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  Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tank   
IJA
1st Independent Tank Regiment

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USMC October 24, 1942

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1944 via Flahavin

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Peter Flahavin 2004
Driver Sgt. Kanichi Tamura (KIA)
Gunner Fukuhata (KIA)
Disabled  October 24, 1942

Tank History
Part of the 1st Independent Tank Company and was originally the 4th Company, 2nd Tank Regiment with 108 men. The unit landed on Guadalcanal during the night of October 14, 1942 from the Sasago Maru (1st Platoon) and with the balance on the Sakido Maru with 104 men. One was KIA and two WIA in the landing and one tank destroyed (disabled?) by gunfire from an unknown U.S. warship.

Wartime History
There were only nine tanks (Tank #1, 1st Platoon, the commanders tank had engine trouble on the coast route and remained there) involved in the attack; tanks No. 2 & 3 (3d Platoon) were not involved in the direct attack.

Mission History
On October 24, 1942 this tank attempted to assulted Point Cruz and was knocked out by United States Marines, while attempting to cross the Matanikau River on October 24, 1942. The driver of the tank was Sgt. Kanichi Tamura and his gunner were killed trying to get out of the disabled tank. Thirty Japanese were KIA and ten WIA. One, Sgt Seizoh Watanabe ran away before the battle or just after it commenced. Later he was taken prisoner. He and 14 others were still alive 12 years ago.

After the initial battle action the tanks were disabled and several swamped by the sea and ruined. The Japanese had no spares or tools to recover or repair the tanks.

Afterwards, Americans forces destroyed them to prevent Japanese machine gunners or snipers from using them as pillboxes. All were destroyed by gufire and demolition, execpt for this one.

Stan Jersy adds:
"The head on the tank was from the 4th Tank in the 'crossing' photo. In the photo---the first tank was the leader, the second tank was the adjutants tank, the third was the 3d Tank, 1st Platoon, the next was 3d Tank, 2d Platoon, the fourth tank---was a light tank (3d Tank, 1st Platoon).  It is believed there were two bodies in the tank.

Wreckage
Over the decades, the Matanikau River mouth and sandbar has moved extensively, leaving the tank submerged up to its turret. During wet cyclones the Matanikau floods, washing away the sandbar, then it builds up again immediately.

Date unknown, a Japanese person, attempted to hire an Australian to pull the tank out but the crane could not get a firm hold on the rusted hull.

References
Thanks to Stan Jersy, Ewan Stevenson and Peter Flahavin for additional information

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019

 

Tech Info
Type 97
Chi-Ha

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