also painted in US livery, but the markings do not match ‘102632’ of the 1st TB in Tianjin. The tank was also fitted with a T6 flotation device, as evidenced by weldpoints across the tank (see photos). The sum of these details indicate that the tank has been inaccurately restored.
Regardless, it is certain that this is one of the M4A2s left behind by the 1st TB. Again, Neiman remarks that the Chinese Communists eventually captured the 1st TB’s camp after it was handed over to the KMT, which explains where this M4A2 came from. No M4A2s are known to have been fielded in Korea by the US, thus ruling out the idea that it was captured there like other vehicles in the museum such as the M26 Pershing, M4A3E8, M24 Chaffee, M36 Jackson, M19 GMC, among others. The tank being sourced otherwise, such as through the Lend-Lease programme, is impossible (see below).
If the US colors were original, it would affirmatively indicate that the KMT never used the tank, and that it could have been beyond their repair capabilities and scuttled. When the Beijing museum restores tanks, it is known to usually keep the tanks in the colors of their last user, even if the exact scheme is slightly wrong (for example, some PLA Type 58s were painted in anachronistic three-tone camouflage). Therefore, it could then be argued that this tank was never used by the KMT because it retained its US colors. The upshot of this hypothesis is that the original main gun may have therefore been taken by the KMT as a spare for serviceable vehicles, or even destroyed as part of a scuttling effort. As mentioned, this could well be the case for ‘012403’, too. However, this hypothesis rests on the flimsy assumption that the museum restored it accurately – to be clear it seems odd that the tank would have been repainted into US colours, in contrast to other vehicles in the museum, such as the Chi-Ha tanks, M3A3 and M5A1 Stuarts, which retained their PLA colors – but this M4A2 seems to be an exception, especially considering that the paint scheme does not match ‘102632’. 
As a result, the more likely theory is that the tank is ‘012403’ itself because of the distinctive missing main gun. The upshot of this is that ‘012403’ therefore definitely had a dummy gun placed into the remainder of the original barrel for the parade as opposed to being fitted with a new main gun. Further conclusions are difficult to make with such scant evidence. It also remains unclear why this tank, and not others, was repainted into US colors, when other tanks retained their PLA colors.

M4A2 on display in the Beijing tank museum. Source: flamesofwar.com

Different view of the above, with evidence of a T6 flotation device having been fitted, as highlighted in red. Source:  the.shadock.fr
M4A2 75mm
Different view of the above, at an earlier point in time. The vehicle also has evidence of a T6 flotation device on the rear right-side Source: the.shadock.fr

The same M4A2 as above, but with the 76mm barrel added. It is believed that this was part of an inaccurate restoration using a gun captured in the Korean War. Source: “The Tank Division of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1945-1949” by Zhang Zhiwei.

M4A2 ‘102632’ of the USMC’s 1st TB in Tianjin, date unknown. Note that the markings do not match the M4A2 in the Beijing Tank Museum. Source: com-central.net

M3A3 Stuart in the Beijing Tank Museum, which retained its PLA colors. Source: Beijingman.blogspot

Lend-Lease Programme?

M4A2s cannot originally have come to China via Burma as part of the Lend-Lease programme to the Kuomintang, because no M4A2s were included in this. Moreover, the M4A4 Shermans left operational in Burma were taken back by the US as part of an attempt to avoid escalation of hostilities in China leading up to the resumption of the Civil War in 1946.
On the other hand, 4,100 M4A2 Shermans were sent to the USSR, but it is unlikely that this is where the PLA got any M4A2 from, as the USSR did not deal arms to the Chinese Communists until 1950 due to Soviet policy on the Chinese Civil War. The USSR is, however, reported to have given the PLA weapons captured during the Soviet occupation of Manchuria including small arms and even Japanese tanks.

Conclusions

The KMT was given an unknown number of M4A2 Shermans from the USMC’s 1st TB circa 1947. These tanks were worn out and perhaps beyond KMT’s repair capabilities, meaning that the KMT might have never even used them. A single M4A2 is known to have been in PLA service – ‘012403’, which was probably captured near Tianjin. This tank has dummy gun stuck in the remains of the original barrel most likely for parade purposes. This M4A2 eventually found its way to the Beijing Tank Museum, probably following Soviet arms sales to the PLA in the 1950s, at which point much materiel captured during the Civil War, including Japanese tanks, were phased out. The tank was inaccurately restored with US colors for an unknown reason whilst at the museum. As such tentative conclusions suggest, further sources on the Chinese use of M4A2s are wanting.

Links, Resources & Further Reading

The Tank Division of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1945-1949” by Zhang Zhiwei
MacArthur in Japan: The Occupation: Military Phase: Volume I Supplement (Reports of General MacArthur)” by Douglas MacArthur
Decisive Encounters: The Chinese Civil War, 1946-1950” by Odd Arne Westad
Tanks on the Beaches: A Marine Tanker in the Pacific War” by Robert M. Neiman
xdza.gov.cn
The author extends his thanks to Adam Pawley, Leigh Cole, and Stephen Wisker for their help on sources on the USMC’s 1st Tank Battalion, and Saúl García for comments on the technical features of M4A2s.

Categories
China Pre-1950 WW2 French Prototypes

Renault ZB

France (1935)
republican flag Republic of China (1938-1942?)
Light Tank – 19? built

Upgrading the AMR 33

The Renault ZB was essentially a lengthened test (and later, export) version of the AMR 33 fitted with a more versatile suspension type. The suspension type influenced later designs, such as the Renault R35, but the Renault ZB was rejected for French service. However, in 1936, the Kuomintang and Yunnan Provincial Government ordered sixteen vehicles which appear to have served in Burma in the early 1940s, where they were presumably lost.

Design

As early as 1934, Louis Renault realized that the AMR 33 was in need of modernization. The engine was one concern, which was replaced with the more powerful Nerva Stella 28 CV engine, and it was also moved to the rear of the vehicle instead of the front. Testing showed that the vehicle could hit speeds of up to 72km/h, with 48.5 km/h as an average road cruising speed. Whilst impressive, officers pointed out that the engine, originally used for a sports car, was too delicate, and was replaced with the Renault 432 22 CV 4-cylinder engine, which was originally used for commercial buses. With a weight of just over five tonnes, the vehicle could hit a maximum speed of just under 64km/h, and an average cruising speed of just over 35km/h. An order of 92 was placed on 3rd July 1934, and was named AMR 35.




However, there was another upgrade to be done concerning the suspension. The AMR 33’s suspension was intended to be used for the AMR 35, but was considered rather delicate and unreliable for cross-country driving. Moreover, the oil shock dampeners were rather maintenance heavy, and therefore quite unsuitable for military service. As a result, Renault began to work on a total redesign of the suspension, which led to three different types being developed, tested on AMR 35 chassis number 79758.
One type had the idler wheel on the ground, which was rejected. The second type had two bogies and five roadwheels, and the vehicle was known as the Renault ZB. This suspension type later developed further and used on the Renault R35. The third suspension type, mounted on the Renault ZT, was similar to the ZB, except it only had four roadwheels, and one bogie, and it was accepted for service.

Chinese Service

According to “World War II and Fighting Vehicles: The Complete Guide” by Leland Ness, in March 1936, the KMT ordered 12 Renault ZB (which he refers to as AMR-ZB). Half of these were armed with 37mm SA-18 guns, and the other half had 13.2mm Hotchkiss M1929s. Included in this order were 1500 HE shells, 1500 HE tracer shells, 3000 AP shells, and 300 practice rounds. Four more were ordered by the Yunnan Provincial Government a few months later, which were apparently all armed with 13.2mm Hotchkiss M1929 machine guns.
These were likely ordered because the Germans, who were closely allied to China (read more here), were unable to meet the demands of the Chinese armed forces, and thus the KMT began searching for other military hardware suppliers. France had previously sold vehicles to China – as early as 1919, they had sold Renault FTs to Warlord Zhang Zuolin (Chang Tso-lin) and later sold some to Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang in 1928.
Yunnan received their vehicles in October 1938. The KMT’s tanks were shipped to Haiphong, French Indochina (now Vietnam), but the Japanese applied pressure to the French government, and they were not delivered immediately. Two vehicles finally arrived in China in February 1940, and another eight in June 1940. The other two are unaccounted for. The French also sold the KMT an estimated ten modified Renault UEs with 7.7mm machine guns in August 1936, which reached China in 1940 for the same reasons.
The Renault ZBs were apparently used by the Chinese Expeditionary Forces in Burma, but further information is unclear. One photo shows a Renault ZB with 13.2mm Hotchkiss machine gun in Burma, 1942. These vehicles are likely to have been lost or abandoned in Burma, as they are not known to have taken part in the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949).

Renault ZB of the Chinese Expeditionary Force, Burma, 1942.
Renault ZB of the Chinese Expeditionary Force, Burma, 1942. Illustration by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet



Renault ZB “30” with Hotchkiss M1929 (a 13.2mm machine gun) of the Chinese Expeditionary Force, Burma, 1942. The vehicle appears to be camouflaged by shrubbery.

Renault ZB, reported wrongly by some sources to be in China. This is actually the trial vehicle in France in 1934.

Renault ZB of the Yunnan Provincial Government, armed with a 13.2mm Hotchkiss M1929 machine gun.
Sources:
“World War II and Fighting Vehicles: The Complete Guide” by Leland Ness
“Все китайские танки. «Бронированные драконы» Поднебесной” by Andrei Chaplygin
blog.sina.cn

Categories
China Pre-1950 WW2 Japanese Tankettes

Type 95 So-Ki

Imperial japanese Army IJA (1935-1943) Armored Railroad Car / Tankette – 121-138 built

Occupational Hazard

The Type 95 So-Ki was an armored railroad car and tankette. It had the niche ability to drive on both the ground with its tracks, and on railroads with its retractable railroad wheels. It was technically classified as an engineering vehicle by the Japanese, and was developed likely in response to significant Chinese guerrilla resistance campaigns around the railways in Japanese-occupied Manchuria, where the vehicles appear to have seen most of their service. A small (but unknown) number were also fielded in Burma, and a handful were captured and reused by the Kuomintang (KMT, Chinese Nationalists) in Manchuria at some point between 1937 and 1945. These KMT So-Ki tankettes were later captured by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army during the Chinese Civil War (1946-1950) and reused by their new owners.

Type 95 So-Ki of the People’s Liberation Army, on display in the PLA Tank museum in Beijing. Note the damage on the right of the large hull hatch.

Context: Occupation of Manchuria

The Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation of Manchuria began on September 18th, 1931, following the Mukden Incident. The Mukden Incident was a staged operation by the Kwantung Army in order to justify further expansion into China. In short, a Japanese officer planted a small amount of dynamite near the Japanese-owned South Manchuria Railway in Mukden, which caused very light damage to a bridge. The Japanese blamed the incident on local Chinese dissidents and as a result, the Kwantung Army invaded Manchuria and established the puppet-state of Manchukuo.
Significant movements to resist the occupation were undertaken by Chinese guerrilla fighters, despite orders from the Chinese President, Chiang Kai-shek, not to do so. One of the biggest examples of this resistance was on 4th November, 1931, when the acting governor of Heilongjiang, General Ma Zhanshan, set up a defense on Nenjiang bridge (which was a railway bridge over the Nen River) in order to prevent the Japanese crossing into Heilongjiang Province. The bridge had been dynamited earlier during fighting against the puppet Manchukuo Imperial Army forces of General Zhang Haipeng, but the Japanese sent a repair team escorted by 800 soldiers to fix the bridge.
Ma fielded an estimated 2500 soldiers who opened fire on the Japanese forces late in the day on 4th November in a skirmish that lasted more than three hours. By the end, 120 soldiers of Ma’s forces were dead, but only 15 Japanese were killed in the fighting. Ma’s forces were eventually chased off but later counterattacked. However, they were unable to recapture the bridge due to significant Japanese artillery fire and the presence of Japanese tanks. Between November 5th and 15th, the Japanese managed to kill 400 of Ma’s forces, and wound 300 more.
By this point, Ma’s forces were holed up in the nearby city of Qiqihar, and were ordered to surrender by the Japanese. This order was refused, and on 17th November, the city was besieged by 3500 Japanese soldiers of the 2nd Division. The city was defended by an estimated 8000 Chinese soldiers, but the defenders were inferior in training, leadership, and equipment to the Japanese. Japanese cavalry made the initial breakthrough, and artillery and airpower prevented any Chinese counterattacks which could otherwise have prevented the breakthrough. On November 18th, Ma began evacuating the city, and the next day, his remnant forces fled to other cities to put up their final resistance.
Many other resistance fighters later retreated into nearby Rehe Province (which was still part of Nationalist China at that time), but tens of thousands of others split into smaller guerrilla forces in order to continue resistance. An estimated 120,000 guerrilla fighters were operating in 1933, declining to 50,000 in 1934, and then declining by 10,000 every year until 1938. The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) began to appeal to many of these guerrillas, who willingly signed up with the CCP in order to continue resistance.
Against this background, it seems as though the Japanese wanted an anti-partisan vehicle that was capable of safely transporting soldiers in order to defend railways from these guerrilla fighters. The Kwantung Army had been in favor of light patrol vehicles which could patrol railways independently of large locomotives. The Type 93 So-Mo armored car was one such development, which had wheels for tracks, and wheels for the road. Around 1000 of these were made, and were perfect for transporting railway repair teams. However, it seems as though the Kwantung Army also wanted a tankette in order to provide greater protection for its crews, and the fear factor of a tank. This appears to have been the genesis of the Type 95 So-Ki.

Design Process

The Type 95 So-Ki was produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Tokyo Gas Electric Industry. Production lasted from 1935 – 1943, but total production figures are somewhat unclear. Akira Takizawa reports 121 built, but Steven Zaloga reports 138 in “New Vanguard 140 – Armored Trains“. Leland Ness also reports that in 1941, 29 were built, 16 in 1942, and only 9 in 1943, but does not provide total figures.
In any case, the vehicle was a very sophisticated design, loosely based on the Ha-Go chassis, but featured tank tracks for the ground, and retractable wheels for railways. These retractable wheels were hidden either side of the tracks below the hull, and as such, they are usually out of sight in photos.
Takizawa reports that it took only a minute to turn from railway to track mode, and only three minutes to turn from track to railway mode, and this could be done from within the tankette, making the operation safe for the crew. Takizawa also reports that the vehicle’s wheels could be changed to fit narrow (1067mm), standard (1435mm), and broad (1524mm) gauge tracks, although Zaloga only makes reference to the tankette being able to fit on narrow gauge tracks.

Technical drawing of the Type 95 So-Ki.
The vehicle had only 6 mm of armor, except for the turret, which had 8 mm. This was just enough to defend against small arms fire, which was acceptable because Chinese guerrillas did not typically field anything larger than the usual small arms consisting of rifles and grenades. The tankette could carry a commander/driver and five soldiers. The passengers were typically armed with rifles, and sometimes a Type 11 machine gun, which would be shot from the various firing ports around the vehicle. The vehicle had no standard mounted armament because it was officially classified as an engineering vehicle, and if it were to receive an standard armament, the vehicles would no longer belong to the IJA’s engineers, but to their tankers.
Top speed on rails was up to 45 mph (72 km/h), and if towing a trailer, this was reduced to a mere 25 mph (40 km/h). On its tracks, it could reach up to 19 mph (30 km/h). Photos also show that several So-Ki tanks could link up in order to tow heavier loads on rails.
Crane-carrying vehicles were also developed on the chassis of the So-Ki for larger engineering operations, this almost certainly being the Type 2 Ri-Ki, but further information on this rare vehicle is lacking.

Combat

The vehicle was deployed primarily in Manchuria from 1938, with an estimated 98 being fielded there. They were deployed in every railroad regiment typically as a guard vehicle, or as a transport for munitions and equipment. In non-combat roles, photos show that several So-Ki tankettes would link up to tow heavier loads.

Type 95 So-Ki on rails. Undated, unlocated, likely Manchuria pre-1937.
So-Ki tankettes are also reported to have seen service during offensive invasion operations (presumably railway-borne operations only), but this seems to have been a very rare occurrence. Even when used defensively, these vehicles were particularly troublesome for the Chinese troops (of various armies and warlords) that they encountered, because none of them had any effective anti-tank weapons.
A small but unknown number were also used during the Burma campaigns, although further details are unclear. These, too, were likely used for patrol duties.
One vehicle currently stands in Kubinka tank museum, apparently captured by the Red Army in Manchuria in August, 1945 during the Manchurian Strategic Operation Offensive. Another vehicle was captured by the US in Burma, and was shipped back to the US for further study.

Chinese Service

At the end of WWII, an estimated 1.5-1.6 million Japanese were left in China, with 1.1 million being in Manchuria (formerly Manchukuo), and just over 500,000 in other areas (overwhelmingly these were in Formosa, nowadays Taiwan, with 479,000, but Hong Kong and other areas also hosted thousands). In the years 1945-1948, a mass repatriation effort was initiated by the United States under Kuomintang auspices to repatriate those nationals back to Japan. However, in 1945, the ageing warlord of Shanxi Province, Yan Xishan (閻錫山), secretly recruited thousands of former Japanese soldiers into his private army who took their equipment with them. This was kept secret from both Communist and American forces. Estimates suggest that up to 10,000 Japanese soldiers were among his ranks, including a small number of Type 95 So-Ki tankettes.
Like many warlords during the civil war, Xishan was ostensibly allied to the KMT, but only in that it served his personal interests to have a stable and relatively conservative government in control of China which was let him maintain de facto control of the province. As such, Xishan and his private army were instrumental to keeping Shanxi Province from falling into Communist hands.
It is reported that the tankettes of the Xishan Army were used patrol the Tongpu (nowadays Datong–Puzhou) and Jingjing railway lines, and saw major combat duties during the PLA’s Taiyuan Campaign (5th October 1948 – 24th April 1949). This campaign was swift and brutal, leaving only a few cities either side of each railway line under Xishan’s control by late 1948. At the end of the Taiyuan Campaign, these tankettes were abandoned and at least one was captured and reused by the PLA. This So-Ki is now on display in the tank museum in Beijing with PLA markings.
Several Type 95 So-Ki tankettes were photographed by Mark Kauffman for TIME Magazine in February 1947, in Laiwu, Shandong Province. However, it is unclear with whom these tankettes were serving. The soldiers in the photo appear to be Nationalist soldiers, but could be soldiers of the Xishan Army. That said, it is not known that the Xishan Army operated in Shandong Province. Therefore, these could be other Type 95 So-Ki tankettes in service with another army, most likely the NRA.

Type 95 So-Ki specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 4.9m x 2.6m x 2.54m (on railroad), 2.43m (on tracks) (16.1 ft x  8.53 ft x  8.3 ft OR 7.97 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 8700kg (9.59 US tons)
Crew 6 – 1+5, (Commander/driver and 5 passengers)
Propulsion Unknown gasoline engine, 84hp @2400 RPM
Top speed On tracks – 30 km/h (19 mph). On rails – 72 km/h (45 mph). On rails, towing a trailer – 40 km/h (25 mph)
Armor 6-8 mm (0.24 – 0.31 in)
Armament None – passengers carried rifles and sometimes a Type 11 machine gun.
Range Unknown.
Total production 121 – 138


Type 95 So-Ki in regular Japanese livery.


Type 95 So-Ki in PLA service.


Several Type 95-So Ki tankettes linked up to tow a larger load. This photo clearly shows the wheels on the rails. The soldiers do not appear to be PLA, but could be NRA or of the Xishan army. Laiwu, Shandong Province, February, 1947. Credit: Mark Kauffman for TIME magazine.

Different view of the above. Credit: Mark Kauffman for TIME magazine.

Knocked out Type 95 So-Ki. Unknown date and location.

Type 95 So-Ki of the People’s Liberation Army, on display in the PLA Tank museum in Beijing. The museum’s layout has changed a number of times, hence why tanks appear to have moved from photo to photo.

Type 95 So-Ki, with passengers riding on top of the vehicle, Manchuria, 1940.
Type 95 So-Ki in Kubinka Tank Museum, Russia. Source.

Type 95 So-Ki turret and upper hull. Source.

Type 95 So-Ki suspension detail. Source.
Sources and further reading
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard 140 – Armored Trains” by Steven J. Zaloga
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard 137 – Japanese Tanks 1939-1945” by Steven J. Zaloga
World War II and Fighting Vehicles: The Complete Guide” by Leland Ness
The Manchurian Myth: Nationalism, Resistance, and Collaboration in Modern China” by Rana Mitter
Manchuria under Japanese Dominion” by Shin’ichi Yamamuro
“中國人民解放軍戰車部隊1945-1955” by Zhang Zhiwei.
www3.plala.or.jp, author – Akira Takizawa
On Aviarmor
2004北京军博纪实:坦克装甲车篇(组图)“, an article on the Beijing Tank Museum.
Poster Imperial Japanese Army ww2
Get the Poster of the ww2 Imperial Japanese Army Tanks and support us !

Categories
China Pre-1950

Panzer I Ausf. A (Chinese Service)

republican flag Republic of China (1937)
Light Tank – 15 imported

Chinese Panzers!

Facing a number of external threats in the 1930’s, the Chinese began to procure weapons from abroad in order to modernize their army. One of the many vehicles that Chiang Kai-shek’s government obtained was the Panzer I Ausf.A from Germany. Fifteen arrived in June 1937, with barely enough time to train the Chinese crews for them to take part in the defense against the Japanese that began a month later. Outnumbered, outgunned, and out-performed, the Chinese Panzer I’s served at the Battle of Nanjing (Nanking) in December 1937, but were either destroyed or abandoned during the short battle.

Context: Arming the Chinese

The Chinese had an army that was inferior to foreign counterparts such as Japan, the UK, USSR, and USA for almost a century – it had needed modernization since the First Opium War (1839-1842). Following various attempts since then, in the 1930s, the Nationalists began a major military modernization campaign as they were beginning to see that a war with Japan was almost inevitable. One particular problem that China faced was its lack of AFV’s.
Provincial governments had some improvised AFV’s (some also had a handful imported from abroad), but the Nationalist’s National Revolutionary Army only had some Renault FT’s bought from France during the Northern Expedition, and some captured from the independent warlord Zhang Zuolin or, perhaps, inherited from his son, Zhang Xueliang, who secretly swore allegiance to the KMT after Zuolin’s assassination in 1928. The exact circumstances are unclear.
Some of these FT’s were armed with Manchurian 37 mm (1.46 in) guns which might have been able to destroy Japanese light tanks, but not the Type 89 Yi-Go medium tank, as used in the Battle of Shanghai. Essentially, these FT’s were outdated compared to Japanese tanks, and they were certainly not numerous enough (let alone potent enough) to defend against a possible Japanese onslaught.
As part of a broader military modernization campaign, the KMT hired German military advisors headed by General Hans von Seekt. These advisors convinced Chiang Kai-shek to buy as many arms as possible from Europe – no doubt, a money-making scheme by the German advisors, as China bought plenty of German-produced equipment including Panzer I’s, Sd.Kfz.221s and 222s, field guns and artillery pieces, and even large numbers of the Stalhelm helmet.

Characteristics

Fifteen Panzer I Ausf.A’s were sold to the Kuomintang in mid or late 1936, but they only arrived in June 1937 because the Chinese ordnance department was so poorly organized. The Chinese paid 1.03 million Reichsmarks for the tanks (about US$25 million in today’s money), but they were shipped poorly and were not protected from the elements.
The damage was reported by a Krupp representative, Herr Habermas, from Nanjing, 26th November, 1937:

  • Water, 2-4cm deep, had collected in the hull of the tanks.
  • Lots of parts had rusted, including the gun mounts, the telescopic gun sights, and steering brakes.
  • The electrical components were heavily damaged by the warm and humid air.
  • The cooling fans for the brakes were non-operational without serious cleaning.
  • The batteries for the electrical components were ruined due to heavy oxidization. A representative from Bosch in Shanghai stated that the contact material on the magnetos and voltage regulators was not suitable for tropical environments.
  • Some tool boxes, cloth components, and operation manuals were also partially ruined.

Japanese photo of Panzer I #312 showing the engine. Even from such a poor quality image, the state of disrepair of the tanks is obvious
Japanese photo of Panzer I #312 showing the engine. Even from such a poor quality image, the state of disrepair of the tanks is obvious.
As a result, the KMT accused the Germans of selling used models, which is not what they agreed, but there was little time to dispute this, as war with Japan broke out only a month after the arrival of the Panzer I’s.

Paint Scheme

Regarding their paint schemes, the Panzer I’s were almost certainly pre-war three-tone as they would have been painted by the Germans, as opposed to the later Panzer gray scheme. Photos seem to show them to be a single color, but this is likely due to the paint fading / being worn, the tank being very dirty, or an inherent problem with black and white photos – especially poor quality prints or digital renderings of them.
A three-digit serial number was added on the front and rear of the hull.
A small KMT emblem is often depicted on the side rear of the vehicle, just below a viewport, but this might be a Japanese addition or an apocryphal post-war artist’s addition.

Combat Performance

The tanks were highly unsuitable to the Chinese climate when they were operational. Herr Habermas also reports:

  • The tanks were very prone to overheating, and temperatures inside the tank could get as high as 60 degrees Celsius in the summer, even with all hatches open.
  • Hand and foot levers could hardly be operated as a result of the intense heat, making driving even more hazardous.
  • On a march of any length, the front of the tank had to be ventilated by opening the brake adjustment hatch.
  • Due to the threat of the electrical equipment overheating, the engine compartment had to be ventilated during long marches.
  • Due to the overheating issue, after a long march the gunner could not fire the machine guns when the tank was buttoned-down (IE with all hatches closed).
  • Off-road use of the tanks was unimaginable because the tracks were not wide enough for muddy rice fields (especially anywhere north of the Yangtze River). Essentially, the tracks got stuck in the mud, and the tank threw the track. Off-roading on completely dry fields was possible if the driver was careful.
  • Even in suitable fields, often the dykes that separated rice fields were around 1.5 meters tall, and the Panzer I had trouble clearing those.
  • The only positive for the Panzer I was that it was considered rather roomy when compared to the Vickers tanks sold from Britain 1933-1936.

According to some photos, some Panzer I’s were rearmed with Soviet DP-29 machine guns. Herr Habermas suggests that the Chinese felt that a tank weighing over 5 tons should have an armament consisting of a 20 mm (0.79 in) or 37 mm (1.46 in) gun, or, at very least, a powerful belt-fed machine gun (like the Vickers Mark E Type B and Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tanks), which may go some way to explain this replacement. It may also be the case that the German machine guns were damaged beyond repair, or that the Chinese felt there was only sufficient ammunition to arm a handful of Panzer Is with German machine guns. In any case, photos seem to show more Panzer Is with DP-29s than any other gun.
Interior of a Chinese Panzer I after the Japanese had captured it, as viewed from the turret ring, following the turret's removal. Various parts have been removed, including the original generator for the radio.
Interior of a Chinese Panzer I after the Japanese had captured it, as viewed from the turret ring, following the turret’s removal. Various parts have been removed, including the original generator for the radio.

Context: The Battle of Nanjing, 1937

The Japanese had successfully taken Shanghai by late November 1937, and thus moved onto nearby Nanjing. Chiang Kai-shek, head of the Chinese government, decided that it would be better to try to defend Nanjing than performing a tactical retreat on the basis that if the Chinese could show that they could defend the city, then they might receive aid from the ‘great powers’ (France, UK, USA, etc). Thus, from 20th November, the Chinese began preparing the city’s defense by barricading and bolstering the city’s Ming-era wall, and preparing lines of defense outside the city.
On paper, the Chinese seemed to have an advantage, with an estimated 100,000-150,000 defenders, including three elite divisions which had been trained by the Germans, compared to only 50,000 Japanese attackers. However, the bulk of these defenders had just retreated from the Battle of Shanghai, and were exhausted, low on morale, and low on supplies. Worse still, the Japanese had tanks superior in quality and in number, and they had also enjoyed air superiority since September 1937.
The Japanese march on Nanjing started in late November, and they managed to reach the last line of defense before the city by 9th December. The Japanese were only slowed by overstretched supply lines. Similarly, as a result of the rapid Japanese advance, the Chinese defense was not properly prepared in time and could, therefore, be smashed with ease.
10th December saw fierce fighting at the Nanjing’s walls, and by the evening, Japanese engineers had breached a hole in the Guanghau Gate in the east of the city but were pinned down by Chinese counter-attacks which included tanks (which were, presumably, but not certainly, Panzer I’s).
On 11th December, Chiang Kai-shek ordered the city’s defense to be abandoned, unbeknownst to the Japanese.

Fate of the Panzer I’s

Most of the Panzer Is appear to have been destroyed in Nanjing, with some few being sent to Japan for testing or propaganda displays. Thanks to interviews with former soldiers, the story of vehicles in Nanjing has become somewhat less unclear.

Du Yuming’s account

The following is based on an interview with Du Yuming (Du Lu Ming), a KMT general who would later make a name for himself in the Burma Campaigns (1942-1945), and later in the Chinese Civil War (1946-1949). After the war, Du Yuming was captured in the Chinese Civil War, and released ten years later. He then found a position in the Communist government.
On November 9th, 1937, the Shanghai defense army suffered great losses on all fronts. My army only had one motorized unit, which was the Army Motorized Corps. Inside the Army Motorized Corps, we had three battalions consisting of tanks, recon vehicles, and armored cars. We were given the order to retreat to Hunan. The three battalions all fought at Shanghai, and now retreated to Nanking. At the time, we decided to follow the road from Nanking leading to Hunan. The AFVs were transported via trains to Changsha (the capital of Hunan).
However, Chang Kai-shek did not have a retreat plan. Therefore, there weren’t enough trains and fuel to transport the AFVs. As a result of this, all 3 battalions stayed in Nanking. Just before the Japanese army reached them, they managed to get a bit of fuel. They sent what they could away while the rest stayed. Some vehicles were disassembled and put onto the trains. While awaiting orders (approximately at 10PM on November 20th), He Ying Xing (another commander) suddenly told me: “It’s now decided that Tang Sheng Zhe [another commander] will stay in Nanking. The chairman [Chiang Kai-shek] orders that all German AFVs stay in Nanking to defend.”
Although the German AFVs were excellent, we had nearly no ammunition, and only had 15 vehicles [thus, these were presumably the 15 Panzer I’s]. So, I disagreed with the order. I believed that it would be better if we left the British amphibious vehicles and artillery vehicles in Nanking instead. I thought that because first, Nanking was near water; therefore the amphibious vehicles would have better use here, and if the battle here was lost, they can simply swim across the river and head to North. He Ying Xing said “Don’t even think about retreating to the North. You will defend Nanking to death.” He was adamant about the order to leave the Germany AFVs here instead. Seeing how angry he was, I wouldn’t dare speak out against him again. I was still pretty confused as to why we are using the German vehicles instead of the British.
The Defeated Armored Company
The armored car battalion sent out its last vehicles out of Nanking on December 4th [these were likely the Sd.Kfz.221s and 222s]. The other two companies that stayed in Nanking were all wiped out by the Japanese. On December 13th, Nanking completely fell to the Japanese. But what fate did the vehicles and men belonging to the two Companies meet?
It was only until the 20th December did we see some survivors of the two companies. They told us that from the 5th onward, their orders was to join in on the battle. They told us that most of the men were killed in the fight and that all the German AFVs were lost. It was only a few survivors that made it out of the city. [The following lines refer to events in Liushu Wan’s account – see below]. When the survivors made it to Xiaguan harbor, they saw that the 36th Group were about to leave. When they tried to board the boats, they were denied. Because of that, they tried to swim across the river. Most of the survivors died while trying to swim across, and that is the fate of the Armored Company.
Two True Heroes
The Chinese forces were ill-prepared for the Battle of Nanjing. They had no retreat plan so they were doomed. Knowing this, the morale and motivation of the Chinese forces reached the lowest point possible. One of the survivors [of the Battle of Nanjing, whom Du Yuming presumably met after the battle] told his story about Nanjing. He said that he and another soldier (he described himself and the other soldier as the sons of China) couldn’t handle the shame of losing the battle. [According to the soldier’s story, their] company commander already retreated from the front lines, so they had no leader. [Thus], they took it upon themselves to hide in a destroyed vehicle. They did so until 4PM, when the Japs came. Seeing the Japanese forces approach, they came out of the tank and threw grenades at the Japanese soldiers. The survivor recounted hearing his friend shout “Motherfuckers! I will trade my life for 10 of yours!” while throwing grenades. They then quickly scavenged the Japanese soldiers for their guns and held their positions for many hours. Around dusk, the two soldiers exhausted all their ammunition and decided to escape. One of the soldiers, unfortunately, died during the escape and the other soldier escaped successfully and told his story to me.
After I heard his story, I simply congratulated him. I was still doubting the authenticity of his story. However on November 15th, 1939, during the battle of Kunlun Pass, we wiped out an entire Japanese company headed by Zhongcun Zheng Xiong. While looting the defeated company, we found a Japanese war log. Inside the war logs, it accounted the details of the Battle of Nanjing. While I was reading the logs, I stumbled upon a detailed accounting of an ambush of Japanese troops by two Chinese soldiers hiding in a destroyed AFV. This was the time when I realized that these two soldiers were truly heroes of China [and that the survivor’s story was true]. I set out to look for the surviving soldier who told me the story. However, I learned that he had sacrificed himself in action during the Battle of Kunlun Pass while attacking an enemy position. These two heroes are truly the sons of China. With overwhelming odds, they held their grounds to fight the more well trained, well equipped Japanese forces. They are the roses and pride of the country and a true son to the people of China.

Liushu Wan’s account

Liushu Wan was a soldier serving with the Second Battalion.
On the afternoon of December 12th, 1937, I retreated with the armored company down the Xiaguan riverside. The right side of the pier was stacked with the armored company’s 5 gallon gas tanks along with other supplies. Because everyone had the “Ke Luo Mi” medal (unique to the company), they naturally stuck together. The platoon leader told me “We are currently negotiating with the ferry to let us cross.” Because of the fact that I was the highest ranking there, everyone was willing to be under my command.
Around 9PM, dozens of houses in Xiaguan were on fire. The only thing we could do was rally near the docks. Around this time, the ferry towed some smaller boats near the docks. We began negotiating with the owner of the ferry. What we did was we tied two of the smaller boats together and put planks of woods onto them. We then drove the armored vehicles onto the boat. Because the boats were so small, they were unbalanced, and thus they would tip over in the water when the armored vehicles drove on them. We tried many times, but weren’t able to get the tanks onto the boats. Not even the smaller vehicles would work.
It was about midnight when the tow ferry started to rush us. The only thing I could do now was to gather up the tankers and discuss how to get rid of the armored vehicles and cars. Some of the ideas included blowing them up or placing grenades under the motor (so when the enemy steps on the gas pedal, they would blow up). After a bit more discussing, we chose the second option. After we loaded what we could onto the boats, we all embarked. Before we disembarked, two drivers and two tankers approached me. They told me “We four have decided to stay and fight the Jap devils.” I replied with “Our mission from Command was to head to Puzhen.”
“No! We’re here to fight Jap devils! The enemy is here – we should fight them first.”, the driver insistently said. At the same time, the two tankers also said “We still have weapons on our armored vehicles. We might as well give the Japs a good fight if we’re going to destroy the vehicles.” “Where is your platoon leader? Go ask them. I cannot make this decision.” I replied. I wanted them to go with us, but the two drivers became impatient and said “We will take responsibility. We’re leaving.” I then said hastily “Alright. Choose your weapons, and enough ammo. But your main duty is to make sure all these vehicles get destroyed.” I then told my superiors to leave them 10 days worth of food, some money and two Mauser rifles. They then jumped off of the boat and disappeared into the dark.

Other accounts

According to a Japanese newspaper report, on 9th December, four Panzer I’s engaged four Japanese war correspondents from Ashahi News, but were rescued by the Japanese Army in a battle that lasted twenty minutes. Three of the Chinese tanks were destroyed, and one retreated.
As the memoirs tell us, and according to Benny Tsang (a Chinese armor historian), the remaining Panzer I’s (possibly around ten) were abandoned in Xiaguan District (in the south of Nanjing) at night time on 12th December. Crowds of civilians and soldiers went to Xiaguan’s harbor in order to escape the Japanese and abandon the city. They were blockaded by barrier troops (who were there to stop mass desertions), but a tank unit made up of Panzer Is burst through them and drove onto the harbor. When they arrived, they found that there were few ships in the harbor to escape in, and the tanks were subsequently abandoned.
Civilians and deserting military personnel alike tried to board the last ships, but these last few ships were so overcrowded that they sank in the Yangtze River. Japanese gunboats had been sailing up the river in order to surround the city as part of the Japanese invasion plan, and as a result, further river-borne retreats were made impossible.
After 9th December, there was little chance of escape for those left in Nanjing. Realising this, tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers left in the city began removing their uniforms and deserted en masse.
The Rape of Nanjing, also known as the Nanjing Massacre, commenced the following day.

Panzer I’s sent to Japan

From 8th to 15th of January 1939, a display of Japanese tanks and captured Chinese weapons was put on in Tokyo. Several Panzer I’s were put on display, but were recorded on plaques as being Soviet-made, for political reasons. These were presumably the ones abandoned in Nanjing, as opposed to any of the destroyed vehicles.
At least two Panzer I’s (possibly from the aforementioned three) were put on display at Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan around February 1939. These are likely to have been also used for performance testing by the Japanese.

Conclusion

The Chinese Panzer Is were inevitably going to see a short service life. When they arrived, they were in poor condition, and regardless of their condition, their Chinese crews were poorly trained and facing a superior Japanese force at Nanjing. Some German-supplied vehicles (namely Sd.Kfz. 221s and 222s) managed to escape the battle and went on to form part of the 200th Division in late 1937 (or, officially, January 1938) – the first formal mechanized division of the NRA. The KMT procured weapons from the USSR to replace their losses at Shanghai and Nanjing, and to fill up the ranks of the 200th Division (most of the AFVs were T-26s). In any case, Chiang Kai-shek’s flirtation with German military hardware had come to an end.

Panzer I Ausf.A in KMT service
Panzer I Ausf. A in KMT service, Battle of Nanjing, 1937. The vehicles would have been sent in tri-color camouflage, but photos show that the paint appears to have faded.

Chinese Panzer I Ausf. A’s with DP machine guns, abandoned in Nanjing, December 1937.Chinese Panzer I Ausf.As with DP machine guns, abandoned in Nanjing, December 1937.
Chinese Panzer I Ausf.A’s with DP machine guns, abandoned in Nanjing, December 1937. The soldiers do not seem to fit with the rest of the photo, meaning that this is likely to be a contemporary propaganda photo based on this original image.
Chinese Panzer I, reportedly captured on December 9th, 1937.
Chinese Panzer I, reportedly captured on December 9th, 1937. According to one source, this tank, along with three others, engaged four Japanese war correspondents for Ashahi News, but these were rescued by the Japanese Army in a battle that lasted twenty minutes. Three of the Chinese tanks were destroyed, and one retreated. This particular tank is armed with Soviet DP-29 machine guns.
A Nationalist Renault FT, two Panzer Is (armed with Soviet machine guns), two T-26s (missing their armaments and mantlets), and just in shot, a Vickers Mark E Type B on display in Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan, February 1939.
A Nationalist Renault FT, two Panzer I’s (armed with Soviet machine guns), two T-26s (missing their armaments and mantlets), and just in shot, a Vickers Mark E Type B on display in Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan, February 1939.
A photo taken by the US Army showing a Chinese Panzer I bogged down during training around June 1937
A photo taken by the US Army showing a Chinese Panzer I bogged down during training around June 1937.
Undated and unlocated image of a Chinese Panzer I, having been captured by the Japanese.
Undated and unlocated image of a Chinese Panzer I, having been captured by the Japanese.

Different view of the Panzer I’s captured at the harbor, circa December 13th. Japanese flags have now been attached to the tanks.
Several Chinese Panzer Is on display in Tokyo, January 1939.
Several Chinese Panzer I’s on display in Tokyo, January 1939.
Panzer I on display in Japan, January 1939. The KMT Sun on the hull is likely a Japanese addition to make it clear that the tank was captured and is not Japanese.
Panzer I on display in Japan, January 1939. The KMT Sun on the hull is likely a Japanese addition to make it clear that the tank was captured and is not Japanese.

Panzer I during Japanese testing. Note the new Japanese Imperial star added next to the driver’s vision hatch.
Panzer I during Japanese testing. Note the new Japanese number plate.
Panzer I during Japanese testing. Note the new Japanese number plate.

A Japanese assessment of the Panzer I turret interior.

Different view of the above, showing the gun sights.

Different view of the above.

Different view of the above.

Japanese newspaper, showing an article regarding the Battle of Nanjing.

Sources

Benny Tsang provided many documents relating to Panzer I’s in China that can be reproduced upon request.
Correspondence with Guillem Martí Pujol regarding the camouflage scheme of exported Panzer I’s.
Defense of Nanking – The Diary of the RoC’s Battle Against the Japanese (南京保衛戰—原國民黨將領抗日戰爭親歷記)” edited by the Committee of Historical Material of the People’s Republic of China (載中國人民政治協商會議全國委員會文史資料硏究委員會), 1987. Special thanks to Leo Guo for translating and interpreting the text.
Panzer Tracts No.1-2 Panzerkampfwagen I” by Thomas L. Jentz.
AFV Collection No. 1: Panzer I: Beginning of a Dynasty” by Lucas Molina Franco

Categories
China Pre-1950

Vickers Mark E Type B (Chinese Service)

republican flag Republic of China (1934-1937)
Light Tank – 20 imported

Chiang Kai-shek’s Armored Might

The Vickers Mark E Type B (or Vickers 6-ton) was a huge export success, being sold to various nations across the world in the 1930s. With Japan occupying large parts of China (notably Taiwan and Manchuria) and German advisors suggesting that they should buy European weapons, the Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang / Guomindang – KMT / GMD for shorthand) began to procure weapons from abroad.
The British company, Vickers, was one of a few sources of Chinese AFVs (Armored Fighting Vehicles) in the early 1930s, supplying 60 light tanks of three different types to the KMT. With its low velocity 47 mm (1.85 in) gun, the Vickers Mark E Type B was China’s most potent tank until they were all destroyed in 1937.
Standard Vickers Mark E Type B in Chinese Nationalist service. Date and location unknown - likely before 1937
Standard Vickers Mark E Type B in Chinese Nationalist service. Date and location unknown – likely before 1937.

Arming the Chinese

Given that a war with Japan was almost inevitable and the Chinese Communist Party was still on the loose, the Nationalists began a major military modernization campaign in the 1930s. One particular problem that China faced was its lack of AFVs.
Provincial governments had some improvised AFVs (some also had a handful imported from abroad), but the Nationalist Army only had some Renault FTs bought during the Northern Expedition from France, and some captured from the independent warlord, Zhang Zuolin, or perhaps, were inherited from his son, Zhang Xueliang, who secretly swore allegiance to the KMT after Zuolin’s assassination in 1928. The exact circumstances are unclear.
Whilst some of these FTs were armed with Manchurian 37 mm (1.46 in) guns which might be able to destroy Japanese light tanks, but not the Type 89 Yi-Go medium tank, as used in the Battle of Shanghai. Essentially, these FTs were outdated compared to Japanese tanks, and they would certainly not be numerous enough (let alone potent enough) to defend against a possible Japanese onslaught.
As part of a broader military modernization campaign, the KMT hired German military advisors headed by General von Seekt. These advisors convinced Chiang Kai-shek to buy as many arms as possible from Europe – no doubt, a money-making scheme by the German advisors, as China bought plenty of German-produced equipment including Panzer Is, Sd.Kfz.221s and 222s, field guns and artillery pieces, and even large numbers of the Stalhelm helmet.

Imports

Taking the advice of the Germans, the KMT began seeking out arms contracts. Eventually, the Nationalists imported 60 tanks from Vickers between 1930 and 1936 and are as follows:

  • 1930: 12 Vickers Mark VI Machine Gun Carriers with six trailers and spare parts.
  • Early 1933: 12 Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tanks were sold to the Canton (Guangdong) Provincial Government. (Possibly unarmed). These were presumably appropriated by the Nationalist Army, as the total number of tanks fielded by the KMT in Shanghai numbers to about 60, and excluding these 12 VCL Light Amphibious Tanks, the number bought by the KMT is only 48. The figure of 60 also presumably excludes the Vickers Dragon, an armored gun tow tractor which was sold in small numbers (possibly a dozen) to China.
  • Late 1933: 1 Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tank.
  • Early 1934: 12 Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tanks, 12 Vickers Mark B Type Es (with 3200 47 mm rounds). Delivered to Nanking/Nanjing between 29th September – 13th November 1934.
  • Mid 1934: 4 Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tanks, 4 Vickers Mark B Type Es (with 2860 47mm rounds, and plenty of spare parts). Delivered between 11th March – 10th May 1935.
  • Late 1935: 4 Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Amphibious Tanks, 4 Vickers Mark B Type Es (with 2400 47mm rounds). The Mark B Type Es had extended turrets equipped with Marconi G2A radios. Delivered 21st October 1936.

Organization of the Chinese Vickers Mark E Type Bs

All 20 Mark E Type Bs were assigned to the 1st and 2nd Armored Companies. In total, these Companies had 30 tanks each – the 40 other vehicles were almost certainly the other types sold from Vickers.
These companies were assigned to defend Shanghai in 1937 against the Japanese.

Context: The Second-Sino Japanese War

In its most basic terms, the Second-Sino Japanese War’s immediate cause was an escalation of a fairly common local exchange of gunfire between a Chinese garrison and the Japanese garrison in Beiping (Beijing). Chiang Kai-shek was concerned that this was evidence of the Japanese intention for further expansion into China. Chiang began moving his troops from central China up to the north in order to be ready for further Japanese aggression, but the Japanese saw this as a threat, and by late July, both the Japanese and the Chinese were mass-mobilizing for war. In a preemptive strike, Japan sent the elite Kwantung Army (along with local allied armies) into Beiping and Tianjin on July 26th, and both were under Japanese control by the end of the month.
Fighting escalated in the Hubei province and the Chinese defense was left to local military commanders such as Song Zhueyan. After various meetings within the Kuomintang, Chiang decided to defend against the Japanese invasion in Shanghai.
Chiang used his best troops to defend the city – the 87th and 88th Divisions, which were trained by the German advisors. An estimated 200,000 Chinese soldiers from across China poured into the city and took up defensive positions, including all of the British tanks that China had imported. In early August, the Japanese began landing in Shanghai from the Cruiser Izumo. The Nationalists attempted to destroy the Izumo through a daring aerial attack on 14th August, but this alerted the Japanese to the importance of Shanghai to the Nationalists.
Japan began to deploy large numbers of troops (around 100,000 troops by early September, just shortly into the battle), including an estimated 300 tanks of various classes (according to photographs, this included many Type 89 Yi-Go tanks). The city was heavily bombed by the Japanese air force, in order to soften up resistance, but early attempts to capture the city by the Japanese caused stalemates along the narrow streets, and both sides began to dig-in. It was at this point that the Chinese began using their Vickers tanks.

Combat: Shanghai Noon

There are few details on the exact combat performance of the Mark E Type Bs, but it seems as though all of the KMT tanks were lost early on in the battle, probably during the First Phase (August 12th – 22nd) in urban fighting, as evidenced by photographs. The Vickers Mark E Type B’s gun was a relatively high caliber one for that time and should have had no issue in dealing with Japanese fortified positions.
Japanese SNLF behind a barricade face off against what appears to be a Vickers Mark E Type B. Given the position of the photographer, this is almost certainly a staged propaganda photo
Japanese SNLF behind a barricade face off against what appears to be a Vickers Mark E Type B. Given the position of the photographer, this is almost certainly a staged propaganda photo.
Peter Harmsen reports that two Armored Companies (presumably the 1st and 2nd) were put at disposal of the 87th Infantry Division, and all of the tanks were lost. Despite being Chiang Kai-shek’s elite soldiers, the defenders of Shanghai were inadequately trained. Some of the tanks had only just arrived from Nanjing, and the crews were not trained for coordinated attacks, nor had they been able to establish a rapport with local troops. The two Armored Companies were, therefore, unaided by infantry, which left the tanks vulnerable to enemy AT fire (interestingly, the Japanese had the very same problem).
An important point to note is that even with Shanghai’s sometimes narrow streets, all of the Vickers tanks sold to China were fairly small, and would have no issue traversing in Shanghai. However, the streets of Shanghai would be the end of the Vickers tanks. When deploying their tanks, the Chinese neglected to seal off streets adjacent to the tanks, meaning that the Japanese could flank and destroy them.
Photographic evidence indicates that the vehicles were knocked out by Japanese AT guns or tanks, which could punch straight through the Mark E Type B’s turret. With only a mere 25.4 mm (1 inch) of riveted armor, it is no surprise that they were no match for the IJA (Imperial Japanese Army).
However, this is not the full story. Harmsen reports an incident on August 20th, 1937, on the Yangshupu front. General Zhang Zhizhong was inspecting an unknown number of tanks and got talking to a young tank officer. The officer complained that enemy fire was too fierce, and that infantry could not keep up with the tanks. Shortly after this discussion, the tanks started an assault, but they were all wiped out by shells fired mostly from the Japanese vessels anchored on the Huangpu River.
The rest of the Vickers tanks at Shanghai, armed only with machine guns, appear to have suffered a similar fate.

Aftermath

After the battle had ended, at least one (but possibly more) Vickers Mark E Type B was recovered by Japan. According to photographic evidence, it was put on display at Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan, February 1939, along with various other KMT tanks, including two Panzer Is (armed with Soviet DT or DP machine guns), two T-26s (with their guns removed) and a Renault FT armed with a machine gun. The Panzer Is were likely captured in Nanjing (where the majority of German and Italians supplied AFVs were fielded and lost).
According to one source, a photograph may show several Vickers Mark E Type B in PLA service, as training vehicles in north China in Xuzhou, 1949. There may be as many as 14 that were captured during the Civil War, but evidence of use of Vickers Mark E Type Bs by the KMT after the Battle of Shanghai (1937) is lacking. If the source is to be believed in its claim (a claim which they note as speculative), then the vehicles may have simply been captured by the PLA from the Japanese, who presumably kept the vehicles in storage. However, Dr. Martin Andrew notes that the uniforms in the photograph appear to be pre-war, the Vickers tanks were destroyed at Shanghai, and there were plenty of other tanks that could have been used for training by that time, such as Stuarts.

Specification

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.55 m x 2.32 m x 2.21 m
(14ft 11in x 7ft 7in x 7ft 3in)
Total weight, battle ready 9.6 tons
Crew 3
Propulsion 4-cyl gas flat air cooled Armstrong-Siddeley, 90 bhp
Speed (road/off-road) 31/16 km/h (19.3/9.9 mph)
Range (road/off road) 240/140 km (150/87 mi)
Armament 47 mm (1.85 in) gun
Armor 6 to 15 mm (0.24-0.59 in)
Track width 28 cm (11 inches)
Track link length 12.5 cm (4.9 inches)
Total imported 20

Chinese Vickers Mark E Type B, Shanghai, 1937.
Chinese Vickers Mark E Type B, Shanghai, 1937.
Chinese Vickers Mark E Type B with Marconi G2A radio
Chinese Vickers Mark E Type B with Marconi G2A radio, Shanghai, 1937.
Vickers Mark E Type B, presumably being inspected by locals in Shanghai, 1937
Vickers Mark E Type B, presumably being inspected by locals in Shanghai, 1937.
One of the four Chinese Vickers Mark B Type Es with an extended turret - this was in order to fit the radio.
One of the four Chinese Vickers Mark B Type Es with an extended turret – this was in order to fit the radio. Japanese soldiers are inspecting the vehicle, which appears to have sustained light damage. It is unclear whether the crew escaped. Battle of Shanghai, 1937.
Knocked out Vickers Mark B Type E with an extended turret being inspected by Japanese officers.
Knocked out Vickers Mark B Type E with an extended turret being inspected by Japanese officers. The damage to the rear of the turret is an exit hole from a shell fired by a Japanese tank or AT gun. It seems likely that the shell punched straight through the front of the tank’s turret. Battle of Shanghai, 1937.
Standard Mark E Type B, apparently knocked out. Battle of Shanghai, 1937
Standard Mark E Type B, apparently knocked out. Battle of Shanghai, 1937.
Mark E Type B, Battle of Shanghai, 1937.
Vickers Mark E Type B, Battle of Shanghai, 1937.

Different view of the above.

Different view of the above.
A Nationalist Renault FT, two Panzer Is (armed with Soviet machine guns), two T-26s (missing their armaments and mantlets), and just in shot, a Vickers Mark E Type B on display in Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan, February 1939
A Nationalist Renault FT, two Panzer Is (armed with Soviet machine guns), two T-26s (missing their armaments and mantlets), and just in shot, a Vickers Mark E Type B on display in Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Japan, February 1939.
A Japanese soldier poses on a Vickers Mark E Type B with his flag. It appears as though the vehicle had sustained a small penetration in the middle of the hull, as well as an AT gun hit on the coaxial machine gun, and another on the right of the main gun.
A Japanese soldier poses on a Vickers Mark E Type B with his flag. It appears as though the vehicle had sustained a small penetration in the middle of the hull, as well as an AT gun hit on the coaxial machine gun, and another on the right of the main gun.

Sources

Correspondence with Dr. Martin Andrew regarding Chinese AFVs. He had checked Vickers factory archives and had compiled a list of Vickers arms sales to China.
The Tank Division of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1945-1955” by Zhang Zhiwei
Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze” by Peter Harmsen
China’s War with Japan 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival” by Rana Mitter

Categories
China Pre-1950

Gongchen Tank & Chi-Ha (Chinese Service)

Chinese PLA (1945-1959)
Medium Tank – 100+ captured

The PLA’s First Tank

The Gongchen Tank (“Heroic Tank”, 功臣號) refers to a specific Chi-Ha Shinhoto captured by the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) in 1945. The story is part of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) folklore and its fine details seem somewhat fantastical. Nevertheless, the Gongchen Tank appears to have survived the Civil War and has been on display in a museum in Beijing since its retirement in 1959.
Large numbers of Chi-Ha and Chi-Ha Shinhoto (along with various other types of ex-Japanese tanks) were used extensively by the PLA, (and many were also used by the KMT – Kuomintang, the Chinese Nationalist Party). When the Japanese left China, following the end of WWII, they left behind their military equipment – the disarmament being left to the USSR. Fortunately for the PLA, the Soviets were sympathetic to them and armed the PLA with ex-Japanese weapons. However, according to the story, the Gongchen Tank was captured without Soviet involvement.
The Gongchen Tank on display in the main hall of the military museum in Beijing. The red writing does not appear to be faithful to the original scheme.
The Gongchen Tank on display in the main hall of the military museum in Beijing. The red writing does not appear to be faithful to the original scheme.

Gongchen Tank (功臣號)

The story of the Gongchen Tank is a little fantastical and textual evidence seems a little sketchy in some places. The story may have been significantly embellished by the CCP for propaganda purposes. To add to this, certain details of the story appear in one source, but not another. As a result, the story told here is a composite based on various texts and photographs.

Cornered in Shenyang

In 1945, the Communist forces in Shenyang (Liaoning Province, northeast China) discovered two Chi-Ha Shinhoto tanks which they designated “101” and “102”. Confusingly, one source suggests that they had modifications to the turret and had their main guns replaced with 47 mm (1.85 in) guns, but this only appears to mean that they were Shinhoto models (also consider that the Gongchen Tank in the Beijing museum is a Shinhoto).
The KMT was advancing upon Shenyang, so the Communists tried to quickly repair the tanks and escort them back to CCP-controlled areas. They forcibly enlisted the help of Japanese engineers for the repairs1 and scavenged for spare parts in order to speed things up.2 The Japanese engineers eventually revolted and sabotaged “101”, leaving Communist forces with only one functional tank (which would later become known as the Gongchen Tank).1

On December 1st, 1945, the Northeast Special Tank Brigade (東北特縱坦克大隊) was formed in Shenyang, with “102” (the only tank in the brigade) and thirty soldiers. The Communists then decided to retreat from the city, so the tank smashed through a KMT blockade and drove into the safety of a CCP-controlled area.
After the escapade, the vehicle became part of Tonghua Artillery School in Liaoning Province. Several other tanks (of unknown models) joined shortly after.2
Post-civil war propaganda photo of the Gongchen Tank
Post-civil war propaganda photo of the Gongchen Tank.

First Combat

The Gongchen Tank’s first combat is reported to be in Suiyang County (now Suiyang Town) in Heilongjiang Province, northeast of Shenyang Province.
The four tanks from Tonghua Artillery School were brought into Suiyang County via train. However, they were delivered too close to the battle, which meant that the train was shelled, creating a “sea of fire” (火海). Fortunately for the Communists, the tanks were not damaged from the fire. The source reports that the tanks went on to quickly kill 3000 KMT soldiers,no doubt an exaggeration.
Any further details on the battle are lacking.

Battle of Jinzhou, 1948

In October 1948, “102” saw urban combat at the Battle of Jinzhou, in the Liaoning Province. Jinzhou was defended by 100,0002 (in fact, probably more) KMT soldiers led by General Fan Hanjie (范汉杰).
The North China Tank Brigade had 15 tanks by this point. “102” had also become very respected, and earned itself the nickname “Old Man Tank” (老头坦克), a name which implies the vehicle to be dated but respectable, and still sturdy.
Several tanks (of an unknown model) were damaged early on in the battle when crossing a river and were unable to continue fighting.
Thus, “Old Man Tank” led a charge with Communist infantry into KMT positions,1 and sustained several hits, which blew a political officer’s fingers off,2 who was presumably inside the tank. As a result, the advancing infantry no longer had any tank fire support. Knowing the situation was critical, the driver, Dong Laifu (董來扶)1,2 got out of the tank, made some hasty repairs under enemy fire, and got the tank operational again.1
After the battle, Dong Laifu and the tank’s machine gunner, Wu Peilong (吳佩龍), were commended as first class, and the tank was renamed “Gongchen Tank” (meaning “Heroic Tank” 功臣號).2

Post Civil-War Career

Gongchen Tank had the honor of leading the victory parade on 1st October 1949, at Tiananmen Square. Dong Laifu was also given the title “Tank Fighting Hero” (坦克战斗英雄) in August 1950 by the Central Military Commission.2
The Gongchen Tank was finally retired in 1959.
Gongchen Tank leading the victory parade in Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949
Gongchen Tank leading the victory parade in Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949.

Other Chi-Ha Tanks in PLA Service

The Chi-Ha and Chi-Ha Shinhoto were used extensively by the PLA. In fact, parade photos show that large numbers of the Chi-Ha, Chi-Ha Shinhoto, (and the Ha-Go, for that matter) were in service in 1949. One photograph even shows at least 35 Chi-Ha Shinhotos!
Chi-Ha Shinhotos are reported to have received some modifications in PLA service, such as the replacement of the original engines with 500hp Kharkov V-2 engines. Unfortunately, tanks on display in museums in China have had their engines removed and it is difficult to verify this.
Their exact combat history is hard to judge without first-hand accounts, but one photograph shows regular Chi-Ha tanks advancing into Shenyang, Liaoning Province, in 1948. It could be the case that the majority of the PLA’s Japanese tanks were captured in and saw service in the northeast. Evidence is rather lacking on specific usage during the Civil War, aside from the Gongchen Tank’s story.
Four (apparently regular) Chi-Ha tanks advancing into Shenyang, Liaoning Province, 1948.
Four (apparently regular) Chi-Ha tanks advancing into Shenyang, Liaoning Province, 1948.
The exact numbers of Japanese tanks in PLA service are not available. Any Japanese vehicle left behind in China following their withdrawal could have been used by the PLA. It is estimated that the PLA used at least 100 Chi-Ha and Chi-Ha Shinhoto tanks.
According to Dr. Martin Andrew, most Japanese tanks in PLA service were phased out following Soviet arms sales, 1950-1955.

Kuomintang Chi-Ha Tanks

In May, 1946, the KMT is reported to have the following Japanese tanks in service: 67 Type 97 Chi-Ha Shinhoto, 71 Type 97 Chi-Ha, 117 Type 95 Ha-Go, and 55 Type 94 TK.
It is possible that the KMT used any of the IJA’s AFVs that they could get their hands on. However, the USSR took control of Japanese disarmament, and most of the IJA’s equipment seems to have gone to the PLA. In any case, the KMT captured a large variety of Japanese tanks.
A Kuomintang Chi-Ha Shinhoto. The white sun emblem appears to have been hastily painted over the original Japanese camouflage scheme.
A Kuomintang Chi-Ha Shinhoto. The white sun emblem appears to have been hastily painted over the original Japanese camouflage scheme.

M3A3 (Stuart) and several Chi-Ha tanks in Kuomintang service. Undated, unlocated, possibly (according to an inference from the source) Northeast China, circa 8th February, 1946.

The Gongchen Tank in its
The Gongchen Tank in its “October 1st” colors – as seen on the victory parade, October 1st, 1949.
The Gongchen Tank in museum colors - a People's Liberation Army Chi-Ha Shinhoto.
The Gongchen Tank in museum colors – a People’s Liberation Army Chi-Ha Shinhoto.
Chinese Nationalist (Kuomintang) captured Chi-Ha Shinhoto. Apparently original Japanese colors with a KMT sun painted on top
Chinese Nationalist (Kuomintang) captured Chi-Ha Shinhoto. Apparently original Japanese colors with a KMT sun painted on top.
Photograph showing at least 35 Chi-Ha Shinhotos on parade, presumably 1st October 1949
Photograph showing at least 35 Chi-Ha Shinhotos on parade, presumably 1st October 1949. These had white serial numbers, several PLA stars (one on either side of the turret, one on the rear), and a white band around the turret ring. Numbers that are clearly visible are: 31242 (right foreground), 31244 (left foreground), and 31247 (top right).
PLA Chi-Ha Shinhoto 34458 and 34457 on parade in Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949
PLA Chi-Ha Shinhoto “34458” and “34457” on parade in Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949.
Pair of Chi-Ha Shinhoto tanks on parade, Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949
Pair of Chi-Ha Shinhoto tanks on parade, Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949.
Chi-Ha Shinhoto 3435x (at least one number, probably two, are covered by a man), with tank crews enjoying some downtime.
Chi-Ha Shinhoto “3435x”, with tank crews enjoying some downtime.
Two PLA Chi-Ha Shinhotos and their crews, presumably during downtime
Two PLA Chi-Ha Shinhotos and their crews, presumably during downtime.
PLA Chi-Ha Shinhoto in a strange livery. The writing says Heroic Tank, but unlike the Gongchen Tank, this is written in Simplified Chinese, which means this is not an original camo scheme.
PLA Chi-Ha Shinhoto in a strange livery. The writing says “Heroic Tank”, but unlike the Gongchen Tank, this is written in Simplified Chinese, which means this is not an original camo scheme. The red and white roadwheels are also suspect. The number “006” is likely not original, as is the strange box added to the turret.
The Gongchen Tank, as discernible by the writing on the side, outside in the Beijing museum. This paint scheme appears faithful to the original.
The Gongchen Tank, as discernible by the writing on the side, outside in the Beijing museum. This paint scheme appears faithful to the original.
The Gongchen Tank, on display in the open
The Gongchen Tank, on display in the open.
A regular PLA Chi-Ha, on display at the Beijing museum.
A regular PLA Chi-Ha, on display at the Beijing museum.
18 PLA Ha-Go tanks on parade in Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949
18 PLA Ha-Go tanks on parade in Tiananmen Square, 1st October 1949.
Ha-Go 31414 of the PLA
Ha-Go “31414” of the PLA.

Sources and notes

1 – According to an article from “Weapons Tactical Illustration Magazine” (兵器戰術圖解雜誌) July 2004.
2 – According to “Our Army’s First Tank” by Yin Guowang, article in “Knowledge of Weapons” (or Ordnance Knowledge – its official English title) (兵器知识) magazine, February 1996.
The Tank Division of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1945-1949” by Zhang Zhiwei
The author would like to extend his thanks to Dr. Martin Andrew, and a translator (who wishes to remain anonymous) for helping with sources.