The success of German Paratroops during the invasion of Crete prompted Japan and others to develop their own paratroop forces, though strangely they seem to ignore the high price paid for that success. The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) quickly established a training unit in late 1940, and on 1st December 1941 the 1st Raiding Regiment was formally raised, with other units to follow. Their first parachute action was the attack on Palembang, Sumatra, in February of the following year, which was a success, though they faced mostly second-rate opposition. However the cost had been high, and once the western Allies turned the tide of war and Japan went onto the defensive, these men were used as elite infantry in ground operations. The only other parachute operation these men ever took part in, at Leyte in December 1944, was a failure, so their parachute history is very brief, but they played their part in the Pacific War and suffered very high casualties attempting to defend their conquests in Asia.
IJA paratroopers used much the same weapons as the rest of the Army, although after a while ones which came apart for easier transportation were introduced. Of the eleven poses in this set, four hold rifles which would be the standard Arisaka Type 99 short model, and two others have the Type 100 submachine gun with its curved side magazine. Also on show (last figure in top row) is a Type 99 light machine gun, which could have a bayonet fitted as shown here, though whether this was seen as a viable option most of the time seems unlikely. One man in the bottom row is armed only with a pistol, which in most sets would suggest he is an officer, but not here. Until well into 1943 paratroopers were dropped with just pistols and grenades (plus their bayonet), and had to find rifles and all other equipment from canisters dropped separately. On the Palembang drop this proved extremely difficult due to the thick vegetation, causing many men to fight the early engagements with just pistols as per this figure. The last figure is clearly an officer however as he clutches his sword, and the remaining two figures here are unarmed.
The array of weapons is good, and the poses that use them are also pretty good. The first figure in the bottom row wears an unopened parachute on his back and a reserve on his chest, so clearly he is not yet in combat, but the rest of the figures certainly are, and while they are not the most lively poses ever made they do a reasonable job, The officer kneeling and holding his sheathed sword is a welcome change from the usual man waving said sword in the air, and the figure in the bottom row about to empty the contents of a container is very worthwhile if your scene is to be the immediate aftermath of a drop. The first figure in the second row reminds us a little of the old Atlantic habit of having figures looking at us rather than at what they are doing, but is not a bad pose even so, and in fact none of them are particularly inappropriate or difficult to use.
IJA paratroopers wore the standard Army uniform of tunic and trousers, with a slightly longer boot and bound puttees on the lower leg. Three of these poses also wear the smock which covered this uniform when jumping, including the pose waiting to jump, so the other two (man with canister and man holding bandolier) are only usable for scenes where the men have recently landed as the smock was soon discarded after the drop. However both the main uniform and the smocks are correctly done here, and a couple of the other poses have acquired significant amounts of camouflage which is good. All wear the steel helmet with cloth cover, and three have a disc at the back, which was used to help identify officers once landed.
Pouches, belts and other equipment were again much the same as the ordinary infantry, and have been properly done here. Where visible, the riflemen have the appropriate items, as do those carrying submachine guns, and those with smocks have their kit concealed. Many seem to be missing something such as bayonet, haversack, canteen or pistol holster, but this is a minor observation. Less minor is the subject of bandoliers. IJA paratroops had a bandolier which they wore round the lower trunk, and one of these figures has this, which is fine. However three of the poses have bandoliers crossed across their body, which is a feature of paratroops from the Imperial Japanese Navy more than the Army. While it would be impossible to say that no IJA paratrooper ever wore a bandolier in this way, we felt it was too much to have three poses like this, though of course later in the war, when the men were acting as ordinary ground infantry, they would have worn whatever pouches they could get hold of, so perhaps not so much a mistake as unrepresentative. The officer has a pair of binoculars but apparently no case.
The detail on these figures is pretty good, being nice and clear and nicely done everywhere. Both the men holding submachine guns hold them at very strange angles, which is to allow the curved magazine to be done properly, though it does look awkward. The bipod of the light machine gun is flat to the mould and so is clunky and wrong, and the prone rifleman is missing half of one bandolier on his front (which of course cannot be seen when he is flat anyway). Other than that the main observation is that most of the figures have a fair bit of flash, most notably around the officer’s right arm, though a few like the light machine gunner are perfectly clean.
The inclusion of a man all kitted up and waiting to jump is a nice idea and worth the effort, though in a set with only 11 poses he does take up a cavity some will feel could have been better devoted to a fighting man. Also of note is that he has a reserve chute on his chest; reserve chutes were used during the Palembang operation, but otherwise were rare as most planned drops were from low height, when there would not be time to deploy a reserve. The poses are pretty good, with the man holding just a pistol being particularly appropriate, and although we were disappointed by the level of flash, the sculpting is generally very nice if occasionally a compromise to accommodate difficult weapons. We could not identify the supposed grenade about to be thrown by the figure in the top row (even though it is illustrated on the box), and we should point out that the container, which is a shade too short, should also have some padding on one end to cushion its impact. However the accuracy is generally very good, with our reservations on the bandoliers being the main concern. Those still wearing smocks have clearly just jumped, but the rest could serve in the elite ground troop role assigned to these men for most of the war. Since the set includes the first two in the bottom row, we thought more poses would have been justified here, but what there is may take time to clean up but delivers the subject quite well.