Landing forces

Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces

The Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces (SNLF), (海軍陸戦隊 Kaigun Rikusentai) were the marine troops of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and were a part of the IJN Land Forces. They saw extensive service in the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) and the Pacific theatre of World War II.


Prior to the late 1920s the IJN did not have a separate marine force, instead it used naval landing forces or rikusentai formed from individual ships's crews, who received infantry training as part of their basic training, for special and/or temporary missions.

In the late 1920s, the navy began to form Special Naval Landing Forces as standing regiments (albeit of battalion size). These forces were raised at — and took their names from — the four main naval districts/bases in Japan: Kure, Maizuru, Sasebo, and Yokosuka. These bases all raised more than one SNLF.

These SNLF units saw action in China from 1932 in the January 28 Incident and at the Battle of Shanghai and in naval operations along the China coast and up the Yangtze River and its tributaries during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Other SNLF were later raised from IJN personnel in China, at Hankow, and Shanghai, for service in Canton and on the Yangtze River. On 7 December 1941 there were 16 SNLF units, this increased to 21 units during the war. The strengths of each SNLF ranged from the prewar peak of 1,200 to a later 650 personnel. There was also a special detachment in the Kwantung area, garrisoning the ports of Dairen and Ryojun.

In 1941, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Yokosuka SNLF were converted to parachute units. They conducted more combat drops than Japanese Army parachute units during World War II. The SNLF paratroopers were used during the attack on Celebes, to much lauded success by the Imperial government.

The original SNLF personnel were well-trained, high quality troops with good morale and they performed well against unprepared and unorganized opposition across Southeast Asia. However, when faced with determined resistance, such as at the invasion of Timor and the Battle of Milne Bay in 1942, they often experienced heavy casualties due to their unwillingness to surrender. When completely out of ammunition, they would often resort to hand-to-hand fighting with their swords. They were also responsible for the war crimes committed in their defence of Manila during the American invasion of the Philippines during 1944.

In a well known last stand in 1943, 2,619 men of the 7th Sasebo SNLF and 2,000 base personnel at the Battle of Tarawa accounted for over 3,000 U.S. Marine Corps casualties.

They wore a greener version of the Imperial Japanese Army's uniform with an anchor on their helmet. The SNLF Paratroopers wore a green uniform made from rip stop parachute silk with built in bandoliers and cargo pockets, being better designed than other paratrooper models of the time.

(Note: the Imperial Japanese Army also raised amphibious units called Sea Landing Brigades. These 3,500-strong brigades were used to assault and then garrison islands.)

SNLF Units

Infantry Units

  • Kure Naval Base
    • 1st Kure SNLF-At Hainan Naval District, 3rd China Fleet
    • 2nd Kure SNLF
    • 6th Kure SNLF
  • Maizuru Naval Base
    • 1st Maizuru SNLF
    • 2nd Maizuru SNLF
  • Sasebo Naval Base
    • 1st Sasebo SNLF
    • 2nd Sasebo SNLF-Under 32nd Special Base Force, 3rd Fleet
    • 5th Sasebo SNLF
    • 7th Sasebo SNLF
    • 8th(?) Sasebo SNLF-At Hainan Naval District, 3rd China Fleet
    • Sasebo Combined SNLF (Combined 1st and 2nd Sasebo SNLF)

Special Guard Detachments

  • Ryojun SNLF: special naval guard detached in Ryojun port,Kwantung belonged in Ryojun Guard Distric.
  • Shanghai SNLF (746 units): special naval guard based in Shanghai port,China belonged in China Theater Fleet.later merged into Canton Special Base Force based in Guangzhou area.
  • Yangtze SNLF: special river squadron detached along the Yangtze river area inside of 1st China Fleet.
  • Hankow SNLF: special naval guard based in Hankow and Wuchang ports,belonged to Middle River Division,inside Yangtze River Fleet and 1st China Fleet.
  • Canton SNLF: special naval guard detached in Guangzhou port,Kwangtung belonged inside of Canton Special Base Force.

Paratroopers and Others Infantry Units

See article:Japanese marine paratroopers of World War II

  • Yokosuka Naval Base
    • 1st Yokosuka SNLF (Parachute trained)
    • 2nd Yokosuka SNLF ,(Parachute unit) there were two of these,
      • the first was disbanded after its operations in British Borneo were completed, and
      • the second was raised in June 1943 from 1st Yokosuka SNLF personnel. It spent the war on Nauru.
    • 3rd Yokosuka SNLF (Parachute trained)—was later mergered with the 1st Yokosuko SNLF.
    • 4th Yokosuka SNLF-At Hainan Naval District, 3rd China Fleet
  • Butai Yokosuka: the IJN combined the 1st Yokosuka and 3rd Yokosuka SNLF's into one force for larger operations. Disbanded in late 1943.

Tank and Armor Units

  • Milne Tank Platoon of Kure 5th SNLF
  • Tarawa Tank Unit of Sasebo 7th SNLF
  • Kwajalein Armor Unit of Sasebo 7th SNLF
  • Navy tank unit of 55th Guard Unit,Yokosuka 1st SNLF
  • Itoh Armored Detachment SNLF
  • Makin Armor SNLF Detachment of Navy 3rd Special Base Force

Weapons of the SNLF Units

Heavy weapons

  • 75mm regimental guns
  • 70mm battalion pack howitzers
  • 3-inch (76mm) naval guns mounted on wheeled carriages
  • 81mm heavy mortars
  • 37mm Infantry cannons
  • 37mm antitank gun
  • 47mm antitank gun
  • 13.2mm AA machinegun on a twin mount
  • 25mm shipboard AA gun adapted for land use

Armor and Tanks

APCs and Armored Cars

  • Type 92 Armored Car
  • Hokoku Armored Car
  • Type 2592 Osaka HoKoKu-Go Armored Car
  • Type 4 Amphibious APC Vehicle "Ka-Tsu"

Amphibious Trucks and Land Trucks

  • Type 95 Mini-truck
  • Toyota Amphibious Truck "Su-Ki"

Infantry Weapons

  • Lewis bipod-mounted MGs
  • 13.2mm heavy machinegun
  • 6.5mm MGs tripod-mounted types
  • 7.7mm MGs tripod-mounted types
  • Rifles
  • Pistols and Revolvers
  • Submachine guns
  • Light Mortars
  • Handgrenades
  • Grenade launchers
  • Grenade launcher rifle
  • Light AT weapons
  • Flamethrowers
  • Military swords
  • Bayonets

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