Friday, March 24, 2017

Japan: m.30-32 (type 90) part 3 and a Guam adventure

This post is about the first helmet in my collection, and my most recent as well - both are Japanese m30-32 steel helmets; also known as the type 90 helmet.

This is a young Japanese soldier wearing the m.30-32 during WWII...

and this is my Navy buddy Roger Jacobs wearing an m.30-32 we found on the Island of Guam in 1971 where we were both stationed at the Naval Communications Station.

Just this week I took delivery on the best type 90 I've yet had in the collection. (previous post here ).  This is my fifth type 90, including one that was reissued to Siamese forces after the war (here).

This is the type 90 that I brought home from Guam.  It's the helmet that got me started down the road of collecting.

Adopted on october 28, 1930 the m. 30-32 became the standard helmet for the Japanese armed forces.  An additional lot of less than 100 were also issued, without insignia, to war correspondents.

Weighing in at about two pounds six ounces the steel is 1mm thick.

The Guam helmet was found in a small cave that went about thirty feet into a hillside.  The cave had water flowing through it which accounts for the very corroded state of the helmet.

(For a video about me finding my first Japanese helmet go here)

Above and below; two pairs of small holes in the dome provide some ventilation.

Three pairs of small rivets affix steel staples in the inside of the shell.

The staples secure the rings that the three-point chinstrap passes through.

Robust split pins secure the leather liner band to the shell.  A third point of securement is the prongs that affix the star insignia which pass through the liner band.

Along with the helmet, we also found remains of the soldier.  A Japanese commission still actively seeks out remains to reinter them in Japan.

The paint on this helmet is about 95% intact.  The black primer is revealed beneath the few places where the paint is missing.  This helmet is in really fine condition.

Long fabric tapes comprise the chinstrap...

which were tied in an elaborate fashion.

The three-leaved liner is similar to many European helmets of the era.

The liner band is joined at the front and rear with heavy stitching.

The spring-steel rings through which the chinstraps pass serve a similar role to the bails of Western helmets.

At the rear of the liner a keeper secures the fabric chinstrap.

The liner is very similar to the German m.16 of the Great War.

As with its German cousin,  the liner leaves are backed by fabric envelopes into which small pillows provide padding as well as to adjust the fit.

This particular helmet is lavishly marked.

The "S" within the diamond indicates that this shell was manufactured in Kobe. The kanji characters painted and stamped indicate that the helmet is size small.

A sturdy cord  gathers the leaves of the liner together.

The insignia of the Imperial Japanese Army, a five-pointed star,
is affixed to the front of the helmet.

Even amidst the corrosion, the Guam helmet still retains the slot where the prongs of the star passed through the shell.

The Guam helmet was found in the area of the Battle of Yigo, know as the "last stand" of Japanese organized resistance on the island.  

War in the Pacific

Historic Resource Study
NPS Logo

F. Other Significant World War II Sites on Guam

V. General Obata's Command Post
Lt. Gen. Hideyoshi Obata established his last command post on Guam at Mataguac Hill (Mount Mataguac in 1944) about a third of a mile north of Yigo. The hill rises 120 feet above the surrounding terrain. The command post's caves as well as a spring are in a depression on the northeast side of the hill. The history features are within the privately owned South Pacific Memorial Park, owned and managed by the South Pacific Memorial Association, composed primarily of Japanese citizens. At the east base of the hill, an imposing concrete memorial tower, in the form of hands in a praying gesture, dominates the scene. Nearby is the small Queen of Peace Chapel and a residence for a custodian. Japanese visitors continue to erect small monuments, shrines, and prayer sticks in the vicinity of the memorial. The park is dedicated to those Americans and Japanese who died in the battle for Yigo.

To the north of the memorial, a flight of concrete steps leads down into a large depression that contains the entrances to four caves where General Obata established his command post and where he and his staff died. A second flight of steps descends to a spring that provided fresh water to the Japanese. The water is collected behind a low concrete wall. Jungle vegetation is thick and lush throughout the depression except where trails are kept clear.
Mataguac Hill is covered with tall sword grass. Erosion has occurred on the slopes of the hill. Several iron stakes for barbed wire are found on the eastern slope; these appear to be American and post-battle.

The management of the park provides some written interpretation of the memorial, some of it in fractured English, but there is little information available an General Obata's last stand or on the battle for Yigo and Mount Santa Rosa.

Lt. Gen. Hideyoshi Obata, from his headquarters on Saipan, commanded the Thirty-first Army which defended the Mariana, Bonin, and Palau islands. He was on an inspection trip to Palau when the American invasion of Saipan began. The general hastened to return to his headquarters but was unable to proceed beyond Guam. Despite his seniority, Obata left Guam's defenses in the hands of the island commander, Lt. Gen. Takeshi Takashima. When Takashima was killed on July 28, Obata took command of the surviving Japanese forces on Guam and oversaw the withdrawal to the north. There, he established a final defensive line in the Mount Mataguac-Mount Santa Rosa area. Chamorro men were forced to dig tunnels for Obata's command post under Mount Mataguac. Joaquin Acosta Blas recalled later that the Japanese forced him and other Chamorros to build three tunnels at Mataguac.
On August 10, 1944, patrols from the Seventy-seventh Infantry Division approached Mataguac and drew heavy fire from the Japanese. A full-scale battle ensued. Obata knew the end was near and radioed his last messages to Japan, "I will engage the enemy in the last battle with the remaining strength at Mount Mataguac tomorrow, the 11th." [20] Next morning a battalion of U.S. infantrymen, supported by tanks, assaulted the hill. Then, behind a shower of grenades, they descended into the depression where they sealed the caves with explosives. Sometime that morning General Obata took his own life. The bathe for Guam was over.

Four days later, demolition men reopened the caves and found more than 60 bodies within. The U.S. Army described the caves as having four-foot thick concrete walls; they were large and elaborately constructed; and they contained a large transmitter. It is not known if the caves were resealed or collapsed later.

This is me in 1971 as a young US Navy sailor exploring the battlefields of Guam.
While I was on the island the final Japanese holdout - Shoichi Yokoi was captured, ending his 27-year ordeal in the jungle.  The Wikipedia entry on Yokoi can be found here

This is a photo I took of the Peace Monument erected by Japan at Yigo.  It was erected in 1970 by the  Japanese to commemorate the lives lost from both sides during the battle for the island. I don't know however if recognizes the many civilians who lost their lives at the hands of the Japanese.

At the foot of the embankment beyond the memorial I found many bullets from the battle.

During my time on the island it was still evident that it was a hotly contested battleground and I was particularly sharp-eyed when it came to finding relics from the fighting, including...

This live type 89 mortar shell from the so called Japanese "knee-mortar" That I found in the  jungle on the Yigo battlefield.

When we were processed onto the island, one of the many warnings we received was about live ordnance that was still lying around on the jungle floor.  They couldn't have been more emphatic...

But I removed the fuse, which I still have today.  I was a very knuckle-headed eighteen-year-old at the time. Rest assured, I've outgrown such foolishness...I think.

I hope you've enjoyed this exploration of the bookends of my collection; two Japanese m.30-32 helmets; the first from 1971 and the last from 2017.  What a fun hobby this is.

See you next time with another cool helmet from the collection.


No comments: