Formation and tactics
The 1st Yokosuka SNLF (Special Naval Landing Force) was formed 20 September 1941, at Yokosuka Naval District, round a battalion of 520 paratroopers, the 2nd Yokosuka also formed at the Yokosuka port area, 15 October 1941, with 746 men and trained as such, took no part in any airborne operations and became an island defensive base unit. The 3rd Yokosuka, again formed at the Naval facility consisting of 850 men on 20 November 1941,was involved in the Dutch West Timor invasion as airborne inserted infantry originating from the captured air base at Kendari.
The paratroopers were led by navy officers, who had trained at the Imperial Japanese Army infantry school. Although Rikusentai basic training was different from that of the Japanese Army, the paratroopers were trained at the army base on Kanto Plain.
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Finally, when dealing with the character and scale of the conflict, was it necessary for each faction to hold a specific portion of territory? Probably not. although it was certainly a factor to take into account together with:Light arms were furnished from army stocks; heavier material was manufactured by the navy. The first training drop occurred on November 16, 1941.
The Japanese Navy planned to use the paratroop force as a diversion, by co-ordinating the timing of a seaborne assault and parachute drop to create maximum surprise at the point of contact. Rikusentai paratroopers would land inland from beaches where major amphibious assaults were to occur. In particular, it was intended that paratroopers would disable airfields, preventing enemy warplanes from interfering with amphibious landings. The lightly-armed paratroopers would have to attack the air base defenses. If they were successful, it would also allow the Japanese to use the airfield for their own warplanes and was comparable to the use of German Fallschirmjager at the Battle of Crete, in May 1941.
The 2nd Yokosuka SNLF saw action not as paratroopers, but as an amphibious assault force in the Borneo campaign, from December 1941.
Two companies, numbering 849 paratroopers, from the 1st Yokosuka SNLF, carried out Japan’s first ever combat air drop, during the Battle of Menado, in the Netherlands East Indies, on January 11, 1942.
Four hours before the airborne landings, the 1st Sasebo SNLF had come ashore by sea nearby.
On February 19, 630 paratroopers from the 3rd Yokosuka SNLF was dropped near Kupang, West Timor, and suffered heavy casualties in the Battle of Timor.
In mid-1942 the 1st Yokosuka SNLF returned to its namesake naval base and what was left of the 3rd Yokosuka took part in unopposed landings on islands in the eastern part of the East Indies archipelago. The 3rd Yokosuka returned to Japan by the end of October 1942.
Many weapons were the same as army Teishin units, but some heavy weapons were provided from navy stocks. IJNAS land-based planes transports, heavy bombers and flying boats were used to deliver the paratroopers.
Rikusentai paratrooper uniforms
The uniform of Yokosuka 1st, 2nd, (for paratrooper training and fighting on land) and 3rd Rikusentais in Menado and West Timor battles in 1942 was the standard SNLF dark green with dark black or dark brown belts and harness. This uniform was based on the German model. The padded leather helmet was later replaced by a steel one, although photographs suggest that the German helmet was actually issued to Japanese parachute troops. They wore standard infantry equipment with additional ammunition bandoleers. Such units used their special badge on the right arm, a little Kyokujitsu-ki banner on the left side and the navy badge – the white anchor – in their caps and khepi, along with black boots and gloves. Later a simplified uniform type was used with the same SNLF standard color, and with the same type of belts and harness.
Sometimes a naval life preserver vest was worn over the uniform to carry cartridges and hand grenades, and carried their standard Nambu pistol or revolver and a knife in belt or boot.
Parachute and harness
The first specifically designed Japanese military parachute was the Type 01 of 1941, similar to the German RZ version, which has more in common with the Italian D-30 series chute, having a canopy diameter of 28 feet (8.5 metres) in a pronounced hemispherical shape with skirting and a vent hole for stable flight.
The harness was modified in the later Type 03 leaving out the lift webs, and the rigging lines were brought to a single point connected to a large steel ring behind the paratroopers neck for a more upright controlled landing
The particular Japanese method of opening of the folded and packed chute by static line was for safety sake dangerous and liable to failure. Each paratrooper also carried a 24 feet (7.3 metres) reserve chest-pack, and it should be noted that the basic Japanese naval parachutists training program required jumps between 300-500 feet (90-150 m), which would not give much time to deploy the emergency chute, let alone hesitate in deploying the main canopy.
Nakajima L2D2 Rei Yosoh Type 00 “Tabby”
Mitsubishi L4M1 (naval version of Mitsubishi Ki-57 “Topsy”)
Mitsubishi G3M2/3 “Nell” Land-based bomber
Mitsubishi L3Y1/2-L (transport version of Mitsubishi G3M)
Mitsubishi G4M2 “Betty” Land-based bomber
Mitsubishi G6M1/2-L (transport version of G4M1/2 Bomber)
Mitsubishi K3M3-L “Pine”
Nakajima G5N2-L Shinzan “Liz”
Nakajima L1N1 (naval version of Nakajima Ki-34 “Thora”)
Nakajima C2N1 (naval version of Nakajima Ki-6)
Kawanishi H6K2-L flying-boat
Kawanishi H8K2-L “Emily” flying-boat
Yokosuka H5Y1 “Cherry”
The navy also ordered the development of an experimental heavy glider, the Yokosuka MXY5, for airborne operations, but these were never fully-developed
Type 94 8mm pistol
Type 26 9 mm revolver
Type 14 8 mm Nambu pistol
Arisaka Type 00 rifle
Type 2 parachutist rifle
Bergmmann/Type 100 submachinegun (Model 1940)
Type 96 light machine gun
Type 99 light machine gun
Type 97 20mm anti-tank rifle
Type 91 hand grenade
Type 89 grenade launcher
Type 91 grenade launcher
Taisho Type 11 70mm infantry mortar
Type 99 81mm infantry mortar
Type 11 37mm field gun
There were plans to equip the paratroop units with light tanks like the Type 95 Ha-Go, to operate as naval Airborne Armor Troop units but this was not implemented.
Commander Toyoaki Horiuchi: led the 1st Yokosuka SNLF (519 men in two waves) in the Menado operation.
Lieutenant Commander Koichi Fukumi: led the 3rd Yokosuka SNLF (630 troops in two waves) in the West Timor campaign.
WW II Japanese Paratrooper Song
Giretsu (special forces operations)
Paramarines (special USMC airborne forces)
Categories: Military history of Japan during World War II | Imperial Japanese Navy | Airborne units and formations