This is a discussion on Siege of Changchun within the Military History forums, part of the China Defense & Military category; Chinese civil war campaigns are generally a mystery to me and I would believe to a lot of people who ...
Chinese civil war campaigns are generally a mystery to me and I would believe to a lot of people who did not read Chinese. Between the Nationalist and Communist propaganda, western perceptions there really isn't much there.
So the siege of Changchun, 100K CCP troops encircled ~100K NRA troops in the city of Changchun in a Stalingrad type battle over winter. The Siege was like Leningrad (WW2) and Alesia (Gallic war) where civilians were not allowed to leave.
So what is your take on this battle?
I mean the CCP portraited the the chinese civil war as a destined path; western sources never really understand why and how a communist up rising can win. But from you, it seems like the pendulum can easily swing both ways; do you have more insights to share?
He's the guy who fought against japan to aid the British and keep the Burma road open.
Lin Biao also suffered a defeat under Bai Chongxi.
Chiang really don't know how to make use of his army and generals, he only trusted his own pocket guys.
Last edited by no_name; 07-19-2012 at 10:29 PM.
When the Japanese pulled out of Manchuria, they left many equipment behind, enough to arm many divisions. And also because of Manchuria's industrial and agricultural capacity, it became the meat that everyone wanted a bite. This included the Soviets, the CCP, the Nationalists and the Americans. The entire area was in the hands of the Soviets at the time. Both the Nationalists and the CCP were negotiating with the Soviets for the access to Manchuria. Contrary to popular belief, the Soviets talked to the Nationalists first. They did not think too highly of the CCP and did not even want to have anything to do with Mao. However, what the Soviets wanted was simply too much for Jiang to swallow. Jiang declined many of their demands, including lands and half of Manchuria's future production. The Soviets THEN turned to the CCP, who must have given up a lot to get the nod from the Soviets. We don't know what they have given up since the CCP would be seen as traitors and so they never publicize this. However, even after agreeing to allow the CCP to enter Manchuria, the Soviets made sure the process was not easy. No PLA soldier was allowed to carry any sort of weapon when entering Manchuria and none of them was allowed to enter the cities. So the PLA entered Manchuria like a whole bunch of homeless beggars with no weapons, no supply, even no uniform.
The clashes between the PLA and the Nationalists followed because everyone knew Manchuria was the key to the eventual outcome of the civil war. The Nationalists were extremely professional while the PLA was pretty much like bandits. There was a letter written by Lin Biao to Mao, detailing the issues they faced in Manchuria. One thing he mentioned in the letter was that they did not have any supply, no food, no cloth, etc. So they had no choice but "to solve the problem locally". We all know what that means. So many PLA vets mentioned that the local civilians would run away whenever they saw PLA troops and welcome the Nationalists whole-heartedly because it was the Nationalists who helped the locals and gave them food, clothing, left-over supplies, etc.
The initial fighting was very brutal on the part of the PLA since they had no experience and no training. Many vets mentioned that they didn't even know where to put their machine gun nests and things. They were learning from the nationalist POW they captured. So it became a common theme for the captured Nationalist soldiers becoming officers in PLA units so that they could show PLA soldiers what to do in a battle, even including small things like how to effectively use machine guns, instead of blasting like crazy. Lin Biao's PLA troops were very ineffective at the beginning. They kept losing battle after battle because they were facing some of the most elite Nationalist troops and highly competent commanders, such as Sun Liren who gained world fame in Burma fighting some of the most elite Japanese forces. At the end of 1947, Lin Biao was so desperate that he was about to order whatever left of his troops to disband and hide in the forests. That was when he got his biggest break in his life. Jiang ordered Sun back since Sun was never one of his followers. Sun graduated from Virginia Military Institute, instead of Huangpu where Jiang was the president. So Sun was always seen as an outsider. Once Jiang thought the PLA was finished, he called Sun back and promoted one of his guys to the commanding position. He also worried that the New 1st army, which had followed Sun ever since in Burma, was too loyal to Sun and would not follow his guy's orders. So he took apart the New 1st army. Seeing all this happening, Lin Biao couldn't believe his eyes and his luck. He regrouped and attacked Nationalist position like crazy. the new guy was a famous a$$-kisser and did not have any clue what to do on the battlefield. Without the elite New 1st army, the nationalists fell. And that led to the siege of Changchun.
Last edited by vesicles; 07-20-2012 at 12:40 PM.
One of the major reasons for the fall of the Nationalists was Jiang's attempt to alienate many whom he deemed not loyal to him. It just so happened that many of these non-followers were brilliant commanders. When I talked about Jiang's followers, I mean his students when he was the president at Huangpu Military School. The units led by his followers would have the priority on everything, in terms of supply, weapons, soldier benefits, promotion, etc. Basically, everything involved in operating a military unit. Others would get left-overs. Many units couldn't get anything. You can imagine how those units felt. All the mistrust led to serious lack of communication and cooperation between units. Many simply sat and watched when other units were surrounded by the PLA. So it like a snow-ball effect. Most of the elite units ended up fighting alone with no support from neighboring units and no one protecting their flanks. Once they were isolated and finished, other less elite units simply pulled back and kept on doing so until they had to go to Taiwan. With so many of this kind of things happened, even elite units began to simply pull back without fighting when they believed that they COULD be surrounded since they did not want to be left alone and they know no one will help them.
So the biggest factor that led to Jiang's down fall was his inability to trust his commanders, especially those brilliant ones. He only trusted bums since these were the ones who kissed his a$$.
in 1944 Operation Ichigo showed amply how "elite" those army units were. basically couldn't face japanese army in defensive operations even with american airs upport. It would be reminded that during much of 43 not much big fighting was happening, Japanese busy were battering 'em selves against mountains in Western Hubei, and air attacks against the rear. majority of NRA divisions had plenty of time to re-org and refit.
it was towards end of 44 that finally under *American* operationally leadership that Sun and his 1st new army was able to push back into Burma. even then that was a hard slogging aganst a starving japanese army on the end of a severed supply line.
operationally the NRA were disasters during much of 2nd Sino-Japanese wars. yes there were well led fighting units. but over all they wasted the soldier's bravery by simply feed them into a meat grinder. the chinese civil-war was par for the course. same bad leadership producing same disasterous (for the Nationalists) results.
btw, most of the collaborator army during ww2 were of NRA stock. I don;t know how one could count their "contribution" towards japanese defeat... maybe one could rationalize that they were equally inept as fighting formations under japanese command and were basically drag on Japanese logistics.
Getting a bit off-topic, but it is interesting to note that the CCP only had 100K troops besiege the KMT who also had 100K troops. Why did the Nationalists not try to break the siege? What gave the CCP such a decisive advantage that they could keep an equal number of enemies penned inside walls?
Additionally, the Nationalists were pretty bad and choked at the beginning, but became effective against the Japanese pretty quickly. The bad defeats were only before 1939. Once they regrouped and changed strategy, they became quite effective. They were able to fight the Japanese to a stalemate and hold them outside Changsha for 2 years and decisively defeated the Japanese major offenses, totaling 100,000 in the first battle of Changsha, 120,000 in the second battle of Changsha, and 120,000 in the third battle of Changsha. BTW, all these occurred before the US entered the war.
First Battle of Changsha | World War II Database
Second Battle of Changsha | World War II Database
Battle of Changsha (1942) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
As you can see from the above descriptions, the Chinese won these battles decisively. And these battles were not small skirmishes, but major battles, totally at least quarter of a million forces from both sides and up to half a million in some cases.
A quote from the Wikipedia about the battle of Changsha:
"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."
This partially shows why China is credited for the defeat of the Japanese.
This is what they say about the aftermath of of fierce fighting in central China:
"Despite the loss of Wuhan, the Chinese claimed heavy Japanese casualties, which hindered them to start other successful large scale offensives. During this battle, the Japanese army suffered 100,000 casualties. Although the Chinese lost 225,000 troops, it was a great improvement from the Battle of Shanghai, where the Chinese to Japanese casualty ratio was 3.6 : 1. After the capture of Wuhan, the advance of the Japanese in Central China bogged down with several battles around Changsha, until the Japanese started Operation Ichi-Go in 1944. The Chinese army preserved enough strength to be able to continue opposing the considerably weakened Japanese. The Japanese's pre-war hopes for a final showdown in Wuhan, to annihilate the main forces of Chinese army and forcing them to yield were unsuccessful. At the end of the battle, Japan had only one division left in the home island and was unable to reinforce the 7 divisions in Northeast China and Korea to counter the pressure of the 20 Soviet Far East divisions on the border."
Note that when it mentioned "weakened Japanese", the US had nothing to do with it as most of the fighting that caused the Japanese weakening was already finished by the time the US entered the war. The fighting in central China lasted from late 1937 to early 1942. The US did not enter the war until early 1942. So the vast majority of this "weakened Japanese" was caused by Chinese.
Wouldn't you think these brutal battles contributed to the success that the Americans had on the islands couple years later? With most of the elite troops either trapped or killed in China, Japan had few able bodies to fight another enemy...
The 16 Oct 1939 issue of Time Magazine reported that
"the Chinese turned around and, with a fury they have never shown before, lashed the Japanese back and back.... the Chinese destroyed every rail line, every road. The Japanese blithely advanced over this torn-up area until they were in the worst military position known to man: on a thin front without communications behind. That was when the Chinese struck. The Japanese had nothing to do but run."
I don't know about you, but I would say that's efficient fighting...
Last edited by vesicles; 07-21-2012 at 05:39 AM.
You know when people say that the history is written by the victor. Sadly, it is true. The Nationalists lost the civil war. So the CCP got to write their fictional version of the history during WWII. Instead of telling the world what the Chinese (at the time, mainly the Nationalists) actually did, they attempted to glorify their part, which was not much at all. So they glorified the guerilla style and it's effectiveness and also borowed many things that the Nationalists did. So when people look at it with a critical eye, they say " wait a minute, they did THIS with a few dozen soildiers?". "this can't be right. If this was all the Chinese did (the guerilla stuff), then it was impossible for them to win anything!". "But how did they win it?". "It's got to be someone else because no one can defeat a massive scale invasion with couple hundred bandits running around stealing food and guns".
In order to make a better villain out of the Nationalists, the CCP further fictionalized how bad the Nationalists were in the war and how much they did not even want to fight. This further paints an image of idiotic and cowardish Chinese in the war. So the Chinese looked like either running away from the enemy, being slaughtered, or running around stealing food and guns.
The truth was none of this was true. The Chinese fought massive scale battles, with some of the largest battles ever fought in the history of mankind (battle of Wuhan), and won decisively. The 3 battles of Changsha (lasted 3 years), during which the Nationalists consistently won and caused over 100,000 enemy casualties, would be good examples. Yet, none of this was ever publicized since China is in the hands of the CCP who does not want people to know how good the Nationalists were.
If one looks at how the Spanish in the Napoleonic wars or the Yugoslavs in WWII utilized guerilla forces it isn't as crazy sound as it might seem at first narratively speaking, although nowadays no one is denying the contribution of the Nationalist forces during the Sino-Japanese war.
Last edited by vesicles; 07-21-2012 at 02:17 PM.
He also thought his primary enemy was the CCP, not the Japanese, even though Japan was invading China. He believed that a foreign invasion can only be defeated if you have a unified home. So he focused so much on eliminating the CCP even when Japan was at his door step. He also believe that even the Japanese invasion could be unstoppable at the beginning, international communication would not stand by and watch and let Japan do whatever it wanted in China forever. This was because so many Western nations had so much interests in China. Allowing Japan to completely occupy China would mean serious loss in their investment in China. Nobody would allow what they have worked hard for to be taken away. So sooner or later, these western nations would have to step in and intervene. So he was not terribly worried about Japan at the beginning. However, he knew that no one will do anything if there was a domestic fight between him and the CCP. Since this would a domestic matter, it would be difficult for any foreigner to take side. They would think, "well, even if the CCP won, it would be just another Chinese govn't. We'll just work with them like any other Chinese govn't we have worked with before. So why jeopardize our future relationship with the potential new govn't by supporting the old one?". So it would be unlikely that anyone would step in to help him fight the CCP. So the CCP was his enemy#1. So even during the most difficult part of the WWII, he stil decided to attack the CCP base while at the time, fighting the Japanese.
I think this all stemmed from this "emperor" mentality. Both Jiang and Mao shared the same emperor mentality. Neither wanted to share power and all wanted to be the ultimate ruler in China. If they were willing to share power and had sme kind of democratic govn't style in mind, Japanese could not even enter manchuria. When Japan attacked manchuria, Jiang wanted to conserve strength to fight the CCP. So he ordered his 300,000 troops to pull back to the south of the Shanhai Pass without firing a single shot. If he actually decided to fight in Manchuria, it would be almost impossible for the Japanese to do anything in Asia. At the time, Japan only had Korea and small parts of Siberia. Without the resources they would get in Manchuria, they would not even have enough weapons and supply to start any meaningful advance in China or any part of Asia. Yet, Jiang was not willing to share power wih the CCP and considered Japanese as only a secondary threat. That proved to be disasterous.
Last edited by vesicles; 07-22-2012 at 10:42 AM.