Ceramic Grenades – Japan’s Last Ditch Weapon

In late 1944, as Japan’s war came to a conclusion, precious war materials like metal became scarce, making Japan’s ability to equip her fighting men a difficult task. To make up for this deficiency, the Japanese military looked for new ways to keep the fight going against the Americans. One of the more unusual weapons developed by the Japanese was a grenade made out of ceramic. The weapon was designated the Type 4 Grenade or Ceramic Grenade.



ceramic grenades

Ceramic Grenades with cap

Japan had long been a country famous for its beautiful pottery and ceramics. As the War became more desperate, the Imperial Japanese Navy Technical Bureau came up with a cheap, easy to make grenade that used readily available materials. Their design was round, baseball sized ceramic jar with a short neck. A rubber plug was fixed in the bottle neck which held the fuze and the detonator. On the other end, the fuze was covered with a rubber plug, a match-head composition and a slip-on rubber cap on top.

ceramic grenades

Diagram of the Type 4 Hand Grenade

Traditional Japanese kilns were turned into factories that mass produced Type 4 ceramic grenades for Japan’s war effort. The ceramic grenade was produced in great quantities for the home defense forces in preparation for the American invasion and also reached front line troops at Leyte, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Grenades came in a variety of colors and sizes depending on the factory they were made at.

A March 1945 US Army intelligence bulletin about new Japanese weapons on Leyte mentioned that the ceramic grenades were easy to throw but needed to be thrown as soon as the fuse was lit. Care had to be taken by the thrower not to hit a hard object like a tree which would shatter the grenade and negate its destructive power. The bulletin also mentions that the grenade was a concussion weapon which created a large blast but little fragmentation.

Although unable to change the course of the war, the Type 4 ceramic grenade was an ingenious last ditch grenade, and one of the more unusual weapons to come out of the Second World War.



ceramic grenades

Type 4 ceramic hand grenades

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