Toward the end of World War II, it was expected that to defeat the Japanese, it would require a large-scale invasion from the United States. Fearing this, the Japanese government had begun preparations to defend their homeland. The Japanese had taken a to-the-last-man stance – meaning that they expected not only soldiers to fight to the last man, but also their citizens. To aid with this, they decided to arm the population with grenades that could be used in defense, but the infrastructure and materials needed to produce the grenades had been decimated by inland bombing.
The Imperial Japanese Navy Technical Bureau came up with a new type of grenade. It was easy to make and cheaper to produce than traditional grenades at the time because it was made from ceramic. To produce the grenades, potters were called into service. Instead of producing traditional Japanese pottery, the potters’ kilns would be used to produce the “Type 4 grenade.”
As with many other grenades at the time, the Type 4 was a spherical shape, but it had a bottleneck, which included a fuse. The grenades came with a separate scratch block lid and rubber covering on the top, which needed to be removed before the grenade was activated. To ignite the grenade, the rubber covering would be removed, and the match compound lit. The delay was between four and five seconds.
The general population never saw any widespread use of the Type 4 grenade, as the expected invasion never came. The ceramic grenades were used by Japanese soldiers, but many grenade shells were fired that were never armed. The grenade pictured here is one such. It was brought home by Eugene Lucas after the war and was later donated to the Washington County Historical Society
Clay Kilgore is executive director of the Washington County Historical Society.