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The Evolution of Imperial Japan’s War Medals (1875-1945)

Article about: The Evolution of Japan’s War Medals (1875-1945) Prolog; Modernization of Japan, 200 years to catch up on As the era of the Shogun and the Samurai drew to a close, and sovereignty returned to

  1. #21


    Order of Wear of Medals

    As the number of issued medals gradually increased, questions started to arise in what order the various medals needed to be lined up in, on the left chest of the uniform. So a 21st June 1921 Army Ordinance 2756 set up the following guidelines.

    1. Medals with earlier dates on citations to go to the right
    2. Should the citation dates be the same, the medal with the earlier institution date should go right
    3. The 1914-1920 Medal is to be regarded as instituted in March of 1920

    So a complete lineup order for medals issued up to that date would have been,

    1. Imperial Constitution Promulgation Commemorative Medal
    2. 1874 War Medal
    3. 25th Wedding Anniversary Medal
    4. 1894-1895 War Medal
    5. 1900 War Medal
    6. 1904-1905 War Medal
    7. Crown Prince’s Voyage to Korea Commemorative Medal
    8. Korean Annexation Commemorative Medal
    9. 1914-1915 War Medal (those who have the 1914-1920 version may not display the 1914-1915 medal)
    10. Taisho Enthronement Commemorative Medal
    11. 1914-1920 War Medal
    12. Merit Medal
    13. Foreign Medals
    14. Red Cross Membership Medal

    Note that the Imperial Constitution Medal is being treated as an exception to the rule, as chronological order was after the 1874 War Medal.

    The last 3 Medals and the Collapse of an Empire


    The story of the last 3 medals is not strictly about war medals in the Japanese sense, as it includes the China Incident Commemorative Medal, not regarded as a war medal in Japan. However, that medal was conceived to complement the China Incident War Medal and cover its blind spot, namely the contributions of the home front to the war effort. Therefore its story cannot be separated from the war medal.

    War service up to 29th April 1940 counted towards the first massive awarding of the China Incident War Medal and orders, but the intended second wave of awarding for war service after that date never came. As Pearl Harbor officially downgraded the China Incident to the status of a mere campaign of the Greater East Asia War, already in January 1942, the decision had been made to suspend any further awards of China Incident related medals and orders until they could be incorporated into a massive future award session for the Greater East Asia War. The China Incident Commemorative Medal was conceived during this freeze on awards, so it was destined from the start to be on standby until the Greater East Asia War Medal came along, when the long awaited prize-giving could finally proceed.

    However, when the Greater East Asia War Medal did finally come, those who were owed China Incident War/Commemorative Medals and who further qualified for the Greater East Asia Medal got their China medals cancelled and were put on the waiting list for the Greater East Asia War Medal, to wait in vain for a medal that never came. Thus service meriting a medal after 29th April 1940 never got rewarded by any medal. Both the China Incident Commemorative Medal and the Greater East Asia War Medal suffered a stillbirth and never saw the light of day.

    How this all happened was long a mystery, but now I have found the wartime documents that provide the missing links to reveal, for the first time since the war, the whole story of the last 3 medals that perished together.

    The China Incident War Medal

    Comfortably in the Rut of Established Tradition

    The China Incident War Medal was instituted on 26th July 1939. By this time, the Decoration Bureau had found a fairly established path through the business of designing medals.

    The 1874 and the Boxer Rebellion medals used the bar to denote the name of the campaign, and the Sino-Japanese War Medal kept this bar blank, out of diplomatic prudence. However, from the Russo-Japanese War Medal, the ever present, but inert wording of 従軍記章 (War Medal) got relegated to this bar instead of taking up prominent space on the front of the medal. In its place, the front now consistently featured the Chrysanthemum and crossed army and navy flags (Russo-Japan, WW1, China Incident medals) or a Phoenix (Manchurian Incident, China Incident medals).

    In essence, they were only a rehash of motifs used on the Sino-Japanese and Boxer medals and had become quite predictable. But no one complained about the design falling into a rut, because the original idea was to have identical medals for all conflicts.

    On the rear of the medals, the tradition of carrying the dates of the conflict also remained intact only with the last two medals breaking from this practice and carrying the name of the conflict without any dates. The ribbons no longer bothered with the initial intention of using only green and white, and now went to the other extreme of rainbow-like gaiety.  
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  2. #22


    29th April 1940, the First & Last Mass Awarding of Medals and Orders

    The China Incident War Medal is the most common Japanese war medal on the market today. Such a massive number of 3.4 million medals were given out that the government mints, which had exclusively produced all official medals and orders ever since the Order Selling Scandal of 1929 had to once again give big orders out to the private sector. The first nominal award date for the medal as well as awarding of orders for the China Incident was 29th April 1940. This covered all awards to those directly involved in the incident up to this nominal date. However medals could also be awarded to those not directly involved in the missions, but assisted in it, regardless of whether they were military and whether they were in the war zone. So to a degree, even noncombatants were acknowledged within the framework of the war medal, but only part of these deeds of indirect assisting could be awarded as of the above date and the rest were still owed the medals.

    A Freeze on Medal-giving

    The April date signified by no means the end of the conflict, but only a practical cutoff date to arrange the first wave of awarding, so deeds meriting the medal continued to pile up after this date as well. These awards needed to be given out at some future date to be selected as the second nominal award date.

    While they waited for a suitable chance to set up this second wave of awarding of honors for the China Incident, Pear Harbor propelled the conflict into a totally new dimension, and already on 11th December 1941 the Cabinet made the decision to refer to the war with the USA and UK as the “Greater East Asia War” to include the China Incident. This new phase of the war was no “incident”, but a full-fledged declared war, so the China Incident was now downgraded to a mere campaign of this greater war.

    For the China Incident War Medal, this meant that the deeds counting towards the medal had to be limited to the period before 7th December 1941, as the war had a new name from that point onwards. Also, the tricky thing about this downgrading to a campaign was that if a war medal were later to be issued for the Greater East Asia War, that medal would have had precedence over the China Incident War Medal, which would not be allowed to be worn. This had already happened once in the past.

    The last time something like this happened was when WW1 got seamlessly extended to include the Siberian Intervention. At that time, the edict for the 1914-1915 War Medal was amended and renamed the 1914-1920 War Medal. Thus the two medals were identical, but with different dates on the back. One could not wear both in this case, as the amended law took precedence.

    Because of such implications, the government was quick in clarifying its future plans for awards, as the Cabinet declared the following on 10th January 1942. “In view of its massive scale and achievements, the Greater East Asia War deserves a new round of awarding of honors. In this regard, we feel it appropriate that awarding of meritorious deeds for the period after 29th April 1940 be incorporated within this framework of honoring deeds in the Greater East Asia War.” This meant that outstanding prize-giving for the China Incident will need to wait until it could be joined into a future awarding of honors for the Greater East Asia War. This statement also automatically implied that a new War medal would be required and imposed a freeze on medal awards in anticipation of the imminent arrival of the Greater East Asia War Medal.

    All for Nothing

    When the Greater East Asia War Medal did finally come, the Edict for the China Incident War Medal had to be amended to redefine its boundaries with this new medal. This amendment was made simultaneously with the introduction of the Greater East Asia War Medal on 20th June 1944. It said those who earned the right to the China Incident Medal after 29th April 1940, and who further served to qualify also for the Greater East Asia War Medal wouldl no longer get the China War Medal but the latter medal instead.

    Thus the only outstanding awards after this amendment were the deeds limited to the period after the 29th of April, but before 7th December 1941 (There were 12,333 awards still outstanding in this category in June 1944, of which many were now dead). These were to be addressed as part of the great prize-giving for the Greater East Asia War, but that day never came. Consequently with the exception of posthumous awarding, military service after 29th April 1940 never got awarded any kind of war medal, neither the China Incident War Medal nor the Greater East Asia War Medal.

    The final blow came on 20th March 1946, when it was decided to revoke the two China Incident Medals as well as the Greater East Asia War Medal, not to provoke the winning Allies. Thus the war medal was revoked and made void by law.

    China Incident Commemorative Medal

    The China Incident Commemorative Medal is not regarded as a war medal in Japan, but in the traditions of European nations it would have probably been regarded as a non-combatant’s version of the China Incident War Medal. From early on, Japan had been aware of the Western tradition of setting up combatant and noncombatant versions of war medals, and the Decoration Bureau had made an attempt to do the same with the Boxer Rebellion Medal as we have seen, but ever since this scheme was opposed by the Army, Japan had continued to neglect the noncombatant’s contribution to the war effort in terms of awards.

    However, the time had finally come for Japan to change its attitude towards the contribution of the home front (銃後、literally “Behind Guns”) to the war effort as the War in China escalated and huge shortages of war materials occurred as early as in 1937. Ammo pouches, belts and holsters made of rubberized canvass instead of leather, field caps in rabbit hair felt instead of wool, and the so-called Type 3 officer’s sword, were all examples of the desperate measures born from this early shortage of war material. It became rapidly apparent that the war could not be won without massive efforts also from the home front. Thus the National Mobilization Law was introduced in March 1938 to put the whole national economy on a war-time footing.

    Along with such a shift to Total War, Japan also belatedly recognized the need to honor efforts of her noncombatants. This they tried to do, and called it the China Incident Commemorative Medal, making it the same league as the other non-military medals. But whatever they called it, it was in essence, Japan’s first noncombatant’s version of a war medal.

    This medal was originally to be named 支那事変銃後奉公記念章 “China Incident Home Front Service Commemorative Medal”, but has long been mistaken to be a medal intended for “Chinese Collaborators”. This utterly remarkable transformation of a medal of a most banal nature into a medal sought for its cloak and dagger image was all because of a single sentence in James W. Peterson’s book. He said of the medal, ”As this medal is practically unknown in Japan, and almost anyone could be eligible for the war medals, it seems probably that this was intended as a reward for Chinese collaborators”. This unscholarly speculation unfortunately caught on and even Japanese collectors came to believe this fantasy.

    Back in his days, access to war-time documents in the National Archives would have been limited and I understand that Peterson could hardly read Japanese anyway, so I can see why he made such a mistake. However, we can be grateful that things are different now. We can access most declassified historical documents in the archives from the comfort of our homes, as Japan had spent a fortune on digitizing its historical archives.

    These documents tell a totally different story and say in “Black and White” who were supposed to receive the medals, and in what numbers, and it is crystal clear that the medal was intended for the home front in Japan and not for any collaborators in China. When I found these documents in the archives in 2011, I wrote an article exposing the “Medal for Chinese Collaborators” as a myth. However, what was “ in black and white” in the Japanese language unfortunately meant little to those who cannot read the language, and so it appears that some who had read my earlier article thought that I was merely giving my personal pet theory a spin, instead of conveying what wartime documents revealed.

    So this time, I will let the Decoration Bureau do the explaining by giving you a straight translation of their proposal document for the China Incident Commemorative Medal.
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  3. #23


    Initial Proposal from the Decoration Bureau

    Translated from the Decoration Bureau’s Proposal for the “China Incident Home Front Service Commemorative Medal” submitted to the Prime Minister, dated 6th July 1942. This proposal was a complete package including design, issue regulations and anticipated recipients and quantities.

    Purpose of the “China Incident Home Front Service Commemorative Medal”

    “One notable aspect of the China Incident is the new development of an organized Home Front in support of Total War. Although the home front had always extended a wide range of support to the soldiers on the front line to achieve military goals in previous conflicts as well, the scope of home front functions have not changed in any great degree, and could be summarized as assisting of military activities.

    For this reason, War Medals established for past conflicts have been awarded not only to soldiers, civilian military personnel and civil authorities in the war zone, but also to those outside the war zone but still involved in the conflict, which includes soldiers, civilian military personnel and others of merit, who have assisted the military in accomplishing its missions.

    However, the China Incident has resulted in many individuals contributing to the success of missions in areas outside what is considered “assisting role” and yet are equally deserving of a medal in acknowledgment of their contributions as those who receive the war medal. However, awarding them the same war medal also does not fairly reflect the different nature of their contributions.

    Hence we feel that the China Incident deserves special recognition in the form of a Home Front Service Commemorative Medal to be established extra to the war medal, in order to be awarded to those on the Home Front, who outstandingly served or assisted towards the accomplishment of incident related missions”

    Ramifications for those awarded the War Medal

    The proposal continued on this point

    “1.One extreme option of deleting the wording of “Home Front” from the medal’s name, and awarding it widely to those of merit, directly involved in the incident as well as well as those who assisted such people, would result in redundantly doubling awards for those who have already won the war medal, and who have had no involvement in any activities outside their military service.

    2. The other extreme of presenting the medal to all individuals on the Home Front, who were directly involved in the incident as well as well as those who assisted such people will lead to the presentation of both medals to the following two categories of individuals, and would be unfair to those who exclusively served on the front lines. (1) Those on the Home Front, who assisted with military service, (2) Soldiers, Civilians in Military service who are in military service related to the Incident, who also have been involved in non-military activities relating to the Incident.

    3. The whole purpose of suggesting establishment of this Home Front Service Commemorative Medal is to award medals to the many, outside the recognition of the war medal, yet who contributed to Incident related missions in ways deserving reward. So the principle should be to exclude those who qualify for the war medal, and of those that remain, who directly contributed or assisted in accomplishing goals of the Incident should be awarded this medal.”

    Anticipated recipients of the “China Incident Home Front Service Commemorative Medal”

    The proposal gave concrete numbers, but unfortunately the document has most of the numbers badly smudged and partly illegible, so I cannot vouch for the accuracy of my reading of these individual numbers. However, the number of digits in the numbers is all clearly recognizable, so that the total ran into the millions is no mistake. The original copy in the archives might show clearer legible numbers, if anyone wants to go there and check, but short of going there, this is the best I can do. The war medal came to 3.4 million awarded, so a range of 4 to 5 million is totally realistic.

    Type of Recipient and Issue Numbers Anticipated
    1. Civil servants or equivalent 781,300
    2. Municipal employees 200,000
    3. Members of prefectural and municipal parliaments 177,100
    4. Heads of villages and townships 268,200
    5. Heads of neighborhood associations 1,303,100
    6. Unable to read due to smudge 106,000
    7. Civil Defense related 107,100
    8. Newspaper and magazines 14,700
    9. Savings/Bonds promoters 3,900
    10. Youth Groups and Religious Groups 144,700
    11. Fishery and Forestry related public entities 413,400
    12. Commerce and industry public entities 43,100
    13. Commerce and industry 186,300
    14. Power, communications and aviation 14,300
    15. Shipping 24,100
    16. Railroads and freighting 7,200
    17. Social services 176,800
    18. Other Private Contributors within mainland Japan 20,000
    19. Private contributors in Korea 595,000
    20. Private contributors in Taiwan 136,300
    21. Private contributors in Sakhalin 17,000
    22. Private contributors in South Pacific Areas 2,400

    Total 4,742,000

    Peterson cited the rarity of this medal in Japan, as a reason to assume that it was mainly given to foreigners, but the above makes it very clear that the overwhelming majority of the medals were to be issued to individuals in Japan. As for the Chinese, they did not even make it into the list above, collaborators or not. Of course, it is still possible to argue that collaborators in the areas in the bottom of the list like Korea may have gotten the medal, but to persist in describing the medal as a collaborator’s medal after seeing the breakdown above is just outright silly.

    The truth is that this medal was originally to be issued in the millions to those who made contributions on the home front such as financial institutions selling war bonds, to youth organizations, religious organizations, railroad personnel, civil defense, the press, government officials, businessmen etc, whose collaboration was necessary to achieve total mobilization of Japanese society in the war effort.

    It was based on the recognition that modern wars could only be won by engaging the support of the entire socio-economic infrastructure. The original cabinet discussion papers dated July 6th, 1942 called it the “China Incident Home Front Service Commemorative Medal”, but by the time it finally got released as an edict on 26th September, the name had been shortened to “China Incident Commemorative Medal”. Despite the curtailed name, the minutes of the morning conference of September 16th resided by the Emperor himself still clearly explained the purpose as a “home front medal”. So the intent remained unchanged.

    Where have all the Millions Gone?

    It was supposed to be issued in the millions, but there are no signs of the medal having been issued in such a quantity, and it is now a fairly rare medal. This was because it was never really issued before the war ended. As explained earlier, the medal was planned when there was already a freeze imposed on medal awarding for the China Incident, since the Cabinet decided on 10th January 1942 to incorporate any further medal awards for the Incident into a future Greater East Asia War prize giving. So the medal was already conceived under the condition that it had to wait for the Greater East Asia War Medal to be given out at the same time. Yet, they must have all felt that it was still premature to work on a Greater East Asia War Medal, so things were at a standstill.

    Perhaps it was this sense of not being able to move forward that made the Decoration Bureau look back and reflect upon the unsung heroes of the Home Front from the China Incident in the first place. Anyway when the medal was finally instituted on 26th September 1942, it only meant it was going on standby to wait for that Greater East Asia War prize giving. Even if this was only a commemorative medal and not a war medal, it would have been improper to award these civilians while the war medals for soldiers were held up.

    The fact was that the medal was largely meant as a paper medal anyway, as it was the idea of awarding Home Front efforts that really needed to be established at that time. Even before the January ’42 freeze, the decision taken immediately after Pear Harbor to make the China Incident a part of the Greater East Asia War meant that making a home front medal for the Greater East Asia War instead would have been a wiser thing to do, as it would have killed two birds with one stone. However, that would be like counting chicks before they hatched, and you also could not have a home front medal precede the war medal, so they had to limit the scope to the China Incident in the meanwhile.

    So as ideas firmed up for the medals for the Greater East Asia War with the China commemorative medal still on standby, there was always the option of switching it to a Greater East Asia War Home Front Medal. This they did not do in the end, but they did something equally cunning.

    On 20th June 1944, the edict for the China Incident Commemorative Medal was amended to accommodate the newly instituted Greater East Asia War Medal. What they did was to deny the China Incident Commemorative Medal to those whose contributions to the China Incident came after the date of April 29th 1940 and who further qualified for the Greater East Asia War Medal.

    This meant, for instance, that if you were a civilian in 1941 and your contributions to the China Incident qualified for a commemorative medal, if in the meanwhile you were drafted into the army, and engaged in the Greater East Asia War, you could no longer get the commemorative medal, but instead the Greater East Asia War Medal. As many civilians would have been drafted in the meanwhile, they could switch great numbers of the home front medal to the war medal.

    Only if you did not qualify for any of the war medals and your home front contributions were before Pearl, were you now owed the commemorative medal. Consequently, the large numbers originally anticipated in the June 1942 proposal would have been whittled down considerably by the presence of the Greater East Asia War Medal.

    The Decoration Bureau confessed in a 1944 document that initially they only planned to amend the edict for the China Incident War Medal, but not for the Commemorative Medal. However, they belatedly realized that this would give rise to an imbalance. Those qualifying for the China war medal as well as the Greater East Asia Medal were not given a China war medal anymore, but if not amended, those who qualified for both the China commemorative medal as well as the Greater East Asia Medal could get both.

    Anyone, who had been owed a China Incident War or Commemorative Medal, who could now win the Greater East Asia War Medal, ended up getting those China medals cancelled and went on the waiting list for the Greater East Asia War Medal, which never came. The document that discussed the plan for the Greater East Asia War prize-giving session did not specifically mention that the China Incident Commemorative Medals were also to be given out at the same time as the Greater East Asia War Medal. Perhaps they felt that military prize-giving should be kept separate from civilian events, but we can be sure that the timing would have been roughly the same.

    Posthumous Awards

    The memo dated 20th March 1946 proposing that the edicts for the two China Medals and the Greater East Asia Medal be rescinded clearly said that the petition for issuing the China Incident Commemorative Medal had never been presented to the Emperor as of that date. If one took these words at face value, one should conclude that they never could lift the freeze imposed on issuing these medals and they remained unissued.

    However, though they are rare, there seem to be enough around to suggest that small numbers did trickle out. What could have likely happened was that posthumous medal awarding took place. The dead were not going to earn any further awards, so they would have been exempt from the freeze on China awards and need not to wait for any prize-giving session. The regulations for the medal allowed for posthumous presentations and enough meritorious civilians would have died in bombings for there to be awards. In that case, it would be understandable, if the 1946 document above meant that issuing to the “living” had not been sanctioned yet by the Emperor. And of course, you will not see any wartime photos of the medal in wear, if the recipients were only the deceased.

    The medal is not known to have a case nor citation. They probably were going to make cases and citations when the final numbers to be awarded to the living got clarified after June 1944. It is totally understandable if posthumous awards went ahead without cases and citations with perhaps a promise to deliver them later. Even orders for the living were often issued without citations, which would come later, so it certainly would not be without precedent, if they had done that for the posthumous awards.

    The Greater East Asia War Medal

    This medal was instituted by an edict signed 21st June 1944.

    The original proposal from the Decoration Bureau mentioned that as of 31st March 1944, the war had been in progress for over 2 years and that the number of the fallen awaiting awards had already reached 70,079 (Army 51,529 Navy 18,550). They proposed that these posthumous awards be made a priority. Some key points from this original proposal were as follows

    Points from the Proposal from the Decoration Bureau

    1. The Naming of Greater East Asia War Medal

    They explained that up until the 1904-1905 War Medal, (Russo-Japanese War) the practice was not to mention the name of the war, campaign or the incident; only to say the War Medal of Year X. However after the 1914-1920 War Medal, the practice had changed to include these within the designation. And in this connection, as a result of the decision by the Cabinet on 11th December 1941 to refer to the war with the USA and UK to include any further developments of hostilities will be referred to as the Greater East Asia War, to include the China Incident, the medal was to be named the Greater East Asia War Medal.

    2. Symbolic Meaning of the Motif

    The Sunburst with 8 rays symbolized the 8 directions, namely the whole world being blessed by the Emperor’s grace and power and the two swords represented the army and navy. The cherry blossoms represented the loyalty and bravery of the soldiers.

    The rear of the medal featured a shield with the words “Greater East Asia War”

    The greens of the ribbon suggested the leaves, and the purples the flowers of the Iris, which were explained as traditional symbols of manly attributes like respect for martial skills, which in Japanese is written as 尚武(Shoubu)and having the same reading as 菖蒲(Shoubu), how the Iris was called in Japanese. The motif adorning both ends of the bar were also stems of the Iris. Peterson had claimed in his book that the colors of the ribbon represented “the Navy, Air Force and Army”, but the designers of the medal had no such intention. Also, his guess that the suspender design might suggest bamboo was incorrect as well, as they feature ancient Japanese jade beads shaped like cashew nuts called Magatama.

    Screening of the Proposal by the Legislation Bureau

    The Cabinet Legislation Bureau (法制局) acted as legal counsel for the Cabinet by examining bills, orders and treaties. In this capacity they were also involved in the screening of War Medal edicts, and made changes to ensure that content and wording were in harmony with other laws and practices of Japan. Their assessment report to the Cabinet on the Decoration Bureau’s proposal for the Greater East Asia War Medal survives in the archive and offers valuable insight into the background of the War Medal’s design, including the mystery of the existence of a version of the medal with the word order for “War Medal” shown in reverse order (left to right, instead of the hitherto tradition of right to left writing direction). A photo of such an example is featured in the book, “Orders and Medals of Japan and Associated States” by the late James W. Peterson, and had puzzled medal enthusiasts for a long time. The documentation from the Bureau reveals for the first time what this was about.

    I will summarize their comments on the various features of the medal. The report is not dated, but definitely predates March 1944.

    1. Medal Material

    Pewter was a resource available to Japan in abundance in the Japan-occupied South and therefore a material quite suitable to symbolize the Greater East Asia War. Although there could be questions raised whether the material might be too soft for the purpose, when one considers that the medals would surely be handled delicately with respect, this concern is probably unnecessary. (Handwritten memo added later read” The contingency coinage in pewter, introduced later in March 1944, turned out quite attractive in texture, and as a result, there were suggestions that the material should be actively considered also for use in medals”).

    2. Design of Medal’s Obverse

    The design was quite radical, a great departure from previous designs. The most striking feature was the large chrysanthemum crest set in the center, whereas previous medals featured it in smaller size and placed it at the top. Such a prominent use of the Chrysanthemum might be seen as giving the medal more of a status as an order than a medal.

    The previous examples, featuring the crest did not have the crest as an integral feature of the design, and could have stood without the crest. However, if one took the chrysanthemum away from this design, the center would lack the feature that bound everything together. In this sense, the crest appears to be an integral part of the design (They seem somewhat bothered by the fact that the Emperor’s crest was part of a design rather than an independent factor).

    They also were not a fan of the symmetrical design and of how the rays had clearly defined ends, but admitted in the end that these were all part of what made the design so Avant-garde and if that in itself was not a problem, everything became simply a matter of taste (It was obviously too radical for their conservative taste, as by nature, they were people finding comfort only when following precedent).

    3. Wording on the Bar (Mystery of the prototype with reversed bar wording)

    The initial design featured the word “war medal” written in reverse order (従軍記章left to right) of previous practice, which was totally unprecedented and too radical a change to accept. Therefore it was the Legislation Bureau that switched this back to previous practice (章記軍従).

    This information now for the first time reveals that the example shown in James W. Peterson’s book was a prototype made according to the initial design proposal by the Decoration Bureau. No explanation was given why the Decoration Bureau had made such a radical departure from accepted practice in its initial proposal, but this probably reflected the movement within Japan to officially switch the writing direction to left to right, which gained momentum between 1940 and 1942.

    This change was thought to be necessary, as the western world wrote words as well as mathematical equations all from left to write, and it would have made it easier to incorporate western words and formulas when Japanese also aligned itself to this practice. The army was also an active supporter of this shift, and the National Language Commission under the Ministry of Education actually proposed such a bill to the cabinet in July 1942. However, the public sentiment of those times saw this as an unpatriotic "selling out to the Americans", and the bill was squashed.

    Remember also that the Greater East Asia War Medal was conceived at the point they decided to put off any prize-giving for the China Incident and do that only later in conjunction with awarding for the Greater East Asia War. That was 10th January 1942 right in the middle of this movement to change how they wrote.

    4. Ribbon

    The initial proposal from the Decoration Bureau used color names, which were different from those used in the final edict. The color names used in the end were ones that complied with the Japanese Color Name Chip Book (大日本色名絵鑑). They also expressed their impression that the ribbon lacked any reddish tones, but explained that this was the result of harmonizing colors with the pewter metal.
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  4. #24


    Planned awarding

    Anyone owed China Incident War/Commemorative Medals with further involvement in the Greater East Asia War and qualifying for that war medal no longer would receive the China medals, but the Greater East Asia War Medal instead. So the plan was to combine the awarding of the outstanding remainder of the China Incident War/Commemorative Medals and the new Greater East Asia War Medals into one prize giving session.


    A memo dated May 23, 1944 decreed that starting from the citations for the Greater East Asia War Medal, they would simplify the manner in which the title of the recipient would be written.

    Since 17th September 1941, the practice had been as follows
    1. Citations (勲記) for orders (except Golden Kites): Court rank and previously received Golden Kite class (Ko) were omitted and only the class of order received previously (Kun) preceded the person’s name.

    2. Citations (巧記) for Golden Kites: Court rank and previously received class of order (Kun) were omitted and only the previously received Golden Kite class (Ko) preceded the person’s name.

    Now, starting with the Greater East Asia War Medal, only the rank and name were to be carried in the citations by omitting Kun and Ko classes. They found it too much work to ensure that all these factors were correctly up-to-date on the citations.
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  5. #25



    Priority was given to soldiers, who had given their lives in the Greater East Asia War, and according to a memo dated 20th March 1946, posthumous awarding of approx. 300 thousand individuals had been decided and approved, but had not yet been carried out by the end of the war due to production delays. The Osaka mint did strike these medals, but they were never issued.

    A memo dated 15th December 1945 from the GHQ of the Occupation Forces had prohibited the use of the word "Greater East Asia War" in any public form, so these medals that had been struck could no longer be issued and were eventually ordered to be destroyed by the American Occupation Forces. Some of the medals at the mint, however, did make their way home to the US as souvenirs, but were without the ribbons, as these medals only got ribbons added after the medal parts were delivered to a private sector ribbon workshop, where they were assembled with the ribbons and shipped back to the mint as finished products.
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  6. #26


    Post War Banning of all of the Last 3 Medals

    The last 3 medals shared a common post war fate. The 2 China Medals as well as the Greater East Asia War Medal were all officially revoked by an edict dated March 29th 1946. Thus the 3 medals were invalidated and could not be worn.
    Rescinding these medals meant treating them as if they never existed.

    So whereas other war medals that retained their official status are still protected by law as official awards, the 3 medals and also the Golden Kite Order (which also lost its legal backing in 1946) can be reproduced openly. For this reason, in the postwar years, many reproductions of the Greater East Asia War medal appeared for sale to veterans, who had been owed one, but never received them. There are several variations to these replicas, but they are all easy to identify as copies. One I consider to be closest to an original is still larger than the original in diameter by a millimeter or so. Also all reproductions are produced in metals harder than the pewter of the originals.
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  7. #27


    Hope you all enjoyed this, too. Good night.
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  8. #28


    Cool article, Nick

    Regarding these two (1914-1915 and 1914-1920) medals

    Quote by nick komiya View Post
    9. 1914-1915 War Medal (those who have the 1914-1920 version may not display the 1914-1915 medal)
    So it is may not or shoud not display.
    How it sounds in original documentation?

  9. #29


    Btw, think you gonna like this photo
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  10. #30


    The 1921 Army ordinance 2756 of 21st June 1921 said, "Those given the war medal with the wording on the rear saying 1914-1920 War may not wear the medal with the words 1914-1915 War written in the rear". "May not" in the sense of not allowed to. The man in your photo has it wrong by army regulations, but whether the navy instructed its men the same is another matter.

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