During the war between the Republic of China and the Japanese Empire, which lasted from 1937 to 1945, the Chinese infantry had to deal with Japanese armored vehicles. Although Japanese Tanks were far from perfect in terms of technical reliability, armament and armor protection, the armed formations of the Kuomintang and the Chinese communists could not counter much to them.
However, one should not think that in the Chinese army during the years of the war with Japan there was absolutely no specialized anti-tank weapons. As part of military-technical cooperation with Germany, in 1929, China purchased several dozen 37-mm 3,7 cm Pak 29 anti-tank guns. In 1930, the Chinese government acquired a license, and the assembly of the 37-mm anti-tank guns, designated Type 30 in China, was established in Changsha. These guns easily penetrated the armor of all Japanese tanks. However, due to their small size, poor organization and poor preparation of artillery, Type 30 anti-tank guns did not have a special effect on the course of hostilities, and the Chinese infantry was forced to fight enemy armored vehicles mainly with impromptu means.
When the Chinese had the opportunity to prepare for the defense, much attention was paid to engineering barriers: minefields were set up, blockages and anti-tank ditches were set up in tank hazardous places on the roads, and thick pointed logs were dug into the ground, interconnected by metal cables. They tried to fight the erupted tanks with Molotov cocktails and a bunch of grenades.
Grenade Type 23
Most often, Type 23 grenades were used to make the bundles. The Type 23 fragmentation grenade, adopted in China in 1933, was an adapted copy of the German M-24 "mallet".
Assembling hand grenades Type 23 in the frontline
Since the weight of the explosive in the grenade was relatively small, to increase the high-explosive effect, the ligaments were reinforced, if possible, with additional explosive charges. Subsequently, on the basis of the Chinese Type 23 grenade, the Japanese in the occupied territory of Manchuria launched the release of their own version, known as Type 98. Instead of TNT, the Japanese grenade was equipped with 85 g of picric acid. A significant number of such grenades were captured by the Chinese.
The grenades used by the Chinese army in the collection of the Military Museum of the Chinese Revolution
In addition to the Type 23 and Type 98 hand grenades most common in the Chinese army, anti-tank bundles were also made from other hand-grenades of Chinese and foreign manufacture. A high-explosive variant of the Type 23 grenade is also known, in which 450 g of explosives was contained in a canvas bag tightly wrapped in twine.
In a number of cases, the Chinese troops used live mines in the battles with the Japanese - volunteers hung with grenades and explosives, which undermined themselves along with Japanese tanks. The use of suicide volunteers in the Chinese army was limited, but they played a prominent role in a number of battles. For the first time, suicide bombers hung with grenades and explosives were involved in a significant number during the battle for Shanghai in 1937.
Very actively, "living mines" were used during the battle of Taierzhuang in 1938. In the initial phase of the battle, a Chinese suicide bomber stopped a Japanese tank column, blowing himself up under a head tank. In one of the most fierce battles, the fighters of the Chinese Death Corps blew up 4 Japanese tanks with them.
During the fighting, Chinese forces managed to capture a small number of Japanese Type-20 97-mm anti-tank rifles. Although these weapons were heavy and not very easy to handle, they significantly increased the infantry's ability to combat armored vehicles.
Type 97 Japanese anti-tank rifle with carrying handles
For firing at armored vehicles, a 20-mm armor-piercing tracer shell of a mass of 109 g was used, which left the barrel with an initial velocity of 865 m / s. At a distance of 250 m normal, he could penetrate 30 mm armor, which in the second half of the 1930s was a very good indicator. Power was supplied from a weaned magazine for 7 rounds. For recharging, the energy of part of the discharged powder gases was used. The combat rate of fire reached 12 rds / min.
British 13,9 mm Boys Mk I anti-tank rifle in the exposition of the Military Museum of the Chinese Revolution
The Kuomintang troops after Britain entered the war with Japan received a significant amount of 13,9 mm Boys Mk I anti-tank rifles, which showed good performance against light Japanese tanks. A number of sources say that more than 6000 British PTRs were transferred to the Kuomintang before the surrender of Japan.
British instructor teaches Chinese soldiers how to deal with PTR
An armor-piercing bullet with a tungsten core weighing 47,6 g, which left the barrel at a speed of 884 m / s at a distance of 100 m at an angle of 70 °, pierced a 20 mm armor plate, which made it possible to overcome the armor of Type 95 and Type 97 tanks for a short time. Weapon reloading was carried out longitudinally rotary slide shutter. Practical rate of fire - 10 rds / min.
In 1944, Chinese troops first used Type 2 captured rifle grenade launchers in battle. This weapon was a Japanese copy of the German 30mm Panzergranate 30 grenade launcher (G.Pzgr.30). The grenade launcher was mounted on Japanese 6,5 mm Type 38 and 7,7 mm Type 99 rifles. If the German Mauser 98k rifles used blank cartridges with a sleeve rolled with an asterisk to shoot grenades, then the Japanese used 7,7 mm cartridges with wooden bullet. This slightly increased the range of the shot, but it was necessary to strengthen the bottom of the grenade. The maximum range of a Type 99 rifle shot at an elevation angle of 45 ° is about 300 m. Sighting range is not more than 45 m. The range of grenades from 6,5 mm rifles was less than about 30%.
Japanese rifle with Type 2 grenade launcher
A cumulative 30 mm grenade weighing about 230 g normal could penetrate 30 mm armor, which allowed only light tanks and armored cars to be fought. Due to insufficient armor penetration, a 40-mm cumulative grenade with a super-caliber warhead soon arrived. The mass of the grenade increased to 370 g, while in its case contained 105 g of explosives. The thickness of the pierced armor when hit at an angle of 90 ° was 50 mm, and the maximum range of a shot from a rifle grenade launcher was 130 m.
After U.S. troops began to help Chiang Kai-shek's troops, 12,7 mm Browning M2NV machine guns appeared in China. Browning's heavy machine gun is still considered a fairly effective weapon against light armored vehicles. An M1 armor-piercing bullet weighing 48,6 g with a hardened carbon steel core had an initial speed of 810 m / s and could penetrate a 250 mm armor plate at a distance of 20 m normal. When firing from 100 m, armor penetration increased to 25 mm. Browning's heavy machine gun turned out to be a very successful universal means of combating light armored vehicles, it could also be used successfully against enemy personnel at long distances, suppress firing points and be used in military air defense.
However, with a machine gun weighing 38,2 kg and a machine tool weighing more than 20 kg, even disassembled weapons were quite burdensome to carry over considerable distances. In addition, for the maintenance of a heavy machine gun, well-prepared calculations were required, otherwise the weapon could fail at the most inopportune moment. During the Second World War, 12,7 mm machine guns were a very popular weapon in the US armed forces, and therefore their volumes of supplies to China were relatively small.
Until 1941, the armies of the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party waged a joint struggle against the Japanese army. However, after a sudden attack by Chiang Kai-shek troops on the headquarters column of the 4th CCP Army, an armed confrontation began between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communists. The combat potential of the CPC armed formations increased significantly after the Soviet Union transferred the captured weapons to the Kwantung Army. Immediately after the surrender of Japan, the Kuomintang and the CCP were not able to establish control over the entire territory of China. The Kuomintang had at its disposal larger military forces than the Communist Party, but they were concentrated in the west of the country, and the best divisions armed with American weapons and trained by American instructors were in India and Burma. Because of the position of the USSR, the Americans refrained from landing large forces in China, but the United States provided the Kuomintang with very serious help, supplying weapons, ammunition and equipment. Using the support of most of the population, the armed forces of the Chinese Communist Party managed to defeat the enemy, and on October 1, 1949, the People's Republic of China was proclaimed in Beijing. After the government in Beijing in 1951 established full control over the entire territory of the country, at the disposal of the People's Liberation Army of China was a significant part of the American weapons delivered to the troops of Chiang Kai-shek.
From the American-made anti-tank weapons, the PLA arsenal came up with M9A1 cumulative rifle grenades, which were fired with a blank cartridge using a special M22 7mm adapter mounted on the muzzle of the M1 Garand and Springfield M1903 rifles.
M9A1 cumulative grenade next to the M7 grenade launcher
51 mm cumulative grenade weighing 590 g contained 119 g of pentolite and could normally penetrate 50 mm armor. This was quite enough to defeat light tanks and armored vehicles.
In addition to rifle grenade launchers, the Americans managed to transfer to the Kuomintang several hundred 60-mm rocket-propelled anti-tank grenade launchers M1A1. These weapons were used during the fighting with the Japanese and in the civil war.
The M9 grenade launcher had a number of significant differences from the earlier M1A1 model. The barrel was partially made of light alloy, which allowed it to be extended to 1550 mm, unreliable and climate-sensitive electric batteries were replaced by an induction generator, instead of a wooden one, a lightweight aluminum frame stop was used, and the protective shield was replaced by a bell. Mechanical sights were supplanted by an optical sight with a scale spaced at a distance of 46 to 540 m.
Chinese soldiers with a 60 mm rocket launcher
The cumulative warhead of the M6A3 grenade contained 230 g of pentolite, and the rocket engine, containing 65 g of gunpowder, accelerated it to 85 m / s. Thanks to the increased explosive charge and the replacement of the steel lining of the cumulative recess with copper armor penetration, it was possible to bring up to 100 mm. The length of the grenade was 475 mm, and the mass was 1530 g. The effective firing range was up to 110 m.
60 mm rocket launcher M6A3
After American troops crossed the 1950th parallel in October 38, Chairman Mao ordered the "Chinese people's volunteers" to force the Yalu River. The participation of Chinese troops in the war on the side of the DPRK came as a surprise to the United States. However, due to the poor equipment of the PLA with heavy weapons, the Chinese offensive was soon stopped.
Initially, the Chinese infantry was equipped with anti-tank weapons very low. To remedy this situation, the Soviet Union transferred a large number of 14,5 mm anti-tank rifles PTRD-41 and PTRS-41, as well as RPG-43 and RPG-6 hand-held anti-tank grenades.
Anti-tank rifles PTRD-41 and PTRS-41
The single-shot anti-tank rifle PTRD-41 in the combat position weighed 17,5 kg. Effective firing range - up to 800 m. Combat rate of fire - 8-10 rds / min. The semi-automatic PTRS-41 worked according to the scheme of automation with the removal of powder gases, had a magazine for 5 rounds, and was significantly heavier than Degtyarev's anti-tank rifle. The mass of the weapon in the combat position was 22 kg. However, Simonov’s anti-tank rifle had a significantly higher combat rate of fire - 15 rds / min.
14,5 mm armor-piercing bullets could successfully overcome the protection of the American M24 Chaffee light tanks, but after the appearance of medium-sized M4 Sherman and M26 Pershing in Korea, the value of anti-tank rifles decreased. However, they were used before the end of hostilities for firing at bunkers embrasures and low-flying aircraft.
The RPG-43 and RPG-6 hand-held grenades were created during the Great Patriotic War, but also in the 1950s posed a threat to enemy armored vehicles.
Anti-tank grenade RPG-43
The RPG-43 anti-tank grenade, adopted in 1943, had a mass of 1,2 kg and contained 612 g of TNT. A well-trained fighter could throw it at 15-20 m. After removing the safety pin and throwing a grenade, the hinged bar detached and released the stabilizer cap, which, under the action of the spring, slid from the handle and pulled the cloth tape. After that, the fuse was transferred to the fighting position. Due to the presence of a stabilizer belt, the grenade flew forward with the head part, which is necessary for the correct spatial orientation of the cumulative charge relative to the armor. When the head of the grenade hit an obstacle, the fuse, due to inertia, overcame the resistance of the safety spring and punched the sting with a detonator capsule, which caused a detonation of the main charge and the formation of a cumulative jet capable of penetrating a 75 mm armor plate.
Chinese people's volunteer with RPG-43 anti-tank grenade
With the help of RPG-43 it was possible to break through the 51 mm frontal armor of the M4 Sherman tank, but the upper frontal sheet of the M26 Pershing tank, which had a thickness of 102 mm, was too tough for it. However, the RPG-43 anti-tank grenades were actively used by Chinese volunteers until the armistice in July 1953.
Anti-tank grenade RPG-6
The Soviet RPG-6 anti-tank grenade structurally in many ways repeated the German PWM-1. Due to the fact that the weight of the RPG-6 was about 100 g less than that of the RPG-43, and the head part had a streamlined shape, the throwing range was up to 25 m. The best shape of the cumulative charge and the selection of the correct focal length when increasing the thickness of the pierced armor to 90 mm allowed to reduce the charge of TNT to 580 g, which, together with an increase in throwing distance, reduced the risk for the grenade launcher.
Chinese people's volunteer with PPSh-41 and RPG-6 anti-tank grenade
The infantry units of the Chinese people's volunteers who fought in Korea were very well saturated with anti-tank grenades, which were widely used not only against armored vehicles, but also to destroy enemy fortifications and destroy manpower. However, for the safe use of powerful hand grenades after the throw, it was immediately required to take refuge in a trench or behind a solid wall. Failure to comply with this requirement was a great risk of death or severe shell shock of the grenade launcher.
Despite some drawbacks, a 60-mm bazooka was a more effective and safe anti-tank weapon than hand-held cumulative grenades. At the first stage of the war, KNA and PLA soldiers, using captured grenade launchers, often pierced the frontal armor of American Sherman tanks, the forehead of which was 51 mm thick with an inclination angle of 56 °. Although, of course, not every penetration of a tank’s armor led to its destruction or to failure, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launchers, when used correctly, showed good performance. For the best use of these weapons in the North Korean and Chinese troops, leaflets and instructions on the methods of shooting were distributed, indicating the vulnerabilities of American and British tanks.
However, the Americans themselves, justifying their failures in Korea, declared the insufficient armor penetration of 60-mm cumulative grenades against medium-sized Soviet T-34-85 tanks. This cannot but be surprising, since the armor protection of the M4 Sherman and T-34-85 tanks was approximately equal. Given the fact that these weapons were successfully used to combat late-modified German medium tanks PzKpfw IV, which were better protected in the frontal projection and quite reliably pierced the 80-mm side armor of heavy Tigers, such allegations seem dubious. Moreover, in Korea, the Americans had an improved M6AZ / S rocket-propelled grenade, capable of piercing 120 mm homogeneous armor normal. As you know, the frontal armor of the T-34-85 hull was 45 mm. Given the tilt of the frontal armor at an angle of 45 °, we can assume that it was equivalent to a 60 mm homogeneous armor set at a right angle. Provided that the fuse worked reliably, and on the improved M6A3 grenades, which were not inclined to ricochet due to the shape of the warhead, the fuse was reliable enough, the front armor of the “thirty-four” body should have easily broken through.
M26 Pershing tank destroyed in Korea
Moreover, the American M26 Pershing tanks in some cases also turned out to be vulnerable to “inefficient” 34-mm anti-tank grenade launchers against the T-85-60. The thickness of the upper frontal armor plate at the Pershing was 102 mm with an angle of inclination of 46 °, and the bottom - 76 mm, at an angle of 53 °. The maximum thickness of the side armor of the M26 tank is 76 mm, that is, significantly more than the forehead of the T-34-85 hull. Obviously, the point is not in the insufficient armor penetration of 60-mm cumulative grenades, but in the unpreparedness of American and South Korean soldiers in the initial period of the war to fight with a well-motivated enemy who had at his disposal quite modern weapons by the standards of that time.
In the American armed forces, 60 mm grenade launchers were already recognized as ineffective and outdated by the end of 1950. Nevertheless, this weapon, due to its relatively low weight, was actively used by all parties to the conflict until its end. Since the war took a protracted positional character, and the use of tanks was difficult due to the terrain, rocket-propelled grenade launchers were often used to destroy the firing points. Sneaking up on the distance of an effective shot at a bunker with a 60 mm pipe was much easier than with a heavier and bulky 88,9 mm grenade launcher.
In October 1945, the United States adopted the 88,9 mm M20 anti-tank grenade launcher, also known as the "superbase", but due to the end of hostilities and the presence in the troops and warehouses of large reserves of 60 mm grenade launchers, its mass production only began in 1950.
In connection with the growth of the caliber, armor penetration and effective firing range increased significantly. At the same time, the combat rate of fire compared to the M9A1 decreased by half and amounted to 4-5 rds / min. Weight 88,9 mm grenade launcher M20 in the firing position - 11 kg, in the stowed position - 6,8 kg. Length - 1524 mm.
For ease of use in a combat position there were bipods adjustable in height, an additional handle and shoulder rest, and the protective brace and trigger were enlarged, which made it possible to work in warm gloves. The metal pipe in which the monopod was placed served as a part of the aluminum shoulder rest of the frame type, fixed under the rear part of the barrel.
88,9 mm M20 grenade launcher in stowed position
To reduce weight, the grenade launcher barrel was made of aluminum alloy and was disassembled when carried in two parts, each 762 mm long. The mass of the front and back of the barrel on different versions differed. On the lightweight models M20A1 and M20A1B1, it was respectively 2 and 4,4 kg, and 1,8 and 4,1 kg.
For grenade launchers of the M20 family, several types of rocket-propelled grenades were created: cumulative, smoke, and training with inert filling of the warhead. The cumulative 88,9 mm M28A2 grenade weighing 4080 g contained 850 g of the Composition B explosive (a 64/36 mixture of RDX and TNT) and normally pierced 280 mm armor. This made it possible to fight not only with medium T-34-85 tanks, but also with more protected vehicles.
88,9 mm M28A2 rocket propelled grenade
In TNT equivalent, the explosive charge contained in the cumulative grenade was about 1 kg, which made the M28A2 grenades effective against fortifications and manpower. The initial velocity of the grenade, depending on the temperature of the reactive charge, was 103-108 m / s. Area targets could be fired at ranges up to 800 m.
However, due to the increase in size and weight of the 88,9-mm rocket-propelled grenades, the ammunition carried by the calculation of two people was reduced to 4 rounds. Specially for the purpose of increasing the ammunition ready for use, two ammunition carriers were introduced into the calculation, and a special backpack was created for transporting grenades, in which six rounds were placed in closures. The mass of the cargo was 27 kg. Ammunition carriers in combat conditions also had responsibilities for defending a firing position.
Since August 1950, one M20 grenade launcher was introduced into the infantry units of the US Army. At the end of 1953, the American infantry division was armed with 465 "bazooka soup," and the South Korean army division - 258 grenade launchers. In the United States Naval Forces, 88,9-mm anti-tank grenade launchers were located in the assault sections of platoons of small arms companies.
In the fall of 1950, several anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launchers were captured by KPA and PLA troops. Subsequently, taking into account the high saturation of the “superbases” of the American and South Korean units, these weapons quite often fell into the hands of the fighters of the Korean people's army and Chinese people's volunteers.
In 1951, the Type 51 anti-tank grenade launcher, created on the basis of the American 88,9-mm "superbase", was adopted in China. In order to simplify production, the caliber of the Chinese grenade launcher was increased to 90 mm.
90-mm Type 51 anti-tank grenade launcher on display at the Military Museum of the Chinese Revolution
The dimensions of the weapon remained the same as that of the American prototype, but due to the fact that the Type 51 barrel was made of steel, its weight exceeded 10 kg. Initially, a Type 135 rocket-propelled grenade was used for firing, shaped like an artillery shell. The stabilization of ammunition was provided by rotation, which occurred due to the outflow of powder gases from oblique nozzles. A rocket-propelled grenade with a launch mass of 5,5 kg left the barrel at a speed of 100-105 m / s. Effective firing range - up to 250 m. Maximum - 750 m.
Loading a Type 51 grenade launcher at a firing position
However, despite a significant increase in the caliber and mass of the explosive in the ammunition, the armor penetration of the 90 mm Type 135 cumulative grenade was even less than that of the 60 mm M6AZ / S grenade, and did not exceed 105 mm normal. This was due to the fact that, due to rotation, the centrifugal force “sprayed” the cumulative stream. Since the Americans began to use the well-protected M26 Pershing and M46 Patton, and the British sent the Centurion Mk 2 to Korea, a more powerful cumulative ammunition was required to confidently deal with these tanks. In this regard, the Type 241 rocket-propelled grenade, which was a Chinese copy of the American M28A2, was introduced into the ammunition. At the same time, the effective firing range fell to 150 m, and normal armor penetration was 155 mm. Thus, it can be stated that hastily made Chinese copies of grenade launchers and rocket-propelled grenades were significantly inferior in their characteristics to American prototypes. The Chinese, due to the use of lower quality materials and the inability to reproduce the formulations of gunpowder, as well as due to the worst production culture, have not been able to achieve the same mass and armor penetration. In this regard, the standard situation was when in the infantry battalion of Chinese people's volunteers, two companies were armed with Type 51 grenade launchers manufactured in China, and one company with captured American M20s.
The 90-mm and 88,9-mm anti-tank grenade launchers after saturating the North Korean and Chinese units had a noticeable effect on the course of hostilities, and American tankers began to avoid approaching the line of contact closer than 250-300 m. According to information published in Chinese sources, from 1951 to 1953, more than 4800 Type 51 grenade launchers were manufactured in the PRC. Despite a number of shortcomings, these weapons were generally justified and used by the PLA until the early 1970s.
To be continued ...