Rare WWII Japanese miniature missile explosive rounds

My dad fought for the 5th Marine Division at Iwo Jima, as a sargeant and radioman with Air Liaison, or joint assault signal corps.

Currently, my dad is writing his story, and has chosen most of his photos for a book - but there is one more photo we need.

There was a story that Ira Hayes, one of the flag raisers at Iwo, witnessed a marine who returned from battle with what looked like a miniature rocket stuck in his arm, with fins on the back.
When the corpsman reached for this round, Ira Hayes slapped the corpsman’s hand away, and very, very slowly removed it from the marine’s arm. After removing this strange looking round, Ira gently threw it over a nearby rock (or cliff); when the round hit, it exploded.

There was one other story about these mysterious Japanese rounds, related to fighting in the bloody gorge. Sometime after Shepard had been relieved of his command, another of the marines returned with one of these small rocket rounds stuck in his shoulder, I think.

Can anyone help us locate photos of the weapon that fired these small rounds, and photos of the rounds themselves? Someone suggested these rounds came from small mortars.

Sign us,

Stumped in Texas

Sorry, I think there must have been a mistake somewhere along the line in the telling and re-telling of the story. I looked through the Handbook of Japanese Explosive Ordnance, dated 15 August 1945, and there is no picture or mention of a miniature high explosive rocket. The smallest listed is a 12cm (4.7 inch) spin-stabilized incendiary shrapnel (white phosphorus filled steel pellets) rocket that was 20 inches long and weighed 51 pounds. The other Japanese rockets listed are much larger.


With Mel having done the research, I will only add that I have heard of an incident or two involving Japanese knee mortar rounds hitting individuals and not going off. They are somewhat bigger than you described, but not really huge - about the size of a hand grenade but perhaps a little longer. However, they did not have, to my knowledge, and fins, and they were not rockets.

Wasn’t there a spigot rifle grenade launched from the Type 99 rifle that used a standard fragmentation grenade (Type 97?, not sure, away from my books) body as warhead and had a finned tail assembly? That could look like a miniature missile, but I think that even as a dud it would have taken the man’s arm off rather than just embedding itself (unless that Gyrene had arms like Hulk Hogan).

It could be that for whatever strange reason, the soldier in question got a fuse partially stuck in him if it was blown off of another piece of ordnance nearby? A fuse from some kind of mortar might appear like a little rocket with the holes they sometimes have, and the general shape of them. Usually the threaded base is a dead giveaway as to what they are though, and most all soldiers would recognize those things by those threads, unless it didn’t have threads.

The only similar thing I have heard is Americans breaking legs by trying to fire the knee mortar from their knee.

Ok fella’s

“picture wise” he describes what I see as a flechette (an "explosive” flechette)

Aerial flechettes are well known to have been used in WWI but none were known to be explosive, fuzed or otherwise (some were “flare” like for anti-balloon efforts)…all WWI…all European Theater…yes ??

His description congers up the image of a mid to late 50’s US “lazy dog”…”yellow dog”…flechette

I have never seen any evidence they existed (were used) in the WWII era (all though often wrongly attributed to that time frame) (I am all ears if someone has evidence…literature…photos… to the contrary)

(I think they may have been used in Korea…yes ??)

I include a couple photos of later flechette “like” items that have been described to me as being “explosive”

Pepper - I don’t think any of those are Japanese, and I have never heard of any U.S. use of flechettes on Iwo Jima or any of the islands during WWII. Of course, any combat wound could have been friendly fire - it happens, pure and simple.

I believe the inquiry stated that the tale was that the object, after being removed from the person was thrown over the cliff and exploded, so it is more likely some sort of low velocity rifle grenade or mortar munition than a solid flechette.

It is also possible that the story over repeated tellings was changed somewhat and someone other than the principal players assumed “Oh yeah, it was one of those…” when they saw one of the little brass bomblet looking souvenir “trench art” items made from Japanese artillery fuzes.

I am not doubting the veracity of the story tellers, but rather some of the specific details of their recollections after several years had passed.

Anyone have photos of Japanese rifle grenades?

Althought improbable, it could be a vague reference to the experimental se-te antitank grenades. These are pretty small (not miniature) and some have propellant charges and gas ports in their bases to increase velocity. None of these have fins.

It’s been suggested by a member of a gunboards forum that

[quote][/quote]but it sounds like a description of a sub-munition from a japanese cluster bomb.

It is similar to the T 2 grenade, shown below, but has tail fins and is armed by a small propeller on the fin assembly. It is a shaped charge, and would require a good “smack” to discharge, maybe explaining why it didn’t go off in the Marine!

Perhaps someone else can post a picture of the sub-munition.
End quote

japanese cluster bomb sub-munition photos, anyone? Should I submit this question as a new topic, anyone?
Thank you for your consideration and response.

Trying to insert image without success. You can see the message here :

forums.gunboards.com/showthread. … ive-rounds

I posted something here earlier this year about a story in a 1945 Popular Science magazine about a small Japanese air-to-air bomblet (I guess for Zeros to drop on B-29s in flight) which was essentially a rifle grenade with fins attached. There was even a picture of one in the article. However, if it did exist, it’s doubtful if it was the same device or if it would have been used on Iwo Jima.

Dennis, here is the article published in Popular Science (the caricature was in the cover):

Yep, that is exactly the one. I have an original copy of that issue. Those WWII-era magazines contained a lot of ordnance-related information, as there was a lot of public interest in it at the time.

Was there much air to ground activity by the Japanese Air Forces at Iwo Jima? Late in the war, they seemed much more intent on using what little air resources they had left to attack our Navy. If so, that could well be the weapon in question.

A friend of mine served on Iwo Jima as Naval gunfire support officer and I asked him about this device. He said he never saw it but he added that nothing would surprise him. It was his guess that it might be something locally made and used at a small unit level. He relayed a story about rockets that the Japanese launched from the north end of the island, apparently targeting his Battalion HQ at the base of Suribachi. He said the rockets streaked across the night sky with blue flame, darting and zig zagging their way out to sea, where they fell harmlessly. They later found some of them which he described as long pipes with large naval shells attached to the end.