WW2 Japanese Other Vehicles

Type 1 Ho-Ki

Japan (1941-1945)
Armored Carrier – Around 200 Built (Estimated)

The Type 1 Ho-Ki Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) was developed by the Imperial Japanese Army between 1941 and 1942, although it saw mass production later on, in 1944. This vehicle was designed by Hino Heavy Industries along with the Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track, with the purpose of modernizing the means of transportation for the Japanese infantry, as well as carrying supplies. Up to that point, the Imperial Japanese forces mostly relied on trucks, horses, and even tanks for this purpose. At the same time, with the introduction of the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC, the Japanese Army would continue to implement a more modern concept of mechanized infantry units among its ground forces. By the start of WW2, this had already been successfully applied by some warring parties, such as Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States. While these nations mostly fielded armored half-tracks to support their infantry in these roles, the Japanese instead decided to prioritize the development of the Type 1 Ho-Ki, which was a fully tracked transport, thus providing much more effective off-road mobility through rough terrains, such as those encountered in China and, later on, throughout the Pacific Islands after the start of the Pacific War.

Type 1 Ho-Ki APC in Manchuria, 1944 – Source

Imperial Japan’s Transportation of Troops and Equipment Through Land

Due to a lack of natural resources and a limited industrial base in Japan, a high priority was given to certain areas of the armed forces, such as the surface fleet and the air forces, thus leaving other areas underdeveloped. At the same time, with the increasing rivalry between the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during the 1930s, which often involved boycots and even assassination attempts on key figures from either sides, gathering enough budget to cover many of their respective needs was a whole ordeal. As a consequence, one of the areas that was left behind in terms of funding was the development of a more adequate transport vehicle for the IJA, such as an armored tracked vehicle that could effectively be used off-road and on the battlefield.

During this time, in the mid-to-late 1930s, other nations, such as France, Germany, and the United States, were already developing and mass producing armored carriers, such as half-tracks dedicated for troop transport, cargo, and other support roles within their mechanized infantry units. Japan, on the other hand, was still investing almost exclusively in the employment of civilian-based trucks and cavalry horses for its military transportation. Very often, during long marches and when the number of transport trucks available to a regiment was insufficient, both infantry and equipment would simply travel on top of existing tanks whenever it was possible. Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, this was a trend seen among the Japanese ground forces, which appeared to have no real plans of changing in the near future.

The Type 94 6-wheeled truck was one of the most commonly used vehicles by Imperial Japan for cargo, troop transportation, and even for towing heavy equipment, such as field guns – Source
Japanese soldiers being transported on top of Type 89 I-Go tanks from the 7th Tank Regiment during the occupation of Luzon, 1942 – Source

Other than the limited amount of resources previously mentioned, there was also an almost complete lack of interest from many Imperial Army officials in investing the scarce resources they had available into producing an armored tracked transport. In the end, they considered it somewhat unnecessary, despite the possible benefits that it would offer. This was due to the main area of conflict for Japan at the time, the occupation of Manchuria. The occupation began in 1931 and was then followed by the invasion of other Chinese territories after the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. All of these had paved roads connecting the main industrialized regions with one another, such as those at Beijing, Shanghai, or Nanjing. This made the use of both quick conventional trucks and even cavalry horses more than adequate for the Japanese forces during the occupation.

The extensive railway system that was built and improved on by the Japanese during their occupation of Manchuria and China more broadly, also significantly eased the transportation of large numbers of infantry, supplies, and vehicles. The maintenance, building, and operation of these railways was normally carried out by the Imperial Japanese Army’s railroad regiments, many of which were formed and dispatched to China with the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, and were later on sent to South-East Asia as the war expanded.

A 1945 map of the railway system in Manchuria, mostly owned by Japanese State companies and the Kwantung Army – Source
The Japanese constantly transported supplies, vehicles, and infantry over extensive territories through the railway systems, as was seen in Manchuria and later on in South-East Asia. In this image, a Nissan 80 cargo truck and a Type 97 Chi-Ha tank can be seen being transported through railroad – Source

All these factors mentioned were coupled with the sometimes limited resistance of Chinese defenders which, at the start of the conflict, were mostly underequipped and unprepare, compared to the Japanese forces. This meant that the formation of modernized mechanized infantry regiments that would use suitable armored transports would appear to be at the bottom of the priority list for the Imperial Japanese Army.

Japanese infantry being transported in a column of trucks during the invasion of Hainan Island in 1939 – Source

Development Leading to the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC

Increasing Tensions with the Soviet Union

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, some European nations were designing a variety of half-tracks to work with their mechanized infantry units. The automobile industry in Japan, however, was much less developed than in some of these Western nations. This resulted in an increase in the production cost of half-tracks at almost the same value of a fully tracked vehicle. For this reason, in 1933, it was decided to focus a small amount of resources into building a fully tracked transport instead, which at the end, would be a lot more suitable than a half-track for off-road use and through rough terrains. Specifically speaking, this decision was made by having in mind the difficult terrains found in the Siberian environment or the Russian Far East, which the Imperial Japanese Army hoped to occupy in case relations with the Soviet Union were to keep on worsening.

Due to the Soviet Union’s expansionist policies and its ideals, which it also wanted to export, many Japanese officials viewed the USSR as a natural enemy for Japan’s overall integrity, and thus believed that an armed conflict between the two was inevitable, or even necessary. Therefore, many of the Imperial Japanese Army’s doctrines and vehicle and weapon designs at the time were made with this possible scenario in mind, which could have easily become a reality after the occupation of Manchuria. For this reason, many Imperial Japanese Army officials designed and actively promoted the Northern Expansion Doctrine, also known as the Northern Strike Force plan. According to this, the Imperial Japanese Army would occupy and secure these Russian Far East territories to acquire their resources and weaken the continuous Soviet expansionism.

In the end, however, this planned scenario did not end up happening, mostly due to the Imperial Japanese Army losing reputation after not achieving a swift victory during the Soviet border clashes of 1939. This, in turn, gave the Imperial Japanese Navy the impetus to go forward with its plan of occupying South-East Asian territories instead, which led to the start of the Pacific War.

Map illustrating Japan’s potential plan of the Northern Strike Force during the 1930s, where it aimed to capture the Russian Far East territories of the Soviet Union, such as Siberia – Source
Photo of Soviet troops trained for winter warfare. Due to the extreme weather conditions of certain areas, such as Siberia, finding the adequate equipment for these environments, such as tracked vehicles and very often even skis, was crucial.

Development of the First Japanese APCs

The first prototype of an APC was built in 1933, when the creation of a mechanized infantry unit was being worked on by the Imperial Japanese Army. This was meant as a way of modernizing their troop transportation and being able to provide infantry support more efficiently to the newly produced Type 89 tanks when advancing through rough terrain. This first APC prototype was known as the “TC trial production automatic tracked carrier” and was based on the widely produced Type 92 Heavy Armored Car’s chassis. However, since this design had the engine and radiator at the rear, troops and cargo could only enter through a side door, which proved impractical. This, along with the vehicle’s overall small size, which gave it a reduced cargo compartment, made this first trial APC to be considered inadequate.

Front photo of the TC trial production automatic tracked carrier in 1933. The suspension system is one of the most distinctive aspects that relates it to the Type 92 Heavy Armored Car, which it was based on – Source

At the left, the TC trial carrier during a water crossing examination. On the right, the same prototype being tested while going up hill with its cargo compartment filled with equipment and materials – Source
The first variant of the Type 92 Heavy Armored Car, as introduced in 1932. The TC trial production automatic tracked carrier was based on this vehicle. This suspension system which it shared with the TC tracked carrier proved to be unreliable, so it was later replaced by an improved suspention system with four larger road wheels on the Type 92 Heavy Armored Car – Source

In 1934, after the Kwantung Army created the 1st Independent Mixed Brigade, which became Japan’s first mechanized infantry unit, a second APC trial vehicle was developed, called the “TE trial production rail automatic tracked carrier”. This vehicle’s design addressed the main shortcomings of the previous prototype, such as placing the engine at the front-right side of the vehicle and thus allowing for a rear door to be placed on the cargo compartment. The vehicle’s size was also significantly larger in order to increase the transport capacity and the suspension was improved too. However, this APC still used the same engine from the Type 92 Heavy Armored Car, which was underpowered due to the vehicle’s heavier weight.

Front side view of the TE trial production rail automatic tracked carrier. When compared to the previous trial APC, it was larger in size and had an improved suspension system with four road wheels and one return roller. As seen, the driver’s cabin was also at the front-left side to make room for the engine compartment, which was moved to the front-right side of the vehicle – Source
TE trial production carrier being inspected by Imperial Japanese Army personnel – Source—kopiya.jpg

A year afterwards, in 1935, a third trial APC vehicle was built and was called the “TG trial production automatic personnel carrier”. This vehicle shared many similarities with the previous “TE trial automatic carrier”, such as the size, the engine’s placement at the front-right side next to the driver’s cabin, and its similar suspension system. However, the “TG trial production automatic personnel carrier” had fixed windows around the cargo compartment, with a soft canvas cover on top. Instead of a rear door on the cargo compartment area, this vehicle had a large windowed double door on the side. Therefore, the passenger seats were probably placed at the opposite side and at the rear end. This side door configuration, however, might have made it more awkward to load equipment or supplies into this APC.

Front side photo of the TG trial production automatic personnel carrier. The suspension system was similar to that of the previous trial carrier, however, the rest of the vehicle had many differences. One of the most noticeable are the walls of the cargo compartment that were taller and had windows all around. A large double door was also placed at the side of the cargo compartment – Source
Diagrams of the TG trial production automatic personnel carrier from its side and front, respectively – Source

There was also another variant of the “TG trial production automatic carrier” built. It was a very similar design, with the only difference being the design of the cargo compartment. The cargo compartment of this other variant was the same design as with the previous “TE trial production carrier”, which had the entrance placed at the back instead of at the side, and had no fixed windows on its sides. However, instead, this vehicle used what seems to be a canvas top that had windows all around on its cargo compartment.

Rear view of the other “TG trial production automatic carrier” variant. This used a previous cargo compartment design, which had the entrance at the rear and no fixed windows on its sides. In this photo, however, the vehicle is seen with a windowed top mounted on its cargo compartment – Source

In 1938, the fourth and last trial APC was built. This was the “Trial production 98-type automatic tracked carrier”. This vehicle had many differences compared to the previous two trial APCs. Among the most noticeable were the headlights, which were slightly elevated above the hull, a large single engine grill at the front instead of the two smaller ones, and an improved suspension system. Curiously, however, the sides of the cargo compartment of this APC were made out of wood rather than steel armor, most likely as a way of reducing the production costs for the whole APC project, which had already started several years prior. A few of these Trial production 98-type tracked carriers were built and, despite their unprotected wooden sides on the cargo compartment area, it is believed that these saw limited combat in China alongside the 1st Independent Mixed Brigade in order to test more modern mechanized infantry tactics on the battlefield.

Front right view of the Trial production 98 type automatic tracked carrier. Its suspension system differed from the previous trial APCs and its headlights were above the hull. One of its main distinctions, however, was that the walls of its cargo compartment were made out of wooden boards, as noticeable in this photo – Source
Side, yet blurry, view of a Trial production 98 type automatic tracked carrier – Source
Another side view of the Trial production 98 type automatic tracked carrier, this time with a leather top covering the cargo compartment. Small windows can also be seen on the leather covering – Source
Diagrams of the Trial production 98 type automatic tracked carrier from all of its sides – Source

However, due to underwhelming combat results from the 1st Independent Mixed Brigade during Operation Chahar west of Beijing, the fate of the Brigade was compromised. During the engagement, Lt. General Hideki Tojo, who was in command of the operation, divided his forces, which were commonly known as the Tojo Corps, and used them separately, sending out his tank unit to support the 5th Division that had just arrived from mainland Japan, and then sending his infantry regiment to support the 26th Division. This situation continued, with other units being split throughout the operation and thus forced to attack in smaller numbers, resulting in larger casualties than previously expected.

This lack of coordination and unity between Tojo’s forces, contrary to what had originally been planned, rendered the support role of the 1st Independent Mixed Brigade almost useless during the entire engagement, since it was barely able to have an effective role. That whole situation even sparked a dispute between Hideki Tojo and the Brigade’s commander, Lt. General Koji Sakai, who confronted Tojo and expressed his disagreement about the decisions made during the engagements. However, instead of addressing the shortcomings seen during the operation’s planning and execution, and in how to possibly adapt more modern tactics to improve future performance, the poor results shown in battle by the 1st Independent Mixed Brigade were blamed almost entirely on the Brigade itself and it was therefore disbanded one year later, in 1938. Koji Sakai was transferred to the reserve role and, thus, the first mechanized unit of the Imperial Japanese Army disappeared. This decision to disband the 1st Independent Mixed Brigade immediately halted the years-long development of the tracked carriers, therefore causing the whole APC project to enter into a hiatus.

Map showing the movement of the Japanese and Chinese forces during the Battles of Nankou as part of Operation Chahar. In this Operation, the 1st Independent Mixed Brigade failed to perform its intended support role efficiently due to a lack of combat coorperation between the so-called Tojo Corps that participated in the engagement – Source

However, it was not until later on, in late 1939, when Germany’s Blitzkrieg showed everyone the effectiveness of using mechanized infantry units during the invasion of Poland, that the discussion by Japanese officials to start funding the development of a tracked APC again was placed on the table. Meanwhile, the Kwantung Army in Manchuria took the decision to replace its horse cavalry group with a mechanized division equipped with several armored vehicles and trucks by late 1939. One year later, in 1940, the Germans used the same combined arms tactics with success during the invasion of France.

Although the Germans used a lot of unarmored vehicles for their mechanized infantry units, their extensive use of armored half-tracks for this purpose left an impact on the way militaries viewed how infantry had to ideally be transported to the battlefield. This photo, in particular, shows a row of Panzer III tanks traveling alongside Sd.Kfz.251 armored half-tracks during the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1942 – Source,_Russland-S%C3%BCd,_Panzer_III,_Sch%C3%BCtzenpanzer,_24.Pz.Div._(cropped).jpg

Development and Introduction of the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC

Concerns over a lack of a mechanized force truly started to arise once tensions with the United States and its European allies severely worsened. This caused a chain of sanctions and embargoes to be placed against Japan. They also had to deal with a much better prepared Chinese resistance that was constantly being supplied with Allied weapons. Therefore, as part of a political compromise in response to several criticisms questioning the readiness of the Japanese Army for a war of such large scale, all of the experience gained during the development of the “trial tracked automatic carriers” was used to quickly develop the first prototype of the Ho-Ki APC by the end of 1941. This then led to the official introduction of the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC in 1942, right after the start of the Pacific War.

The prototype of the Ho-Ki APC was built by the end of 1941. It had many features borrowed from the “Trial production 98 type automatic carrier”, such as a similar design at the front, although this was now slightly more angled and the headlights were directly embedded into the hull. The suspension system of the Ho-Ki prototype was also similar to that of the previous trial carrier, although it was slightly improved. Instead of a completely wooden cargo compartment, like the previous trial carrier had, the Ho-Ki APC prototype was entirely made out of armored steel, with both its sides of the cargo compartment area being angled in a diamond shape. These angled sides would have given a better protection for the Ho-Ki’s passengers against small arms fire and artillery shrapnel, similar in this regard to the Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track, which also had similar sloped sides at the cargo area. On the right side of the driver’s cabin, the cargo compartment of the Ho-Ki prototype also had an armored hatch facing forward, through which fire support would have been provided with rifles or a machine gun.

Side view of the Ho-Ki 1941 prototype. The angled side armor was similar to that of the Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track, also developed and built by Hino Heavy Industries. This side armor would have given the passengers better protection against small arms fire and artillery shrapnel. The bell crank suspension system was also similar to that of the previous Trial production 98 type carrier, with some slight differences – Source
Front and back view of a Ho-Ki prototype. At the front of the cargo compartment and on the right side of the driver’s cabin, an armored hatch with a narrow grid was placed for the crew members and passengers to look through, maybe even allowing them to provide support with rifle or machine gun fire. The hatch can also be seen on the right photo through the inside of the vehicle. The specific Ho-Ki APC in this photograph, however, does not have the side angled armor of the initial 1941 prototype. This particular vehicle could have been an intermediate variant built sometime before the 1944 mass-produced Type 1 Ho-Ki APC, which in turn had a few other differences – Source
Diagrams of the 1941 Ho-Ki APC prototype that illustrates the vehicle’s sides – Source

Although the Type 1 Ho-Ki was introduced in 1942, shortly after its prototype development, mass production did not start until years later, in 1944. This was due to the scarce resources which Japan had at its disposal, therefore always having to choose to give priority to other areas of importance throughout the war, such as the Navy and the Air Forces (Imperial Japanese Army Air Force and Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force). However, in 1944, when the defense of the Japanese Home Islands and other key territories seemed imminent, it was decided to start mass producing the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC to try and modernize the ground defenses. Although having even fewer resources than before due to Japan’s increasingly dire war-time situation, the mass-produced Ho-Ki APC would have a few significant design changes when compared to its 1941 prototype.

The most noticeable difference of the mass-produced Type 1 Ho-Ki compared to its prototype of 1941 was that the sloped diamond-shape sides were replaced by completely flat sides that had no angling. This was done to simplify production and reduce costs, something that by 1944, Imperial Japan was already doing in many other areas due to its war-torn industry. The armored hatch at the front of the cargo compartment that was seen on the Ho-Ki APC prototype was also removed from the mass-produced vehicle, therefore denying the option of providing fire support through that area. However, this issue was somewhat amended by the machine gun mount that was placed right above the driver’s cabin of the then mass-produced Type 1 Ho-Ki APCs.

Photographs only show the Ho-Ki APCs with the option of having a simple canvas tarpaulin mounted on top of the cargo compartment, rather than the windowed covers that were seen on some of the previous trial tracked carriers.

Front view of the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC as mass-produced in 1944. Its side armor was completely flat and the hatch at the front of the cargo compartment was removed. The headlights of this APC were strapped on a small platform instead of being directly embedded into the hull. However, it seems that this was not the same for all of the mass-produced vehicles– Source

All of the “trial tracked carriers” had been developed by the Automobile Industry Co., Ltd.. In 1942, it changed its name into Hino Heavy Industries. It then built both the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC and the Type 1 Ho-Ha half-ftrack simultaneously during that year.

Design Layout and Protection of the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC

The Type 1 Ho-Ki APC, as mass-produced in 1944, had completely flat sides almost all around, with the exception of the vehicle’s front, which was slightly angled where the engine compartment and the driver’s cabin were located. One of the most distinctive aspects of this vehicle, just like with the previous trial carriers, was its unusual design at the front, with the driver’s cabin located at the front-left side of the hull and only extending less than halfway across the center.

Front-side view of a Type 1 Ho-Ki APC in Manchuria, 1944 – Source,_manchuria_1944.jpg

Meanwhile, on the right side of the driver’s cabin, the engine compartment was found, with a large armored shutter at the front and two smaller ones on the side of the vehicle. The exhaust was also placed at the right side of the engine compartment.

Protection-wise, the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC had 4 mm of armor on its sides, while the front of the vehicle was slightly more protected, with only 6 mm of sloped armor, just enough to stop small arms fire and artillery shrapnel. As for firepower, right on top of the driver’s cabin, there was a machine gun mount for either a 7.7 mm Type 92 heavy machine gun or a 7.7 mm Type 99 light machine gun.

Photo of a 7.7 mm Type 92 heavy machine gun on display at the Yasukuni Shrine, in Tokyo. This machine gun was fed by 30-round metal strips and it had a fire rate of only 450 rounds/ min, although this prevented it from overheating when on constant firing. The Type 92 heavy machine gun was also characterized for being very stable and accurate, with the option of having a periscope attached to substantially increase its effective range and facilitate indirect fire. In this photo, a periscope can be seen attached at the rear of the machine gun.
The 7.7 mm Type 99 light machine gun could also be placed on top of the driver’s cabin of the Ho-Ki APC. This machine gun was fed by a top-mounted detachable box magazine with 30 rounds and it had a fire rate of 750 rounds/ min. The Type 99 light machine gun was also known for being very accurate and having a long range effective fire which could be further increased with the use of a 2.5X periscopic sight, allowing the machine gun to be occasionally used as a sniper rifle. In this image, a periscopic sight can be seen attached at the rear of the Type 99 light machine gun.

Normally, a Type 92 heavy machine gun squad in the Imperial Japanese Army was composed of 11 members, including 4 ammunition personnels carrying ammunition boxes with 540 rounds each, totaling up to 2,160 rounds per machine gun squad and often even up to 3,450 rounds in total. Therefore, it is likely that a Ho-Ki APC would normally carry more ammunition than that considering the large storage space inside its cargo compartment, and also taking into consideration the need of supplying the infantry it might be transporting. Other than the standard ammunition, the Type 92 heavy machine gun could fire armor-piercing rounds, tracer rounds and incendiary rounds. Once the heavy machine gun was mounted on a vehicle such as the Ho-Ki APC, it only needed at least two personnel to be used effectively.

Front top view of the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC. The armored hatches on the engine compartment along with the exhaust can be clearly seen. A Type 92 Heavy machine gun is also seen mounted on top of the driver’s cabin. This particular vehicle belonged to the 3rd Mobile Infantry Regiment, which was part of the Kwantung Army’s 3rd Tank Division, stationed in Manchuria. Also notice that the top right part of the image was cropped due to the original photograph being damaged – Source
Side view of the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC. A Type 99 light machine gun is mounted on top of the driver’s cabin – Source

Cargo Compartment and its Arrangement

Just like the jointly developed Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track, the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC could also transport around 12 to 13 soldiers. Although this vehicle was significantly shorter and slightly lighter than the half-track, it could reportedly carry the same load or even more, between 2 to 3 tonnes of cargo. The Type 1 Ho-Ki was therefore not only useful as a troop transport or for carrying supplies, but it could also be used to tow artillery pieces and other heavy equipment. For this purpose, it had a towing hook at the rear and two smaller towing hooks at the front.

A Type 1 Ho-Ki APC from the 2nd Tank Division captured by US troops in Luzon. Here, it looks like it is being towed, having some chains attached to its front tow hooks – Source

At the front-sides of the cargo compartment, a small door was placed for infantry to access and exit. At the rear, a double door was placed as a larger access and exit to the vehicle, while right under these double doors, a small ramp could also be opened downwards like a flap. This small ramp also had a step so that soldiers could get into the vehicle more easily. Inside the transport compartment, there were six benches, with three on each side to allow for a total of 12 passengers to sit. As another unique feature of the Ho-Ki APC, the floor was made out of separate wooden boards that could be removed to allow for ammunition and supplies to be stored inside.

A back view of a captured Type 1 Ho-Ki APC in Tokyo with some equipment on its cargo compartment. The double doors can be seen fully opened, as well as the small ramp that is just underneath – Source
Top-back view of the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC with most of its doors and hatches opened. The spacious cargo compartment and the passenger’s bench configuration, consisting of 3 benches on each side, can be easily appreciated. Also notice the cargo compartment’s floor being made out of removable wooden panels. Ammunition and supplies could be stored underneath these – Source

Crew and Driving Compartment

Right at the front of the somewhat narrow driving compartment was the driver’s seat. Behind it were two more seats for the other crew members of the APC, the vehicle’s commander and the mechanic. In order to give the driver a wide visibility, the cabin had a large hatch facing forward and two other slightly smaller hatches on both sides, with the left one actually being placed on the driver’s side door. Another pair of hatches was also placed on both sides, where the commander and mechanic would sit, with another side door being placed on that area for their use. The driver’s cabin also had a larger hatch on the roof that would open forward, right on top of the commander’s and mechanic’s seat. With a total of six hatches, this gave the crew a wide visibility and, in case of being under enemy fire, only the front hatch had a few narrow grids to give the driver just enough visibility to see forwards. The back of the driver’s cabin was also directly accessible through the cargo compartment, allowing the crew to easily move around the vehicle.

A clear front view of a captured Type 1 Ho-Ki APC. The large hatches around the driver’s cabin could also be opened, as seen in the photo. The narrow grids on the driver’s front hatch can also be seen clearly. The vehicle in this photo is being inspected by an American soldier, probably in Japan. Image colorized by Johannes Dorn – Source
Inside view of the driver’s cabin. The large front hatch is seen completely opened, with the driver’s seat located at the front of the cabin. Right behind it are two cushioned seats, one being for the APC’s commander and the other for the mechanic. The driver’s cabin was directly accessible from the cargo compartment, with no doors in between – Source

Overall Analysis of the Ho-Ki APC

Compared to some of the fully tracked APC’s commonly fielded by other nations of the time that were in most part based on already existing tanks, such as the Kangaroo or the Churchill APCs, the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC was designed from scratch to be a tracked carrier. With its unique design and configuration, several comparisons have been made with some more modern APC designs seen later on during the Cold War. Among some of the Ho-Ki APC’s noticeable characteristics would be the fact that it was a fully tracked transport rather than the widely used half-track designs seen during WW2. This, along with its overall good performance, its rear layout and spacious cargo compartment with a large double door at the back for easy access, the sloped armored driver’s cabin located at the front left directly connected to the cargo compartment and making room for the engine compartment right next to the driver’s cabin, gave the Ho-Ki APC a more modern appearance when compared to other transport vehicles of the time. Many authors consider it as one of the first modern APCs built.


With a weight of around 6.5 tonnes when fully loaded, the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC performed well, with a maximum speed of 42 km/h on road, while also having a decent mobility off-road and on rough terrains. This was partly thanks to its Type 100 DB52 134 hp@2,000 rpm, 6 cylinder air-cooled diesel engine. Along with its suspension, it allowed the APC to carry up to 3 tonnes of cargo, also making it a suitable towing vehicle for artillery pieces. Its two fuel tanks were located near the engine compartment, a smaller 189 liters and a larger 227 liters respectively, giving the Ho-Ki APC a range of around 300 km.

A Type 100 DB52 air-cooled 6 cylinder diesel engine at the Hino Plaza exposition. This engine was built by Hino Heavy Industries and used for both the Ho-Ki APC and the Ho-Ha half-track. The front and rear view of the engine are shown, respectively – Sources,

Regarding the undercarriage, the suspension of the Ho-Ki APC was very similar to that of the previous Trial production 98 type automatic carrier, consisting of 4 separate bogies mounted on bell cranks on each side, with 2 return rollers. The idler wheels were placed at the front of the tracks, while, at the back, the sprocket wheels were driven by the transmission that was also located at the rear. In addition, the gearbox, which had 8 forward and 2 reverse gears, allowed the Ho-Ki APC to have more flexibility with its speed and sustain it easier.

Side view of the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC. In this image, the suspension system can be seen clearly, consisting of four bell crank road wheels and two return rollers on each side. Here, the Ho-Ki APC is also seen with its side doors opened, the left one being for the driver, the middle one for the other crew members sitting behind, and the last door for the passangers at the cargo compartment – Source

Production and Combat Use

The first prototype of the Ho-Ki APC was built in 1941 and, shortly afterwards, the vehicle was then introduced into service in 1942. At this time, very few Ho-Ki APCs were probably built, with only some slight design changes being made throughout the years until the 1944 mass-produced variant that is more commonly known.

According to some surviving documents, a total of 800 armored transports were built throughout the war, with the largest production batch being made between 1944 and 1945, which consisted of around 500 vehicles built. However, from this total number, it is not specified how many armored transports were built of each type, although fully tracked carriers such as the Type 1 Ho-Ki seemed to have been prefered over the half-track designs, at least assuming from their reportedly wider use throughout the different fronts. It is therefore speculated by some that around 200 fully tracked carriers, including the Ho-Ki APC, were built after 1944.

Once the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC started mass production in 1944, some of these were quickly sent to support the Imperial Japanese Army’s ground forces where they were needed the most. Many of these APCs were shipped over to Manchuria in order to defend the territories occupied by Imperial Japan’s Kwantung Army, while several others were sent over to support Japan’s Expeditionary Army against the Chinese resistance that had been constantly modernized with equipment sent by their US and Soviet allies. With the Kwantung Army’s 3rd Tank Regiment, the Ho-Ki APC could have participated in some of the major engagements that took place in China during the later years of the war, such as in Operation Ichi-Go (April 1944), Operation Shokei (July 1944), or at the Battle of West Henan-North Hubei (March-May 1945).

A row of three Type 1 Ho-Ki APCs stationed at Tianjin, China, in 1945. The APC at the front has a Type 92 heavy machine gun mounted on top of the driver’s cabin, while the one at the far back can be seen with a tarpaulin on the cargo compartment. Image colorized by Johannes Dorn – Source–1.jpg
The same row of Ho-Ki APCs stationed in China, although taken from the rear – Source
Side view of a Type 1 Ho-Ki APC with infantry and crew inside. This one belonged to the 3rd Mobile Infantry Regiment that was part of the Kwantung Army’s 3rd Tank Division. This tank division participated in Operation Ichi-Go (1944), Operation Shokei (1944), and at the Battle of West Henan-North Hubei (1945) – Source

Several other Type 1 Ho-Ki APCs were sent over to the Philippines to support the Imperial Japanese Army in some of the major engagements that were to take place as the Japanese defenders attempted to prevent the American forces from retaking the territory. This was crucial for Imperial Japan since, by keeping control of the Philippines, it allowed them to continue receiving a certain amount of resources despite the tight sea blockades that were being carried out by the US forces and its allies.

Although it is not known how many Ho-Ki APCs were sent to the Philippines, only a limited number made it to land, since some of the transport ships carrying these APCs, together with the Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track among other vehicles and supplies, were sunk on their way there by a US submarine. Some of the Ho-Ki APCs that were sent to the Philippines also belonged to the 2nd Tank Division that was stationed in Manchuria. This Division was transferred over to Luzon in different stages in July 1944, shortly after having received the Ho-Ki APCs. While being transferred on transport ships, the 2nd Tank Division also suffered losses from the US submarine attacks.

A Type 1 Ho-Ki APC from the 2nd Tank Division that was disabled by US troops in Luzon, 1945. Also notice that the APC in this photo has the same type of headlights seen with the initial Ho-Ki APC prototypes. Unlike those prototypes, it seems that this particular vehicle did not have the hatch at the front of the cargo compartment – Source

While several Ho-Ki APCs were sent abroad to support the Imperial Japanese Army in different engagements that were taking place, it is believed that most of them were kept with the 1st Armored Regiment over at the Home Islands to aid the Japanese defenders against the upcoming Allied invasion. This invasion, also known as the Mainland Decisive Battle by the Japanese, was believed to occur somewhere between late 1945 and early 1946. However, Japan surrendered before such a scenario took place.

The 3rd Squadron of the 1st Armored Regiment during a dissolution ceremony in Sano City, September of 1945. On the far-right side of both the first and second vehicle rows, a pair of Type 1 Ho-Ki APCs can be seen, with the one at the front row having a tarpaulin mounted on. A Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track can also be seen next to the Ho-Ki APC of the front row – Source
A set of Type 1 Ho-Ki APCs being inspected by American soldiers, probably in Japan, 1945, during the occupation – Source

After the war, most of the Ho-Ki APCs, along with the majority of Japan’s military equipment, were scrapped. However, according to some sources, a few Ho-Ki APCs kept being used during the post-war by the then newly formed Japanese Self-Defense Forces until the 1950s or early 1960s.


The Type 1 Ho-Ki APC was introduced in 1942, after many years of development starting in the early 1930s, with different trial APCs being built. However, due to limited resources invested into the APC project, with top priorities being placed on other matters, such as the air forces and the surface fleet, mass production of the Ho-Ki APC did not start until 1944. Although too late, this was when the Japanese command started to focus on better equipping the ground forces of the Imperial Japanese Army for the major defensive battles that were expected to come. During these, the Japanese would try to hold on key territories, such as Manchuria, the Philippines, and to defend the Home Islands.

Had the Ho-Ki APC been delivered in larger numbers and earlier, it would have certainly given the Japanese infantry a much needed support as well as overall improving the logistics of the Japanese forces by carrying supplies and towing heavy equipment, such as artillery pieces through rough terrain. Throughout the war, conventional cargo trucks were often forced through rough terrains where they were unsuited for travel. Whenever no alternative was available, tow animals such as donkeys or horses would also be used for this same purpose and very often, even Japanese infantry would also have no choice but to carry supplies and equipment on their own backs.

Japanese soldiers carrying the widely used Type 41 75 mm mountain gun disassembled in different pieces. This gun was first introduced in 1908, being lightweight and easily disassembled into 11 pieces for transportation by horse or even by infantry. However, it kept on being used even throughout the Pacific War, where it was already outdated. This was partly due to it being easier to transport by foot, unlike other newer artillery pieces, a scenario which could have been partially avoided if a tracked transport carrier such as the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC had been available in sufficient numbers – Source,_carried_by_soldiers.jpg#file

Therefore, with an earlier mass-production and deployment of the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC, alongside the Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track that was developed at the same time, many of these logistical shortcomings which the Imperial Japanese Army had to deal with would have certainly been addressed. Not only that, but they would also have been able to modernize their mechanized infantry units and try out newer combat tactics, something which many Japanese officers had planned on doing since the early 1930s. They never had the chance of putting this into practice, not even with the limited number of armored transports that were mass-produced by the end of the war.

The Type 1 Ho-Ki APC, with its good performance due to its power to weight ratio and being fully tracked, along with its unique design characteristics, would have been more than suitable to take part in any of these intended support roles, whether it is for carrying supplies and towing artillery pieces over to the battlefield, or to be part of the planned mechanized infantry doctrines that were drafted. With all of this put into consideration, many authors and sources have referred to the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC as one of the first modern APCs built.


Another photo of the TC trial production automatic tracked carrier, a canvas cover is placed on top of its cargo compartment – Source
A Type 1 Ho-Ki APC in Tianjin, China, 1945 – Source–2.jpg
An abandoned Type 1 Ho-Ki APC next to a Type 98 Ro-Ke prime mover, Tokyo, 1945 – Source
Top-back view of a Type 1 Ho-Ki APC with its top hatch and side doors opened – Source
A Type 1 Ho-Ki APC captured and evaluated by US soldiers in Yokohama, 1945 – Source
Type 1 Ho-Ki APC captured by US troops. It has the words “Tokyo Rose” written on all its sides, a reference to the female English-speaking radio broadcasters of Japanese propaganda that tried to demoralize Allied forces fighting in the Pacific – Source
Front view of the “Tokyo Rose” Ho-Ki APC – Source
Another captured Type 1 Ho-Ki APC being inspected by US soldiers, probably located in Japan, 1945 – Source
Type 1 Ho-Ki APC. Illustrations by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Type 1 Ho-Ki APC Specs Table

Dimensions (L-W-H) 4.78 x 2.19 x 2.58 m
Total weight 6.5 tonnes
Crew 3 (driver, commander, mechanic) + 12 to 13 passengers
Propulsion Type 100 DB52 air-cooled 6 cylinder diesel engine, 134 hp@2,000 rpm
Top speed 42 km/h
Armor 4 mm to 6 mm
Armament 7.7mm Type 92 heavy machine gun or Type 99 light machine gun
Range (maximum at cruise speed) 300 km (200 miles)
Total production around 200 built


WW2 Japanese Other Vehicles

Type 1 Ho-Ha

Empire of Japan (1941-1945)
Armored Carrier – 150-300 Built

The Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track was an armored personnel transport designed and introduced by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941 and finally put into production in 1944. Its main purpose was to help the modernization of the Imperial Japanese Army by increasing the number of mechanized infantry regiments. This way, Japanese ground forces would catch up with other developed nations of the time that had already invested in this field, specifically the US. Mechanized infantry, unlike regular units, would have been faster and would have had an easier time dealing with the rough terrain that was more and more often encountered by the Japanese as the war progressed in China and in the hilly or mountainous landscape of the Pacific islands.

Front side view of the Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track – SOURCE

Infantry Transport in Imperial Japan

Well-known examples of half-tracks had been employed for infantry transportation by many nations since the late 30s, such as the M2 half-track by the United States or the Sd.Kfz.250 and 251 series by Germany. Despite this, the Japanese, during the occupation of Manchuria and in the course of the Second Sino-Japanese War, dealt with the issue of troop transportation in simpler, more conventional and practical ways. Many of the cities and industrialized regions occupied by the Japanese in Manchuria and China, where most of the fighting had taken place, already had enough highways and paved roads to allow the quick travel of Japanese troops using military trucks. This well-developed road network also eased the usage of towing horses as part of the artillery and cavalry regiments.

However, sufficient numbers of transport trucks were not always available for every infantry regiment and, later on, the use of towing horses became less suitable. The lower regard among the Japanese military for the use of towing horses was partly due to Japanese ground troops getting over-stretched throughout Chinese territory in their constant fight against organized Chinese resistance. Meanwhile, in the Pacific, basic resources such as food, drinkable water and medicine, resources which the tow horses also required, became progressively more scarce for Japanese forces as a consequence of US blockades. All this made the use of horses and other towing animals more complicated and less practical, even though, for the most part of the conflict in Manchuria, they proved to be very helpful, and even more so at the start of the war in the Pacific.

Regimental Type 41 mountain gun being towed by horses in Manchuria – SOURCE
Bearing this in mind, it then became very common during long marches that Japanese infantry units and their equipment would be transported on top of light and medium tanks from the armored regiments, or by carts being towed by the tanks. Although this was a rather rudimentary solution to the problem instead of designing and building a new half-track for the purpose, it proved to be fairly effective and only required a couple of simple adaptations.
It is also worth mentioning that the Japanese railway system in China was used in order to quickly transport a large number of troops or equipment through longer distances in Manchuria and the rest of China. This extensive railway system was pivotal in constantly supplying resources to Japanese forces located throughout the territory.
All these existing means of transportation convinced the Japanese military to consider the production of a standardized armored half-track as unnecessary, thus the scarce resources the Japanese could muster were always redirected to other areas of priority instead, such as aircraft and naval vessels.

1945 map of the railway system in Manchuria, mostly operated by the Japanese owned South Manchuria Railway Company and the Kwantung Army – SOURCE
Nonetheless, as tensions with the US and its European allies increased during the late 30s and early 40s, the widely used military trucks would have had much more limited use in the looming conflict. Thus, the Imperial Japanese Army quickly designed the concept of a new half-track which would allow easier transportation of troops and equipment through harder to access areas. This design was accepted in 1941 as the Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track.
However, due to priority over resources always being given to the navy, and due to the still proven effectiveness of troop and equipment transport through the rough Pacific island terrain with already existing tanks, tracked carriers and prime movers, the production of the Ho-Ha half-track kept on being postponed until 1944, when it was first reported to have finally entered mass production.

A Type 89 I-Go tank transporting equipment and a few soldiers on its top during the Philippines campaign, Bataan, 1942 – SOURCE
Despite this, the introduction of the Type 1 Ho-Ha would not have been a novelty for the Japanese in terms of using and producing a half-track, since, before the introduction of the Type 1 Ho-Ha in 1941, the Japanese had already been using half-tracks. Among these were Citroen half-tracks which had been purchased from France or the production of two Type 98 half-track variants. Some of these were even used throughout the war in the Pacific.
However, the difference between the Type 98 half-tracks and the Type 1 Ho-Ha was that the former were unarmored and were mostly used as artillery prime movers rather than for infantry transport. Nonetheless, a few armored half-track prototypes had also been designed in the early 30s, such as the so-called Automatic Carriers TC, TE and TG variants. However, due to the reasons stated above, there was always disagreement among the Japanese military on the actual need for an armored half-track.

Imported Citroen half-track from the early 30s – SOURCE

Type 98 Ko-Hi prime mover half-track made by Isuzu – SOURCE
Therefore, in order to modernize the logistic support of the ground troops, both the Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track and the Type 1 Ho-Ki APC, the latter being produced in much greater numbers, were designed and introduced at the same time in 1941. This was done with the intent of complementing each other in the Imperial Army’s efforts of creating a mechanized infantry.
However, despite both these vehicles being fully designed and accepted by the Imperial Army in 1941 as a way of tackling some of the logistical shortcomings of the ground forces apparent since then, mass production of these two vehicles was constantly postponed until 1944 due to the lack of funds mentioned above.

Overall Design

Despite the fact the Ho-Ha half-track heavily resembled an upgraded version of the German ‘Hanomag’ half-track, it is unknown whether the Germans directly helped in any way with the creation of this vehicle, even though relations between Germany and Japan had gotten closer by then.

A German Sd.Kfz. 251/1 Ausf. A ‘Hanomag’ half-track in Berlin, 1940 – SOURCE
The Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track could transport up to 12 soldiers, as did the widely used at that point Type 94. However, the Type 1 Ho-Ha had the added advantage that it could carry up to 2 tons of cargo. The Ho-Ha half-track was protected by 6 mm of armor on the sides, whilst at the front, it had up to 8 mm of armor, enough to withstand small arms fire and shrapnel. The half-track could be armed with as many as three Type 97 7.7 mm machine guns or Type 92 heavy machine guns, 2 of which were installed right behind the crew compartment, while the other one could be placed on a mount at the rear of the vehicle. The option to install a machine gun through one of the hatches of the crew compartment area at the front was also available. These features made the vehicle more suitable to transport infantry and equipment to the frontline, while the heavy machine gun configuration allowed the half-track to fight against soft targets, although this would have still been risky and only done as a last resort.
The Ho-Ha half-track was an open-top vehicle, though the cargo compartment could be covered by a canvas. The vehicle had a tow coupling at the front, along with a pair of bumpers which, due to their curved design, would prevent the front tires of the half-track from getting stuck deep in the mud or snow. Another tow hook was also placed at the rear of the vehicle to transport artillery pieces or trailers, while a single light lamp was installed at the front of the engine compartment, although on the first half-track models there was originally the option to install two frontal lamp lights side by side.

Front view of the Ho-Ha half-track, taken somewhere in 1944. Notice the two mounts at the front where the two light lamps would be installed. In this image, one of the bumpers is also missing – SOURCE: US National Archives via Harold Biondo

Rear-side view of Ho-Ha half-track – SOURCE

Diagrams of the Ho-Ha half-track, Monthly Panzer Magazine, page 23 – SOURCE
In order to allow the crew to access the half-track, there was a door on each side of the vehicle, right behind the driving compartment. However, due to the angled shape of the vehicle’s side armor, these doors were divided into two parts which had to be opened separately, thus basically being a double door. Meanwhile, to access the cargo area of the half-track, there was a conventional large double door at the rear of the vehicle for both passengers and supplies to get through, while the cargo area also had direct access to the driving compartment since there was no apparent separation in between.
The cargo area on the Ho-Ha half-track had a wooden plank floor. There were also four wooden benches placed throughout the cargo compartment, two on each side. These benches were attached to a mounted backrest and could be folded upwards individually. Behind the backrests, along the angled side armor of the half-track, tools, infantry weapons, ammunition, among other equipment, could be placed inside, in some racks.

Inside of the Ho-Ha half-track’s cargo compartment. On the image, one of the four benches can be seen folded upwards, while the amoracks behind the benches are also slightly noticeable – US National Archives via Harold Biondo
Being at the front, the driving compartment was the most armored part of the vehicle, also having a total of 5 armored hatches around the cabin to give the crew wide visibility. There were two hatches on both sides of the cabin and three other hatches on the front, the left front one being for the driver and the right one for the vehicle commander. A smaller middle hatch was placed in between the two, this middle hatch could reportedly be used by either the third crew member, who was the mechanic, or by any other passenger of the vehicle who could mount and fire a machine gun through it to provide additional fire support from the front. All of these hatches had a narrow grid in the middle to offer both protection and just enough visibility for the crew during a combat scenario, while these hatches could also be completely opened.

Type 1 Ho Ha
Possible camouflage of the Type 1 Ho-Ha if it were in the 5th Tank Regiment (Sensha Rentai), Manchuria, August 1945
type 1 Ho-Ha tarpaulin
Type 1 Ho Ha with tarpaulin mounted in the Philippines, 1944

Another front view of the Ho-Ha half-track, notice the double door opened right behind the driving compartment, where the IJA soldier is standing – SOURCE

Diagram showing the front of the Ho-Ha half-track with a Type 99 light machine gun mounted through its middle hatch, IJA TANKS AND ARMORED VEHICLES, PICTORIAL BOOK, ARGONAUTS PUBLISHING JAPAN, page 213 – SOURCE


The Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track was equipped with a Type 100 DB52 air-cooled 6 cylinder diesel engine made by Hino Heavy Industries, giving the vehicle 134 hp at 2000 rpm, which, along with its 7 ton weight, gave the half-track a very decent acceleration and mobility, reaching up to 50 km/h at road speed and allowing for a total of 300 km of range. To directly access the engine compartment on the vehicle, there was an armored hatch at the left side and a ventilation hatch at the right side of the compartment.

A Type 100 DB52 air-cooled 6 cylinder diesel engine seen at the Hino Auto Plaza exposition, front and rearview respectively – SOURCE 1, SOURCE 2
The suspension of previous Japanese half-tracks, such as the Type 98 Ko-Hi, were based on those used by most Japanese light armored vehicles, such as the Type 95 Ha-Go light tank. However, for the Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track, its resistance was strengthened by using a suspension almost identical in design to that used by medium tanks such as the Type 97 Chi-Ha, thus allowing it to reliably carry more tonnage, unlike previous transport vehicles.
The Ho-Ha half-track had two pairs of bogey wheels on each side along with a return roller in between. A sprocket wheel and an idler wheel were also placed right at the front and rear of the tracks, respectively. The sprocket wheels at the front of the tracks were the only components of this suspension that were based on the ones used on the Type 95 Ha-Go, although they were slightly modified with six triangular openings in order to save some weight. In front of the tracks, the Ho-Ha had two pneumatic tires to help with the steering and increase the acceleration, similar to other half-track designs.

On the left side is the suspension of a Type 95 Ha-Go light tank, the same design as that used by the Type 98 Ko-Hi half-track and by many other vehicles introduced during the mid to late 30s. On the right side is the suspension of a Type 97 Chi-Ha medium tank, the same design used for the Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track. This type of suspension quickly became more common for vehicles designed afterward, especially once the war in the Pacific had started. – SOURCE, SOURCE

Production and Combat use

Although the exact number of Ho-Ha half-tracks produced throughout the war is unclear, a few surviving documents give a hint, claiming that a total of 800 light armored personnel carriers were produced by Japan throughout the war. From this total number, the largest production batch was from 1944 to 1945, with 500 of these type of vehicles being produced.
However, from these production numbers, it is not specified how many of these armored personnel carriers were actually Ho-Ha half-tracks, Ho-Ki APCs, and so on, thus only vague estimates for the exact production of each vehicle can be assumed. For the Ho-Ha half-track at least, these numbers normally range from around 150 up to 300 vehicles produced in total, although some of these estimates still seem to be very subjective, depending on the source.
Either way, once mass production of the Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track started in 1944, most of them were kept on the Home Islands, while a smaller number was sent to the Philippines. However, several of the transport ships carrying Ho-Ha half-tracks and Ho-Ki APCs were sunk by a US submarine on their way there, thus it is speculated that only a limited number of half-tracks actually made it to the Philippines. Furthermore, several Ho-Ki APCs were reportedly seen at the Philippines by US troops, however, unlike these APCs, no US accounts report encountering the Ho-Ha half-track in combat.

Ho-Ha half-track, possibly located somewhere in the Japanese home islands – SOURCE
The Ho-Ki APC was also widely fielded in Manchuria, however, it is also thought that the Ho-Ha half-track could have been deployed there, despite no clear reports on it. Either way, the Ho-Ha half-track, jointly with the Ho-Ki APC, would have aided Japanese troops that were at the time stretched out through the outskirts of Chinese rural regions. There, Japanese forces kept on fighting against Chinese resistance, which by then had been increasingly modernized through the Lend-Lease program, receiving aid from their Soviet and US allies.
Once the war ended, most of the surviving Ho-Ha half-tracks were scrapped. However, those that were kept were used for public services as cargo carriers or garbage trucks during the post-war rebuilding of Japan. The Ho-Ha half-track was then reportedly seen as a slightly modified garbage truck during the late 40s, used by the Metropolitan Cleaning Agency of Tokyo.

Modified Ho-Ha garbage truck in Tokyo, 1946 – SOURCE 1, SOURCE 2


The Ho-Ha half-track, along with the Ho-Ki APC, was designed and introduced in 1941 as a way of tackling some of the apparent logistical shortcomings that the Imperial Japanese ground forces had since back then. However, due to the Japanese military prioritizing resources for other areas, most notably the navy and air force, both these vehicles were mass-produced and fielded only after 1944, while it is suspected that the Ho-Ha half-track did not even get deployed on the battlefield, unlike the Ho-Ki APC.
Nonetheless, the Ho-Ha half-track proved to be a very decent vehicle overall, with more than enough protection to withstand small arms fire and shrapnel from most of its sides, and still having the durability to carry up to 2 tons of cargo, similar to that of the Japanese transport trucks that it was meant to replace. With this, it also managed to keep good maneuverability and reached up to 50 km/h on-road with its diesel engine.
Apparently, the Ho-Ha also had one of the most elaborate looking designs for a half-track, compared to those being widely used by other nations at the time, although resembling that of the German ‘Hanomag’ half-track. However, this somewhat complex and elaborate design could have made the Japanese military even more hesitant in spending part of its limited resources and manufacture time in producing a large number of these vehicles.
Nonetheless, the Ho-Ha half-track would have still been a very useful asset for Japanese ground forces who, during part of the conflict in China and especially during the war in the Pacific, were mostly stretched out in rough terrain and under harsh weather conditions.
The early availability of an armored transport carrier, such as the Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track, would have certainly alleviated the terrain hardships and risks of transporting soldiers and supplies to the battlefield.

Image of a Type 1 Ho-Ha half-track as part of the IJA’s 4th Tank Division, this photo was taken at the Japanese Home Islands between 1944 to 1945. The half-track can be seen at the front row, right beside the Chi-He and Chi-Ha tanks – SOURCE

Front-side view of the Ho-Ha half-track with most of its armored hatches and double doors opened – SOURCE

Another side view of the Ho-Ha half-track taken at the Japanese Home Islands around 1944 – SOURCE: US National Archives via Harold Biondo

Ness, L. S. (2015). Rikugun: Guide to Japanese ground forces, 1937-1945 (Vol. 2). West Midlands, England: Helion and Company.

Type 1 Ho-Ha Specifications

Dimensions (L-w-h) 6.10 x 2.10 x 2.51 m (20 x 6.11 x 8.3 ft)
Total weight, battle-ready 6.5-7 tons
Crew 3 (driver, commander, mechanic) + 12 passengers
Propulsion Type 100 DB52 air-cooled 6 cylinder diesel engine, 134 hp@2000rpm
Top speed 50 km/h (31 mph)
Armor 6 mm to 8 mm (0.31 in)
Armament 3 x 7.7 mm (0.3 in) Type 97 or Type 92 machine guns
Range (maximum at cruise speed) 300 km (200 miles)
Total production between 150 to 300, with around 100 more under production

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WW2 Japanese Other Vehicles

Type 97 Shi-Ki

Empire of Japan (1939-1945)
Command Tank – Unknown Number Built

The Type 97 Chi-Ha was Imperial Japan’s most produced and most used medium tank and, as such, many variants were based on its chassis. The Shi-Ki Command tank (コマンドタンクシキ, Komandotankushiki) was one such derivative.

A Shi-Ki command tank amidst a company of Chi-Ha tanks.
A Shi-Ki command tank amidst a company of Chi-Ha tanks. Photo: – D-Day Wiki

Mobile Command

The purpose of a command tank on the battlefield was to give a mobile observation position to company commanders. This was a tactic used to great effect by Nazi Germany’s Wehrmacht during the Blitzkrieg, in vehicles such as the Kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen, a command tank variant of the Panzer I Ausf.B. Command tanks usually sported less armament compared to their contemporaries but carried better observation and communication equipment.
Japan’s take on this type of vehicle was the Shi-Ki. The hull of the Chi-Ha base vehicle remained unchanged. The major changes came to the turret. The standard turret and armament were removed and replaced by a smaller conical turret. Placed atop this new turret was a large cupola with multiple vision ports. The main armament was replaced by a powerful radio which broadcast through a large horseshoe antenna with increased range attached to the top of the turret.


The Shi-Ki wasn’t completely devoid of armament, but it was defensive more than offensive. With a large radio taking up room in the turret, the tank’s main armament, a Type 98 37 mm (1.4 in) gun usually found on the Type 95 Ha-Go, was mounted in the bow in place of the machine gun on standard Chi-Has. A Type 97 Machine-Gun was also mounted in the back of the turret for the commander to use.


It was recently discovered that a replacement was planned for the SHi-Ki. This vehicle would have been known as the Ka-Shi, and would fit the same role. It was a combination of the hull of the Type 1 Chi-He and the modified turret of the Chi-Ha Shinhoto. It was armed with the short 57mm Gun and 2 x 7.7mm machine guns. The turret was fitted with various observational equipment, including a large periscope on the turret roof. It is not known if any of these tanks were built, but a blueprint does exist.

The Ka-Shi Blueprint. Photo: Masao Kimura

A Shi-Ki from an Imperial Navy tank regiment – Illustration: David Bocquelet.

Small Article

The briefness of this article is due to the rarity of the Shi-Ki and the scarcity of information available about it or its use. It is unknown where the tanks served, with what units or even how many of them were built.
A Shi-Ki leading a column of Chi-Ha tanks. Note the 37 mm gun in the hull and how large the horseshoe antenna was.
A Shi-Ki leading a column of Chi-Ha tanks. Note the 37 mm gun in the hull and how large the horseshoe antenna was.

An article by Mark Nash

Type 97 Shi-Ki specifications

Dimensions 5.5 x 2.34 x 2.33 m
18 x 7.6 x 7.5 ft
Total weight, battle ready Aprx 15 tons
Crew 3 (commander, driver, bow gunner)
Propulsion Mitsubishi Type 97 diesel, V12, 170 hp (127 kW)@2000 rpm
Speed 38 km/h (24 mph)
Armor 12 mm (0.15 in) roof and bottom, 25 mm (0.47 in) glacis and sides
Armament Type 98 37 mm tank gun (1.4 in)
Type 97 7.7 mm (0.3 in) machine gun
Range (road) 210 km (165 miles)
Total production Unkown

Links & Resources

Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #137: Japanese Tanks 1939-1945
Osprey Publishing, Elite #169: World War II Japanese Tank Tactics
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