Howa Machinery Ltd.
Howa Heavy Industries of Aichi, Japan, was established in 1941. During WWII they manufactured armament for the Imperial Japanese Army. One of the weapons they manufactured that they are well known for is the Arisaka rifle, a standard Imperial Japanese Army infantry rifle.
At the end of the war, Howa Heavy Industries changed it's name to Howa Machinery, Ltd. Since then, they have manufactured a wide variety of machinery, tools, and equipment, primarily for non-military purposes. Howa Machinery, Ltd. is a privately owned company. At various times they have been contracted by the Japanese government for the manufacture and/or refurbishing of various machines, equipment, and small arms.
Howa's history as it relates to the M1 carbine is unique, and includes military, police, and civilian versions of the M1 carbine. All of the variations were based on a central concept that was founded when Howa manufactured parts for, and serviced, U.S. M1 carbines during the Occupation of Japan and Korean War.
It is not uncommon for collectors to argue that the M1 carbines manufactured by Howa are not commercially manufactured carbines. Howa manufactured at least three variations, possibly four. One, possibly two, were exclusively for the commercial market. The difference between those made for the military/police and those made for the general public is largely superficial. Discussing one without the others would provide a fragmented history of Howa and their M1 carbines, so all will be covered here. This is the history of Howa Machinery Ltd. and the M1 carbines they manufactured.
Post WWII and the War in Korea
On 13 Aug 1945 Britain, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, and the United States agreed that the main islands of Japan would be occupied by troops from the United States under the command of one Supreme Allied Commander, who would represent all of the Allied nations. The Supreme Commander was someone they also agreed upon, General Douglas MacArthur. Prior to the Japanese surrender on 02 Sep 1945, MacArthur assumed control as Supreme Commander of all Allied Powers (SCAP) in Japan. His military government became known as General Headquarters, Supreme Commander of all Allied Powers (GHQ/SCAP).
GHQ/SCAP, with the assistance of the U.S. Sixth Army and U.S. Eighth Army, oversaw the disarming and disbandment of all of Japan's military forces. Unlike the police in Germany and Austria at the end of the war in Europe, the Japanese police were not disarmed and disbanded at the end of the war with Japan. The language and cultural differences prompted GHQ/SCAP to initially leave the Japanese police in place. Reorganization of the Japanese police began in 1947.
Between 1945 and 1952, Japan was technically under the protection of the combined Allied Powers. On an operations level, the Allied Power "protecting" Japan, was America. MacArthur and the leadership of the United States wasted no time in recreating Japan as the primary American ally in the Far East.
Rebuilding Japan with U.S. Contracts
Between 1945 and 1950 it became increasingly evident that the nations to fear in the Far East were the Soviet Union and Communist China. The fear for America was the expansion of communism. The fear for Japan was invasion, retribution for the past decades, and annihilation of Japan as a nation and culture.
As tensions escalated, so did the requests from the Americans for Japan to initiate rearmament. The Americans began pouring money and military assistance, including materials, training, and manufacturing capabilities, into Japan. Given what Japan had gone through the past 20 years, the Japanese people were opposed to a Japanese military and rearmament. The Japanese government was content with America providing Japan's defense, and/or America paying for it, as long as possible. The money and military assistance was viewed by Japan as an opportunity to rebuild their privately owned commercial corporations, producing products that could be used for both commercial and military markets. Japan was far more interested in rebuilding it's commercial markets.
At some point between 1946 and 1949 Howa Machinery, Ltd. became sole licensee by the Japanese government for the repair, service, and manufacturing of replacement parts for the U.S. M1 carbines and U.S. M1 Garands being used by U.S. forces.
U.S. M1 carbine production had ceased in 1945. Nine of the ten primary contractors returned to the business they had conducted before the war, which had nothing to do with weapons. The tenth, Winchester, turned it's attention elsewhere. All of the U.S. Ordnance machinery and tooling in the possession of these companies was returned to U.S. Army Ordnance. Springfield Armory of Springfield, MA was designated by U.S. Army Ordnance as the primary facility for any further work with the M1 carbines. Springfield Armory selected the machinery and tooling they needed and did not already have, from the items returned by the primary contractors.
Of the remaining tooling and machinery, Erma Werke of Dachau, Bavaria purchased enough to service, repair, and manufacture replacement parts for the U.S. M1 carbines that had been provided to the German police in the American Occupation Zone. U.S. Army Ordnance personnel equipped Howa Machinery Ltd. with the necessary equipment and tools, then trained Howa's personnel for everything necessary for Howa to be the equivalent of a U.S. Army Ordnance Arsenal specific to the U.S. M1 carbines and U.S. M1 Garands. U.S. Ordnance personnel oversaw the entire operation at Howa during the time period Howa worked on the U.S. rifles. [Howa Machinery Ltd., brochure for the Howa Model 300 .30 caliber carbine] [Jane's Infantry Weapons, Japanese Contractors, Howa Machinery Ltd] [Hunting Rifles Reviews, undated]
During the summer of 2008, Estate Arms Company of Bellevue, Washington acquired property from a private estate that included someone's personal collection of military surplus items. Included in the estate were two identical new unissued walnut M2 carbine stocks with matching 4 rivet handguards. Both stocks had a U.S. Ordnance bomb in the slingwell along with the initials H M L (Howa Machinery Ltd.). The handguards were unmarked. For those unfamiliar with the U.S. Ordnance bomb marking, it was used as a U.S. Ordnance inspection and approval mark. One of the two stocks had a U.S. Army tag attached that identified the contractor as HOWA and the date of 1949. The fit is equivalent to the stocks manufactured during WWII by American subcontractors for U.S. Ordnance. The stocks and handguards accommodate an M1 carbine, but are cut to M2 specifications. Just like the U.S. manufactured M2 stocks. The wood was left rougher than the original GI stocks and treated with linseed oil. The rougher finish inhibits the reflection of light off the stock.
The author was able to acquire one of the two stocks. Unfortunately it was not the one with the tag. The stock came with the handguard, barrel band spring, buttplate, buttplate screw, escutcheon nut, recoil plate screw, and recoil plate. The recoil plate is machined steel, not cast, and unmarked.
A carbine manufactured by Howa for the Thai Police was placed in the stock for display purposes below.
The carbines Howa made for the Thai police will be discussed on the web pages that follow.
Howa manufactured walnut M2 carbine stock & handguard, 1949
Left side of slingwell contains U.S. Ordnance bomb, letters H M L (Howa Machinery, Ltd)
Buttplate attached to stock
At this point, which parts and how many Howa manufactured for U.S. Army Ordnance is not known. This is the subject of ongoing research.
The Korean War prompts the formation of the Japan National Police Reserve (NPR)
At the end of the war the Soviet Union and the Americans agreed to divide Korea into two occupation zones. The North was occupied by the Soviet Union, the South by the Americans. The dividing line was the 38th parallel. The occupation of Korea ended in 1948, with the north adopting a communist government and becoming the nation of North Korea, and the south adopting a democratic government and becoming the nation of South Korea.
On June 25, 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea.
U.S. Eighth Army tactical forces were moved from Japan to South Korea, setting the stage for Japan to become the primary staging, departure, supply, and support area for American forces in Korea. On 08 July 1950, General MacArthur was appointed to lead the U.N. Unified Command in Korea. The same day, he sent a letter to Prime Minister Yoshida of Japan, authorizing Yoshida to augment Japan's 125,000-strong police force with a National Police Reserve (NPR) of 75,000 men and strengthen the Maritime Safety Board (Coast Guard) with an additional 8,000 men. Shortly thereafter, U.S. military planners urged Yoshida to expand the NPR to over 300,000 men.
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution specifically forbid a Japanese military force. Similar laws were enacted in post-war Germany and Austria. These laws were circumvented by the Occupiers of all three nations by creating a "police reserve".
In all aspects, the NPR and the Japanese police were two separate organizations with very separate missions. The NPR was the predecessor to the Japan Self Defense Forces, founded in 1954. Unlike the NPR, the Japanese police are not known to have used M1 carbines or M1 Garands.
The NPR was established 10 Aug 1950 and by the end of the month had 7,000 personnel. After visiting the NPR training camp, GHQ/SCAP Diplomatic Section's Chief is quoted, "The New Japanese Army... looked as though it had been made in the United States. I thought at first I had stumbled into an American Base, for everything from guns to fatigues was GI. Only when I saw the Japanese soldiers eating with chopsticks did I finally realize that these were indeed, soldiers of another Japanese generation, with a new mission."
By September 1951 over 400,000 Japanese had applied for the NPR, over half of them having served in the Imperial Army during WWII. Approximately 800 candidates from amongst the unpurged former officers of the Japanese led Manchukuo Army (Japanese army in Manchuria, China during WWII) were invited to apply.
The NPR moved into U.S. military bases and facilities that had been vacated by U.S. troops deployed to Korea. A special requisition program was set up to equip the NPR with military surplus and weapons from U.S. stocks in Japan. The NPR was never involved directly in the fighting in Korea, but relieved over 250,000 U.S. soldiers in Japan by taking over many functions related to supply, transportation, and other essential support functions for the American troops in Korea.
Japan's National Police Reserve(equipped with U.S. M1 Carbines)
The records of the U.S. Military Assistance Program maintained by the National Archives in Bethesda, MD indicate the Japanese obtained 3,994 U.S. M1 carbines and 19,042 M1 Garands through the U.S. Dept. of Defense Military Assistance Program.
The Role of Howa: Support & Parts
Given the situation in Japan in regards to rebuilding it's commercial industries, the war in Korea was a watershed. Japanese companies manufactured many items that would have taken months to reach Korea from the United States. Japanese companies were contracted to manufacture, repair, or service everything from combat boot shoe laces to U.S. tanks. Including ammunition and ordnance. The support Howa had been providing the U.S. for it's carbines and Garand rifles went from peacetime status to war status, with a major influx of capitol for Howa.
Japan Redux (1952-1960)
[Historical excerpts on Post Occupation Japan taken from: The Allied Occupation of Japan by Takemae Eiji, 2002, and,
Altered States: The United States and Japan Since the Occupation by Michael Schaller, 1997]
As the Korean War continued, the Allied occupation of Japan ended on April 28, 1952. Japan was once again an independent state. Iwo Jima remained under U.S. control until 1968, Okinawa until 1972. U.S. military personnel remained in Japan at the invitation of the Japanese government, under the terms of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.
The Korean War continued until July 27, 1953, the date the United States, North Korea and China signed an armistice, ending the war. To date, the Republic of Korea (South) and Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (North) have still not signed a peace treaty.
Japan's Internal Struggle with Small Arms Production and it's Impact on Howa
Since the end of WWII Japan has struggled internally over the production of military weapons, including small arms. Policies and laws have changed frequently, and are usually in line with the beliefs of whoever the ruling political party is at the time. Included in this struggle is the export of Japanese manufactured weapons to foreign governments. Especially weapons that could be used to wage war against another country. Japan has been very sensitive to the possibility of enraging a country by selling weapons to that country's enemy.
As a result, Japan's weapon production has been an on-again off-again proposition. Japanese companies involved in military production commonly do not rely upon that production for their continued existence. Military contracts are commonly a small percentage of what any Japanese company manufactures. Howa Machinery Ltd. is a prime example. The majority of products they manufacture are not military or weapon related. If any of their non-military products can benefit from the technology and/or knowledge Howa has gained as a result of it's military contracts and production, so much the better for Howa. This has been a common Japanese business practice since the end of WWII, and the reason for their rapid technology growth with computers, electronics, automobiles, etc.
The Japan Self Defense Forces (SDF)
The Japanese Defense Agency was established on 01 Jul 1954. The Self Defense Forces were divided into three branches.
These forces were armed with U.S. weapons, many of which had been used by the National Police Reserve. After the end of the war in Korea, Japanese support for the weapons used by America was no longer needed. However, Japanese support continued for the American made weapons in use by Japan. The company solely responsible for the M1 carbines and M1 Garands was Howa Machinery Ltd.
The Howa Model U3 M1 Carbine
A Howa brochure for the later Model 300 commercial M1 carbine indicates Howa manufactured complete M1 carbines and M1 Garands for the SDF.
In response to an inquiry by author Larry Ruth, Howa responded with the following information which appears on page 721 in War Baby Comes Home by Larry Ruth. Howa manufactured 5,000 M1 carbines for the Japanese Self Defense Forces, and designated the rifle as the Howa Model U3 M1. The carbines were marked "U3 M1". These carbines were later sent to Australia and Southeast Asia. Howa had no other information on the Model U3.
Nothing more is known of the Howa Model U3 M1. No photographs or documentation of the carbine has been located.
Standard versus Metric
Although Japan adopted the metric system by 1958 the Howa M1 carbines manufactured before and after this date were manufactured using the American Standard system. Some of the machines and tooling used by Howa had been provided by the U.S. Military Assistance Program. All of the replacement parts Howa made for the U.S. carbines had to be manufactured to U.S. specifications.
Since Howa was set up to manufacture everything carbine related using the American Standard system of measurement all of the parts and carbines for all of the .30 caliber carbines manufactured by Howa were built on the American Standard system.
With only a few exceptions, most of the parts manufactured by Howa from the beginning until the end of all carbine production were fully interchangeable with those of any U.S. M1 carbine.
During the Fall of 1973 a U.S. Air Force military policeman stationed in Japan visited Naha AFB and met with some of his Japanese counterparts, members of the Japan Air Self Defense Forces. Those guarding aircraft on the tarmac were armed with U.S. M1 carbines.
Part II: Sporting Carbines for Civilians