Eighth Route Army

Eighth Route Army

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The Eighth Route Army was the larger of the two major Chinese communist forces that formed a unit of the National Revolutionary Army
National Revolutionary Army
The National Revolutionary Army , pre-1928 sometimes shortened to 革命軍 or Revolutionary Army and between 1928-1947 as 國軍 or National Army was the Military Arm of the Kuomintang from 1925 until 1947, as well as the national army of the Republic of China during the KMT's period of party rule...

 of the Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 which fought the Japanese from 1937 to 1945. In contrast to most of the National Revolutionary Army
National Revolutionary Army
The National Revolutionary Army , pre-1928 sometimes shortened to 革命軍 or Revolutionary Army and between 1928-1947 as 國軍 or National Army was the Military Arm of the Kuomintang from 1925 until 1947, as well as the national army of the Republic of China during the KMT's period of party rule...

, it was controlled by the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 and not the ruling Kuomintang
Kuomintang
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 Eighth Route Army was one of the main military forces of the Communist Party of China
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

, active during the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

 and 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...

. The political leader of the Communist Party of China was Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

, and their military leader was communist general
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Zhu De
Zhu De
Zhu De was a Chinese militarist, politician, revolutionary, and one of the pioneers of the Chinese Communist Party. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, in 1955 Zhu became one of the Ten Marshals of the People's Liberation Army, of which he is regarded as the founder.-Early...

.
The communists' Red Army (later the People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

) had first been formed in 1927 when the Nationalist
Kuomintang
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...

 27th Division mutinied
Mutiny
Mutiny is a conspiracy among members of a group of similarly situated individuals to openly oppose, change or overthrow an authority to which they are subject...

. After ten years of fighting, though, in 1937, Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 invaded China proper
China proper
China proper or Eighteen Provinces was a term used by Western writers on the Qing Dynasty to express a distinction between the core and frontier regions of China. There is no fixed extent for China proper, as many administrative, cultural, and linguistic shifts have occurred in Chinese history...

. To counter this threat, the Communists and Nationalists formed the United Front (the anti-Japanese alliance between the Chinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek
Chiang Kai-shek was a political and military leader of 20th century China. He is known as Jiǎng Jièshí or Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng in Mandarin....

 and the Chinese Communists). Most Communist forces wore either Nationalist uniforms or civilian clothes.

The two main Communist forces were the New Fourth Army
New Fourth Army
The New Fourth Army was a unit of the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China established in 1937. In contrast to most of the National Revolutionary Army, it was controlled by the Communist Party of China and not by the ruling Kuomintang. The New Fourth Army and the Eighth Route Army...

 and the Eighth Route Army (the larger of the two), called such after their nominal designations in the Chinese national army. Consisting of three divisions
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 (the 115th, the 120th, and the 129th, commanded by Lin Biao
Lin Biao
Lin Biao was a major Chinese Communist military leader who was pivotal in the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, especially in Northeastern China...

, He Long
He Long
He Long was a Chinese military leader. He rose to the rank of Marshal and Vice Premier after the founding of the People's Republic of China.-Early life:He Long was a member of the Tujia ethnic group...

, and Liu Bocheng
Liu Bocheng
Liu Bocheng was a Chinese Communist military commander and Marshal of the People's Liberation Army.Liu is known as one of the "Three and A Half" Strategists of China in modern history...

 respectively, the 8th Route Army's main advantage during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 was its ability to blend in with Japanese forces when behind enemy lines. Also, the Communist forces could easily attack Japanese supply lines and small garrison
Garrison
Garrison is the collective term for a body of troops stationed in a particular location, originally to guard it, but now often simply using it as a home base....

s. The 8th Route Army had also engaged in political and propaganda work, helping to increase communist support among the populace.

Formed in 1937 at the time of the second United Front, the 8th Route Army was headed by Mao Zedong's old comrade in arms Zhu De
Zhu De
Zhu De was a Chinese militarist, politician, revolutionary, and one of the pioneers of the Chinese Communist Party. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, in 1955 Zhu became one of the Ten Marshals of the People's Liberation Army, of which he is regarded as the founder.-Early...

 but was placed under the overall direction of the Nationalist government. In 1938 the 8th Route Army was reorganized as the 18th Army Group under the 3rd Military Region commanded by Nationalist Yen Hsi-shan. In practice, however, the army remained under Zhu De's control and operated independently of the Nationalists, especially after 1941, when relations between the Communists and Nationalists had deteriorated.

At the start of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the 8th Route Army infiltrated itself behind Japanese lines in Northern China, where it established many bases of operations. It recruited Chinese semi-trained militia
Militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

. The army grew from 30,000 troops in July 1937 to 156,000 in 1938 and 400,000 in 1940. Reduced to about 300,000 by the fierce fighting between 1941 and 1944, its size almost doubled to a total of 600,000 men in 1945.

Following the end of World War II, the 18th Army Group was incorporated into the new People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...

. Units from the former 8th Route Army were active in the 1948 capture of Northeast China
Northeast China
Northeast China, historically known in English as Manchuria, is a geographical region of China, consisting of the three provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang. The region is sometimes called the Three Northeast Provinces...

 from the Nationalists, which placed the communist forces in a position to take North China and turn the civil war in their favour.

Notables


The 8th Route army fought in Hundred Regiments Battle and Battle of Pingxingguan
Battle of Pingxingguan
The Battle of Pingxingguan , also commonly called the "Great Victory of Pingxingguan" in Mainland China, was an engagement fought between the 8th Route Army of the Communist Party of China and the Imperial Japanese Army on September 25, 1937....

.
English adventurer and local Chinese folkhero George Hogg
George Hogg (adventurer)
George Aylwin Hogg was an English adventurer. He was a graduate of Oxford University in economics. He is known as a hero in China for saving 60 orphaned boys during the Second Sino-Japanese War, including leading them through dangerous mountain passes, escaping the approaching Japanese secret...

 stayed in the Shanxi
Shanxi
' is a province in Northern China. Its one-character abbreviation is "晋" , after the state of Jin that existed here during the Spring and Autumn Period....

 8th Route army for a time and also befriended general Nie Rongzhen
Nie Rongzhen
Nie Rongzhen was a prominent Chinese Communist military leader, and one of ten Marshals in the People's Liberation Army of China. He was the last surviving PLA officer with the rank of Marshal.-Biography:...

.

Many of the experienced veterans would move on to fight in both the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

 and later the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 as high ranking officers in the People's Volunteer Army
People's Volunteer Army
The Chinese People's Volunteer Army was the armed forces deployed by the People's Republic of China during the Korean War. Although all units in the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army belonged to the People's Liberation Army , the People's Volunteer Army was separately constituted in order to...

against the United States and South Korean forces.