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The name reflects the 15-ton vehicle’s creation in imperial year 2597—or 1937. Its category, “Chi-sensha,” means “medium tank.” And “Ha,” or 3, indicates the line’s third iteration. An upgrade arising from a bruising loss to Soviet tankers at Khalkin Gol in August 1939, the punchier 97 flourished in soggy settings, slithering through Malayan jungle to topple the British bastion at Singapore. In the Philippines, the 47mm high muzzle-velocity gun could make mincemeat of American M3 Stuart light tanks.

Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tank (Jim Laurier)

Once Japan’s Pacific war went defensive, the empire tended to use tanks as self-propelled forts to steer into place, bury, and operate as static strong points. However, in the war’s biggest Japanese tank attack, 97s maneuvered on Saipan until men of the 6th Marine Regiment beat back the enemy with mortars, machine guns, bazookas, and artillery, plus naval guns. The American medium tank weighed at least as much as two Type 97s; when 14 Chi-Has and 13 light tanks confronted 800 Shermans on Okinawa, the outcome was predictably morbid.