Battle of West Hunan


Battle of West Hunan

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of West Hunan
partof=the Second Sino-Japanese War


caption=
date= April 9, 1945 - June 7, 1945
place= West Hunan
result= Chinese victory
combatant1= flag|Republic of China|name=China, National Revolutionary Army
combatant2= flag|Japan, Imperial Japanese Army
commander1= flagicon|Republic of China Ho Ying-chin
commander2= flagicon|Japan Ichiro Banzai
strength1= 110,000
strength2= 80,000Wilson, Dick. "When Tigers Fight". New York, NY: The Viking Press, 1982. pp. 248]
casualties1= ~20,000
casualties2= ~30,000

The Battle of West Hunan (湘西會戰), also known as the Chihchiang Campaign (芷江作戰) was the Japanese invasion of west Hunan and the subsequent Chinese counterattack that occurred between 6 April 1945 and 7 June 1945, during the last months of the Second Sino-Japanese War. 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. 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 Honan and Hupei and launched a successful attack on Japanese forces in Kwangsi, 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 with Japan for more than seven years. Both nations were exhausted by years of battles, bombings and blockades. From 1941 to 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 Ichigo" in 1944 changed the status quo, as Japanese forces were able to break through the inadequate Chinese defenses and occupy most of Honan, Hunan and Kwangsi, connecting Japanese-held areas from north to south in a continuous front. However, the Japanese victory resulted in very little actual benefit for them [Wilson, Dick. "When Tigers Fight". New York, NY: The Viking Press, 1982. pp. 246-247] : 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 Kwangchou to Wuhan 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 Chungking had lost land access to their remaining forces in Chekiang, Anhwei and Kiangsi with their defeat in "Ichigo", 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-Kunming Stilwell Road transported over 50,000 tonnes of petroleum into China every month [Wilson, Dick. "When Tigers Fight". New York, NY: The Viking Press, 1982. pp. 233] . By April 1945, enough materiel had become available to the Chinese army to equip 35 divisions with American equipment [needtofindsource] .

Order of Battle

China
*Commander-in-Chief; Ho Ying-chin 何應欽:*3rd Front Army; Tang En-po 湯恩伯::*27th Army Group; Li Yu-tang 李玉堂:::*26th Corps; Ting Chih-pan 丁治磐:::*94th Corps; Mu Ting-fang 牟廷芳:::*New 6th Corps; Liao Yao-hsiang 廖耀湘:*4th Front Army; Wang Yao-wu 王耀武::*18th Corps; Hu Lien 胡璉::*73rd Corps; Han Chun 韓浚光::*74th Corps; Shih Chung-cheng 施中誠::*100th Corps; Li Tien-hsia 李天霞::*assorted independent units ***:*10th Army Group; Wang Ching-chiu 王敬玖::*39th Corps; Liu Shang-chih 劉尚志::*92nd Corps; Hou Ching-ju 侯镜如SourcesHsu Long-hsuen, and Chang Ming-kai. "History of the Sino Japanese War (1937-1945)". 2nd ed. Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China: Chung Wu Publishing Co., 1972. p. 458] "National Revolutionary Army Order of Battle for the Battle of West Hunan". China Whampoa Academy Net. 11 September, 2007 .]

Japan
*20th Corps; Ichiro Anzai 板西一良:*34th Division; Yoshio Ban:*47th Division; Nagashi Watanabe 渡辺??:*68th Division; Mikio Tsutsumi 堤??:*116th Division; Ginnosuke Uchida 内田銀之助:*Elements of the 64th Division:*86th Independent BrigadeSources [Hsu Long-hsuen, and Chang Ming-kai. "History of the Sino Japanese War (1937-1945)". 2nd ed. Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China: Chung Wu Publishing Co., 1972. p. 457]

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 and CAF was ensuring Allied air superiority in the region and a base for US bombers, either by physically reaching the airfield, located only 435 km (270 mi) from ChungkingKraus, Theresa L. "US Army Campaigns of World War II: China Offensive". Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1992.] , 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-Kwangsi and Kwangchou-Hankow railways. A third objective was to preemptively disrupt the planned Chinese offensive in the region.

Preparations for battle

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 in a northwest direction to Shaoyang, a Japanese controlled city in central Hunan a mere 100 km from Chihkiang; 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 to Chihkiang. 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.

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.

References


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