Type 98 320 mm mortar

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Type 98 320 mm mortar
Type 98 320 mm mortar schema.png
Japanese Type 98 320 mm mortar schema
Type Spigot mortar
Place of origin Japan
Service history
In service 1939 -1945
Used by Imperial Japanese Army
Wars World War II
Production history
Designed 1937 - 1938
Weight 300 kg (projectile)

Caliber 320mm
Barrels one
A 320 mm mortar shell (minus warhead) captured during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The 320 mm Type 98 mortar (Japanese: 九八式臼砲, Hepburn: kyūhachi-shiki-kyūhō, literally "nine eight type mortar"), known by the nickname "Ghost rockets", was an artillery weapon used by the Japanese military during World War II, especially during the Battle of Iwo Jima.[1]


The mortar consists of a steel tube closed at one end by a steel baseplate, which rests on a wooden platform. The 300 kg (660 lb), 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in), 330 mm (13 in) shells fit around and on top of the tube, instead of being dropped inside, making this a spigot mortar. The range of each shot was adjusted by adding different size powder charges at the base of the round. The barrels could only handle five or six shots apiece before becoming damaged and unusable. When used in large groups, as was often done, it produced a fearsome effect known as "the screaming Jesus" to U.S. Marines.[1] To absorb the massive recoil caused by firing their projectiles, the mortar tubes were almost always placed up against a mound of dirt.[2]


During World War II, the Japanese Imperial Army deployed somewhere between 12 and 24 320 mm mortars on Iwo Jima, as well as 24 on Bataan.[3][4] The weapon was also used on Okinawa.[5]

Iwo Jima[edit]

Japanese officers believed the 320 mm spigot mortar's most effective method of employment was as a psychological weapon, intended to scare American soldiers more than inflict casualties.[5] The 300 kg (660 lb) shells left craters 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) deep and 4.5 m (15 ft) wide, but caused relatively few casualties due to minimal fragmentation.[5] The mortars were mainly operated by the 20th Independent Mortar Battalion.[1]

During the Iwo Jima campaign, many of the 12 to 24 launchers were placed inside the mouths of caves to protect them from American artillery bombardment, requiring the gun crews to live in the caves that housed their guns, like the infantry.[5] Due to the relative difficulty[2] involved in moving such a massive weapon system, their locations usually remained fixed during battles. During the campaign, the object of the gun crews seemed to be mainly to inflict psychological damage on the American troops instead of killing them.[6]


  1. ^ a b c CLOSING IN: Marines in the Seizure of Iwo Jima
  2. ^ a b Journal of the United States Artillery (1919:148)
  3. ^ The High Cost of Faulty Intel
  4. ^ Chapter IV: Where Is The Enemy
  5. ^ a b c d Japanese Antitank Tactics
  6. ^ HyperWar: Iwo Jima: Amphibious Epic [Chapter 4]