The Type 38 Field Gun of the Imperial Japanese Army held origins dating back to a German Krupp design. Local-license production was negotiated by Japan after the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) to which the design was legally copied for the Japanese Army beginning in 1905. The Type 38 was supplied in enough numbers by the time of World War 1 for it to be used in action during the conflict and, by all accounts, it was more or less a very conventionally-designed and adequate artillery piece consisting of a barrel and wheeled carriage assembly. The carriage was key to the overall functions of the gun for it doubled as both gunnery platform and transport assembly containing the barrel and recoil mechanism atop an integrated mount. The wheeled trail carriage allowed the weapon to be moved by vehicle or pack animal as necessary while also allowing the gunnery crew to pivot the weapon or move it short distances as required. The recoil mechanism sat underneath the barrel assembly with loading accomplished through the breech at the rear (interrupted screw type). Adjustments were made manually via hand wheels located along the cradle. A typical operating crew was six personnel with ammunition being provided for by nearby external supplies. An included gun shield added minimal protection for the crew and roughly 2,000 examples were acquired from Krupp (early) and produced at the Osaka Arsenal in Japan (later).
Following the war, and paying attention to artillery developments elsewhere, Japanese engineers brought the Type 38 up to a more modernized form to give rise to the Type 38 (Improved). For the Type 38(I), a new box trail carriage was developed and implemented which replaced the original design's "pole" trail arrangement. The recoil mechanism was updated for the better and the gun barrel was reset onto the cradle for improved balance. The new gun offered better performance specifications including broadened ranges through increased elevation thanks to the new carriage design. Rate-of-fire was further increased to about 10-12 rounds per minute (from roughly 6-8 rpm). The caliber of the gun barrel remained 75mm (2.95 inches) while muzzle velocity was rated at 1,978 feet per second. Traverse of the gun barrel was seven degrees to which elevation spanned -8 to +43 degrees. The system, as a whole, weighed in at 2,504lbs when combat ready and 4,211lbs when buttoned up and made ready for travel. Range was approximately out to 13,080 yards and the typical projectile used was a 13lb high-explosive type intended to combat entrenched enemy forces and fortifications. The improved Type 38 form could now also make use of an armor-piercing projectile intended to counter enemy armor. A shrapnel, incendiary, illumination, chemical gas and smoke projectile was also made available which broadened the tactical scope of the weapon considerably. The Type 38(I) saw first combat actions in the Soviet-Japanese Border Wars spanning 1932-1939 and went on to see extensive use in the 2nd Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945 as well as the Pacific Campaign against the Allies in World War 2.
The Type 38(I) was the standard field gun of Japanese forces from 1935 onwards and played a major role in actions concerning the Second World War. In prior contests against the Chinese, the Type 38(I) fared well considering the results expected of it - particularly against a similarly (or sometimes lesser) -armed foe. However, once up against the Allies across jungle terrain after 1941, the Type 38 shown its limitations accordingly. By this time, most of the original Type 38 guns were all modified to the newer Type 38(I) standard but this held little impact in the short term. As the Japanese lacked much in the way of industrial production and natural resources back home, many Type 38(I) guns were still being shuttled about the battlefield by pack animals as opposed to mechanized movers such as halftracks. Comparable Allied guns proved the Type 38(I) design outmoded by 1940s standards which left the Japanese at a considerable disadvantage in the field when attempting to get the most of their limited field guns. All told, Type 38(I) crews fought on valiantly but were either overrun or out-ranged and out-classed by their contemporaries on the other side of the barrel. Since it proved near impossible to relocate the system at speed by horse or manage the firing action across uneven, dense terrain, the Type 38(I) held little tactical value by the end of the war. It did, however, go on to serve well into 1945 which proved the desperate nature - and lack of industrial might - of the Japanese war machine by this point in the war.
The Allies identified the Type 38 formally as the "Field Gun Type 38 (Improved)".
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