The forces examined here fall into two general groups – first are the various Chinese forces raised during the 1930s, in Manchuria, Inner Mongolia and finally the occupied parts of China, and second are those forces raised in areas conquered during the heady days of victories at the start of the Pacific War. Many of the forces detailed in this book differ from their German equivalents in one key way – they had a legitimate cause, fighting for the independence of their countries, and in some cases are still remembered as heroes of the independence movements (in particular in India and Malaysia). These were also the groups most likely to become disillusioned with the Japanese once it was clear they had no interest giving their new conquests any real form of independence.
One key theme that emerges from most of these areas is that the Japanese didn’t really trust most of the men they had recruited, and were either unwilling or unable to provide most of them with any arms. In some cases units had to had their firearms back when not on duty, while others were only armed with bamboo spears (and in one case even these were taken away). In many cases this lack of trust was justified, as many of the more independently minded groups turned against their former Japanese allies, either as the war turned against them, or as the nature of the Japanese occupation became clear.
Not many of these units saw much combat – the main exceptions were the Manchukuo army, which was caught up in the Soviet invasion of 1945 and the Indian National Army, which fought on the Indian-Burmese border. Others were internal forces, operating to support Japanese rule across their vast and rapidly acquired empire, and others appear to have been close to bandits. One surprise is just how many different forces the Japanese founded in some of these areas - the Philippines in particular seem to have been filled with a variety of different armies, militias, defences forces etc.
This is a useful look at an unusual part of the Japanese war effort, even if most of the units involved weren’t of great military significance.
Nanking China, 1940-45
Inner Mongolia, 1937-45
Indian National Army, 1942-45
The Philippines, 1942-45
Other Pro-Japanese Forces
Empire of Vietnam, 1945
Author: Philip Jowett