- 2nd Army (GEN Qiu Qingquan), 6th Army (CEN Li Yannian), 7th Army (GEN Huang Baitao), 8th Army (GEN Liu Ruming), 12th Army (GEN Huang Wei), 13th Army (GEN Li Mi), and 16th Army (GEN Sun Yuanliang), approximately 900,000 troops all arms of the Suppression General Headquarter of Xuzhou Garrison.
It's worth noting that these troops were among the best the Nationalist government could field. 2nd Army in particular were hard-core, veterans of the war against the Japanese in Burma. Much of their equipment was American and new, and many of the officers had been trained by American advisers. If these guys couldn't win against the Reds, the Nationalist generals must have thought, who can?
Communist Chinese (PLA): East China Field Army(華東野戰軍 GEN Su Yu) and the Central Plains Field Army(中原野戰軍 GEN Liu Bocheng), roughly 600,000 all arms regular PLA soldiers. Included, at various times, up to 500-600,000 guerrilla and irregular troops and several million labor/service auxiliaries.The Powers and Their Intentions: At this point in China's history the ancient imperial house of cards had thoroughly fallen. China's late 19th Century history was one of increasing humiliation, defeat and even invasion by, first, the Western Powers and then - perhaps the crowning insult - the modernized industrial armies and navies of Meiji Japan.The Xinhai Revolution (辛亥革命) that began in October 1911 brought the abdication of the last direct Manchu (Qing) Emperor Pu Yi in February, 1912. As you might suspect, however, the fractious coalition of students, soldiers, businessmen, local magistrates, Chinese expatriates, farmers and intellectuals fell apart almost as soon as it had won. The soldiers of the Beiyang Army, the first to receive a modern technical military education, found themselves in position to gain power either as advisers to warlords or as warlords themselves. The commander of the Army, Yuan Shikai, even declared himself Emperor briefly. By 1920 China was a mess, with the country north of the Yangtze divided into military fiefdoms, or worse, anarchic chaos and the south under the turbulent rule of the Kuomintang (KMT) and its leader, Sun Yat-sen.Sun was in interesting guy; terribly bright, dynamic, a magnetic personality - he's still venerated as the pater patria in both Taiwan and the mainland, which gives you some idea - but also a prickly sonofabitch and a man with an exaggerated sense of his own importance. And he married a Soong sister - you will need to remember that.
One of his critical errors was demanding a personal loyalty oath of his followers in 1914 while in exile after trying to overthrown Emperor Yuan. Many of his old homies of the Tongmenghui (中國同盟會), the United Allegiance Society that had been central in the overthrow of the Manchus were pissed - they hadn't overthrown an emperor just to have to bow down to this mook.
This was the first real crack that broke the weak bonds that held the 1911 revolutionaries together. Sun tried ineffectually to suppress the warlords and unite the country but made little headway. He used the Soviets for military aid and managed to keep the Chinese Communists (CCP) in the KMT, but he was suspicious of them and never really managed to unite the factions. All in all conditions in the south were sketchy in 1925 when Sun made matters worse by dying. leaving the KMT to his military chief, Chiang Kai-shek.
If Sun was a twisty sort of lad his protege' Chiang was a fucking double-helix corkscrew. He was a survivor first and foremost, and an accomplished intriguer. He may or may not have been personally corrupt but his wife, her family, and many of his supporters were thieves who would would steal the pennies off a dead man's eyes. I doubt if he ever had a simple, direct, uncomplicated thought once past childhood.
As the commandant of the Whampoa Military Academy his connections to the Chinese military ran wide and deep - the "Whampoa Clique" became an important part of his KMT/Army support. He seems to have had some ability as a commander, and managed to bring off the "Northern Expedition", which had been Sun's dream of reunifying the nation by force, starting in July of 1926. But with the job still unfinished he turned on his Communist buddies and started flaying them; KMT troops killed as many as 12,000 in the so-called Shanghai Massacre in April, 1927. The relatively small group that escaped fled to the mountains of northwestern China in the now-famous Long March.Chiang and his National Revolutionary Army (NRA) finally "conquered" the north in 1928. But this "conquest" was accomplished in great part by either buying out or co-opting local warlords. These thugs just put their bullyboys in KMT/NRA uniforms, blabbed out party doctrine and went on merrily looting, raping and killing as before. These warlord fights helped keep the KMT weak through the 1930s along with the continuing skirmishing with the Communists and the forest fire of corruption in the KMT government.
Despite the increasingly rapacious activities of Japan Chiang's direction was to "solve the internal problems first" by pursuing the Communists and whatever warlords got in his way. The situation changed in 1936, when the Communists and the Kuomintang officially "reconciled" after an extremely weird episode known as the Xi'an Incident.In this oddity two officers, a north China warlord and a disaffected NRA commander, seized the Generalissimo in December, 1936. This apparently caught both the Communists and Nationalists by surprise; the parties spent considerable time dithering before a compromise was reached. The Communists and the KMT/Nationalists officially declared the Japanese the Great Satan and announced their loving buddyhood - which lasted less than five years, it should be said. But the Japanese invaded in earnest in 1937 and the KMT spent the next eight years losing hundreds of thousands of troops fighting back. By 1945 both the NRA and the Chinese nation was devastated.The thing was...Chiang never really seemed to see the Japanese as his REAL problem. Observers at the time and historians since noted that the KMT expended as much or more effort trying to crush the CCP than it did fighting the Japanese. "Vinegar" Joe Stilwell - not an unbiased source, mind you, he commonly referred to Chiang as "the Peanut" and estimated that the KMT lost or stole something like $380,584,000 (in 1944 dollars!) during his tenure as Chief of Staff to the NRA - went to Washington repeatedly claiming that much of the supplies delivered to the Nationalists were hoarded in advance of the war they really wanted to fight, the war against the Reds. Chiang himself said:
“You think that it isSo for the Nationalists, 1945 didn't mean the "end of the war" - just the end of the foreign military distraction. It was the beginning of their civil war, and their intent was to prosecute it until they had a monopoly on force in China. This mean military defeat, first for the Communists (the most formidable armed force outside the government) and then for whatever warlords remained outside the KMT fold.
important that I have kept the Japanese from expanding all these years….I tell you that it is more important that I have kept the Communists from spreading. The Japanese are a disease of the skin; the Communists are a disease of the heart."
The CCP, the Reds, obviously had the same objective. Their forces had been primarily lightly-armed guerrillas in 1946, but a combination of Soviet maneuvering in Manchuria, captured Japanese materials and, most importantly, deserting Nationalist troops brought some technical parity by 1948. In Mao Zedong they had a charismatic leader, in Zhu De a competent army commander, in men like Zhou Enlai and Lin Biao clever and effective political operatives. By the late 1940's the Communists were ready to take control.
The real strength of the CCP was in it's policy of "land reform". To "Old Hundred Names", the poor tenant Chinese farmer, the notion that fighting - or just aiding the Red Army meant that they would take their farmland from their landlords was like crack cocaine. In practice this meant an almost unlimited supply of manpower for the PLA, both for combat as well as logistic support. Look at the numbers above; five million laborers. Five MILLION.
Offstage the two Great Powers concerned approached the Chinese Civil War very differently.
The Soviets supported the CCP, but kept things pretty much on the down low. GEN Marshall reported that U.S. intelligence could find no direct evidence of Soviet supply running to the Chinese Communists; Stalin directed his CIC in Manchuria to aid the comrades there to take what they could...but he also temporized with Chiang and made no overt moves to threaten the KMT borders. The bottom line for Stalin was his desire to secure his rear while confronting the Western powers in Europe; a Communist China allied with the USSR was great...but a weak Nationalist state was fine, too. The Russian fear of terror from out of the East is strong; a weak China was more important than a Red one.The U.S. had invested heavily in Chiang while he was fighting Japan, but Stilwell wasn't the only American disgusted with the warlordism and insane corruption of Nationalist China. On the other hand, the Red Menace was still very much a bogeyman of the great American middle. The Nationalists had influential friends in the U.S. as well, many of whom were infatuated with Madame Chiang, the youngest of the lovely Soong sisters and living proof that public policy is best not made when mooning over someone's wife.The New York Times said of her:
"As a fluent English speaker, as a Christian, as a model of what many Americans hoped China to become, Madame Chiang struck a chord with American audiences... She seemed to many Americans to be the very symbol of the modern, educated, pro-American China they yearned to see emerge - even as many Chinese dismissed her as a corrupt, power-hungry symbol of the past they wanted to escape."Truman's Administration found Chiang an unloveable ally at best and a weak and needy liability at worst.
The Campaign: In reality, Huaihai IS a campaign, the final campaign in the two-year war for the control of China north of the Yangtze River. Most of the sources I reviewed treat the campaign as itself taking place in three phases or local campaigns, the pattern I will follow as well.
The Sources: Both sides had survivors, and the Huaihai campaign has been well documented. The obvious difficulty is that both sides were not just enemies but partisan factions in a civil war, with no compelling need to present an unbiased account. Communist sources should be taken with skepticism when they discount treachery and betrayal of the KMT side. Nationalist accounts, however, tend to overestimate the effect of subversion and understate the fragility of Nationalist units and the incompetence of Nationalist commanders.
In English, perhaps the single best source on the engagement is Gary Bjorge's Moving the Enemy, a Command and General Staff College paper (published in book form in 2003) although your enjoyment of the work will depend greatly on your delictation of FM 3-0...it IS an Army professional paper, after all.
Otherwise, Tuchman's Stilwell and the American Experience in China is a terrific work but also seems to me frankly slanted against Chiang; his faults are overemphasized and Stilwell's own failings (his inability to play well with others and bruising fight for command control in the CBI among them) are slighted. Westad's "Decisive Encounters (The Chinese Civil War, 1946-1950) is a decent primer but shows the author's unfamiliarity with both military strategy and tactics. Other worthwhile sources are Halberstam's The Coldest Winter, which examines the question that paralyzed U.S. Far East politics - "Who lost China?" as it played out in the Korean War. Newman's Owen Lattimore and the "Loss" of China does a nice job of dissecting the post-1949 ratissage of professional diplomats and soldiers (including GEN Marshall) by the moron-grade poltroons of the American Right.
The Engagement: Before going to the battlefields, we need to set the scene of the engagement. Let's walk back a bit o the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War...
August, 1945: Smoke over Hiroshima. Japan surrenders. The Chinese factions begin to scramble to pick up the pieces; in several places the Allies - yes, that's us - actually pay the Japanese garrisons to keep their bayonets fixed and the Chinese (read: Commies) face-down. Officially the uneasy truce between KMT and CCP holds.
December, 1945: GEN George Marshall arrives in China at the direction of President Truman to negotiate an agreement between the KMT and CCP. The initial stages of this mission are successful - a cease-fire agreement was signed in January, 1946.April, 1946: The USSR withdraws its occupation force from Manchuria. Machinations between the CCP and Stalin's envoys have ensured that most of the countryside is solidly behind the CCP; the Nationalists still hold the cities. Chiang pushes his troops into the region, and whatever lingering trust remained between the factions is shot to ribbons.
Part of the Marshall Mission's demands was demobilization of both sides. Many of Mao's mosstroopers were only part-time soldiers to begin with, but when Chiang demobilized many of the warlord troops he had taken into the Nationalist army after 1927 any Iraqi trooper could have told these guys what to do, and they did; most of them headed for the tall timber with their weapons to find Communist paymasters. This was a critical failure that led directly to the early Nationalist defeats.
January, 1947: Marshall had had enough; he threw up his hands in disgust and flew home. The civil war broke out in Manchuria in 1946, and by 1947 most of the north and northeast were in flames.
March, 1947: The Nationalist high-water-mark; the NRA takes Yenan, the Communist "capital".
Summer 1947-Spring 1948: The tide begins to turn; Nationalists lose Yenan, begin to fall apart in Manchuria. Numerous reasons for the decline of the Nationalist forces but the appeal of the CCP land expropriation policies, the corruption and brutality of the Nationalist troops and their government, and Chiang's often-inept intervention in tactical actions down to division level are among the most significant.September-November 1948: The Liaoshen Campaign secures Manchuria for the Communists.
So. We begin on September 24, 1948. The East China Field Army, moving down from Manchuria to the northeast, takes the town of Jinan and threatens the Nationalist forces concentrated in Shandong Province to the east as well as the major east-west rail line through central China. The Central Plains Field Army moves south to join with the troops from Manchuria.
This has a combined effect of pressuring the Nationalist troops in eastern Shandong to retreat through Xuzhou while mobilizing the bulk of the Nationalist forces to move north to defend the rail line as well as the Xuzhou salient, key approach to both Shanghai and the Nationalist capital of Nanjing.The Nationalist 7th Army moved west and north (note that the Wiki entry includes the 6th Army, which appears to be incorrect), and by early November was closing on the Xuzhou garrison from the northeast. There seems to be some confusion whether this move was a retreat by the 7th to escape the closing trap in Shandong or a reinforcement intended to keep the railway open and the Xuzhou salient intact; however, the sources agree that some combination of circumstances delayed the 7th and strung it out along its line of march. The 7th began to fall back across a canal towards Xuzhou, at which point the East China Field Army began its attack and two nominally Nationalist units deserted, taking 23,000 men and their equipment over to the Communists.
The 7th appears to have fought back in a spastic fashion, but command and control seems to have been lost within days. Relief attempts by the Xuzhou garrison (as well as 6th Army attacking north from Guzhen) were frustrated by the Central Plains Field Army (and possibly by a lack of interest on the part of the 2nd Army commander - supposedly GEN Qiu had a personal problem with GEN Huang). By the 22nd all resistance had ceased and the commander of the 7th killed himself to prevent his capture.The Nationalist GHQ demanded the area around Xuzhou be cleared; GEN Huang Wei's 12th Army was ordered to attack north and cross the Kuai River south of Guzhen, where the 6th Army had been driven back earlier in the month. On November 23-24 the 12th pushed through a Central Plains Field Army corps and crossed the river into the Communist kill sack at Shuangduiji.
The entire opening success had been an ambush; 12th Army was now encircled just as 7th had been. On November 26-27 the 12th Army tried to break out. The plan was modified from a multi-divisional front to a column of divisions led by one of Huang's division commanders who was a secret Communist. He led his unit over to the enemy, announced his swift passage through light resistance, and then watched as the Red troops butchered the following units. The 12th Army was isolated.To the southeast the Nationalists had two armies; 6th and 8th. Both were not in particularly good shape, physically or morally, and the caprioling of the Red forces before them so throughly intimidated them that they never really tried anything even mildly aggressive. The Nationalist GHQ had claimed to GEN Huang that 6th Army would support his breakout of the 26-27; in fact, that army never stopped moving southwards and by November 28 were some 40 miles southeast of Shuangduiji.At this point the garrison commander of Xuzhou, realizing that the last major mobile force available to break through had been itself trapped, mobilized 2nd, 13th and 16th Armies to breakout to the southwest. Between November 30 and December 4 the three divisions made it less than 40 miles before being ordered to turn south and relieve 12th Army.
Army group commander Du Yuming had made it clear during a general staff meeting in late November that he felt that his only chance of avoiding encirclement was to break clear to the southwest of the Communist forces. As he had predicted, his southeastward attacks were easily defeated, and his force was encircled near the village of Chenguanzhuang. His 16th Army was destroyed, losing 30,000 of its 40,000 effectives in a wretchedly botched breakout attempt on December 6th. The remaining two armies would be fixed in place for another month, losing men and equipment until the final attack overran the remainder in early January.
Back at 12th Army, things continued to go badly. Aerial resupply failed as badly as it had at Stalingrad and would at Dien Bien Phu. Nationalist soldiers deserted in ones and in battalions, led by their officers or just by promises of amnesty and land. In most cases these ralliers were inducted directly into the Red Army columns that they had been fighting the day before. Throughout the campaign the Nationalist high command was unable to find an effective reply either to Communist strategy or propaganda.
Finally in a nine-day battle the combined Red armies crushed the 12th Army perimeter and destroyed the entire force.
All that remained was Du Yuming's Army group, hanging grimly on until the 10th of January. An attack that began on the 6th smashed the 13th Army within 48 hours; airstrikes had little effect, and another pathetic breakout attempt was completely crushed. Du was captured (and held in prison for decades), the remainder of his force either captured as well, or killed.
The battle for north China was over.
The Outcome: Complete operational/strategic Communist victory.
The Impact: Secured all of China north of the Yangtze for the Communists. The five armies destroyed at Huaihai were among the best equipped and trained in the Nationalist force. Nationalist losses included 46,000 dead, 50,000 prisomers, 870 artillery pieces, 15 tanks, over 300 other motor vehicles. Chiang himself had lost the Mandate of Heaven; he was forced to resign 11 days after the fighting ended at Chenguanzhuang.The end for the Nationalist government itself came swiftly after Huaihai; Nanjing fell in April, 1949, Guangzhou in October, Chongqing in November and the last flight to Taiwan on December 10, 1949.
Touchline Tattles: Again, there is little winsome or humorous about the Chinese Civil War. It was all hell, as one of our generals said about our own. Perhaps, though, there is a sort of grim smile in the story of the "Dixie Mission", one of the sort of quasi-diplomatic, semi-military expedition to the Communist forces in Yenan between 1944 and 1947.Almost all the Dixiecrats, State and War Department alike, found the Communists hard to dislike. They seemed honest, active and engaged, as unlike the aristocratic and merchant grifters of the Kuomintang as could be found. The Dixie reports stated that the Chinese Communists might be useful wartime and post-war ally, and that the Yenan approach to governance was more people-centered and energetic, and less corrupt than the KMT. Their general opinion seemed to be that the U.S. could cooperate with the CCP, keep them out of bed with Stalin, and had the technological know-how to offer in exchange for moderation of their communist orthodoxy.
Just imagine if anyone had listened...
But instead nearly all the Dixie hands, particularly the State Department Asia experts defenstrated in the McCarthy purges, ended up disgraced and hounded.
And in the National Palace Soong May-ling - Madame Chiang Kai-shek - stitched and smiled and watched her family steal. "The only thing Oriental about me is my face" she said. And about her Eleanor Roosevelt commented "She can talk beautifully about democracy. But she does not know how to live democracy." She stumped the world trying to gather support for her husband and his government.
She painted, and plotted, and intrigued, and finally retired to obscurity on the east side of Manhattan where she died, peacefully, in her sleep six years ago at the age of about one hundred and five. In her last dreams did her thoughts drift perhaps back to the broad plains of China where, fifty-five years earlier, all those young men, old women, and children had died in the fighting - for or against her and her husband - in the dank river lowlands around Huaihai?