WW2 Thai Armor

Type 76 SPAAG

Kingdom of Siam (Thailand) (1933)
SPAAG – 26 Imported

The first mass-produced SPAAG

After the 1932 revolution, the Siamese Ministry of Defence started looking for a new kind of weapon, wanting to establish their first Anti-Aircraft Regiment. They were interested in a new Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun (SPAAG) which was developed by the Vickers Armstrong British company. This was a derivative of the Dragon carrier which was itself a derivative of the successful Vickers series of light tanks, specifically the Mark E.
The Dragon carrier was originally intended to fill the role of an ammunition carrier and tractor for artillery pieces but the large floor area provided by the design allowed for a new open topped higher superstructure. The work was done on a Mark IV Dragon and a single QF 2-pounder Mark II ‘Pom-Pom’ automatic cannon was mounted within this superstructure, creating a flexible weapons platform. Though more than 50 of the Dragon Medium Mark IV tractors were produced, with vehicles exported to India and China, only Siam used this armed open superstructure variant.
Vickers 40mm AA outside the Vickers-Armstrong factory, Elswick, NewcastleOverhead view of the ‘Vickers AA 40mm’ design purchased by Siam showing the large amount of space this design afforded to the crew.
Type 76 SPAAGs on parade in front of Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok
Type 76 SPAAGs on parade in front of Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok
Siam placed an order for 26 SPAAGs via the firm of Barrow, Brown & Co. with the first 10 vehicles (1st batch) being received in August 1933. The Royal Siamese Army renamed them as “Type 76 SPAAG” (ปตอ.อจ แบบ 76 / ปืนใหญ่ต่อสู้อากาศยานแบบ 76) after the Buddhist year 2476. Some sources point out that the Type 76 SPAAG was probably the first tracked SPAAG to see series production.
Review of Thai Type 76 SPAAGs, a row of searchlight trucks can be seen behind them.Central driver’s position on Type 76 SPAAG. Photo: K. Boonyapakdi


The layout of the Type 76 SPAAG was simple. The driver was seated centrally with a small visor to see where he was going. The spacious area behind the driver was open with the crew arranged around the gun, ammunition was stored in two large lockers at the back. No other armament was provided other than the crew’s personal arms. Suspension was provided by the same system as on the Vickers light tanks with pairs of bogies on sprung arms. The engine was placed low in the hull at the back to reduce height and improve balance but still had the transmission at the front. Armor was light up to just 10 mm providing protection from small arms and machine guns.
Column of Bangkok forces during rebellion.
Column of Bangkok forces during rebellion.

Decisive role in Boworadet Rebellion

The outbreak of the Boworadet Rebellion (กบฏบวรเดช) on the 11th of October 1933, led by Prince Boworadet, caused a critical moment for the Phraya Phahon Phonphayuhasena’s (พระยาพหลพลพยุหเสนา) government. This ‘full-scale rebellion’ consisted of 4 infantry battalions, 2 artillery battalions, and one cavalry squadron, and managed to capture Don Muang Airport.
The Prime Minister appointed Lt.Col Luang Phibunsongkhram [Phibun] (พ.ท.หลวงพิบูลสงคราม) to command the Bangkok forces. Phibun responded to the royalist rebellion by means of an artillery barrage on the 13th of October, but saw no satisfactory outcome failing to dislodge the rebel forces. The Bangkok forces then employed weaponised trains by using a Type 73 light tank (Vickers 6-Ton) placed on low sided wagon in front of the armored locomotive. It was used as a command vehicle and a wagon loaded with infantry was attached as an advance guard. However, Lt.Col Luang Amnuai Songkhram (หลวงอำนวยสงคราม), who led this unsuccessful breakthrough attempt, was killed by gunfire from a rebel machine gun nest at the Thawa Sunthon temple (วัดเทวสุนทร).
Type 63 75mm mountain guns during the rebellionLt.Col Luang Phibunsongkhram [Phibun] (พ.ท.หลวงพิบูลสงคราม) (central) in 1941
Type 73 Light Tank on rail falt car during the rebellion
Type 73 Light Tank on rail flat car during the rebellion
Phibun changed his tactics immediately; he changed his order, placing the newly arrived Type 76 SPAAG on low sided wagons in lieu of the Type 73 light tanks. The 40 mm automatic cannon was capable of firing 200 rounds a minute, making them ideal for both an anti-personnel and an anti-aircraft role should the rebels have tried to use aircraft for reconnaissance or strafing government troops.
Lt. Busrindre Bhakdikul (ร.ท.บุศรินทร์ ภักดีกุล), who was newly graduated from the Royal Military Academy in Belgium, was put in charge of an SPAAG unit of 2 vehicles. From memory, he later recalled that the Type 76 SPAAG could easily destroy enemy machine-gun nest positions in the temple. Its frontal armor was tough enough to receive punishment from machine guns allowing the Type 76 to knock out enemy positions at the close range. On the 13th of October though, Type 76 SPAAG fired only 9 rounds. This was enough to cause the rebel infantry on the front line to retreat. After the very aggressive attack from the Bangkok forces, the rebellion HQ made a decision to retreat leaving Col.Phraya Sri Sitthi Songkhram (พ.อ.พระยาศรีสิทธิสงคราม) commanding the rear-guard.

Type 76 SPAAGs on flat bed rail cars for ground support role

type 76 SPAAG
Tank Encyclopedia’s own illustration of the Type 76 by David Bocquelet, 1/72 scale.
On the 15th of October, Lt. Col. Luang Phibunsongkhram pushed much harder. A rebel pilot who came back from a reconnaissance mission reported that the Bangkok forces were preparing for a new attack. Prince Boworadet’s forces had been preparing for an attack. His officers put their hope in a Type 63 75mm mountain gun which was placed on low sided wagon like their opponent had done on the 13th of October. The Bangkok forces responded to this new threat by calling the Type 76 to the front again. Following an exchange of fire, the 75 mm mountain gun was destroyed by 40 mm HE rounds.
Thai Type 63 75mm Mountain GunSectioned shrapnel and high explosive 40mm shells. Photo credit: WL Boonton.
The situation got worse for the rebels. Col. Phraya Sri Sitthi Songkhram gave orders to send the Hanomag locomotive back down the track at top speed, acting as a ‘land torpedo’ to collide with the Bangkok forces troop carrier train. The train crash caused a lot of casualties for the government forces and put one Type 76 out of action in the crash.

The aftermath of the train attack
The rebels were defeated at the end of October. A funeral was held the following month for the fallen soldiers. The Type 76s were used in the funeral of soldiers killed during the Royalist rebellion carrying their coffins along a route from the Equestrian Statue of King Chulalongkorn to cremation at Sanam Luang.
Type 76 SPAAG after the rebellion carry coffins of fallen soldiers through Bangkok
Type 76 SPAAG after the rebellion carry coffins of fallen soldiers through Bangkok

Thai-Franco War

Even though Siam became Thailand on the 23rd of June 1939, the country was still facing tension with France. A pan-Thai movement led by Lt.Col Phibun, who replaced Phraya Phahon Phonphayuhasena as Prime Minister, launched a campaign to reclaim long-lost territory and unite the various Thai peoples. The 1940 invasion of France by Hitler’s Germany emboldened the Royal Thai Army (R.T.A.) to regain some parts of French-Indochina. Two battalions of Type 76s (12 vehicles per battalion) also took part in the Franco-Thai war but saw very limited action during this conflict, unlike its Vickers relatives which were used in the counter attack at Phum Preav (บ้านพร้าว).

World War II

The Second World War came to Thailand on the 8th of December 1941. Thailand was forced to accede to Japanese demands for passage through the country, allowing Imperial Japanese forces to back up their invasions of Burma and Malaya. Thailand was still unsure whether they should join with the Axis powers or not. The sinking of the Battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the Battlecruiser HMS Repulse made the decision of the Thai Prime Minister much easier. As a result, Field Marshal Phibun declared war on Great Britain and the United States on the 25th of January 1942, officially bringing Thailand into WWII.
Like other smaller nations, the RTA’s air defenses depended on the co-operative use of acoustic locators and search lights for illuminating targets at night. The RTA soon discovered that this kind of countermeasure was not good enough to protect against modern Allied bombers. High-altitude bombing by the British RAF (Royal Air Force) and the American USAAF (United States Army Air Force) meant that there was no place for a pom-pom gun in air defense. The Type 76 was already outdated for AA duty and was replaced in that role with the Type 77 AA gun. The Type 76 did remain in service until the end of WWII, however.
Thai Type 77 75mm Anti Aircraft guns
Thai Type 77 75mm Anti Aircraft guns

The Type 76 SPAAG post WWII

At least 7 Type 76 SPAAGs are preserved in Thailand today in museums and monuments in various conditions. There is currently some discussion ongoing about the possibility of returning one to Great Britain’s Bovington Tank Museum which does not have an example of this British export.
One of the surviving Type 76’s in Thailand
One of the surviving Type 76’s in Thailand

An article by Kittichart Boonyapakdi


The author would like to express his sincere thanks to 1LT. Witsarut Lee Boonton (Historian Officer, RTA Artillery and School) and Mr. Andrew Hills for their invaluable time and constant encouragement to prepare this article.


พนม นันทพฤกษ์. ผู้พิชิตสมรภูมิบางเขน ด้วยกระสุน ป.ต.อ. เพียง ๙ นัด. ศิลปวัฒนธรรม 2548. 26 (11). น. 69-71.
อนุสรณ์ในงานพระราชทานเพลิงศพ พลโท บุศรินทร์ ภักดีกุล ม.ว.ม.,ป.ช.,ท.จ.ไทยน้อย (นามแฝง). แม่ทัพบวรเดช. กรุงเทพฯ: โอเดียนสโตร์; 2493. น. 93-95.
Bangkok: Anti Aircraft Artillery Division.

Type 76 SPAAG specifications

Dimensions 2.37 x 1.95 x 4.62 m
7’9” x 6’5” x 15’2”
Crew 6
Propulsion 87 hp petrol engine
Suspension Leaf spring bogie
Armament QF 2-pounder Mark II ‘Pom-Pom’
Armor 5 to 10 mm
Total purchased 26
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index
WW2 Thai Armor

Type 83 (Type 95 Ha-Go in Thai Service)

Kingdom of Thailand (1940-1954)
Light Tank – 45-50 Purchased

After the end of WWI, the Japanese eagerly expanded their empire into China, creating the Manchukuo puppet state. The government of Thailand, which was a largely neutral country, saw a great opportunity to be an ally with this new great power in the world, especially after increasing pressure from the USA and Britain after the 1932 revolution by People’s Party (คณะราษฎร). Plaek Phibunsongkhram, the newly elected prime minister, tried to balance western power by bringing the Empire of the Rising Sun into South East Asia (SEA).
In the late 1930s, the Royal Thai armed forces began to order Japanese weapons, which were cheap and accessible. Japan was the nearest producer of tanks and spare parts. If the Thai Army purchased tanks from other countries, such as Great Britain, they would have to wait nearly half a year for their order to be delivered because of the vast distances involved. Japan was a lot closer. It was also politically a good idea to be on friendly terms with one of the most militarily aggressive countries in the region at that time.
The Royal Thai Army ordered a number of weapons and vehicles from Japan. One of most interesting was the new Japanese light tank, the Type 95 Ha-Go. This was Imperial Japan’s most produced tank. It was renamed the Type 83 (แบบ ๘๓, Prap̣heth thī̀ Pæd s̄ib s̄ām), after the Buddhist year of 2483, 1940 to the western world (Gregorian Calendar).
An official photograph of a Royal Thai Army Type 83.
An official photograph of a Royal Thai Army Type 83. The camo of the tank in this photo is Imperial Japanese Army pattern so it is believed that this photo was taken a short time after their vehicles arrived.

The Type 95 Ha-Go

The Ha-Go Light Tank entered service with the Imperial Japanese army in 1936 and remained in service until the end of the Second World War. It was a reliable vehicle, with up to 16 mm (0.63 in) of armor and a top speed of 45 km/h (28 mph). It featured a 37 mm (1.46 in) main armament capable of penetrating 1.7 inches (43 mm) of armor at 500 yards (460 meters). It also had a secondary armament of two 7.7 mm (0.3 in) machine guns.

The Type 83 Tank

Thailand became interested in obtaining tanks for their army at the end of World War I, after they received French reports on what these new vehicles had achieved in action. The Thai military studied the possibility of the use of heavy tanks for supporting infantry. This idea was later dropped as the heavy weight and high ground pressures of such a vehicle were not suitable to the terrain of Thailand. Because of this, consideration turned to medium and light tanks.
It unknown exactly how many Ha-Go tanks actually made it to Thailand. 50 is the most widely accepted number. From source material analysis*, it would seem that Thailand started to receive this light tank on the 25th of February 1941, when a steamship under the name of Kamei Maru arrived from Yokohama port carrying 14 tanks. This delivery took place during the first phase of Franco – Thai war (November 28, 1940 – May 9, 1941). This war was fought between France and Thailand over territories in French-Indochina. In footage from the archive of the NHK (Japan’s national public broadcasting organization), the Type 83 tank is seen to take part in the victory parade on 27 April 1941. The next day, the Thai army would expand their Armored Regiment to two battalions. The other battalion would be equipped with the Vickers Mk. E Light Tank, purchased from Great Britain before hostilities. This tank was known as the Type 73 in Thailand. They also had a number of Carden-Loyd Mk.VI Tankettes.
Thai tank crew with the British Vickers Mark E
Thai tank crew with the British Vickers Mark E, known as the Type 73 in Thai service.
The Thai military made no modifications to the Ha-Go, believing it was perfect for their needs in its factory form. The Ha-Go was not originally built with a radio. To compensate for this, the Thai added American built walkie-talkies to some of the tanks in their service after WW2. They also added headlights to the front of the tank.

The Type 83 in WWII

The tanks were delivered as Japan put forward it’s ultimatum to the Thai Prime Minister, Plaek Phibunsongkhram. The invasion came on December 8th, 1941. Despite an initial, ferocious skirmish in southern Thailand, resistance lasted only a few hours before Thai capitulation. With this action, Thailand lost its neutrality, as the country was effectively press-ganged into the service of the Japanese Empire and became part of the Axis forces.
The Royal Thai Army (RTA) high command established the Phayab Army (กองทัพพายัพ) on 21 December 1941. The Cavalry Division (35th and 46th Cavalry Regiments) and 12th Cavalry Regiment were also attached to this army.
This action by the Thai army led the Republic of China Army (RCA) to respond. The Chinese deployed the 93rd Division from Jinghong (เชียงรุ้ง) to set up their new HQ at Kengtung (เชียงตุง) and defensive positions at Mong Ton (เมืองต่วน), Mong Hsat (เมืองสาด), Mong Yawng (เมืองยอง) and other bordering locations.
This amassed Thai force, the advanced guard, armed with their new tanks, did see action as part of the Japanese lead invasion of the British Territory of Burma, modern-day Myanmar, on the 10th of May 1942. The Thai army moved to occupy the state of Shan (“Saharat Thai Doem” to the Thais), which was promised to Thailand by the Japanese if they won the war. The Type 83s had a very hard time during the invasion of Saharat Thai Doem. This was caused by poor roads, impenetrable rainforest, mountainous terrain and lack of fuel or spare parts. Biological obstacles were also faced by the crews such as tropical diseases.
The RTA also attempted to use both traditional horse cavalry and armor as a combined force. It was soon found that the horses were not suitable in the harsh jungle environment of the Shan state. Many of the animals succumbed to disease, as a result some cavalry units were withdrawn from the state. This left the Type 83 to maintain their infantry support duties alone.
Type 83 with crew.
Type 83 with crew. The markings on the lower hull represent something of a military license plate. ๑๑๕๔ = 1154
The short period the Thai tanks were in action showed them how incapable the tank actually was when it came to facing enemy armor and infantry. Japanese instructors had taught Thai crews to fire hand weapons through the tank’s various viewports, a highly impractical affair. The crews were later equipped with Mauser rifles and Madsen light machine guns which gave them ability to fight as infantry if needed. In 1944, all of the tanks were recalled to Thailand. No official records were ever found to suggest the tanks ever engaged enemy armor.
By 1945, it was clear to Thailand that the days of the Japanese Empire were numbered. Thailand planned to revolt against their Japanese masters, but the end of the war came about before the action came. This, of course, put an end to the Thailand’s enforced alliance with Japan.

Prime Ministerial Commander

A famous man served in these military actions. This was Prem Tinsulanonda (เปรม ติณสูลานนท์), a Type 83 commander. In this quote he speaks of his experience:
“There were only little places for tank operation, the environment was not an easy one. There was jungle, dales, and creeks. When the terrain was too rough we had to use horse cavalry for reconnaissance and protection of our flanks.”
Tinsulanonda would later go on to play a large role in post-war Thai politics, becoming the 16th Prime Minister of Thailand from 1980 to 1988, and most recently playing the part of Regent of Thailand until the recent death of the Thai king, Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Thai Ha-Go Type 83
Thai Type 83
Type 95 Kyu Go
A Typical Japanese Ha-Go for comparison. Both illustrations are by Tanks Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.
Type 83's taking part in the victory parade on May 9th, 1941
Type 83’s taking part in the victory parade on May 9th, 1941

The Type 83 Post WWII

The Royal Thai Army kept the Ha-Go far past its hypothetical sell-by date. In 1946, the Royal Thai Army was made substantially smaller, with most of the tanks heading to Bangkok. A couple of tanks found their way to other, smaller bases in the country.
With the Korean War now looming on the horizon, American military advisors came forward in an effort to help the Thais upgrade their armored units. They also presented disturbing facts about the Ha-Go to the Thai military leaders.
The American advisors informed the Thais of how vulnerable the vehicle was when facing tanks like the M4 Sherman, hand-held anti-tank weapons such as the Bazooka, and even .50 cal (12.7 mm) heavy machine gun fire. With the ensuing Cold War, these weaknesses would only be amplified. The surplus of compatible 37 mm ammunition would also run out with time. This led Thailand to re-think its armor doctrine.
A preserved Type 83 at the Reserves Training Center, Territorial Defense Department, Bangkok.
A preserved Type 83 at the Reserves Training Center, Territorial Defense Department, Bangkok. Photo: Kittichart Boonyapakdi
The Royal Thai Army did not officially phase out the Type 83 until 1952. None of the vehicles were sent in the Thai contingent that took part in the Korean War. The tanks were not fully taken off active service until 1954. They did, however, remain on military listings past this date. It is believed that Thailand’s Special Operations Commandos used them as training vehicles up to the late 50’s, early 60’s.
At least 7 of the tanks are preserved in Thailand today in museums and monuments. A number of the tanks are preserved at the Royal Thai Army’s Special Operations Centre at Fort Narai.

One of the most inaccurate paint schemes to ever befall a tank of WW2 era, the Ha-Go with a modern digi-cam pattern. This tank is located at the Surasak Montri fort in Lampang. It is believed to have been painted in this scheme because the new base commander liked the modern digi-cam pattern. Photo: WWIIafterWWII

A Special Vehicle

One of the Type 83s is still in the inventory of the Royal Thai Army. This is a special vehicle, as it is still in running condition with all of its original equipment. It is believed that there are only 2 Ha-Go’s in the world that are still running. The Thai Army often run it for displays, parades and official ceremonial events. It is also the only World War Two era Japanese vehicle in the inventory of any active army in the world.
A preserved and functional Type 83 of the Royal Thai Army’s Fort Adison Cavalry Center at Saraburi.
A preserved and functional Type 83 of the Royal Thai Army’s Fort Adison Cavalry Center at Saraburi.

An article by Mark Nash and Kittichart Boonyapakdi

Type 83 specifications

Dimensions 4.38 x 2.06 x 2.18 m
14ft 4in x 6ft.8in x 7ft 2in
Total weight, battle ready 7.4 tons (8.2 short tons)
Crew 3 (driver, commander/gunner, machine-gunner)
Propulsion Mitsubishi A6120VD 14.4 l, air-cooled diesel, 120 hp (90 kW)@1800 rpm
Suspension Bell crank
Armement 37 mm (1.46 in) Type 98 AT gun
2 x Type 97 7.7 mm (0.3 in) machine guns
Armor 6 to 16 mm (0.24-0.63 in)
Top speed 45 km/h (28 mph)
Range (road/off road) 250 km (400 mi)
Total purchased 45-50
For information about abbreviations check the Lexical Index

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Noble GB, Perkins ER, Nuermberger GA, editors. Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1941, The Far East. WA, USA: United States Government Printing Office, 1956; 5. pp. 92.
Chanwit K, Thamrongsak P, Vigal P. ฺThe Foundation of the Promotion of Social Science and Humanities Textbooks Project. Bangkok: Field Marshal Phibun Songkram and Modern Thai Politics.
* Time series: Chronology of Franco-Thai war and Pacific war (อนุกรมเวลา: ลำดับเหตุกาณณ์ในสงครามเรียกร้องดินแดนคืน และสงครามมหาเอเชียบูรพา). Thammasat University Journal. 1999
Royal Thai Army Command and General Department. Armored vehicle called “Tank”. Bangkok: RTA Survey Department; 1917.
Department of the Cavalry Inspector General. Type 77- 83 Tank Platoon Handbook; 1951.
Tank: Cremation book of 2Lt. Prayun Tesanant. Bangkok: Aksornniti; 1936.
Thippaporn I. The Kengtung Wars in Thai History, 1849-1945 (Dissertation). Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University; 2008. pp. 84-104.
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #137: Japanese Tanks 1939-1945 (For info on the Ha-Go)
The National Archives of Thailand.
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #137: Japanese Tanks 1939-1945 (For info on the Ha-Go)
An article about the Ha-Go in Thai service
Our article on the Type 95 Ha-Go

Video of the preserved and functional Type 83 of the Royal Thai Army’s Fort Adison Cavalry Center at Saraburi.