Battle of West Hunan

Battle of West Hunan

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The Battle of West Hunan (湘西會戰), also known as the Zhijiang Campaign (芷江作戰) was the Japanese invasion of west Hunan
Hunan
' is a province of South-Central China, located to the south of the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and south of Lake Dongting...

 and the subsequent Chinese counterattack that occurred between 6 April and 7 June 1945, during the last months of the Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

. Japanese strategic aims for this campaign were to seize Chinese airfields and secure railroads in West Hunan, and to achieve a decisive victory that their depleted land forces needed.

This campaign, if successful, would also allow Japan to attack Sichuan
Sichuan
' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

 and eventually the Chinese war time capital Chongqing
Chongqing
Chongqing is a major city in Southwest China and one of the five national central cities of China. Administratively, it is one of the PRC's four direct-controlled municipalities , and the only such municipality in inland China.The municipality was created on 14 March 1997, succeeding the...

. Although they were able to make initial headways, Chinese forces were able to turn the tide and forced the Japanese into a rout, recovering a substantial amount of lost ground.

This was the last major Japanese offensive, and the last of 22 major battles during the war to involve more than 100,000 troops. Concurrently, the Chinese managed to repel a Japanese offensive in Henan and Hubei
Battle of West Henan-North Hubei
The Battle of West Henan-North Hubei , was one of the 22 major engagements between the National Revolutionary Army and Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It was in northern Hubei and western Henan...

 and launched a successful attack on Japanese forces in Guangxi
Second Guangxi Campaign
In 1945, China from April to August 2, 3 front in Guangxi province, launched a counter offensive to retake the last major Japanese stronghold in South China and the Second Guangxi Campaign started...

, turning the course of the war sharply in China's favor even as they prepared to launch a full-scale counterattack across South China.

Background


By April 1945, China had already been at war
Second Sino-Japanese War
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany , the Soviet Union and the United States...

 with Japan for more than seven years. Both nations were exhausted by years of battles, bombings and blockades. From 1941-1943, both sides maintained a "dynamic equilibrium", where field engagements were often, numerous, involved large numbers of troops and produced high casualty counts, but the results of which were mostly indecisive. Operation Ichi-Go in 1944 changed the status quo, as Japanese forces were able to break through the inadequate Chinese defenses and occupy most of Henan
Henan
Henan , is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the central part of the country. Its one-character abbreviation is "豫" , named after Yuzhou , a Han Dynasty state that included parts of Henan...

, Hunan
Hunan
' is a province of South-Central China, located to the south of the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and south of Lake Dongting...

 and Guangxi
Guangxi
Guangxi, formerly romanized Kwangsi, is a province of southern China along its border with Vietnam. In 1958, it became the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, a region with special privileges created specifically for the Zhuang people.Guangxi's location, in...

, connecting Japanese-held areas from north to south in a continuous front.

However, the Japanese victory resulted in very little actual benefit for them: the operation drained Japanese manpower and a weakened Japanese army had to defend a longer front with more partisan activity in occupied areas. The opening up of north-south railway connections did little to improve Japanese logistics, for only one train ran from Guangzhou
Guangzhou
Guangzhou , known historically as Canton or Kwangchow, is the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. Located in southern China on the Pearl River, about north-northwest of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port...

 to Wuhan
Wuhan
Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province, People's Republic of China, and is the most populous city in Central China. It lies at the east of the Jianghan Plain, and the intersection of the middle reaches of the Yangtze and Han rivers...

 in April 1945, and due to fuel shortages the primary mode of transportation for Japanese troops was on foot.

On the other hand, although the Chinese government in Chongqing
Chongqing
Chongqing is a major city in Southwest China and one of the five national central cities of China. Administratively, it is one of the PRC's four direct-controlled municipalities , and the only such municipality in inland China.The municipality was created on 14 March 1997, succeeding the...

 had lost land access to their remaining forces in Zhejiang
Zhejiang
Zhejiang is an eastern coastal province of the People's Republic of China. The word Zhejiang was the old name of the Qiantang River, which passes through Hangzhou, the provincial capital...

, Anhui
Anhui
Anhui is a province in the People's Republic of China. Located in eastern China across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River, it borders Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a tiny...

 and Jiangxi
Jiangxi
' is a southern province in the People's Republic of China. Spanning from the banks of the Yangtze River in the north into hillier areas in the south, it shares a border with Anhui to the north, Zhejiang to the northeast, Fujian to the east, Guangdong to the south, Hunan to the west, and Hubei to...

 with their defeat in Ichi-Go, Chinese fortunes in the war improved with the retaking of north Burma by Allied and Chinese forces and since its reopening on 4 February 1945 the Ledo
Ledo
Ledo may refer to:* Ledo, Assam, India* Ledo, Goa, India* Ledo Road* Ledo Degtinė* Ledo , a Croatian ice cream producer...

-Kunming
Kunming
' is the capital and largest city of Yunnan Province in Southwest China. It was known as Yunnan-Fou until the 1920s. A prefecture-level city, it is the political, economic, communications and cultural centre of Yunnan, and is the seat of the provincial government...

 Stilwell Road transported over 50,000 tonnes of petroleum into China every month. By April 1945, enough materiel
Materiel
Materiel is a term used in English to refer to the equipment and supplies in military and commercial supply chain management....

 had become available to the Chinese army to equip 35 divisions with American equipment. And a major counter offensive was planned.

Japanese strategic objectives


For this campaign, the Imperial Japanese had three main objectives. The first of which was to neutralize the Chinese airfield at Chihkiang (also transliterated as Chihchiang), whose complement of USAAF
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

 and ROCAF
Republic of China Air Force
The Republic of China Air Force is the aviation branch of the Republic of China Armed Forces. The ROCAF's primary mission is the defense of the airspace over and around Taiwan...

 was ensuring Allied air superiority in the region and a base for U.S. bombers, either by physically reaching the airfield, located only 435 km (270.3 mi) from Chungking, and securing it, or simply by pressing forward close enough to the airfield to force the Chinese to destroy the installation.

Their second objective was to secure their control of the Hunan-Guangxi and Guangzhou-Hankou railways. A third objective was to preemptively disrupt the planned Chinese offensive in the region.

Preparations for battle


By this point of the war, Japan were losing the battle in Burma
Burma Campaign
The Burma Campaign in the South-East Asian Theatre of World War II was fought primarily between British Commonwealth, Chinese and United States forces against the forces of the Empire of Japan, Thailand, and the Indian National Army. British Commonwealth land forces were drawn primarily from...

 and facing constant attacks from Chinese forces in the country side. Spare troops for this campaign were limited. The Japanese army began preparations for the battle in March 1945, constructing two highways with forced Chinese labor: the Heng-Shao Highway ran from Hengyang
Hengyang
Hengyang is the second largest city of China's Hunan Province. It straddles the Xiang River about 160 km south of Changsha.-History:Its former name was Hengzhou . This was the capital of a prefecture in the Tang Dynasty's Jiangnan and West Jiangnan circuits...

 in a northwest direction to Shaoyang
Shaoyang
-Administrative divisions:*Shuangqing District *Daxiang District *Beita District *Wugang City *Shaodong County *Shaoyang County *Xinshao County *Longhui County *Dongkou County *Suining County...

, a Japanese controlled city in central Hunan a mere 100 km (62.1 mi) from Zhijiang; and the Tan-Shao Highway from Hsiangtan, southwest to Shaoyang. Supplies and equipment were stockpiled near Shaoyang, to be the headquarters of the Japanese 20th Corps, led by Ichiro Banzai. Under it were the Japanese 34th, 47th, 64th, 68th and 116th Divisions, as well as the 86th Independent Brigade, massing at various locations across Hunan, for a total of 80,000 men by early April.

In response, the Chinese National Military Council dispatched the 4th Front Army and the 10th and 27th Army Groups with Ho Ying-chin as commander-in-chief. At the same time, it airlifted the entire New 6th Corps, an American-equipped corps and veterans of the Burma Expeditionary Force, from Kunming
Kunming
' is the capital and largest city of Yunnan Province in Southwest China. It was known as Yunnan-Fou until the 1920s. A prefecture-level city, it is the political, economic, communications and cultural centre of Yunnan, and is the seat of the provincial government...

 to Zhijiang
Zhijiang, Hubei
Zhijiang is a county-level city in Yichang Municipality, Hubei province. Yichang is probably best known for the Three Gorges hydro project. Until the 1990s Zhijiang was a county...

. Chinese forces totaled 110,000 men in 20 divisions. They were supported by about 400 aircraft from the CAF 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th Air Groups and the USAAF 14th Air Force.

Battle


Japanese forces took over the outskirts of Hunan with little resistance. However, they didn't realize that the Chinese forces were well prepared for the Japanese assault. The mountainous terrain was ideal for ambushes and mortar bombardment on approaching Japanese forces in the lower grounds.

The Chinese also had air superiority in this battle. After some defeats Japan decided to retreat. However Chinese forces gave chase and inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese. The local Chinese guerrilla forces then attacked the Japanese positions. Japan ended up losing a large amount of territory that they once occupied.

Casualties


After the battle, Japan first announced that they only had 11,000 casualties (5,000 KIA). They later revised the figures to include an additional 15,000 casualties "due to diseases". Finally, they admitted to a casualty figure of 27,000. On the other hand, the Chinese claimed to have inflicted on the Japanese 36,358 casualties, including 12,498 KIA. The Chinese sustained (Chinese figures) 20,660 casualties with 7,817 KIA, of which there were 823 officers.

External links

  • http://military.china.com/zh_cn/history4/62/20050513/12309751.html