5th Division (Imperial Japanese Army)
5th Division HQ, Hiroshima
|Country||Empire of Japan|
|Branch||Imperial Japanese Army|
|Garrison/HQ||Hiroshima City, Japan|
|Engagements||First Sino-Japanese War
World War II
The 5th Division was formed in Hiroshima in January 1871 as the Hiroshima Garrison (広島鎮台 Hiroshima chindai?), one of six regional commands created in the fledgling Imperial Japanese Army. The Hiroshima Garrison had responsibility for western region of Honshū (Chugoku district), ranging from Hyōgo Prefecture to Yamaguchi Prefecture. The six regional commands were transformed into divisions under the army reorganization of 14 May 1888.
As one of the oldest Divisions in the Imperial Japanese Army, the 5th Division saw combat in the First Sino-Japanese War. Elements of the 5th Division were the first Japanese forces to land in Korea, and the 5th Division was in charge of the southern Korean garrison and participated in the invasion of the Liaodong Peninsula in China. It was the main Japanese element in the multi-national coalition during the Boxer Rebellion, and received praise from foreign observers for its bravery, professionalism and discipline. In the Russo-Japanese War, under the command of General Nozu Michitsura, it saw combat at the Battle of Sandepu and Battle of Mukden.
In the Second Sino-Japanese War, it participated in the invasion of Chahar, and the Battle of Xuzhou before being reassigned to the south China front around Guangzhou but was defeated heavily in the Battle of Kunlun Pass where the 21st Brigade was wiped out.
After the start of the Pacific War the 5th Division was reassigned to the southern front under Field Marshal Terauchi Hisaichi's Southern Command based in Saigon. With its combat experience and record in China, it was considered one of the best divisions in the Imperial Japanese Army, and was one of the divisions assigned to the conquest of Malaya and Singapore.
Battle of Malaya
The 5th Division landed on the east coast of Thailand at Singora and Patani on December 8, 1941 as part of General Tomoyuki Yamashita's 25th Army. The 5th Division fought its way through northern and central Malaya. It was particularly successful at the Battles of Jitra and Slim River where, in both battles, it defeated the Indian 11th Infantry Division. At the Battle of Slim River, the 5th Division's 41st Infantry Regiment, supported by tanks, swept through sixteen miles of British defenses, shattering the exhausted 11th Indian Division and inflicting an estimated 3,000 casualties.
The 5th Division did not have it all its own way during the Battle of Malaya, suffering heavy casualties during the Battle of Kampar and again when it faced the 8th Australian Division during the Battle of Muar at Gemensah Bridge.
Battle of Singapore
On the night of 8 February 1942, six battalions of the 5th Division, under command of Lieutenant General Matsui Takuro as part of Lieutenant General Yamashita Tomoyuki's 25th Army along with the IJA 18th Division crossed the Johor Strait using landing craft.
On the Singapore side, Sarimbun beach was heavily defended by 2 companies, one each from the 2/20th and 2/18th battalions of the 22nd Australian Brigade, supported by a machine gun company, three artillery batteries and an anti-tank battery. However, the Japanese troops managed to penetrate the British defense perimeter, and the Australian troops retrograded after midnight allowing the 5th Division, to move on to Ama Keng village and established a beachhead, where they fired a red starshell over the straits to indicate the their success to General Yamashita.
Immediately after this important victory, the 5th Division moved inwards into Singapore to capture more strategic areas such as Tengah Airfield on 9 February 1942. The unit fought against the 2/29th, 2/20th, 2/18th battalions of the 22nd Australian Brigade and the Jind Indian Infantry Battalion, the airfield garrison. On 11 February 1942, Bukit Timah Road was captured by the 5th Division after fierce fighting. Singapore surrendered 4 days later.
The original Order of Battle of the IJA 5th Division included:
- 11th Infantry Regiment
- 21st Infantry Regiment (Shimada)
- 42nd Infantry Regiment (Yamaguchi)
- 5th Special Operations Regiment
- 5th Field Artillery Regiment
- 5th Construction Regiment
- 5th Transport Regiment.
As of July 1937
IJA 5th Division (Motorized Square Division) – Lt. General Seishirō Itagaki
- 9th Infantry Brigade
- 11th Infantry Regiment
- 41st Infantry Regiment
- 21st Infantry Brigade
- 21st Infantry Regiment
- 42nd Infantry Regiment
- 5th Mountain Artillery Regiment
- 5th Cavalry Regiment
- 5th Engineer Regiment
- 5th Transport and Logistics Regiment
The IJA 5th Division was a "motorized" square division, being equipped with 500 trucks. The trucks were for the heavy equipment and the artillery, whereas every soldier not riding in a motor vehicle rode a bicycle.
Reference and further reading
- Madej, W. Victor, Japanese Armed Forces Order of Battle, 1937–1945 [2 vols]
Allentown, Pennsylvania: 1981