A Naval Type 90 Armored Car in Shanghai
Also known as the “Sumida Model P“, the Special Naval Landing Forces in Shanghai owned an earlier and perhaps lesser-known, road-going (only) version of what later became the Type 91 (and up) Armored Railroad Car “So-Mo” / Broad Gauge Rail Tractor that was convertible for railroad or road use with removable rubber tires. Though only a couple of these early non-rail-going units were produced, there were a few clear promotional photos of the vehicle that were perhaps used to encourage military donations from the public.
While the vehicle (and its successor) had no weapons straight from the factory, it did have mounts for machine guns. The crew was expected to make use of no less than seven sliding gun slits from different points in the armored car, including one in a turret. Through these gun slits the crew could mount several Type 91 Light Machine Guns from different angles without re-positioning the truck or relying on limited fire angles from a turret or front mounted machine gun.
The Type 91’s used in the vehicle were modified versions of the Type 11 十一年式軽機関銃 Jyūichinen-shiki Kei-kikanjū light machine guns for use on tanks and armored vehicles. The machine gun was equipped with an angled pistol grip, with the stock and bipod removed. Additionally, the machine gun was equipped with two brackets (on the right side) for mounting a 1.5×30 scope manufactured by Tomioka Kogaku. This could allow for more accurate fire from within the safe confines of the armored car.
The vehicle itself was involved in the so-called Shanghai Incident and with multiple guns capable of being angled in different directions was suited toward street fighting. With the occupants protected from small arms fire, it was a formidable weapon for “keeping the peace” in occupied urban areas.
Hokoku is the Naval designation for “donated” vehicles (while Aikoku was used for Army vehicles), and the one in the photos here was “Number 1” donated by the city of Nagaoka.
TheType 90 and some of the later rail-going variants are often seen driving around with the front grille panels open. Here is another image of the Type 90 from a war documentary video that also shows the panels open:
Upper Hull Front: 16mm @ 45º
Lower Hull Front: 16mm @ 10º
Hull Sides: 11mm @ 0º
Hull Rear: 11mm @ 15º
Hull Top: 6mm @ 85º
Hull Bottom: 6mm
Gun Mantlet: 11mm @ 0º
Turret Front: 16mm @ 20º
Turret Sides: 16mm @ 20º
Turret Rear: 16mm @ 20º
Turret Top: 6mm @ 80º
There is much confusion over the naming of this armored car, and additional confusion with the Type 92 Heavy Armored Vehicle (more of a light tank, really) and the more heavily armed but similarly shaped Type 93 Armored Car, also from Ishikawajima motors. The Type 90 also shared the same overall body configuration and number/placement of wheels as the Type 92 Chiyoda Armored Car.
In games, this distinction (for this specific vehicle) can be made clearer by use of “Sumida” and “Naval” in the name. Note that the Navy had the non-rail going version, and the Army had the road/rail capable later models.
The Hokoku and Aikoku designations have been confusing to foreigners who have incorrectly used this donation terminology to describe models of Japanese vehicles. The Hokoku and Aikoku organizations each supplied several types of vehicles to the Japanese Navy and Army respectively through donations. The idea of supplying troops with an armored car for defense in a day when many soldiers marched unprotected, rode on horseback, or rode vulnerable in the beds of trucks may have been in the same spirit as sending care packages with body armor to soldiers overseas today.
Photo: The Type 91 and later versions of the Broad Gauge Rail Tractor re-used the same basic Sumida P platform, yet had an adjustable suspension and removable tires with mount points to hold them alongside the vehicles. It was said that the vehicle could be converted for rail or road use in a matter of a few minutes, yet photos of the Broad Gauge Rail Tractor off-rail (on tires / on road) are hard to find.
In Games: The Naval Type 90 offers a lower-tier road-going only model for the Type 91 “So-Mo” also known as the Sumida Broad Gauge Rail Tractor. This allows for some minimal improvements (possibly in horsepower, armament etc.), and re-use of the same basic 3D model. The So-Mo went on for several more years so it is likely the machine guns were upgraded from the original Taisho Type 11’s to more modern machine guns in the rail-going versions.