Battle of Changsha (1942)

Battle of Changsha (1942)

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The third Battle of Changsha (24 December 1941–15 January 1942) was the first major offensive in China by Imperial Japanese
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

 forces following the Japanese attack on the Western Allies.

The offensive was originally intended to prevent Chinese forces from reinforcing the British Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 forces engaged in Hong Kong
Battle of Hong Kong
The Battle of Hong Kong took place during the Pacific campaign of World War II. It began on 8 December 1941 and ended on 25 December 1941 with Hong Kong, then a Crown colony, surrendering to the Empire of Japan.-Background:...

. With the capture of Hong Kong on 25 December, however, it was decided to continue the offensive against Changsha in order to maximize the blow against the Chinese government
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...


The offensive resulted in failure for the Japanese, as Chinese forces were able to lure them into a trap and encircle them. After suffering heavy casualties, Japanese forces called for a general retreat.

Course of battle

On 27 December, the Japanese 3rd, 6th, and 40th Divisions massed at Yueyang
Yueyang is a prefecture-level city at the northeastern corner of Hunan province, South Central China, on the southern shores of Dongting Lake.The Yueyang metropolitan area occupies 14,896 km². and the city proper occupies 304 km²...

 and advanced southward in three columns and crossed the Sinchiang River, and tried again to cross the Miluo River
Miluo River
The Miluo River is an important river in the Dongting Lake watershed. It is famous as the location of the ritual suicide in 278 BC of Qu Yuan, a poet of Chu state during the Warring States period, in protest against the corruption of the era....

to reach Changsha. However, the Chinese formed a deep pocket around the city and set up ambush parties around the Luoyang River. Halfway from Miluo River and Changsha, the Japanese columns faced strong resistance from the Chinese and the eastern column was forced to take a detour further east, and the other two columns had to move closer together than originally planned. During the southward advance the Japanese encountered three Chinese army divisions that were pushed aside but not crushed; they retreated into the eastern mountains.

Changsha was evacuated except for the Chinese army and some 160 civilians who wished to stay to help the defense. On 31 December 1941, the Japanese troops stormed the southeastern defense of the city but failed to make any gains, and then made an attempt at the southern and then eastern part of the defense. Meanwhile, the northern part of the city was heavily bombarded. The Japanese eventually cut through the first line of defense, only to meet stubborn resistance from a second line of defense near the city center.

On 1 January 1942, the Chinese quickly counter-attacked and surprised the Japanese with heavy guns and inflicted heavy casualties on them. At about the same time, the previous army units that had retreated to the mountains swept down to attack the Japanese supply lines, with plenty of aid from local guerrillas. The Japanese line collapsed on 4 January. The three Japanese divisions were besieged and requested the help of the Japanese 9th Independent Brigade stationed in Yueyang.

However, on 9 January they faced heavy fighting with the Chinese and were unable to relieve the besieged Japanese divisions. The Japanese then attempted to retreat through the Luoyang River, not knowing that an ambush party was already stationed in the region. Losing heavily at the river crossing, the Japanese eventually reached the Sinchiang River on 15 January to complete the retreat.


The 3rd Battle of Changsha can be thought of as decisive. Just a month after Pearl Harbor and U.S. entry into the war, the battle was acclaimed to be the only major Allied victory of the Asia-Pacific theater in late-1941/early-1942. It was seen as a major victory that could turn the tide of the war against Japan. It earned Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek's Government much prestige from abroad and legitimacy in stopping the Japanese. Xue Yue earned himself more prestige in China for his three victories and outstanding tactical skills. Changsha would remain in Chinese hands for a further two and a half years.