In an effort to modernize its fighting forces to keep pace with foreign powers, the Japanese were forced to rely on outside assistance to improve their engineering prowess and manufacturing know-how. This led to many indigenous weapons inspired from existing designs brought to the Japanese mainland from far-off places like Europe. Such was the influence on the Type 91, a 105mm towed howitzer weapon system that was a Japanese take on the French Model 1913 "Schneider" - already a proven veteran of World War 1 (1914-1918). The French guns were taken on by the Japanese for testing and eventually formed the basis for the local design.
The Type 91 was adopted to succeed the aged line of Type 38 150mm howitzers of same battlefield role. These guns held their own origins in the early 1900s and were themselves veterans of the Japanese war with Russia (the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905). As a howitzer piece, the weapons provided effective indirect fire against infantry forces and light armored vehicles, providing considerable High-Explosive (HE) lethality at range. By this time, the Type 38 series had seen its pinnacle and was quickly outpaced by emerging models seen elsewhere.
The Type 91 utilized a 105mm projectile weighing 35 pounds and loading was through an interrupted screw breech arrangement. The gun barrel was braced by an integral hydropneumatic recoil mechanism for repeat-fire accuracy and the component, as well as the barrel, sat atop a split trail, two-wheeled carriage with gun shield attached - the latter providing some local defense. The typical operating crew was six and the artillery piece could be moved by beast of burden or mover vehicle thanks to its two-wheeled arrangement. The crew could also relocate, or turn, the piece over short distances if necessary.
The gun tube's mounting hardware allowed for an elevation span of -5 to +45 degrees and 20-degrees left or right from centerline. A well-trained and disciplined gunnery crew could expect to make up to eight rounds-per-minute. Muzzle velocity of the exiting shells was 1,790 feet per second with maximum range reaching 11,800 yards depending on charge used. A panoramic optical set was used for ranging/sighting.
Design work on what would become the Type 91 began in 1927 and continued into the early 1930s. Production was assigned to the Osaka Arsenal which resulted in some 1,200 examples. 100 of these became a "motorized" form as steel, rubber-tired wheels replaced the earlier, original wooden-spoked design. The change was necessary to conform to the growing reliance on mechanized warfare but made the weapon system considerably heavier as a result.
The Type 91 went on to see extensive combat action in the period leading up to World War 2 and continued in use until the Japanese surrender of August 1945. Its first widespread use was witnessed during the Manchuria Campaign before it was pressed into action against the Soviets. The expanding Pacific Campaign ensured that the piece would also go on to see action against British, American and other Allied forces before the end. From then onwards, some stocks were featured fighting for both sides of the Chinese Civil War (1946-1950) before being given up for good some time later.