by: Stefan Halter [ ]
Though Japanese Armor of WWII is largely disregarded as inferior to any other, it was nevertheless used in substantial numbers from the early 1930's in China to the last battles of the Pacific war. This gives you a lot of options for places, markings and camouflage schemes, especially with the quite colourful camouflage used by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA).
Though Japanese Armor is not as widely available in 1/35 scale as other nations’, there are nevertheless a number of kits available from Tamiya and most notably Finemolds in Japan. Decalcomaniacs now give us some additional marking options for these kits.
Marking Options and Historical Notes
The set has no specific marking options in the classic sense. Rather it provides the unit markings for 9 different regiments covering 1941 - 1945. The 4 page instruction sheet gives you the information on which symbols were used for which company of the individual regiments, as well as some limited background information on the vehicles. Standard organisation of a Japanese Tank Regiment until 1943 was 4 companies plus HQ Company and Maintenance Company. In 1943 this was changed to 5 companies plus HQ and Maintenance. The instructions to the sheet do not specify this and some units are listed with 3, 4 or 5 companies, others with the standard 5 plus HQ. It is not clear whether the missing Companies simply did not exist, or whether there is no knowledge about their markings. The cited online reference (see below) is unfortunately not any more detailed. For detailed information of individual vehicles you will have to refer to photos. All the markings were in white unless otherwise noted below. The Regiments covered are the following:
This Regiment served in Malaysia in 1941, was then in Burma (1942), then China and in 1945 in Japan. Two different sets of Company symbols are provided for the periods 1941-1943 and 1943 – 1945.
This Regiment served in the Philippines first and was then transferred to Java and remained in Indonesia for the rest of the war. It used white squares with green stripes for identification of its three companies.
This Regiment served in China and was transferred to Japan in 1945. It used green markings on white background for the identification of its HQ and 5 line companies, for example a dot for HQ, a square for first and a T for second Company.
This Regiment served in the Philippines throughout the war, during the invasion in 1941 at first and then again during the liberation in 1944 /45 on Luzon. This Regiment used a number of captured Stuarts in 1944, which would make for an interesting marking option.
This Regiment was used in China and in 1944 defended Guam (1st and 2nd Company) and Saipan (3rd, 4th and 5th Company). The companies were identified in a similar fashion as those of the 5th Regiment with green symbols on white squares. They also carried a chrysanthemum on the turret. On Saipan they carried the tank commander’s name on the sides, 4 examples of which are provided in the set. Another specialty of the Saipan tanks was the two Japanese flags on the front hull. Osprey New Vanguard’s “Japanese Tanks 1939 – 45” by Steven Zaloga has a color plate of one of these vehicles and in the green square (for 5th company) it also shows a symbol that looks like an inverted “2”. This is not provided in the set.
This Regiment was used in Malaysia and Burma and fought the famous desertized Stuarts in the Jungle. Apparently it also captured some of these and pressed them into their own service against the Lees of the later campaigns. The symbols of the three companies were white and there was a small Japanese national insignia carried on the front hull (the latter is not included in the set).
This Regiment served in China and all that is known are the Company symbols on the turrets, which are quite different than those of other Regiments.
This is another “Chinese” Regiment that was transferred to Japan in 1945. Apparently it carried a white stripe (from period photos it could be two thin stripes or one wide faded stripe) and the Company insignia on the turret. The set provides only the symbols but it should be no problem to mask and paint the stripe yourself.
This unit served the entire duration of the war in China and is likely to have engaged Russian forces in 1945. Some vehicles carried what appear to be red symbols and numbers on the hull side, but this is not included in the set.
What is missing in the set are markings for Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) tanks and the regiments with the numbers between those included, in particular those of the 26th which served on Iwo Jima and the 27th on Okinawa. In the latter cases this is due to no fault of Decalcomaniacs, but to the simple fact that little is known about, or there were no markings on, these regiment’s tanks. As to the IJN, it would probably have been beyond the size limit of the set to include these.
The set contains the decal sheet and a four page instruction sheet with the Company insignias for each Regiment and text for the location of the decals, and in most cases notes the tank types seen in the reference photos. The last page has a short list of references, one of them is the already mentioned book by Steven Zaloga, “Japanese Tanks 1939 – 45” and the other two are links to internet sites. Unfortunately only one of these (http://www3.plala.or.jp/takihome/history.htm) is still in operation. That one, however, is extremely useful and contains all kinds of information on organisation, use and markings of Japanese tank units as well as further references (note: Concord Publication’s “Tank Battles of the Pacific War 1941 – 1945” is a notable absent but was used for this review and has lots of good information as well).
The decal sheet is printed on a continuous clear backing so each decal will have to be cut out individually. The decals are somewhat mixed and not grouped by regiment. The same decals are usually together, though. The sometimes very finely printed white decals can be hard to see on the light blue background so care will have to be taken when cutting. Each decal is provided four times, which will usually allow you to mark two vehicles per Company, more than enough in my opinion. The decals are a bit wrinkled but turn out okay once on the model.
Printing is on the light side with the green and red which have a striped appearance due to what I suppose is a low printing resolution. The white, which makes most of the set, is printed in good quality, no complaints there.
I tested a few of the decals on my trusty Quad guinea pig. Each decal has to be cut out individually so it depends on your cutting skills how much of the clear backing can be seen. Dip it in warm water and after a few seconds the decal comes off the backing sheet (personally I have never seen a decal that comes off so fast and easily). I applied my decals in the normal way I usually do on a coat of future with the help of micro sol. This worked out well, though the future underneath some decals got milky at first. This disappeared as soon as it was dry. The decals themselves are flat when dry and the backing sheet is quite thin. Once you’ve added your flat clear coat, the decals can be weathered normally. On the photos at right you can see the effect after a simple weathering with pigments.
This is a great set for the Japanese Armor enthusiast. While the red and green are not printed in the best quality, I think this will not be too noticeable and due to the simple shapes it could be painted by hand if necessary. The main asset of the set are in any case the Japanese Symbols and the very fine unit symbols in white which would be hard to paint by hand. I highly recommend this set but be advised to have some reference of your chosen vehicle at hand for a truly accurate model.