23rd Division (Imperial Japanese Army)

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23rd Division
Active 1938 - 1945
Country Empire of Japan
Branch Imperial Japanese Army
Type Infantry
Garrison/HQ Kumamoto, Japan
Nickname(s) "Sunrise Division"
Engagements Battle of Nomonhan
Pacific War
Michitarō Komatsubara, Masakichi Inoue

The 23rd Division (第23師団 Dai-nijūsan Shidan?) was an infantry division in the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call-sign was the Sunrise Division (旭兵団 Kyokuhei-dan?). The 23rd Division was formed in Kumamoto on 4 April 1938, in the same day as 15th, 17th, 21st and 22nd divisions, as part of the military buildup following the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The first divisional commander was the Michitarō Komatsubara.


Battle of Khalkhin Gol[edit]

The 23rd Division was almost immediately sent to the northern frontier of Manchukuo, where it replaced a cavalry brigade on garrison duties in Hailar (in what is now part of Inner Mongolia). The 23rd Division was thus the primary Japanese division involved in the subsequent Battle of Khalkhin Gol against the Soviet Union's Red Army from 11 May to September 1939. The 23rd division has engaged Soviet forces by progressively increasing detachments, first by reconnaissance regiment (which was promptly lost and reformed) and then by 64th infantry regiment, which was also defeated and forced to retreat. Attempt to counter-attack 4 July 1939 have failed, bringing an additional losses, including divisional chief-of-staff. 4 August 1939, the 23rd division was subordinated to 6th Army as conflict continued to escalate. The rest of 23rd division was nearly annihilated in the encirclement following Soviet attack 20 August 1939. The infantry regiments have ceased to exist as fighting units by 29 August 1939, as all regimental commanders were killed. In Battle of Khalkhin Gol, the 23rd Division suffered a total of 11,958 men killed, or about 80% of its combat strength. Notably, the only divisional sub-unit not suffering a crippling casualties was the reconnaissance regiment, which was able to break a Soviet encirclement. As a result, commanding General Michitaro Komatsubara was recalled to Japan in disgrace.

Pacific War[edit]

The remnants of the 23rd Division returned to Japan, and were assigned to assist the No.8 Border Defense Force (the future 119th division) in 1940. Gradually, the division was re-formed as an exemplary Mechanized infantry division. In 1944, by then back up to strength, the 23rd Division was reassigned to garrison duties in Taiwan, with most of vehicles and heavy equipment left behind to be inherited by 119th division.

However, with the situation in the Philippines against the United States in the Pacific War becoming ever more precarious, the 23rd Division was reassigned to Luzon while en route, under control of the Japanese 14th Area Army. It suffered heavy losses when the convoy transporting it (Convoy HI-81) was attacked in mid-November 1944. It arrived just in time to engage in combat against the Americans during the Invasion of Lingayen Gulf. At this battle, and in subsequent combat against the combined American and Philippine Commonwealth armed forces during the Battle of Luzon through March 1945, the 23rd Division suffered 24,508 killed in combat, out of a total strength of 29,636 men. By when, the division food supply ran out, resulting in mass starvation. The 23rd Division effectively ceased to exist after the Battle of Luzon, and survivors have retreated to the Bokod by the time of surrender of Japan 15 August 1945.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Madej, W. Victor, Japanese Armed Forces Order of Battle, 1937-1945 [2 vols] Allentown, PA: 1981
  • This article incorporates material from the Japanese Wikipedia page 第23師団 (日本軍), accessed 7 March 2016.