EMPIRE OF THE SUN

Recoil|March - April 2020

EMPIRE OF THE SUN
THE JAPANESE TYPE 99
JAMES SLAUGHTER
Commodore Matthew Perry opened Japan to the world in 1853. Before that time, Japan successfully isolated itself for centuries, resisting external interaction and influence. Following considerable internal strife, Japan committed itself not only to international trade and interaction, but competition. Modernizing Japan’s military was a major part of this effort.

By 1905, Japan defeated a major world power in battle, Russia. By World War I, Japan was able to help the Allies secure the Pacific. Snubbed at Versailles in 1919 and in subsequent international negotiations, by the mid-1930s, Japan set its own course of imperial expansion in the Pacific. Considered the United States’ greatest potential enemy in the interwar period, by 1942 it looked as if Japan might overrun the entire Pacific and present an existential threat to the United States. At the forefront of Japan’s modernization and expansion were its navy and army, both imbued with a sense of Japan’s destiny, history, and Bushido. The tip of the spear on land was the Japanese infantryman, and the Type 99 rifle was to be at the forefront of Japan’s conquest and expansion.

The Type 99 was essentially a modernized Type 38, a rifle Japan’s infantry had been equipped with for decades. Externally, and from a distance, the rifles are similar. The major difference between the two was the caliber. Type 38 was chambered in 6.5 x 50mm; the Type 99 in 7.7 x 58mm. This change in caliber was largely the result of Japan’s combat experience in China. Post combat assessments revealed the 7.7mm cartridge was preferred due to its perceived effectiveness vis-à-vis the 6.5mm.

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March - April 2020