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    John D Salt

    In accordance with the seasonal mood of “Bah, humbug” and “Dammit, more expense”, I treated myself to some fairly recent books (2014, 2015 and 2016) by Leland Ness that I stumbled across while looking for something else. Two are about the Japanese Army, and one about the Chinese; all are published by Helion. I haven’t had time to go into them in any depth, so this is not a proper review, but I would like to draw them to the attention of odd folk with similar interests to mine, so that the wallet-pain can be propagated more widely.

    For the Japanese, there is “Rikugun” (Japanese for Army, though Naval land forces are also covered), in two volumes, the first on tactical organisation, the second on weapons. The first is chock full of staff tables and gives far the most complete account of Japanese ground forces organisation I have seen, the second similarly stuffed with performance details of weaponry of all kinds, plus engineer, CW, and signals equipment. In both cases, the time span extends some way before 1941, so the historical development of both organisation and weaponry can be traced. The style will be familiar to ayone who has seen Zaloga and Ness’ superb “Red Army Handbook” (also published under the title “Companion to the Red Army”). This is pretty much the first book of its kind I have seen that is not based entirely on TM-E 30-480, and the author provides handy postscripts detailing the US archival sources he researched.

    For the Chinese, in collaboration with a Taiwanese researcher Bin Shih, there is “Kangzhan” (which I believe is Mandarin for “War of Resistance”, specifically the war with Japan 1937-45). Here the authors are filling a massive lacuna in information for the wargamer; the book is the first of its kind that I have seen. It covers the organisation and weapons of both Kuomintang and Communist forces in the familiar well-illustrated and table-rich format, and includes a general introduction to the overall course of the war in China to help put the information in context. Again, a research postscript is given summarising the archival sources used, and books published in Chinese and Japanese.

    I would like to have seen wiring diagrams of organisation tables, but this is not a critical omission by any means. The amount of information in all the books is impressive, but I am especially impressed with “Kangzhan”. In coming weeks I intend to extract the battalion-and-below organisational data to add to my collection. For now, I have amused myself by looking at the entries for those oddball weapons of which I am inordinately fond.

    Most of the Japanese weapons were already familiar, as TM-E 30-480 was after allnot a bad effort, but I was intrigued by the details given of not one, but four hand-held anti-tank rocket launchers — two Army, one Navy, and one locally-produced in China. None saw service, so would only appear on the wargames table in “what-if” games. Previously I had read an intelligence report of the suspected development of a Japanese bazooka-like weapon, but never seen pictures of them. Both the Army types look serviceable.

    The Chinese weapons listed in “Kangzhan” reflect the great variety of types China imported at various times. Many are long familiar, such as the Bren, Boys, Bofors, ZB-26 and Sd Kfz 222. There are some older beasts like the Lahti LMG and the unbelievably long-lived Madsen. There were several odities that were new to me. The Soviet Union supplied Gruson (German) and Roseberg (Russian) 37mm guns, produced at the end of the 19th century as infantry support weapons, and lacking a recoil system. The Chinese provided these with AP rounds and used them exclusively in anti-tank units; in Mr. Ness’ delightful turn of phrase, “for which role they were excruciatingly unsuited by low velocity, simple iron sights, and lack of traverse.” There is a wide selection of mortars, some imported, of which my favourite is the dinky little French 37mm MAM guerilla mortar; some constructed by warlords, often in weird calibres such as 41mm, 55mm, or 75mm; and the mighty 150mm beast produced in the Shenyang Trench Mortar Arsenal, and trundled around on spoked wheels. Best of all is the weird category of “hybrid guns”, a type I have never seen represented on the wargames table. This seems to have been an idea that was experimented with by various people in the 1930s. The Chinese used the Siderius (from the Netherlands) and Schneider (from France) 47mm/75mm hybrid guns, which used a sngle carriage with a replaceable barrel, and the Bofors (from Sweden) 37mm/81mm dual-mount gun, which had both barrels on the same carriage in an “under-and-over” style, one for high velocity AP work and the other as an HE chucker. According to the text, this sort of silliness was also undertaken by Vickers (Britain) in 25mm/70mm and 44mm/60mm, Skoda (Czechoslovakia) in 37mm/70mm, and Siderius also offered a 37mm/62mm. I’m sure it seemed a good idea at the time.

    All the best,


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