The Japanese Lunge Mine was as Deadly to its Users as it was to its Enemies!

The lunge mine is a near-suicidal anti-tank weapon developed for Imperial Japanese Army as a last ditch attempt to deal faced with the formidable challenge of Allied armored vehicles.

The weapon was literally just a shaped charge on the end of stick, which was trigged by jabbing it into the side of an enemy tank. It worked like a Bazooka or Panzerfaust, but instead of a rocket, the explosive was propelled by a human.

Although the stick’s length was meant to reduce the chances of injury, the death of its user is all but guranteed.



The lunge mine was a direct consequence of Japan’s strategic limitations during the war. Japan, lacking the industrial capabilities and resources of its adversaries, often found itself struggling to deal with Allied armor on land.

They were mostly up against Shermans, which are often known (incorrectly, we must add) as ineffective in Europe, however in the Pacific, Japan had no comparable tank of their own. Japan also lacked any truly powerful anti-tank weapons, with no equivalents to the long and short 8.8 cm guns, Panzerfausts, PaK 40, etc.

Chi-Ha tank.
The Chi-Ha (shown here) was Japan’s most numerous tank of the war, and was no match for the Sherman.

Their industry simply lacked the ability to produce weapons like this on an appreciable scale, so they often resorted to cheap, unconventional tactics.

The lunge mine was a direct response to the need for a low-cost, effective anti-tank weapon to combat the large numbers of Allied tanks.


The lunge mine’s physical design was a study in simplicity, which directly contrasts to the demands made on the user.

At its core, the weapon consisted of a conical explosive charge mounted on a pole.

This pole was typically made from lightweight materials like wood or bamboo, allowing for ease of handling and maneuverability. The mine was 12 inches long and 8 inches wide, and contained a 6.5 lb (3 kg) explosive charge.

The explosive charge itself was a shaped-charge design. This type of device has a cone-shaped piece of metal in front of an explosive charge.

When the explosives detonate, the metal cone is deformed into a very thin, extremely fast moving jet of metal that carries tremendous kinetic energy. This jet is capable of punch through large quantities of armor.

Lunge mine drawing.
A basic drawing of the lunge mine device.

This sort of charge is ideal for something like a lunge mine, as it does not need to be moving fast upon initial contact, as the explosives within the device do the work.

In front of the charge were three prongs, which ensured it was at the correct stand-off distance for the jet to form properly.

The lunge mine was triggered by the pole. Upon impact with the target, the pole pushed into the conical explosive, triggering a detonator which then set off the main charge. Before use, the pole was prevented from sliding forward by a safety pin.

In addition to this pin, a wire is located just below the below the pole inside the mine, which must be broken through to hit the detonator.

The length of the pole varied, but it was generally designed to be long enough to give some space between the charge and the soldier using the weapon – although this probably wasn’t much consolation.

Lunge mine technical drawing.
Diagram of lunge mine components.

The need to get close enough to the target to use the weapon effectively inherently placed the operator in great danger.

In theory, at a flat angle the lunge mine was capable of piercing through 6 inches (152 mm) of steel.

Simplicity is Key

Although clearly a very crude weapon, the lunge mine worked with Japan’s resource constraints. It was designed to be produced with minimal materials and manufacturing complexity.

The use of readily available materials like wood and basic metals meant that these mines could be produced in large numbers without significantly straining Japan’s industrial capacity.

This aspect was crucial for Japan, as the war effort required the efficient allocation of limited resources.

Interestingly, the concept of the shaped charge was introduced to Japan by Germany, with no research being conducted in this area before May 1942.

Using a Lunge Mine

The lunge mine was primarily utilized by infantry units, who were often hastily trained for this specific task. The deployment of the lunge mine was markedly different from that of conventional anti-tank weapons, which typically give the user some distance between them and the target.

This tactic was born out of necessity, as Japan lacked effective long-range anti-tank weapons.

Operating the lunge mine required a soldier to physically approach an enemy tank and thrust the mine against it.

The length of the pole allowed the operator some distance from the explosion, but it was often insufficient to guarantee safety. The operator using the lunge mine would likely be killed by it.

The following is an excerpt from a US Intelligence Bulletin from March 1945:

“The Japanese suicide soldier has been taught to wield this weapon as he would a rifle and bayonet. The prescribed method of operation is for the soldier to remove the safety pin as he approaches the tank to be attacked, and to grasp the center of the handle with his left hand, and the butt end with his right.

Lunge mine in use drawing.
Drawing of the mine in action from the March 1945 Intelligence Bulletin.

Then, holding the stick level, with the mine to the front, he lunges forward as in a bayonet attack, thrusting the three legs on the mine base against the side of the tank. The shock of contact will break the shear wire and the striker nail will be shoved into the detonator cap, thus exploding the mine as it is held against the armor. At this point the Jap soldier’s mission ends for all time.”

The soldiers chosen for this task must have been exposed to considerable mental stress, with the understanding that this was, essentially, a suicide weapon.

The use of the lunge mine was a clear indicator of Japan’s willingness to sacrifice its soldiers in suicide missions to achieve military objectives.

Effectiveness of the Lunge Mine

As mentioned earlier, the use of the lunge mine was spurred on by Japan’s difficulty in dealing with US armor. The lunge mine may seem unimaginable, but the fact that a weapon such as this was even feasible is a testament to the horrific conditions in which battles in Pacific took place.

The difficult, undulating terrain and thick vegetation made it theoretically possible for Japanese lunge mine users to get close to an enemy tank.

In Europe, there would be very few opportunities to do this without being spotted and fired upon.

However, this does not mean the lunge mine was successful.

The very idea of approaching a tank with a bomb on a stick is fraught with danger. Tanks themselves have multiple machine guns for defense, and are usually going to be accompanied by boots on the ground that will spot threats coming.

Nguyen Van Thieng in Vietnam.
Nguyen Van Thieng holding a lunge mine. He was later killed while operating one against French forces.

Exact stats on the effectiveness of the lunge mine are hard to come by, but it appears to have been a rather unsuccessful weapon.

This is evidenced in the Intelligence Bulletin from March 1945, which states:

“To date all attempts by the enemy to use the Lunge Mine against our tanks have met with failure.” Of course, this may be slightly biased, but it likely isn’t too far from reality.

Still, they made a resurgence shortly after the end of the war in Vietnam, during the First Indochine War of 1946. These were taken from old Japanese stocks, but it seems that they were also produced locally in Vietnam.

The lunge mine is seen in a famous photo of Nguyen Van Thieng, the platoon leader of those protecting the General Staff. He attempted to use the device against a French tank, but it reportedly malfunctioned and he was subsequently killed by machine gun fire.