The First Airborne Brigade, also known as the Narashino Airborne Brigade, has served as a morale booster for other SDF elements. The brigade serves as Japan's elite paratrooper unit. Airborne and ranger badges are admired by all SDF members. Ranger badges are given to those who have undergone intense training and are carried by most airborne troops.
Based in the Narashino Garrison in Funabashi, the Brigade consists of three infantry battalions, each consisting of some 400 paratroops.
The major missions the First Airborne Brigade at Narashino have undertaken in the past half century had nothing to do with military emergencies. One was to attempt to rescue survivors of a Japan Airlines jumbo jet crash in the mountains of Osutaka, Gunma Prefecture, in 1985. The other was a rescue mission following the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995. In both cases, airborne units were relied upon for mobility to rescue civilians.
In the meantime, paratroops have engaged in hard combat training. The First Airborne Brigade is part of the Eastern Army in the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force. The Brigade aims to achieve more rapid and flexible deployment in times of emergency.Members of the First Airborne Brigade cherish opportunities to talk to former Imperial Army paratroops about their Pacific War battles.
Click here to to learn of the historical development of the Japanese airborne and their deployment in battle.
©2000 Herbert Holeman, Ph.D.