Japanese IJN/SNLF

Special Naval Landing Force unit in China 1937*

General Information: The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and the Special Naval Landing Forces (SNLF) used the same Type 90 helmets as the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA), but with different frontal emblems. These were either metal badges with a ship’s anchor or yellow stenciled anchors. Because the IJA and IJN/SNLF helmets came from different procurements, there were some subtle differences between the two types in addition to the service branch emblems. Some of the differences are as follows:

  1. IJN/SNLF helmets were sometimes painted grey
  2. Side rivets on the IJN/SNLF helmets are perfectly flat while those on the IJA helmets are slightly domed.
  3. Two sets of stitching rows were used to connect ends of the liner bands of the IJN/SNLF helmets whereas the IJA helmet liner bands are joined with three rows of parallel stitches.
  4. IJN/SNLF helmets had heavier, smooth textured, dark red cow hide leather liner pads whereas the IJA helmet liners were made with pig skin leather that tended to be textured and lighter in color. Some IJN/SNLF helmets were made with canvas or linen liners.
  5. The IJA helmets had duplicate size markings: one embossed in the skirt section, one in white paint, also on the skirt, and one represented by a series of dots on the liner band. The IJN/SNLF helmets only had embossed size markings.
  6. Only IJA helmets had the Showa date ink stamped on the back side of one of the liner pads.

Displayed Example: I purchased this helmet from German Helmets, Inc. in 2006. It seems to be completely original, including the net, which by all appearances is original to the helmet. It has a stenciled yellow anchor rather than a metal badge. The helmet could have been worn by a member of the regular navy or the Special Naval Landing Forces. The fact that it has a net indicates that it was used on land where camouflage was needed. This increases the possibility that it was issued to a member of the SNLF. Regular naval troops also fought on land, however, particularly towards the end of the war when many sailors were left without ship duty after their ships were sunk by Allied forces. There were other kinds of land-based naval troops such as those belonging to aviation and guard units. It should be pointed out, therefore, that helmets like the one displayed here are often presented as SNLF helmets, this type was used by a variety of naval troops. Unless the piece is unit marked, it is not possible to say with any certainty whether or not an IJN helmet was used by SNLF personnel.

Collector Notes: The IJN helmets are scarcer than the IJA Type 90s and they fetch higher prices. For this reason, it is common to find IJA helmets with replacement badges or stenciled anchors that are misrepresented as original IJN helmets. Be on the lookout for the differentiating features listed above to help sort the good from the bad. The white painted size character and a Showa date on the back of one of the liner pads readily identify a Type 90 helmet as an army versus navy model.

* Nila, G. and R.A. Rolfe. Illustrated by Tony Chong. Series editor Martin Windrow. “Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces: Uniforms and equipment 1932–45.” Men-at-Arms. 432. https://download.e-bookshelf.de/download/0000/7057/78/L-X-0000705778-0007112298.XHTML/index.xhtml. Accessed June 6, 2022.


Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

2 thoughts on “Japanese IJN/SNLF

  1. The period photo is a platoon of the Kure 3rd SNLF outside of the Kosaka Company HQ in Amoy around 1939. Amoy was not taken by the Japanese until 1938.

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