23 July 21
“Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands:
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.”
Shakespeare, from “Othello”
Japanese Samurai, in a desperate effort to preserve their exclusive status within Japanese society, prohibited any kind of firearm in Japan through the 1850s. The ice was broken when American Commodore Perry arrived in Tokyo Bay in 1854 with his flotilla of modern naval vessels. Over the next half-century Japan would catch-up, but Japanese devotion to edged-weapons and preserving the protocol of martial skills surrounding their use continues to this day!
Designed by weapons genius Kijiro Nambu, the WWII Japanese Type 92 gas-operated, open-bolt, strip-fed, air-cooled heavy machinegun (Japanese copy of the Hotchkiss) in 7.7×58 Japanese (Shiki) Caliber was typically used with an optic, as were most Japanese machineguns. Unlike most other WWII combatants, the
Japanese equipped many of their machineguns with optics
“Type 92″ comes from the Japanese calendar year of 2592 (equivalent to the Gregorian calendar year of 1932), when the gun first entered service in the Japanese military
Like other Hotchkiss guns, the Type 92 has an oil tank, which was there to brush each cartridge with oil just before it is chambered and fired. Without such oiling, the Type 92 would often experience extraction problems. Of course, oiled cartridges, when dropped in dirt or sand, quickly become coated with contaminants and won’t feed, unless carefully cleaned!
The Type 92 was heavy, with a very heavy barrel and large cooling fins. Overheating was rarely a problem, but transport was slow and required a crew.
During the Pacific Campaign of WWII, American Marines nicknamed the Type 92 “The Woodpecker,” because of its relatively slow rate of fire (450 R/M)
Japanese Type 96 and 99 gas-operated, open-bolt LMGs, also designed by Nambu, were far more portable and featured a top-mounted box magazine (similar to the British Bren). The difference between the two was caliber. The 96 was chambered for 6.5x50SR. The 99 was in 7.7×58. Both featured quick-change barrels, and both were equipped with bayonets, owing to the Japanese fascination with edged weapons (noted above)!
Top-mounted magazines made it easy for an assistant to change magazines, as the gunner remains in the fire position. Magazine changes are much more difficult when the magazine is on the bottom, as with the BAR.
Japanese belatedly decided to make the caliber change in the middle of WWII, because of concerns with poor range and penetration of the 6.5 semi-rimmed cartridge, but were never able to complete the task as the War
All these weapons designed by Nambu feature automatic dust-covers. Entry-points for mud and debris are just about all sealed. Nambu knew and understood how important is was in warfare to keep internals of weapons free from contamination.
Both the Japanese Type 96 and 99, as well as the British Bren, can trace their ancestry directly back to the venerable Czech ZB-26, designed by Václav Holek in 1924.
“ZB” is for “Zbrojovka Brno Military Technical Institute”
The ZB was later scaled-down to accommodate intermediate cartridges, like the Czech 7.62×45 and the Soviet 7.62×39, and re-designated the ZB 52/57
Kijiro Nambu was Japan’s version of John Browning, and like John Browning he deserves much credit for the advancement of small-arms design.
But, Nambu has suffered the same fate as Russia’s Sergei Tokarev and Czechoslovakia’s Vaclav Holek. All have been largely ignored by Western military historians.
They shouldn’t be!
“When we can’t see ourselves in our history, we begin to think that we are disconnected and suffering alone. Historical ignorance always precedes cultural imbalances and individual despair.”