Before the late 1920s the IJN did not have a separate marine force, instead it used naval landing forces or rikusentai formed from individual ships’s crews, who received infantry training as part of their basic training, for special and/or temporary missions.
In the late 1920s the navy began to form Special Naval Landing Forces as standing regiments (albeit of battalion size). These forces were raised at — and took their names from — the four main naval districts/bases in Japan: Kure, Maizuru, Sasebo, and Yokosuka. These bases all raised more than one SNLF.
These SNLF units saw action in China from 1932 in the January 28 Incident and at the Battle of Shanghai and in naval operations along the China coast and up the Yangtze River and its tributaries during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
Other SNLF were later raised from IJN personnel in China, at Hankow, and Shanghai, for service in Canton and on the Yangtze River. On 7 December 1941 there were 16 SNLF units, this increased to 21 units during the war. The strengths of each SNLF ranged from the prewar peak of 1,200 to a later 650 personnel. There was also a special detachment in the Kwantung area, garrisoning the ports of Dairen and Ryojun.
In 1941, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Yokosuka SNLF were converted to parachute units. They conducted more combat drops than Japanese Army parachute units during World War II. The SNLF paratroopers were used during the attack on Celebes, to much lauded success by the Imperial government.
The original SNLF personnel were well-trained, high quality troops with good morale and they performed well against unprepared and unorganized opposition across Southeast Asia. However, when faced with determined resistance, such as at the invasion of Timor and the Battle of Milne Bay in 1942, they often experienced heavy casualties due to their unwillingness to surrender. When completely out of ammunition, they would often resort to hand-to-hand fighting with their swords.
In a well known last stand in 1943, 2,619 men of the 7th Sasebo SNLF and 2,000 base personnel at the Battle of Tarawa accounted for over 3,000 U.S. Marine Corps casualties.
(Note: the Imperial Japanese Army also raised amphibious units called Sea Landing Brigades(ja:海上機動旅団). These 3,500-strong brigades were used to assault and then garrison islands.)
- Kure Naval Base
- 1st Kure SNLF-At Hainan Naval District, 3rd China Fleet
- 2nd Kure SNLF
- 3rd Kure SNLF
- 5th Kure SNLF
- 6th Kure SNLF
- 7th Kure SNLF
- Maizuru Naval Base
- 1st Maizuru SNLF
- 2nd Maizuru SNLF
- 4th Maizuru SNLF
- 5th Maizuru SNLF
- Sasebo Naval Base
- 1st Sasebo SNLF
- 2nd Sasebo SNLF-Under 32nd Special Base Force, 3rd Fleet
- 5th Sasebo SNLF
- 6th Sasebo SNLF
- 7th Sasebo SNLF
- 8th Sasebo SNLF Shanghai Naval Base (Operated along the Yangtze river, China)
- Sasebo Combined SNLF (Combined 1st and 2nd Sasebo SNLF)
- Yokosuka Naval Base
- 1st Yokosuka SNLF (Originally an SNLF Para formation)
- 2nd Yokosuka SNLF
- 3rd Yokosuka SNLF (Originally an SNLF Para formation)
- 4th Yokosuka SNLF
- 5th Yokosuka SNLF
- 6th Yokosuka SNLF
- 7th Yokosuka SNLF
Special Guard Detachments
- Ryojun SNLF: special naval guard detached in Ryojun port, Kwantung belonged in Ryojun Guard District.
- Shanghai SNLF (746 units): special naval guard based in Shanghai port, China belonged in China Theater Fleet. Later merged into Canton Special Base Force based in Guangzhou area.
- Yangtze SNLF: special river squadron detached along the Yangtze river area inside of 1st China Fleet.
- Hankow SNLF: special naval guard based in Hankow and Wuchang ports,belonged to Middle River Division,inside Yangtze River Fleet and 1st China Fleet.
- Canton SNLF: special naval guard detached in Guangzhou port, Kwangtung belonged inside of Canton Special Base Force.
Paratroopers of the SNLF
See article:Japanese marine paratroopers of World War II
- Yokosuka Naval Base
- 1st Yokosuka SNLF (Parachute trained) the 1st was disbanded after its operations in Celebes were completed.
- 3rd Yokosuka SNLF (Parachute trained) Made a drop on Timor. Later taken into the 1st Yokosuka SNLF.
Tank and Armor Units
See article:Imperial Japanese Navy Armor Units
- Shanghai SNLF Tank Company
- Milne Tank Platoon of Kure 5th SNLF
- Tarawa Tank Unit of Sasebo 7th SNLF
- Kwajalein Armor Unit of Sasebo 7th SNLF
- Navy tank unit of 55th Guard Unit,Yokosuka 1st SNLF
- Itoh Armored Detachment SNLF
- Makin Armor SNLF Detachment of Navy 3rd Special Base Force
▽ Imperial Japanese Navy – Nihon Kaigun
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