Strength and organization of the Imperial ArmyThe focus of the war moved away from China to the Pacific when Japan attacked American and British bases in the Far East in December 1941. The Imperial Army was involved in a number of amphibious operations in the Pacific Island chains although this area was the Navy’s prime responsibility. The Army’s greatest success was probably the capture of Singapore and the expulsion of the British from Malaya and Burma. Outnumbered by the British forces the spirit of the Japanese soldiers and the ability of their commanders proved unbeatable: by March 1942 the Japanese Army stood on the frontiers of India. The Army grew to a maximum strength of 5 million men, in 140 divisions and numerous small independent units.
The summer of 1942 marked the high-water of the Japanese advance, however, and when America’s vast industrial and military strength was brought to bear the Japanese Army was forced over to the defensive. In the Pacific, US troops waged a bitter island-hopping war and in Burma the British eventually managed to get the upper hand against the extended Japanese Army.
Distribution of Japanese Invasion and Occupation Forces in December 1941
The available Japanese invasion forces were comparative small. From the total of 51 divisions in China and Manchuria only 11 were available in December 1941.
Even in 1943 the commitment in China still amounted to 25 infantry divisions, 1 armoured division, 11 mixed brigades, 1 cavalry brigade and 1 flying division – a total of 620,000 men and 14,000 vehicles. This force, known as the Kwantung Army, was called upon to provide a constant stream of reinforcements for the Pacific War, and by 1945 its units were understrength and too weak to pose any real threat.
|Kwangtung Army (Manchuria)||Armies not known||total 13 divisions|
|China Expedition Forces (China)||1st, 11th, 12th, 13th Armies||total 21 Divisions|
|23th Army (against Hong Kong)||38 Infantry|
|Southern Army Group (Pacific, East India, Burma) Reserves: 21 , 56 Infantry||14th Army (Formosa and Palau Islands against Philippines)||16, 48 Infantry|
|15th Army (China and Indo-China against Burma)||33, 55 Infantry Division"|
|25th Army (China and Indo-China against Malaya, Borneo, Sumatra)||5, 18 Infantry, Guards Division|
|16th Army (Japan and Palau Islands against Dutch Borneo, Celebres, South Sumatra, Amboina, Timor, Java)||2, 56 Infantry|
|South Sea Detachment (Bonin Islands against Guam, Wake, Gilbert Islands, Bismarck, New Guinea)||Regiment Group|
Japanese division in Southwest Pacific in August 1942: total 4 (2, 16, 38, 48 Infantry Divisions)
Japanese divisions in Burma in September 1942: total 4 (18, 33, 55, 56 Infantry Divisions)
Overview Japanese divisions
Overview of fully established and operational divisions of Imperial Army outside of Japan.
|Date||Armoured divisions||Infantry divisions||Total|
|mid-1942||1 (in China)||54||55|
|End of 1942||3 (2 new in August in Manchuria)||54||57|
Organization strength of the divisions
Approximate organization strength of the major types of the Imperial Japanese Army divisions 1941-42.
|Infantry Standard Type B||Infantry strengthened Type A||Garrison Special Type C|
|Infantry regiments||3 (c. 2,500 officers and men each)||3||Brigade with 3 independent Infantry Battalions|
|Cavalry regiments||1 (950 officers and men)||1||–|
|Machine guns||382 light, 76-112 heavy MG||410 light, 114 heavy MG||110 light, 32 heavy MG|
|Howitzers and Field guns||66 (48 x 75mm, 18 x 70mm)||84 (36 x 70mm, 36 x 75mm, 12 x 105mm)||8 x 70mm|
|Anti-tank guns||22 (37mm or 47mm) + 18 x 20mm AT-rifles||18 (37mm or 47mm) + 28 x 20mm AT-rifles||–|
|Tanks||7 (armoured cars)||7 (armoured cars or tankettes)||–|
|Vehicles||300 (250 x 1/4 ton carts, 50 x 1/2 ton trucks)||500 (450 x 1/4 ton carts, 50 x 1/2 ton trucks)||–|
|Armoured Division||Independent Brigade|
|Infantry regiments||1 brigade (3,800 officers and men)||5 battalions|
|Machine guns||?||180 light, 20 heavy MG|
|Howitzers and Fieldguns||12 (8 x 105mm, 4 x 155mm)||8 (75mm or 105mm, sometimes 81/90/150mm mortars instead)|
|Anti-tank guns||18 (47mm)||20 x AT-rifles|
|Anti-aircraft guns||20 (4 x 75mm, 16 x 20mm)||–|