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Proving Absence of Bogus Specs and Fantasy Items

Article about: Proving Absence of IJA Bogus Specs and Fantasy Items German militaria used to be plagued with fantasy items that never existed, and as crooks will smilingly point out, “Absence of proof is n

  1. #1

    Default Proving Absence of Bogus Specs and Fantasy Items

    Proving Absence of IJA Bogus Specs and Fantasy Items

    German militaria used to be plagued with fantasy items that never existed, and as crooks will smilingly point out, “Absence of proof is not always proof of absence.”, a tricky problem with these is that it is very difficult to prove that such a thing was never issued in Germany. On the other hand, proving that something did exist is fairly easy, as a long trail of paperwork is generated for getting an item on the production line, not to say anything about things like photographic records.

    I am actually an expert in this subject, as specification management, tracking and pricing were parts of my daily job for the first 3.5 years of my corporate life at Toyota. 1980 was still the pre-Windows era, so the manual paper-pushing was still unchanged and identical to that of the IJA of WW2, only the paper quality was better and language was more often in English.

    I will show you here, what kind of paper trail got created when the Japanese army introduced a new uniform item or updated specifications of that item. You will see that the system was meticulous and tight enough even to flush out fantasy items or fantasy specs.

    What legal structure is the suspect item subject to?

    Uniform items of the army were either launched under the sole authority of the Emperor, in the legal form of an Edict (勅令, Chokurei) or by the Minister of the Army as an Army Ordinance (陸達, Rikutatsu). Military uniform items that symbolically represented the outward appearance of the national army were treated with the same reverence as a national flag, requiring the Emperor’s approval, so these could only be introduced and changed by Edict, while uniform items with lesser impact on overall image, like shirts, could be launched as Ordinances.

    Whether an Edict or an Army Ordinance, both were made public through announcements in government gazettes that were issued almost daily like a regular newspaper. Edicts were “front page” news, followed closely after by army and navy ordinances. Any regulation item featured in this publication was followed and executed to the letter as they were legally binding rules from which even minor departures were not tolerated. Introductions, changes and discontinuations were all recorded in the gazette publications. As such, in a manner of speaking, each item had a birth certificate, School diploma and obituary, which are totally traceable.
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    Last edited by nick komiya; 01-07-2020 at 07:36 PM.

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    Weapon or a Uniform item?

    This, however, did not mean that every military item was monitored with such intense scrutiny. For the need of secrecy, weapons could naturally be established and changed quite flexibly by the authority of the Ministers of the Army and Navy without making any public announcements. However, what makes it very confusing was that, the line between uniform item and weapon was drawn differently between the army and navy and often even within the same service.

    For instance, helmets and their covers remained in the weapons category for the navy, so those items were not restricted by any legal restrictions that needed public exposure, while the army transferred helmets out of the weapons category and put them in the uniform category, newly subjecting them to public status.

    Even, army canteens were part of uniform regulations, while navy canteens weren’t. In the army, what every soldier had on himself tended to be categorized as uniform items, including backpacks, shelter halves, but entrenching tools were excluded, as they were regarded as special equipment in the weapons category, not for use by everyone.

    You would then think that waist belts were definitely uniform items, but wrong, they were considered to be an accessory for the bayonet, thus a weapons item.

    Moreover, even within the Army itself , officer swords were governed by uniform regulations subject to announcements in the form of Imperial Edicts, while the Type 95 senior NCO swords were weapons items, so the legal status of these two swords were completely different. In comparison, all navy swords and daggers were launched as uniform regulation items, not weapons.

    Thus, you have to have a lawyer’s mind to navigate through this jumble of procedures and information. So if there can ever be such a thing as a “militaria lawyer”, that is what I ended up being.

    This question of which legal form the introduction of an item took also had a huge impact on the survival rate of archival material at the end of the war. Anything requiring an Emperor’s Edict needed to pass the Cabinet of all ministers, so even the minister responsible for agriculture and forestry received detailed drafts of uniform edicts. And once issued as an Edict, they got printed on the front pages of the government gazette that went out to hundreds of government departments and outposts throughout and outside Japan. Thus when ministries burned documents at the end of the war, it was a total waste of time to burn files related to Edicts as they were, by then, all over the place in the public domain.

    That also means that an item requiring an Edict or Ordinance MUST be found in the gazette, if it had really existed. Crooks will make feeble excuses claiming the particular issue must be missing, but as mentioned earlier, government gazettes were so ubiquitous with such huge circulation that complete sets are in the archives, and electronically searchable. So "absence of proof is proof of absence" in this case. Those who read my story on the Type 3 sword myth should already be familiar with how this works. The navy paratrooper arm patch hoax is another one that I have proved to be “absent”.

    However, items in the weapons category were naturally a totally different story. Those items got dealt with under the table, and did not enter the gazette and were thus “containable” as information, so those files got actively destroyed at war’s end. I can show you detailed drawings of uniform items, but very few weapon production drawings survived the war, because of this.

    Those that use the catch-all phrase of “huge departures from regulations were normal in wars”, know nothing about Japanese military or industrial discipline, and they use that excuse to sell you junk that never existed.

    So how do we prove absence of a bogus variation of an established item? Let’s take, for example, the case of the “extremely rare”, so-called “unpadded army helmet cover with vent holes on top”. That is a uniform item in the army, requiring an army ordinance to officially introduce, modify or discontinue.

    Ordinances for the first model launched in June 1938, as well as the second model launched in December 1942 already specify padding material for the heat insulating lining, so clearly a non-padded version did not exist between June 1938 and December 1942. But what about prior to and after that timeframe? To clarify that, we need to follow the paper trail further downstream and examine what the spec sheets record of the item’s history.
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    The Spec Sheet

    Thankfully Edicts did not get down to minute specification details, such as gauge of stitching thread or seam strength or quality rating of the body cloth to be used, etc. Those aspects were, instead, defined in rigid detail in the specification sheets. Such details could be changed without getting the Emperor or Minister involved. Edicts and Ordinances were written in a way to leave wriggle room like “Padding material to be pure cotton or similar substitutes”, otherwise you had to amend the Edict or Ordinance every time you switched materials to match the war economy and you also could not deal with force majeure material supply shortages associated with wartime production.

    These detailed spec sheets are drawn up before getting approval for Edicts to be issued, as you need to be able to quote the budget necessary to issue the new item, and that required tightly defined manufacturing and inspection procedures in advance.

    Discrepancies from specs found in production output got mercilessly rejected and only those that got the acceptance stamp would go into the accounts receivable ledger to be paid for later by the army. No acceptance marking meant nonpayment from the army for that item. Collectors that don’t get bothered about missing markings should know that that is as outrageous as a shop not giving you a receipt for your big purchase.

    Nowadays spec sheet maintenance would be done electronically, but wartime maintenance involved a loose leaf binder. For any changes in specs, a new sheet got issued to all organizations that had to keep an updated binder. These sheets would be topped by a cover letter and summary chart telling which page numbers needed to be pulled out and discarded from the spec book and which new page numbers needed to be inserted where. Old pages got thrown away, but the new page carried update history in the form of dates of past spec updates.

    Even minute changes in manufacturing specs can be traced by checking the update history dates. If you see three dates, it means the sheet you are looking at is the third revision. Earlier revisions may have been sizeable design or material changes, but may equally be a minute change, just adding one line of comment like “or of staple fiber”, where the previous sheet said “Pure cotton padding”, the kind of update that would have been prevalent in 1937, when the army had to anticipate and brace itself for material shortages for its A-Spec lineup, due to the massive China Incident mobilization.

    I have already demonstrated how to trace spec history on spec sheets in my thread about army flight uniforms, but I will demonstrate it again using the spec sheet for the army helmet cover shown below.

    The first spec sheet issue date was 15th June 1935. That date means they finally settled on cotton padding as the heat insulating lining, after comparing that against heat insulation qualities of felt and gourd sponge. It was with this June 1935 spec sheet that 5000 covers were produced and shipped to Manchuria for field use. So there was indeed a padded cover for Manchuria issued even before the official introduction of the first model helmet cover in 1938.

    The next revision was on 30th July 1937, a year before the official 1st June 1938 introduction of the first model cover in the form of Ordinance 31 in the name of the minister of the army, timed to coincide with the introduction of Type 98 uniform items, launched by the Emperor’s Edict. There might not have been any substantial difference from the 1935 sheets, but surely a comment allowing for staple fiber as alternative padding would have been added at this time and possibly a change in the tying position of the fixing cord. Thus, specs for the 1st June 1938 introduction of the first Type cover had already been fixed a year earlier and remained unchanged.

    Then the next change came on 5th December 1942, which is the actual spec sheet shown below that defined the second model. The main issue was that the edge of the helmet bit through the bottom rim of the helmet cover, so they added a woven band as reinforcement. Helmets came in two sizes, large and small, so the covers were also naturally in two sizes. If you didn’t use the correct size cover for the helmet, the reinforcement tape would not straddle the rim. Within the text of this spec sheet, note that an army star, without a circular backing, was tolerated as an acceptable deviation when necessary. This comment was most likely already there in the 1937 sheet and simply got carried over, as first models were already known sometimes to come without a circular backing. For both the first and second model covers, the official star was with a circular backing, but a backing-less fallback plan was provided, if wool supply got too tight. In this way, possible departures, due to force majeure were planned in advance and meticulously pre-registered in the spec sheet.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Proving Absence of Bogus Specs and Fantasy Items   Proving Absence of Bogus Specs and Fantasy Items  

    Last edited by nick komiya; 01-07-2020 at 07:45 PM.

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    So that should serve as hard proof that, between mid 1935 to mid 1943, army helmet covers were produced with heat-insulating padding of cotton or rayon. There is absolutely no possibility of a non-padded helmet cover to have existed within this time frame. But how about before 1935, when they were still testing various heat padding? That timeframe is not covered by the spec book, as it was still in an experimental stage and it is not totally impossible that one without padding was made as a control line prototype. However, that clearly did not address the heat problem, which Japanese helmet covers were all about, and why would a soldier be wearing such a meaningless item in 1945, when he already had access to 3 generations of padded covers that actually worked?

    How about after June 1943? That timeframe is also not covered by the spec book shown. But it would be absurd to introduce a cover without heat padding when the whole war had shifted to the tropics by then, and in addition, a cover devoid of heat insulation would have required a new ordinance. It is also crazy to have vent holes in a helmet cover, as covers simply cannot be made or attached to a helmet to have vent holes permanently align with the helmet vents.

    It came from a vet, so it must be real? How often have we heard that? It almost seems like vets have a monopoly on Chinese fakes of Type 95 swords made in the last 5 years, and how can a vet have something that the Japanese never made?

    Non-padded army helmet covers were not issued by the IJA and are probably Frankenstein fantasy items made from a scalped real or fake paratrooper helmet. They were most likely made by ignorant people, who did not know why the IJA needed helmet covers in the first place and mistook them to be for camouflage reasons. An unpadded example on a helmet with a canvas liner cannot be that early. Canvas helmet liners were only introduced in December 1939, and by that time, there were already two generations of heat-insulating helmet covers that actually worked, so there was no need for a cover that did nothing.

    A somewhat desperate attempt at salvaging some credibility for such a piece would be to claim it was possibly a byproduct of studies that led to the first paratrooper helmet spec sheet issued on 8th March 1942. That is conceivable, but still far-fetched enough to be a dubious sell.

    OK, enough on "proof of absence" of a fantasy item.

    I also did not come out of this discussion totally unscathed, and I probably need to stand corrected on one point.
    I earlier said that it was not normal for a Type 2 helmet cover to have a tropical helmet star attached and that it was more likely a postwar restoration attempt. Indeed until 20th June of 1943, the correct star for the cover was one with a circular backing and omission of that backing was the fall back option.

    Use of a tropical helmet star is, however, possible from July 1943 onwards as existing editions of spec sheet files don’t go that far. Of course, such an option absolutely required documentation, not to be rejected by quality controllers. This could have been achieved by a new ordinance of one sentence saying “on uniform items, yellow woven stars may be used in lieu of stars cut out from yellow cloth”. I don’t recall seeing that particular concession being issued, but similar broad ranged material substitute ordinances were frequent from 1944, so it’s quite possible.

    As I said before, it is a minimally required discipline for collectors and writers to track down when and how the item was launched. That is called doing your homework in advance. Without that discipline you will continue to get burned with fantasy items.

    Hope I could help you understand how things worked and how you can make such paper trails work for you.

  5. #5


    This thread has now been added to Nick's Master Index to be found in the " Sticky " list. Exceptional work Nick , thankyou ,


    We are the Pilgrims , master, we shall go
    Always a little further : it may be
    Beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow
    Across that angry or that glimmering sea...

  6. #6


    I will share with you a suspicion that recently hit me like a bolt of lightning. I said in the text that spec drawings for weapons hardly survived the war, yet cover letters to replacement drawings sent to various departments and units within the army are very common. They are, however, systematically missing all the actual drawings that should have been attached to the cover sheets.

    I had always assumed that this was due to intentional destruction by the army at the time of surrender. But I suddenly realized that they might actually be there, all intact, in the archives. In the current ultra pacifist climate and legal system of Japan, prohibiting guns, it is actually unthinkable and a bad idea to make weapons blueprints freely accessible by anyone on the net, the way secret documents from the war can now be accessed. They may have only been edited out for this public security concern.

    Alas, I am not in Japan, so in no position to visit the archives in person to verify this suspicion, but if I'm wrong and the army actually burned all the weapons' spec sheets and drawings, they did an impressively thorough job, just too thorough to be plausible. Or it may also be that those drawings were all retained by the USA and not returned to Japan when these papers got returned in two waves. (The first batch of 6,800 files were returned in 1956 and 2,200 files in 150 file boxes in 1974. At the US National Archives, Japanese army and navy files were held in pink-labeled file boxes, while blue labels stood for political crimes like secret police dossiers on anti-establishment activists.)
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Proving Absence of Bogus Specs and Fantasy Items   Proving Absence of Bogus Specs and Fantasy Items  

    Last edited by nick komiya; 01-10-2020 at 11:10 AM.

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    See here for another example on how to properly establish credentials of an item. Winter Working Jacket

  8. #8


    Here is documentation showing that the army's adoption of staple fiber as helmet cover stuffing was part of a national drive initiated by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in January 1938. The original request was to introduce 100% staple fiber (rayon) uniforms, if possible or achieve a minimum of 30% mix in cotton and 20% mix in wool. This drive was to involve all school uniforms and even private clothing of government employees. This campaign predates the introduction of the first model helmet cover, so examples without the スフ stamp inside should be quite rare to the point of being questionable.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Proving Absence of Bogus Specs and Fantasy Items   Proving Absence of Bogus Specs and Fantasy Items  

    Last edited by nick komiya; 01-18-2020 at 06:39 PM.

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