Thunderbolt in Chinese/Taiwanese Service

P-47D-23-RA Unit: 11th FG Serial: P-47014 Kangwan Field, Shanghai, circa 1947.

P-47D-30-RA Unit: 43rd FS, 11th FG Serial: 432917 (44-32917) Circa 1947.

P-47D-28-RE “Lady Maurene” Unit: 43rd FS, 11th FG Serial: P-47036 Nationalist’s P-47s were used during the Chinese Civil War.

P-47 Communist China CPR

ca. 1954, Taiwan — Pilots Looking at Instructions — Image by © Horace Bristol/CORBIS

After World War II, the Chinese Nationalist Air Force received 102 P-47Ds used during the Chinese Civil War. The Chinese Communists captured five P-47Ds from the Chinese Nationalist forces. In 1948-57, the Chinese Nationalists employed 70 P-47Ds and 42 P-47Ns brought by Taiwan in 1952. P-47s were used extensively in aerial clashes over the Taiwan Strait between Nationalist and Communist aircraft.

Although P-47 production ceased just weeks after Japan’s surrender, Thunderbolts (re-designated as the F-47) continued to serve for years (and in some cases decades) after World War Two. America pulled the plane from front line service in 1949, but NATO allies like Turkey, Portugal and Italy maintained squadrons of Thunderbolts into the 1950s, as did Iran. Taiwanese F-47s routinely engaged communist fighters off the coast of China. Surplus models were also liberally distributed throughout Latin America during the same period. Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic all maintained fleets for years. Peru didn’t retire its Jugs until 1966. When designing its formidable A-10 tank buster in the early 1970s, engineers at Fairchild Republic tore a page from history and dubbed their new twin-engine attack jet the Thunderbolt II in honour of the P-47. Today, at least 15 original wartime Jugs are still airworthy and can be seen on the North American air show circuit each summer.

Republic of China Air Force [ROCAF] General HQ was established in June 1946. Starting in August 1948, the Air Force started moving its equipment and institutions to Taiwan. This operation alone was a massive one. It took what is today the Air Force Institute of Technology 80 flights and three ships over four months to relocate. This did not include the other academies, training facilities, manufacturing plants, radio stations and military hospitals, which moved separately.

Chin-chang Chen writes that during this period, an average of 50 or 60 planes flew daily between Taiwan and China transporting fuel and ammunition.

By May 1949, the Air Force Command Headquarters was operating out of Taipei, having transported 1,138 officers, 814 pilots, 2,600 family members and about 6,000 tonnes of equipment and classified documents. The last group of pilots barely made it out of Shanghai as the Communists stormed the airport. Other military branches made their exits as key locations in China fell.

In October 1949 five battalions of the PLA’s 61st Division began an assault on the Nationalist-held Dengbu Island. But even with their crushing superiority, the PLA units could not prevent the introduction of enemy reinforcements by sea, and after suffering 1,490 casualties, the Communist troops retreated  in defeat. Later that same month, the PLA Tenth Army attacked the island of Quemoy, and again lost the battle at sea. It could not reinforce the initial invasion force. Taking more than 9,000 casualties, the stranded force perished, and ever after its defeat for lack of sea and air support constituted an oft-repeated “bloody lesson”.

From 1946 to 1948, during the Chinese Civil War, the ROCAF participated in combat against the People’s Liberation Army engaging in air-to-air combat on at least eleven occasions in the areas surrounding the Taiwan Strait. The ROCAF reportedly enjoyed a 31:1 kill ratio against the PLA. GHQ was evacuated to Taiwan along with the rest of the ROC Government in April 1949 following the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War. The ROCAF assisted in halting the PLA advance at the Battle of Kuningtou on Kinmen the same year.

The ROCAF regularly patrolled the Taiwan Straits and fought many engagements with its Communist counterpart (the PLAAF).

Bestfong decals: Airplane 1930~1950 ROCAF

ROCAF Combat Losses 1950-7 [F-47 = P-47]

11/05 34 Sq 3 POW B-26 Downed in
Fujian. The
crew were
released 8
months later.
07/01 3 Sq KIA F-47N “699” Downed by
04/15 12 Sq KIA RF-84F Crashed
to South
pursuit by
11/10 6 Sq 9 KIA C-46 Downed by
PLA MiG in
an airdrop
mission over
06/22 Spec. Op.
11 KIA B-17 Downed by
PLA MiG-17
in Jiangxi
07/16 1 Sq KIA F-84G “118” Downed by
near Kinmen
06/27 12 Sq KIA RT-33A “7” Downed by
PLA MiG-15 off coast of
02/20 3 Sq KIA F-47N “142” Downed by
PLA Navy
01/21 43 Sq KIA F-47N “209” Downed by
PLA Navy
01/19 1 Sq                            KIA F-84G “315” Downed by
First jet
aircraft lost.
11/17 12 Sq KIA RT-33A “2” Crashed into mountains in
when evading PLA MiG-15
11/01 5 TFG KIA F-47N “380” Crashed in a
mission in
10/15 27 Sq MIA F-47N “227” Failed to
09/12 35 Sq 9 KIA PB4Y “12” Downed by
near Xiamen
09/04 8 Sq KIA F-47N “369” Damaged by
PLA AAA in a
Crashed near
07/06 43 Sq KIA F-47N “313” Downed by
PLA MiG-15
06/03 26 Sq KIA F-47N “222” Downed PLA
05/26 Spec. Op.
4 KIA B-17 Downed by
over Fujian
03/18 26 Sq KIA F-47N “219” Downed PLA
02/09 27 Sq KIA F-47N “267” Downed by
12/17 26 Sq KIA F-47N “193” Downed by
over Jejiang
07/16 41 Sq KIA F-47N “335” Downed by
11/08 41 Sq MIA F-47N “129” Failed to
return from a
recce mission
07/29 41 Sq KIA F-47N “126” Downed by
over Xiamen
04/02 22 Sq KIA P-51 Downed by
stationed in
03/16 23 Sq KIA P-51 Downed by
03/14 12 Sq 6 KIA F-10 “07” Downed by
PLA aircraft

ROCAF Combat Losses Since 1950


Why the Kuomintang Armies were so Ineffective during the Pacific War…

Chiang’s Kuomintang regime was indeed far from pretty, but the criticisms against it nearly always lacked context. While it is difficult to argue with the facts of the corruption of Chiang and his court, the American press and indeed the American government failed to grasp the main issues; one such was the actual role of the Communists in fighting for China’s survival. Mao not only had no real intention of working with the Kuomintang, but was actually working with the Japanese and increasing his own territory with the aim of subjugating China. Chiang’s analysis was correct.

During the war the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) greatly increased its military resources, contributed little to the war effort and did everything in its power to sabotage Chiang’s military capability. Mao’s priority was always to conserve his resources and use the war with Japan as a means of achieving ascendancy over the Kuomintang—the very strategy for which Chiang Kai-shek was roundly accused by Stilwell and many others. Meanwhile Mao and Zhou Enlai played a masterful game with the western press, visiting intellectuals, the US State Department and ranking emissaries sent by Roosevelt and of course Stilwell. All these parties failed to see beyond the simple comparisons between Chiang’s heavily bombed, corrupt, impoverished and chaotic makeshift capital of Chongqing, whose population increased tenfold during the war, and the seemingly disciplined calm of Mao’s mountain hideout in Yanan. Above all, Mao convinced key constituencies in the West of the CCP’s goodwill and worth as an ally.

Probably of even greater significance in the breakdown of relations between Chiang and Stilwell were their rarely noted differences in strategic priorities. Chiang’s constant complaint was that Stilwell, who had complete control of the Lend-Lease resources, lacked a broad strategic vision, and placed the importance of the retaking of northern Burma above the importance of holding back the Japanese from Eastern China.

Like MacArthur and the Philippines, Stilwell appeared to place his personal interest in revenge for defeat in Burma in 1942 above larger strategic priorities. His championing of the building of the Ledo Road, an immensely wasteful use of resources, was another strategic blunder. On the positive side Stilwell was probably correct in his view that the overreliance on the B-29 bombing campaign against Japan from Southern China was a mistake; its absorption of the Humps’ capacity by the need to fly aviation fuel over the Himalayas seriously obstructed America’s ability to equip a poorly armed Kuomintang Army. However, it was a mark of Stilwell’s ineffectual political touch that he failed to sway either Chiang or Washington against the over-reliance on air power which absorbed so much of the Hump’s logistical capacity; it was an argument in which the Fourteenth Air Force’s General Chennault, the ultimate Washington outsider, outmaneuvered Stilwell, in spite of the latter’s close relationship with General Marshall. In hindsight Marshall too seems to have failed. When it became clear that the Hump was proving an effective supply route, the importance of the Ledo Road should have been downgraded. Furthermore US military strategy should have reduced the Hump’s supply allocation for Chennault’s over-extended air operations. Most importantly Stilwell should have been ordered to focus attention on the equipping and training of the Kuomintang’s armies on China’s eastern front.

The thirty divisions of Stilwell’s Y-Force on the northern Burmese border absorbed the vast majority of the ‘non-oil’ military resources that made it over the Hump. The issue of corruption and theft by the Soong family and others, of Lend-Lease resources, for which America’s lack of controls was probably as much to blame as Chiang’s inability to control his wife’s family, has tended to obscure the fact that it was Stilwell who had ultimate control of these resources. In spite of the pleadings of Chiang and Chennault, Stilwell deliberately ignored the supply and logistical requirements of the sixty divisions that Chiang needed to combat against the more than one million troops that Japan had stationed in China.

Stilwell’s poison warped the Roosevelt administration’s perception of the real issues that were at stake in China. It led to the canard that, during World War II, Chiang was hoarding resources to fight the Communists while doing nothing to fight the Japanese. On 26 September 1943 Stilwell had opined to Marshall, “He [Chiang] believes the war in the Pacific is nearly over, and that by delaying tactics, he can throw the entire burden on us.” In fact the exact opposite was true. Certainly he was faced by the reality that he needed to keep a watching eye on the Communists, but Chiang nevertheless demonstrated a constant determination to defeat the Japanese in China throughout the Pacific War. The charge of being unwilling to fight against the Japanese does not sit squarely with the facts of Chiang’s and his Kuomintang armies’ remarkable resilience during more than a decade of conflict with Japan—a military resistance to Japan that no western power in the region had matched. Indeed Stilwell’s successor, Lieutenant-General Wedemeyer, if critical of many aspects of Kuomintang’s military capability, nevertheless asserted that the Kuomintang forces had displayed “amazing tenacity and endurance in resisting Japan.” It is interesting to speculate on how the war would have progressed had China succumbed to Japanese force of arms at the start of the Pacific War. With the release of upwards of a million Japanese troops, the course of the conflict with Japan might have been wholly different. As it was, the anti-Chiang poison left by Stilwell and the US State Department was to have a profound effect on America’s post-war relations with China, and indeed the development of the Cold War in Asia.

What Stilwell and the Roosevelt administration never came to appreciate was that the Kuomintang forces were profoundly incapacitated by their exertions in the first four years of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the six years of conflict before that. By 1941, Chiang Kai-shek’s military effectiveness had been ground down by Japanese success on the battlefield, the expulsion from the political and economic heartland of Shanghai and Nanking, the blanket bombing of Chongqing, and the successful isolation of the Kuomintang-held areas from world markets. The economic crisis was such that men could not be easily recruited let alone fed. Recruitment fell from a peak of 1.98 million men in 1939 to 1.67 million in 1941. In a war in which attrition rates, often from disease, amounted to up to 40 percent of an infantry unit per annum, continual recruitment was essential. Yet recruitment itself created a spiral of decline. The taking of healthy young men from the land reduced the ability of ‘free China’ to produce enough grain to feed its armies.

Ray Huang, the noted historian of the Ming Dynasty, who fought in the Kuomintang Army, recalled that, having completed his training with the 14th Division stationed in Yunnan Province on the border with Vietnam, he was sent with a team to Hunan to find 1,500 recruits: “The armed soldiers from the escort team accompanied the baojia elders to comb through villages to round up men. The conscription law had reached the bottom of the manpower barrel. The purchases of substitutes became increasingly abused and human cargo degenerated in quality.” Because of disease and desertion, only 500 of the men from Hunan reached the 14th Division in the summer of 1941. No wonder that Chiang had difficulty in flying over decent recruits to X-Force in India at this time. Like most Americans who viewed China as brim-full of manpower, Stilwell, in his published papers, complained, without ever seeming to reflect on the problems facing Chiang. On arrival at the 14th Division, Ray Huang was shocked to find that

 All battalions and companies were down to half strength. Obviously the division had at one time been lavishly equipped. There were German-style helmets, gas masks, and canvas tenting sheets. But they appeared in a way that you would find in a flea market: one piece here and another there … Two or three shared one blanket. They had no toothbrushes and used bamboo sticks for toilet paper. They washed their faces with a common towel, so that if one man’s eye became inflamed, the whole platoon caught the infection.

If the condition of Chiang’s troops was bad in 1941, by 1945 it had deteriorated further. As a result of inflation, an infantryman’s pay of fifty yuan per month could purchase a couple of pounds of cabbage. Recruitment collapsed by half from its peak in the last year of the war. X-Force may have been well provisioned and equipped, and Y-Force reasonably so, but for the rest of Chiang’s army, men, provisions and equipment were in desperately short supply by 1944. Kuomintang arsenals were only operating at 55 percent of capacity. During Operation ICHI-GO, coal production fell by 17 percent and pig iron production by 23 percent. Industry could produce just 510 machine guns and 15,300 rifles in 1944. As for bullets, only 12.8 million were produced—less than five per soldier.

Even with the help of Lend-Lease, the Kuomintang forces had little offensive capacity because its armies had by now been forced to live off the land. In 1944 the logistics for mobile offensive operation just did not exist. Against this background of lack of food and a lack of recruits, it was not surprising that Chiang saw the 14th Air Force as almost the only means of exerting attacking pressure on the Japanese forces in China. It is noticeable that when the ‘short Hump’ directly over Burma from Calcutta, under Major-General Tunner’s direction, began to deliver a vastly increased tonnage of supplies to the Kuomintang forces from the end of 1944, the offensive capability of Chiang’s armies responded accordingly.

In the spring of 1945, a 70,000 Chinese force destroyed a Japanese army in west Hunan Province inflicting 11,000 casualties. The field commander General Ho Ying-Chin was so upbeat that he noted: “The Chinese commanders at the front all wanted to undertake an offensive drive eastward to sever enemy lines of communication.” Seven days before the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima, Wedemeyer wrote enthusiastically to General Marshall in Washington, “we now look forward confidently toward a successful advance to the coast.” So much for the Kuomintang’s supposed lack of desire for offensive action. When well provisioned with food and munitions, Chiang’s forces were clearly not only capable, but also very willing to conduct offensive action.

Stilwell should have understood the economic, manpower, provisioning and equipment problems faced by Chiang Kai-shek and should have briefed Washington accordingly. Either he simply did not have the broad intellect and understanding to present Chiang’s genuine economic difficulties in China, or he was simply obscuring the situation to try put more power into his own hands. Both explanations ring true. Others too were irresponsible and incompetent in their reporting including the various missions sent by Roosevelt, ambassadors as well as the supposed experts of the State Department. Roosevelt would remain in the dark about why the Kuomintang would not fight. It could not. As Hans Van De Ven concludes in War and Nationalism in China 1925–1945 [2003], the background of economic collapse in 1941, “explains Nationalist strategy better than easy assumptions about a patriotic deficit, an obsession with Communism, or a backward cultural preference for the defence.”

Chiang was all too aware of the desperate straits of ‘free China’ and perhaps he too should take some of the blame for not sharing his country’s predicament more effectively with Washington. On 11 April 1943 Chiang wrote in his diary:

The poverty of government employees has reached an unbelievable point. Unable to raise families, many let their wives have abortions … What misery! I cannot bear it! Heavens! If the Japanese bandits are not defeated soon, or the war should drag on for another year or two, then China cannot make it, and I must fail in the mission that God commands me to perform.

DF-26 intermediate-range missile (The Guam Killer)

China debuted the new DF-26 IRBM during the 3 September 2015 Victory Day Parade. Official Chinese media commentary describe the system as “one carrier, many warheads.” Other media reports revealed it was capable of nuclear and conventional missions and its design enabled strikes against many kinds of targets, including large ships. It also requires little support equipment and has fast reaction times, according to descriptions in official Chinese media outlets

DF-21D ASBM missile. China’s deployed ballistic missile force, operated by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy and PLA Rocket Force after being renamed – from the Second Artillery late last year as part of the PLA’s reorganization – is expanding in both size and types of missiles. China continues to field conventionally armed SRBMs such as the CSS-6 (DF-15) and the CSS-7 (DF-11) opposite Taiwan, and has developed a number of mobile, conventionally-armed MRBMs and IRBMs. Missiles such as the CSS-11 (DF-16), CSS-5 Mod 4 (DF-21C) and Mod 5 (DF-21D) and DF-26 are key components of the Chinese military modernization program, specifically designed to prevent adversary military forces’ access to regional conflicts. The CSS-5 Mod 5 and a variant of the DF-26 have anti-ship missions

China’s conventional missile force includes the CSS-6 short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) with a range of 725-850 km; CSS-7 SRBM with a range of 300-600 km; CSS-11 SRBM with a range of over 700 km; land-attack and anti-ship variants of the CSS-5 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM); the DF-26 intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM); and the CJ-10 ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM). China’s conventionally-armed CSS-5 Mod 5 anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) gives the PLA the capability to attack ships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific Ocean. During the PLA’s 90th anniversary parade in July 2017, China displayed a new MRBM designated the DF-16G, which China claims features high accuracy, short preparation time, and an improved maneuverable terminal stage that can better infiltrate missile defense systems. China also displayed the DF-26 IRBM during the PLA’s 90th anniversary parade. First fielded in 2016, this system is capable of conducting conventional and nuclear precision strikes against ground targets and conventional strikes against naval targets in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans and the South China Sea.

The DF-26 is a Chinese intermediate-range ballistic missile. It is based on the earlier DF-21 , but has a longer range. Existence of this missile was revealed in 2014. The DF-26 was first publicly revealed in 2015. It appears to be in operational service for several years. This missile is in service with Second Artillery Corps, that are de facto strategic missile forces of the Chinese army.

Chinese sources claim that currently the DF-26 is the most advanced intermediate-range ballistic missile in the world. It is worth noting that the United States and Russia can not develop missiles of this class due to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, that was signed back in 1987. The only other comparable missile is the Indian Agni V. Chinese sources claim that the DF-26 is superior to the Agni V.

The DF-26 is a two-stage solid-fuel missile. Its estimated range is around 3 000 – 4 000 km. Other sources suggest that its maximum range is in excess of 5 000 km. It is believed that the DF-26 can carry payload of 1 200 to 1 800 kg. This missile is fitted with a nuclear warhead.

The DF-26 is a road-mobile, two-stage solid-fueled IRBM with an antiship variant possibly also in development.13 According to Chinese sources, the missile measures 14 m in length, 1.4 m in diameter, and has a launch weight of 20,000 kg.14 The missile has a range of 3,000-4,000 km, which puts Guam within striking distance. Its ability to strike Guam has resulted in the nicknames “Guam killer” and “Guam express.” The DF-26 comes with a “modular design,” meaning that the launch vehicle can accommodate two types of nuclear warheads and several types of conventional warheads. The accuracy of the DF-26 is uncertain, with speculators estimating the CEP at intermediate range between 150-450 meters. It is likely that this missile has internal navigation system with indigenous Chinese BeiDou satellite navigation system. It should have an accuracy of less than 100 m. Possibly less than 10 m.

The DF-26 is transported and fired from a Chinese-built HTF5680 12X12 Transporter Erector Launcher.

The United States Navy is particularly concerned about the DF-21D, a solid-fuel missile with a range of 1,500 kilometers and armed with a maneuverable warhead. The missile and warhead are equipped with their own sensors to allow for course corrections in the terminal phase of flight. This missile would be able to sink large maneuvering surface vessels, including aircraft carriers, greatly enhancing China’s anti-access, area denial capability. The DF-21D has been tested against land-based targets, but its ability to hit moving targets in the open ocean is uncertain. China is also working on an improved version of this system in the DF-26.

China’s antiship ballistic missile (ASBM) program is perhaps the most dramatic example of the PLA’s strategy to control the Near Seas from its continental position, if only because the PLA is implementing a maritime strike technology no other country has mastered. The DF-21D missile is China’s ASBM and is a modified version of an existing medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) in the Second Artillery’s inventory. The DF-21D has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers and employs a maneuvering reentry vehicle armed with a unitary or submunition warhead. The reentry vehicle likely receives midcourse updates from the Second Artillery’s command network, with the warhead’s terminal guidance to a target provided by active radar and infrared homing. With the employment of midcourse countermeasures, high hypersonic speed, and warhead maneuvering, the DF-21D warhead is thought invulnerable to existing missile defenses. China’s annual production of MRBMs, the missile class used for the DF-21D ASBM, is estimated at ten to eleven per year, with the capacity to perhaps double this rate during a surge in production. By the end of the decade, the PLA could possess at least eighty DF-21Ds mounted on mobile TELs, a force large enough to execute many multimissile volleys against adversary naval task forces. Along with its cruise missile cousins, China’s antiship ballistic missile program is another aspect of the missile and sensor revolution that calls into question surface naval operations within a useful range of China and its Near Seas.

China’s Maritime Reconnaissance Complex

China’s antiship missile systems and strategies will only be as good as the intelligence, targeting, and command systems that support them. The PLA operates complementary and redundant C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) networks that by 2020 are likely to fully support China’s missile forces.

China operates land-based sky- and surface-wave over-the-horizon radars capable of detecting the rough position of surface naval forces as far as three thousand kilometers out to sea. To identify specific surface ships, such as U.S. aircraft carriers, for targeting by China’s submarines, antiship ballistic missiles, or Flanker regiments, China would employ its growing constellations of reconnaissance and navigation satellites. China has roughly fifteen imaging satellites useful for military reconnaissance missions, employing electro-optical, multispectral, and synthetic aperture radar sensors, capable of remote sensing by day or night and in all weather conditions.

In 2013 this imaging satellite constellation was not sufficiently numerous to provide the PLA with continuous coverage of the maritime areas out to the Second Island Chain. However, steady launches of additional imaging satellites should give China the targeting capability the DF-21D requires within the next five to ten years.60 For example China’s synthetic aperture radar satellites provide all-weather, day and night coverage, with imaging resolution of five meters or less, sufficient to detect any U.S. Navy warship. By 2020 China’s reconnaissance satellite constellations are likely to be capable of revisiting targeted areas every thirty minutes, frequently enough to track adversary naval task forces under way. China’s planned constellation of communications and data link satellites will reliably connect the imaging satellites to PLA commanders by 2020. In addition, China’s Beidou-2/Compass global navigation satellite constellation will be complete by 2020, giving China’s aircraft, ships, and missiles an independent and highly accurate navigation and timing capability.

China’s attack submarine and surface naval forces, including the Type 052D guided missile destroyer equipped with long-range phased array radars, will be other sources of information on adversary naval and air forces. China also operates ocean-bottom sonar beds in its Near Seas, similar to the antisubmarine listening networks the United States operated during the Cold War. In the air, China has adapted the indigenously produced Y-8 cargo aircraft for airborne early warning, electronic surveillance and warfare, and communication relay missions. China will also likely use its civilian maritime patrol craft and even fishing vessels to spot adversary naval targets for its reconnaissance and command network.

Finally, in the future China will use its continental position to develop an extensive land-based unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capability for patrolling the Near Seas and conducting other military operations such as data relay, electronic warfare, deception, and direct attack. The PLA is establishing a broad research and industrial base for UAV development, customized for the requirements of the Second Artillery, the air force, and the navy. Over the next decade, China will very likely deploy medium- and high-altitude long-endurance UAVs deep into the western Pacific Ocean for surveillance, targeting support for antiship missiles, data relay, and electronic warfare. Such a land-based UAV capability will supplement and provide critical redundancy for China’s satellites and will likely possess capacity and resilience that expeditionary U.S. and allied forces will have trouble matching.

Communism in China I

Mao and Chiang celebrate 1945

Stalin may have backed down in West Berlin but in the short term he had achieved what suited him: the attention of the Americans had been hugely diverted from developments in Asia that were of far vaster significance for the future. The other great European crisis also showed its effects. Greece was proving to be what Lawrence had said of Balzac, a sort of ‘gigantic dwarf’. The British had given up on the extraordinarily complicated but in the end quite simple little country, in February 1947, and Truman had picked up the pieces with his ‘doctrine’ (like most such, civilian or military, in effect a one-liner) a month later. The Americans shouldered up non-Communist Greece. But at exactly the same moments, the British were throwing in their hand over Palestine, over India, even over Indonesia and Vietnam. There was now a general crisis in that huge area of the world that had been dominated, until very recently, by British and Japanese imperial power, and the largest of the problems occurred over China. In the late winter and early spring of 1947, there were terrible headlines, one after another, throughout this region of British implosion, and the Cold War encountered what was to prove the greatest of its dimensions. The British decision of February 1947 over Greece was the pebble announcing the avalanche.

Greece now became symbolic on a worldwide scale once more – a symbol of developments over the next two generations. Empires were to be replaced by nation states, the world over, and an immense problem came with the modernization of the backward places that escaped from empire. Nineteenth-century Europe had introduced as a universal principle the nation state, and Greece had been launched, freed from the Turkish empire, early on, though only as a small kingdom, based on the Morea (a name meaning ‘mulberry’). She was modernized as such things were then understood: a constitution, a Bavarian megalomaniac as king, professors enthusiastically making up words for the new national language, one far beyond anything that the peasants could understand (‘laundry’ was katharsis and ‘foreign travel’ metafora esoterika). She had, even then, a further pioneering role: she attracted footloose, romantic intelligentsia, obsessed with foreign liberations that they perhaps did not understand any too well. The English (or Scottish) poet Lord Byron, his finances not in good shape, his talents ebbing away, the latest mistress sent back to her elderly husband, betook himself there, was widely stolen from, and was be-scened by a page boy, one Loukas, who extracted from him a coat of gold cloth which he wore when astride the donkey with which he followed Byron around. In 1824 Byron turned his face to the wall and died. The subsequent history of Greece was not very happy, and in 1945, though she had the appurtenances of a nation state, she was in many ways closer to what was soon to be called the ‘Third World’. In that respect, she was, on microscopic scale, a model, and, there, as on the far greater scale beyond Europe, British imperialism came to grief.

‘Third World’ – at one time covering countries as different as Haiti and South Korea (of which, in 1960, the only export consisted of wigs) – was itself an expression that became worse than useless, but after the Second World War large areas of the world were indeed backward and poor, with millions of illiterate and superstitious peasants scratching the soil and making immense families. Running democracy in such countries was a precarious business, and in politics they wobbled between military coups and would-be revolution. Between the wars, Greece had been on the edge of anarchy. A quarter of the population consisted of minorities, themselves very varied, and another quarter had arrived twenty years before as penniless refugees from Turkey. Often enough, they were exploited, not so much by great landowners as by village headmen and especially by middlemen on a small scale who bought and sold for them. The State was a major employer, and clans fought over the resulting jobs, or the meagre fruits from corruption that came with them. There was indeed some industry, mainly to do with ships and tobacco-processing, but not much.

But Greece developed a Europeanized educated class, with English and especially French schools; there was also a large diaspora in the eastern Mediterranean, Alexandria especially, which produced more in the way of European civilization than did Athens herself. Communism developed, particularly in Salonica, where dockers, minorities and refugees congregated – a miniature Shanghai. Here was imperialism (British) in alliance with a grasping native bourgeoisie (Aristotle Onassis, Taki Theodoracopulos) and an exploited peasantry; here as well was an army with a political role; and here too was an intelligentsia which could lead that mass of dock workers and porters and servants-of-servants and bargees who were too poor, disorganized and mistrustful to produce a trade union movement of their own. Here, the Party would come into its own. It would be the ‘vanguard’. Of course there was absurd oversimplification in seeing all such countries as the same. Later on, development economists fell for similar oversimplifications. But the fact is that there was often much of substance to what the Marxists said, and their diagnoses were often not wrong at all. The prescriptions turned out to be another matter. They created more havoc and mayhem than anything the banana republic alternatives would have done.

The failures of the Communists were some way in the future, and meanwhile in 1946, in that huge swathe of the world that was coming free of European empires, there was near chaos. The war had caused even more death and destruction in Asia than in Europe, the great symbol being the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, on 6 August 1945. The Japanese had taken a lead in showing that the Western powers could be defeated by their own technology. A Japanese fleet had annihilated a Russian one in 1905; Japanese commerce had taken over Western markets; then at the turn of 1941-2 superior Japanese air power had produced catastrophe for the British at Singapore and the Americans at the naval base of Pearl Harbor. Japanese occupation of an enormous area of eastern and south-eastern Asia had followed. The peoples involved – Vietnamese, Burmese, Malayan, Indonesian – produced independence movements that the Japanese (clumsily) encouraged, and when the war came to an end, these national movements had a force that could not, as events soon showed, be stopped. True, the Americans’ atomic bomb did indeed demonstrate that Western inventiveness was still ahead, or even far ahead. The casualties from that single bomb, about ten feet long and just over two feet in diameter, ran to 140,000 (direct and, through radiation, indirect); even the birds in mid-air were burned, and two thirds of the city’s buildings were destroyed. The West was still hugely superior in the most advanced forms of engineering (or ‘technology’ as it became known), but there were by now great limits to the effectiveness of this. Asia was at least learning ‘intermediate technology’, and though the West might win great land wars, winning small and scattered ones was another matter. Empire was over, though it fought a rearguard action that now seems very weird.

Such was the condition of the Far East as the Cold War got under way in 1947. So far, the Far East had already influenced events in Europe: at Yalta, the Americans had been willing to concede a great deal in eastern and central Europe in order to get Soviet help against Japan. But that meant a full-scale Soviet invasion. It struck a China already in endless convulsion. During the war, thanks to the American alliance, China had been very unsteadily returned to independence, had even been granted nominal Great Power status, with membership of the Security Council of the new United Nations. But she was in the grip of civil war, and Stalin patronized (or bullied) the local Communists, under Mao Tse-tung. The Berlin blockade was a very good device for diverting the attentions of the Americans away from China; they were surprisingly weak on the ground in the Far East, and were altogether unsure as to how to proceed. When the civil war began in China, American support for the non-Communists was limited and sometimes reluctant, and by 1949, when the Berlin blockade was ended, the Communists were well on their way to victory. This was a greater disaster than even the Second World War, but it began with good intentions and with Western sympathizers who, for all their extraordinary knowledge and sympathy, now look foolish.

Chinese Communism had started off as a reflection of Russian Bolshevism, and there were Chinese intellectuals – including the young Mao Tse-tung, then a librarian – who had looked at socialist or at least progressive literature. They seethed with resentment, or even hatred, at what had happened to old China: important seaports just seized by this or that foreign power, the Japanese in bullying mode, finances in a mess, native collaborators coining it in. In 1912 the old empire had been abolished, but no solid state had then followed: on the contrary, local warlords divided the country up. There were also some 6,000 Protestant missionaries, setting up hospitals and even universities some way into central China: Yale developed a connection. But this activity just called attention to Chinese backwardness: the awful poverty of the peasants, the degradation of women (in China little girls had their feet crushed so that, in later life, they would walk daintily), the illiteracy that was bound to follow from a script in which each word had its own character, sometimes of forty different brush strokes. Even the Americans’ record was not spotless: they imposed such restrictions against Chinese immigration that a team of Chinese representatives trying to set up their pavilion for an international exhibition at St Louis were roughed up as they came through. Shanghai was an international city, with tens of thousands of foreigners in their own settlements, from which Chinese were kept out; and when there were riots in the twenties, foreign policemen fired into the crowds. Russia had also been dominated by more advanced countries; Lenin had just refused to pay the debts, and in 1919 was defeating the foreign invaders trying to collect them and to return Russia to her previous status. In Peking, Chinese took an interest, and a Communist Party soon followed.

Of course, this was in some degree fanciful. Old Marx did not really have very much to say about such countries, regarding their economic and social arrangements as fossils. There was not much of an industrial working class in China, either. However, Lenin had made his revolution in a Russia that also had only a limited number of industrial workers: the ‘people’ were Volga boatmen, dockers, hawkers, servants-of-servants and especially peasants, and especially again peasants who had been pushed into military uniform in pursuit of a very badly managed war with Germany. There were at least the beginnings of that pattern in China, and some of the intelligentsia understood as much. The cause was even inspiring, and Chinese students, getting married in France, solemnly had photographs taken to record them in their wedding finery, jointly holding up a copy of Das Kapital. France, appositely enough, was the principal source for the spread of Marxist ideas: in the First World War, to create some gratitude on the part of the imperialists, the Chinese government had sent 100,000 labourers, each with a welded dog-tag, to the Western Front: this was known to the British as the ‘sausage machine’. Students, who also undertook to work part-time, also went to France, where, unsurprisingly, they picked up revolutionary ideas. Some of Mao Tse-tung’s most prominent colleagues were among these students: Chou En-lai and Deng Xiaoping, for instance. Later on, as French academe moved Left, the Sorbonne attracted many more such, from all countries.

On the worldwide scale, there was of course a potential Bolshevik alliance with victims of imperialism, and, quite soon after the Revolution, representatives of these, from India or China, began to appear in Moscow. The Communist International – Comintern – set up a school for them, and sent its own people to offer sage advice. Mao Tse-tung (the name means ‘shined-on east’) did not go to that school, and did not in fact go to Moscow at all until after his own victory, much later. But his cause was revolutionary, and he belonged to a type that, worldwide, produced revolutionaries: for he was a student teacher from a peasant background less dismal than others, and had ambitions to count as a scholar, which had been frustrated by an irascible, bullying father who made him work in the fields. The province in which he was born (in 1893), Hunan, was on a military road, and it was relatively open to foreign influences: in 1903 it had the first girls’ school in China and its capital was also chosen by Yale University as the place for an educational programme, on which American missionaries were very keen. In fact Mao was first noticed by an American, the president of Yale-in-China, as an agitator in 1924. It was easy enough for the young Mao to regard China with contempt. Why had such a civilization, the most ancient of all, come under Western domination? Mao cut off his pigtail, broke with his domineering father, and took up links with Peking intelligentsia who became interested in the Russian Revolution.

It was not just Communists who wanted to get rid of these things. There was a progressive-nationalist movement, the Kuomintang, initially dominated by Chinese Christians, with support from the merchants and students. They, too, were prepared to collaborate in the anti-imperialist cause with the Bolsheviks, and developed close relations with a Moscow which, to start off with, regarded the Kuomintang as the desirable ally. The overall notion was that China was too backward and rural to produce a proper Communist movement, and that the likely revolution would be anti-Western but also fuelled by peasants wanting their own land and merchants wanting to corner trade: these would be useful to Moscow, though they might also, on the ground, be hostile towards Communists. The Russians sent advisers and even set up the Whampoa Military Academy, near Canton. Its graduates, led by Chiang Kai-shek, set about unifying the country, which had fallen under various warlords, each with his protection racket (often involving opium, of which there was an epidemic). Moscow instructed the Chinese Communists to co-operate with Chiang, and the labour unions in Shanghai did so. He, however, had other ideas, and mercilessly butchered them, sometimes, to save ammunition, just binding them in batches of ten, taking them out to sea, and throwing them overboard. The origins of the Sino-Soviet split, a vastly important element in the end of the Cold War much later on, go back to this period. The Communists were decapitated, and Mao kept much of the nucleus together in remote, difficult, mountainous country; he did get help from Moscow, but not very much – in effect only enough to keep him going (in one decisive battle, his troops could fire their machine-guns only for ten minutes). Meanwhile, Moscow co-operated with Chiang Kai-shek, since the Kuomintang had taken over most of the country and especially the cities. Even when the Kuomintang eventually lost the civil war, in 1949, and evacuated Shanghai in conditions of much disarray, the Soviet ambassador accompanied it to the very last stage of exile.

Mao Tse-tung turned out to be a guerrilla leader of genius, and kept his forces together for years of harsh living and very hard fighting against an enemy far stronger. As Leszek Kołakowski says, he ‘was one of the greatest . . . manipulator[s] of large masses of human beings in the twentieth century’. The ideology was ‘a naïve repetition of a few commonplaces of Leninist-Stalinist Marxism’ and in places hardly said more than ‘what goes up must come down’. But it did lay stress on the peasant side, and it possessed the necessary degree of hating-ness, as required by Lenin. In later life, he became grotesquely vain and self-indulgent, producing a ‘Little Red Book’ that the masses were supposed to chant (‘The world is progressing, the future is bright and no-one can change this general trend of history’ and the like) and he was always neurotic (suffering from chronic constipation). But he had a Stalinist mixture of guile and ruthlessness, and even when he was travelling through remote territory, carried on a bamboo litter with two senior colleagues and followed by a bedraggled horde carting weaponry along muddy tracks, he had an idea as to which of the two colleagues needed to be knifed by some show trial held in some hut of wicker, roofed and walled with yak dung. He also seems to have had the measure of the Soviets, knowing how to extract help from them and what to expect. It was at a Party meeting at which Stalin’s henchman Lominadze presided that Mao made his most famous remark, that ‘power comes from the barrel of a gun’.

In China, the generation that surfaced with Mao Tse-tung around 1920 took up the revolt of the peasants, the downtrodden rural masses, oppressed by landlords and by village usurers. When these matters were properly examined, the downtreading was limited, or, rather, was a matter of overall poverty. There were no doubt usurers who made money out of the poor, but the landlords themselves were badly off, in most cases not far above the rest of the peasantry: in fact, when Mao set about land distribution, expropriating the landlords, each peasant came away with one sixth of an acre, or hardly more than a suburban garden. True, there were absentee landlords in the towns, and their rent collectors were hated, especially when they arrived at a bad time, but in every village there were problems between peasants or other inhabitants, and it was here that Mao excelled. Collecting army mutineers, village bad-hats, bandits and dirt-poor peasants in an isolated mountain area in Hunan, he applied himself to studying what a peasant revolution would really be about: prices, profits, networks, diets, the incomes of watch repairers, the numbers of prostitutes (thirty in a population of 2,684 in one locality). ‘On hearing that a borrower has sold a son, lenders will hurry to the borrower’s house and force the borrower to repay his loan . . . “You have sold your son. Why don’t you repay me?” ’ Mao thus represented the Party with at least some cohesion and force, whereas the Shanghai and southern components had been hopelessly weakened; later, he escaped to an even more remote area, where he set up the ‘Jiangxi soviet’, one of those Communist islands that appeared with all wartime resistance movements, complete with its own secret police, its own re-education arrangements and its own machinery for exploiting gullible foreigners. In any village there would be a confiscation committee, a recruitment committee, a ‘red curfew committee’ etc., and even a children’s corps. An economy developed, too. Curiously enough the area was a big source of tungsten, and exported it through a state bank run by Mao’s brother to Canton; peasant women were made to cut their hair short such that their hair-pins – their savings – could be taken in for war finance. There was, however, primary school education for the first time, and Mao gained a favourable press, with romantic American journalists such as Edgar Snow to be flattered or lied to (when the Sino-Soviet split occurred, he was refused a visa to Moscow). There were other little Red bases, such as Hailufeng on the south coast, that counted as a ‘Little Moscow’ with its own Red Square and a gateway copied from the Kremlin, the leader of which, Peng Pai, had 10,000 people killed, burning down ‘reactionary villages’. He was then chased away, and when the remnants of such defeated forces reached Mao he took them over and expanded his own force: he could now defy the Shanghai leadership (which wanted to dismiss him) and impress Moscow. It needed him: relations between the USSR and Kuomintang China were not straightforward. The Kuomintang were nationalistic, not inclined to give way over foreign concessions, and in 1929 there was a Soviet-Chinese crisis when the Nationalists tried to take back the vast railway concession in Manchuria, including Harbin (this was the largest of the foreign concessions, at 400 square miles). The Soviets set up a Far Eastern army under Vasily Blyukher, who had been adviser to Chiang Kai-shek, and Mao was encouraged to divert the Nationalists by campaigns 1,250 miles to the south. His real strength lay in his having the largest Red Army outside the USSR. Stalin’s tactic was to keep the Communists in play, but never strong enough to win (the same tactic applied over the Spanish Civil War). Mao was helped in this because he was soon joined by Chou En-lai, who knew a great deal about foreign circumstances (he had studied in Japan and in 1921 had been in France). In Shanghai he had been associated with the Comintern representative, Gerhart Eisler, and he had even been at the Whampoa Military Academy, as director of the Political Department when the Soviet Blyukher directed the officer cadets. He turned out to have a genius for operating in clandestine conditions and in Shanghai he had set up the Chinese equivalent of the Cheka (the later KGB). A man of icy and elegant presence, he became an essential prop for the brutal Mao, and was especially important because he knew well enough what could be expected from the USSR.

No doubt if matters had been normal, the Communists would have been defeated; Chiang Kai-shek had vast superiority, and controlled the cities; and Kuomintang China, despite the troubles, was making remarkable progress with railways, banks, education, industry and even health. But matters went far beyond control in the early 1930s. The world economic depression caused great turmoil, bankrupting producers of raw materials, and drying up foreign investment; and in 1931 cataclysm occurred, with an attack by Japan. She – or rather, her military – were now determined on empire, and took advantage of China’s confusions to take over Manchuria, industrially the richest part of the entire country, with raw materials such as coal that Japan did not possess. With truces now and then, the Japanese fanned out over the next few years, occupying eventually a third of China and usually defeating the disorganized Chinese, who in any case, with the Communist presence, had a civil war on their hands. Even without the Japanese, Chiang Kai-shek had local challengers, would-be warlords to put down, and Mao was able to use them, on occasion, as allies. He himself claimed to fight the Japanese in the name of national unity but in practice did so fairly seldom, and sometimes even made secret arrangements with them.

It was in that context that Mao constructed the founding legend of the Party: the ‘Long March’. In September 1933 Chiang Kai-shek mustered half a million men for the fifth ‘annihilation’ expedition against Mao’s Ruijin state base. In May he had agreed a truce with the Japanese to do this and he surrounded the area with an ever-tightening net of blockhouses – ‘drying the pond and then getting the fish’. Each side had its Germans: on Chiang’s were two very prominent generals of the First World War, Hans von Seeckt and Karl Litzmann, and on Mao’s, Otto Braun (who had to be assigned a ‘wife’) and Manfred Stern, who emerged later on in the Spanish Civil War as ‘Kleber’, one of the main agents of the undercover Communist takeover. Mao was driven to break out, and he showed himself a leader of genius, even using the 28,000 wounded and sick as a rearguard, and dumping the wives and children as well (he was himself a neglectful and even cruel father). Mao managed to keep his force of 90,000 men together, at least in part because he kept the treasure, hidden in a cave, and thereby defeated possible rivals. The whole episode required ruthlessness and cunning. One of the Nationalist chieftains was bought off with a deal involving the local tungsten, unreliable men and women were hacked to death and pushed into pits before any move was made, and there was a pretence that action was going to be taken against the Japanese. Instead, in October 1934, Mao’s whole force, laden with weapons and machinery, undertook a vast and circuitous move towards the north-west. Chiang himself was something of an accomplice, in that he wanted the Communists out of the way, so that he could control the south-west, including Sichuan and Yunan (where, in the event, during the Second World War, he established a Kuomintang government) and it suited him for the Communists just to make off, on a 6,000-mile trail that depleted them, to the far north-west, in barren Shanxi, where there already was a Red ‘pocket’ of some million souls. The area was quite widely Moslem, and Turkic, and Communists had already shown how they could use such minorities. In this case, Mao’s men even forswore pork. Otto Braun said with wonder that ‘the hospitality astonished me greatly’. Nationalist planes attacked and there were marches of 25-30 miles per day but Mao was able to trudge back and forth, and even to force his way across an old bridge leading into Tibet: an episode that was crowned by legend, as even the veteran American journalist Harrison Salisbury wrote it up (in 1985) as heroic: the bridge was alleged to have been burning. Later biographers regard this as ‘complete invention’. By October 1935 the Red armies at last consolidated, Mao’s in a dysentery- and louse-ridden state, but there were supplies, and the new base was not far from Soviet territory. Foreigners such as Edgar Snow were there to conduct public relations with the West, especially the United States, and they were remarkably successful in presenting the Communists as progressives in the American sense: land reformers, emancipators of women, etc. One such was Anna Louise Strong, in Malcolm Muggeridge’s words ‘an enormous woman with a very red face, a lot of white hair and an expression of stupidity so overwhelming that it amounted to a kind of strange beauty’. Such people, marching across the Sinkiang swamps, had a wonderful time playing outlaw with foreign passports to save them, and in the case of Miss Strong the Maoist convictions were strong enough to land her in a Soviet prison, as a spy (Muggeridge adds that ‘her incarceration proved to be brief – I imagine that even in the Lubyanka her presence was burdensome’). At any rate, Mao had excellent relations with Moscow and with the USA, whereas Chiang Kai-shek, facing Japanese invasion and the need to respect Western pieties, had other concerns. By October 1935 Mao was in safety, recognized as leader by Pravda, and able to profit from Chiang Kai-shek’s mistakes and misfortunes.

The Japanese did much of Mao’s work for him. They smashed a good part of the Chinese army and air force, and Chiang Kai-shek tended to keep his best troops in relative safety, in the south-west (thus alienating Churchill, who thought that he was not seriously fighting the war at all). Japanese depredations (which had included the killing of hundreds of thousands in the Nationalist capital, Nanking) caused chaos, and the war ended only with the Soviet invasion of August 1945; it had taken 20 million lives and caused 100 million refugees to flee. When the Japanese advanced on Chiang’s headquarters at Chungkin they even dropped fully one third the tonnage of bombs on it that the Americans used on Japan.

Chiang Kai-shek was under strong pressure from the Russians as regards arms deliveries and had more or less to do as he was told, but he was also pressed by the Americans, who looked at him patronizingly. Roosevelt had a network of informers who included Edgar Snow, while the British ambassador, Clark Kerr, said that Chou En-lai was worth all the Nationalists rolled into one. Chiang Kai-shek’s regime could be portrayed in much the same way as, say, the exiled Polish government in London, representative of ‘reaction’, capital, landlords, etc., and when Ernest Hemingway submitted a report comparing the Communists’ tactics with those he had observed in Spain, it was sidelined by a White House economic adviser, Lauchlin Currie, who said that the Chinese Communists were just ‘socialists’, and that the White House approved of ‘their attitude towards the peasants, towards women and towards Japan’. It was also Currie who chose as American representative Owen Lattimore, a considerable expert (he even spoke Mongolian) but also forthrightly sympathetic to the Chinese Communists (as was another considerable expert, the Englishman Joseph Needham: both men looked somewhat foolish when the truth emerged). Chou En-lai now devoted his energies to the Western powers, persuading Mao that they could be far more useful than Mao had realized. Meanwhile, the Communist base was strengthened financially through sales of opium, grown on 30,000 acres in Yenan and marketed in part through a Nationalist general to the north. This at least allowed Mao to ease up on the exploitation of the peasants. Later on, another considerable expert, Gunnar Myrdal, was to observe a village in that area, and to offer wide-eyed praise at the ‘traditions’ being observed. Mao had the grace to burst out laughing.

He meanwhile built up his party (it now had over 700,000 members) and many were well-educated volunteers from the Nationalist areas as they arrived (40,000 of them) in Yenan. In 1945 an effort was made to bridge the gap towards well-intentioned neutrals, school-teachers for instance, because Mao would need ‘cadres’ to run things. He himself was by now wholly in charge, chairman of the top bodies of the Party – Central Committee, Secretariat and Politburo, having, Stalin-fashion, eliminated all of his rivals and several others for good measure; all opposition had been swept aside, and when in April 1945 the seventh Party congress was held, of the 500 previous delegates half had dropped out, whether by suicide or nervous collapse or arrest. But still, in this period Mao could present himself as the genuine reformer, and was accepted as such by many foreigners; he went out of his way to emphasize that he would not discriminate too far and his lieutenant, the then young Deng Xiaoping, announced that ‘our policy towards the rich peasants is to encourage their capitalistic side, though not the feudal one’ (‘rich’, ‘capitalist’ and ‘feudal’ being entirely relative terms). The Kuomintang, by contrast, counted as corrupt and tyrannical; the wayward and vainglorious Chiang Kai-shek – his mausoleum in Taiwan must count as the greatest ever monument to failure – did not impress. Besides, the Chinese Communists were given a great shot in the arm when the Soviet Union intervened in the Far Eastern war.

Communism in China II

At Yalta Stalin had been given the Far Eastern railway and two major ports in Manchuria (presented as reparations from Japan) in return for the promise to intervene. When the atomic bombs were dropped, the invasion occurred, and Soviet troops moved into the north-east; they swept all before them. Stalin as ever played both sides. He recognized, and had an alliance with, the Kuomintang government because it had in effect ceded Outer Mongolia to him and because he thought he could manage it. But he also helped Mao. The Communists took areas only a hundred miles north-west and north-east of Peking, secured the northern half of Korea, and took over Manchuria, which had coal, iron and gold, with giant forests and over two thirds of China’s heavy industry; it also had a border with Siberia that was well over a thousand miles in length. The Russians at once gave Japanese weapons stocks to the Red Chinese, who also conscripted troops from the puppet Japanese government in ‘Manchukuo’ (along with the titular emperor, who ended up as a gardener in the palace of his ancestors).

The sequel showed how well Chou En-lai had understood the weakness of the West. Chiang’s best troops were in Burma and southern China and he could get them north only in American ships – and the Americans insisted on negotiations with Mao. In late August Mao did go to Chungkin (he insisted on the American ambassador’s accompanying him, as an insurance against an air accident) for six weeks followed by a treaty that the foreign embassies wanted. Chiang and Mao even met over a breakfast. But as soon as Mao was back in Yenan in October 1945 he started operations in Manchuria. At the turn of 1945-6 matters did not go well for the Communists – Chiang Kai-shek’s troops had had experience of fighting the Japanese and once they came north gave a good account of themselves, thousands of Communist troops deserting. The Soviets left Manchuria in early May 1946, and Mao made an initial error of trying to hold the cities, whereas his real strength lay with the peasants. The Nationalists did well, chasing the Communists to the north; at one stage Mao even planned to give up Harbin and retreat into Siberia. But in Jonathan Spence’s account the rush into Manchuria was a mistake: Chiang should have concentrated on building up China south of the Great Wall, not on a complicated adventure into territory where the Communists had ready Soviet support. However, Chiang was desperately anxious for victory, and at the same time unwilling to use his tanks and heavy weaponry; he neglected the countryside and mismanaged Manchuria when he ran it in 1946-7. Kuomintang finances went into an inflationary spiral, and even the Shanghai business people were alienated, while troops deserted for want of proper pay.

The Communists were in effect also saved by the Americans. President Truman did not want a fight over China, would grant dollars, would help with shipping, but believed he could insist on the Chinese co-operating. He sent George C. Marshall in December 1945 – a hugely respected man, who had some knowledge of the country from service there in the twenties. He took against Chiang Kai-shek because of his relatives’ corruption and his own dissolute doings (although Chiang had become a Methodist and a reformed character), and a subsequent American envoy, though more sympathetic, was a buffoon. To the American professionals, Mao and Chou had little difficulty in portraying themselves as efficient popular-front democrats, and Marshall himself was impressed when he saw them at work in Yenan, in March 1946. In any case, at this moment the Americans had enough on their plate. Europe was by far the greatest problem, but in Asia they faced one conundrum after another: what were they to do with Japan; the Philippines had to be sorted out; Korea was a muddle; the British, still influential, feared what a Nationalist government might do in Hong Kong. The last thing that the Americans wanted to see was a Chinese civil war, and for a time Marshall accepted what Mao told him. He stopped the Nationalists at a decisive moment. Chiang might have destroyed the Communists in Manchuria but on 31 May Marshall told him not to go on: Chiang Kai-shek was getting American aid – $3bn in all – and he was in no position to defy Marshall. Truman wrote to Chiang, admonishingly, and under American pressure the Nationalists set up an assembly that wasted time and attracted endless criticism for sharp practice: the Americans making exactly the same mistake as they were to make in Vietnam twenty years later, of assuming that democracy Western-style needed to be introduced at once. A truce was proclaimed, just as Mao prepared to abandon Harbin and the railway link to Siberia.

The upshot was that the Communists were left in control of Manchuria, an area twice the size of Germany, and they used these four months to consolidate their hold over it, using Japanese weaponry supplied by the Russians (as well as Japanese prisoners of war who even served as flight instructors). They took over 900 aircraft, 700 tanks, 3,700 guns and much else, together with 200,000 regular soldiers, and North Korea, which the Russians had occupied, was also a useful asset for Mao. In June 1946, when matters were going badly, he was able to send his wounded and his reserve materiel there, and when the Nationalists split Manchuria in two, North Korea was the link between the Communists in the north and the south, who would otherwise have been divided. The other decisive Soviet contribution was the remaking of the railway, which was linked up with Russia again in spring 1947. In June 1948 when Mao was preparing for his final push into all of Manchuria a Russian railway expert, Ivan Kovalev, supervised the work – over 6,000 miles of track and 120 large bridges. This was all done in very great secrecy and not even acknowledged in Party documents, where the general line was that the Communists romantically had only ‘millet plus rifles’. Soviet help was decisive, though it came at a grotesque price: the export of food from a starving country.

When Marshall imposed his ceasefire in June 1946 the Nationalists were greatly superior, with over 4 million troops to Mao’s 1.25 million; and they expelled the Communists from most of their strong-holds in China proper, with Nanking again the capital. In October 1946 Chiang Kai-shek did attack Manchuria but by then the Red bases had become too strong and Mao’s chief general, Lin Biao, proved to have much military talent (it was also the hardest winter in living memory, and his troops were made to carry out ambushes in fearful cold, at −40 degrees: they lost 100,000 men from frostbite). In January 1947 Marshall left China and it was the end of American efforts at mediation.

The collapse in China was astonishingly rapid, given the size of the country. The Kuomintang had become demoralized; some even of the senior commanders were secretly working for the Communists (using contacts from Whampoa, dating back to its Soviet period, when Chou En-lai had been head of its political department). In April 1947 Mao did win two surprising victories near Yenan as the Nationalist commander sent his troops in the wrong direction, or lost them to intensive shelling in a narrow valley; he even lost his base with all reserve supplies. A first-class artillery park fell to the Communists (now ‘People’s Liberation Army’) and Yenan was mainly retaken by them. East-central China was thus lost by spring 1948. There was another strange choice as commander for Manchuria, a man whom the Americans had supported as a liberal (he seems to have fought well in Burma) but, when appointed, he let Mao know, via Paris, and then failed to secure his line of retreat. Only 20,000 of half a million Kuomintang troops managed to escape from Manchuria, and that man lived on untouched in Mainland China until his death in 1960. Lin Biao was now free to move south for the Peking-Tianjin campaign, reckoned to be the second decisive one of the Civil War – again encountering a general who seems to have been surrounded by agents, perhaps including his daughter. This general had lost faith and in any case did not want to see Peking destroyed; he was on the edge of a breakdown, slapping his own face. But he kept his command, even though his forces were outnumbered two to one by Lin Biao’s 1.3 million men. Tientsin fell in January 1949 – the third-largest city in China. This general too went on to collaborate with Mao until his death in 1974.

At the same moment there was a great fight going on, this time for the heartland of China north of Nanking, the Nationalist capital. By mid-January 1949 Mao had taken the whole country north of the Yangtze, where four fifths of the Nationalist troops had concentrated: the way was open to Nanking and Shanghai and the Nationalists were in utter collapse. Here, a pattern built up that had been seen ever since the Russian Whites had imploded in 1919; the pattern was detectable again in Vietnam and even, in 1978, in Iran. There was vast corruption, food-hoarding, mismanagement of the currency (in this case an absurd exchange rate for the Japanese puppet government’s currency and a ridiculously variable rate for the dollar, which allowed speculators to make small fortunes just by moving from town to town). Enormous American imports were profitably sold off, as in Vietnam later on, and an investigation into Chiang Kai-shek’s in-laws reckoned that $380m had been illegally converted. On top of everything else there was American criticism of inadequate democracy, whereas the central point about Mao was a pitilessness that the Nationalists could not emulate, as when he starved out a Manchurian city in summer 1948, for five months, involving half a million civilians who were desperate to escape. More people were killed in this way than by the Japanese at Nanking in 1937. As the Reds moved in they would stage rallies for what they called land reform, which in reality affected quite small people, who were subjected to tortures. The terror expert was Kang Sheng: ‘educate the peasants . . . to have no mercy . . . There will be deaths’, and children were encouraged to join in against ‘little landlords’, – all of it deliberate terror that was a copy of the Cheka’s in 1919. An essential point was that the Party people themselves would be implicated in the terror and Mao’s own son was sent around with Kang, though in his diary he protested at what he saw. The Nationalists were unsubtle in response – they arrested and tortured students and intellectuals.

On 20 April 1949 1.2 million men started to pour across the Yangtze and Nanking fell three days later. The Soviets helped, by mowing down a Moslem cavalry army from the air near the Gobi Desert. Chiang Kai-shek and what was left of his army made for the port of Canton, taking away the great treasures now preserved in the Taiwan museum; a medley of Confucian scholars, grasping generals, old-fashioned lecturing liberals, Canton and Shanghai bankers and merchants fled, just as their Russian counterparts had done at the port of Novorossiysk back in March 1920, towards safety. In this case, there was an invulnerable fall-back position on the island of Taiwan, which was relatively unscathed from the wars; Chiang’s men had made certain of the island, severely controlling the native population, and there they established themselves, eventually with American naval protection. Taiwan, as the state was called, became in its way the alternative China. Despite isolation and, to begin with, severe poverty, it was to become the fourteenth greatest trading nation in the world – a sign of what might have happened in Kuomintang China if events had turned out differently. But for the moment, the hour was Mao Tsetung’s. On 1 October he stood on top of Tiananmen Gate and inaugurated the People’s Republic of China (PRC), as ruler of 550 million people. An appalling destructive energy reigned, though it was directed with a great deal of cunning.

China under the Communists was to go through another terrible generation, but she started out with a good deal of international sympathy. The Kuomintang had few admirers, and any observer of the terrible sufferings of the Chinese people at Japanese hands was prepared to give the Communists the benefit of the doubt. British recognition was almost immediate; and a man such as Joseph Needham, devout Anglican, distinguished Cambridge biochemist, and then the great historian of Chinese science, spent years in China at the worst time and was devoted to her; there were children of missionaries such as the American writer Pearl S. Buck, who won a Nobel Prize for her thirties novel about the life of the Chinese peasant (a New York wit wrote, not inaccurately, that of the seven American Nobel laureates for literature, five had been alcoholics, the sixth a drunk, and the seventh Pearl S. Buck). Many men in the American State Department had assured their superiors that Mao Tse-tung was just a well-meaning socialist. Besides, to begin with, Mao and his team were relatively moderate. All of this was of course to descend into frenzied nightmare, and the first stage came with China’s involvement in an absurd, bloody and long-lasting affair, the Korean War. When it ended in 1953, with a loss of 750,000 Chinese lives, it concluded almost thirty years of internecine and international war, further interspersed with famines and epidemics (brought about, in one instance, by the release of plague-bearing rats which the Japanese had raised in a biological warfare establishment in Manchuria, and then, upon surrender, released). It was small wonder that Mao and a very large part of the population did not respond altogether rationally to international events.

There was another factor: relations with the USSR. China was of course dependent upon foreign aid, and her Communists’ admiration for the Russian Revolution went back to the very beginning. True, Stalin had played a game between Mao and Chiang, but he counted as all-powerful and there were Soviet agents even in Mao’s closest entourage – his doctor, for instance. Stalin had wanted Mao to remain north of the Yangtze so as not to provoke the Americans. Disapprovingly, he delayed for weeks on end as to inviting Mao to Moscow, treating him as once the Khan of the Golden Horde had treated obscure, grubbing princes of Muscovy when they were supposed to turn up with their tribute to his vast tent-palace on the Volga. Stalin fobbed off Mao with the preposterous excuse that the grain harvest had to be brought in before a proper meeting could occur (summer 1948), and there was a minor row before Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan, because his successors asked for peace, which Stalin said should be explored by the Chinese Party whereas Mao stood up for himself. The Russians still benefited from the ‘unequal treaty’ that gave them a sovereign role on Chinese territories in the north-east, linking Moscow with eastern Siberia, and they wanted controlling rights in Outer Mongolia as well, a very sensitive area that abutted on a Chinese Moslem region that was not necessarily loyal to Peking. Stalin fired some warning shots – arresting poor old Anna Louise Strong, who was stranded in Moscow; and, when Mao claimed some sort of ideological headship over questions of imperialism, Andrey Orlov, Mao’s doctor from the Main Intelligence Directorate, was arrested and tortured by the Ministry of State Security’s grand inquisitor, Viktor Abakumov (and several other contact men died strangely: even Mikhail Borodin, who had managed Comintern affairs in Shanghai, was picked up). Stalin sensed a rival, and when finally Mao did go to Moscow (by train) in December 1949 he was only one of several leaders greeting Stalin on his seventieth birthday (and for weeks he was belittled by his treatment – he even had to write a crawling letter to ask what was happening).

At length Stalin agreed to make a new treaty with China; Chou En-lai arrived – by train rather than plane for fear of ‘accidents’ – together with various experts who would work with the Russians to make China a major military power. A treaty did come about in February 1950 with a loan (much of which was subtracted in assorted ways). There were to be fifty major industrial projects and ‘the bases for strategic co-operation’; in exchange the USSR in effect took Outer Mongolia, or, as the Chinese saw it, half of Sinkiang and Manchuria, and through ‘joint ventures’ it had very favourable terms for tungsten and other materials important for armament. The Chinese had to pay large salaries for the technicians, who were exempted from Chinese jurisdiction. Both Stalin and Mao had come an enormously long way from their remote and bullied infancies. They had waded through tidal waves of blood, and, though neither was an ideologist of any seriousness, they did know that Communism was a formula for victory on an unimaginable scale. Under it, Russia had developed an empire far more powerful than that of the Tsars; and Mao had accomplished a feat still greater, to restore the power of the ancient Chinese empire. There was of course already an implicit rivalry, given that Tsarist Russia had been foremost among the European powers in stealing this or that march on China, ever since 1689, when Jesuits on both sides had negotiated the Treaty of Nerchinsk, laying down a common border. That rivalry broke out into the public gaze in 1960, but in 1950 it was still confined, given Mao’s dependence on Moscow, and given also his satrap-like admiration for the achievements of the Kremlin.

But Mao could at least test the old imperial waters. He could, for instance, consider Vietnam, where was now a common border. There, a battle had developed between the French empire, obstinately holding on, and the Communist resistance to it, under Ho Chi Minh. Stalin had shown little interest in this (he did not answer Ho Chi Minh’s telegrams in 1945) but matters changed once Communist Chinese troops were on the border late in 1949. Ho had fluent Chinese (having lived in China for ten years) and he made a dramatic entrance at the final dinner for Mao in Moscow in mid-February 1950. The two men went back by train (sandwiched between dismantled MiG-15 fighters and military technicians who were to advise as to the aerial defence of coastal cities). The first agreed step was for Mao to build up the link to Vietnam. New roads were created such that by August 1950 the French lost control of the border region to the better-armed Vietnamese Communists; and Chinese help meant that Ho Chi Minh could establish the same sort of ‘little-soviet’ base as Mao himself had had after the Long March. But there was another and more important part of the old Chinese imperial inheritance to consider: Korea.

Korea had a strategic position, as a south-eastern peninsula of Manchuria, pointing towards Japan. She also had a torn history at Japanese hands. However, she was a poor country, and in 1945 her fate was fairly casually decided: Soviet troops, invading from the north, would stop in the middle, at the 38th Parallel, and Americans would be established to the south. Rival regimes then emerged. A leathery Methodist, Syngman Rhee, was promoted in the South, while Communist North Korea formally became independent in 1948 under Kim Il Sung, a figure (also with a Protestant background) who emerged from Chinese shadows and had trained for a time at Khabarovsk in Siberia. Kim had megalomaniac qualities (he eventually proclaimed himself ‘President for Eternity’) and went to Moscow in March 1949, as Mao was winning in China. He wanted help to seize the South, where consolidation, with a small American presence, was ramshackle (as happened in Japan, there was a considerable enough Communist element there). That was refused: Stalin’s hands were full with the Berlin blockade. However, Mao was less discouraging, though he wanted action only ‘in the first half of 1950’, by which time he would control all of China. He even said that Chinese soldiers might be sent in, because the Americans would not be able to tell them apart.

In January 1950 Stalin did tell him that he was ‘prepared to help him’ but also said to rely on Mao. War in Korea would offer some advantages to the Soviets. They could test their own new technology as against that of the USA; Stalin told Mao in October 1950 that there was a brief opportunity to fight a big war as Germany and Japan were out of action and ‘if a war is inevitable then let it be waged now and not in a few years’ time’. There was another motive, to do with Japan. The USSR (and in the main the British) had been roughly shouldered aside by the American military when Japan was occupied. For a time, MacArthur ran Japanese affairs very high-handedly, comparing himself favourably with Julius Caesar, whereas Moscow felt that Japan was close enough to the Soviet eastern lands for Soviet interests to be taken into account.

Initially American policy in Japan was muddled and naively punitive; Japan sank into a morass of epidemic, starvation, black marketeering and crime that was worse than Germany’s: inflation reached 700 per cent in so far as there were goods with prices to be inflated. Then, in 1948, the American learning curve made its usual advance: Japan would have to be run not according to American New Deal principles, but according to her own patterns. Besides, there was a serious enough Communist presence in Japan, and by 1948 there was an even more serious Communist presence just over the water, in China. An equivalent of Konrad Adenauer, Yoshida Shigeru, emerged in politics, with a clean record, and the Americans co-operated. In December 1948 Dean Acheson, Marshall’s successor, saw that Japan would have to be the American industrial ‘powerhouse’, now that China was falling to the Communists, and he sent a banker, Joseph Dodge, to produce a (rough) equivalent of Ludwig Erhard’s plans for West Germany: currency stabilization, resistance to union wage demands, trade credits and a very low exchange rate for the yen against the dollar. The Korean War, breaking out a few months later, created a demand for Japanese goods and services, and injected $5,500 million into the economy. As with Germany, the new programme went together with relaxation of war criminals’ imprisonment; some were quietly rehabilitated and restored to the bureaucracy, and one (Shigemitsu Mamoru) even became foreign minister. All of this needed a regularization of Japan’s international position, i.e. a peace treaty, and discussion of this was in the air in 1950 (although formal negotiation only started in 1951, ending that same year with a San Francisco Treaty that not only gave the Americans several bases, but also foreshadowed Japanese rearmament). A rearmed Japan was an obvious threat to both Mao and Stalin; on the other hand, in mid-January Acheson had said in public that the outer line for the USA would not involve the Far Eastern mainland. Taking advantage of this, in April 1950 Stalin encouraged Kim. He would not help directly; Mao would have to do it. On 15 May Mao agreed to help if the Americans came in.

In the meantime, an election had been proclaimed in South Korea, in a context of upheaval; and there already had been bloody fighting on this or that occasion across the 38th Parallel, as the North Koreans tried to deter or terrorize non-Communists in the South. On 25 June, presenting these battles (which had already caused 100,000 casualties) as provocations, the North Koreans invaded. They had 400,000 men, 150 Soviet tanks, 40 modern fighters and 70 bombers, whereas the South Koreans had 150,000 soldiers, with 40 tanks and 14 planes. There were few American troops, and the immediate results were disastrous – Seoul, the Southern capital, captured on 28 June, and the Southern army disintegrating. However, Syngman Rhee did not surrender, and the Americans reacted very quickly. They were given a present: at the United Nations, the Soviet representative had been boycotting meetings of the Security Council, to protest at the exclusion of Communist China. He was therefore not present when Truman asked the UN to resist the aggression; accordingly, the Korean War was not just an American one, but formally concerned the United Nations; in effect, it became a NATO affair, with even a Turkish contingent.

However, the North Koreans’ advantage lasted for some time. By early August they had taken 90 per cent of the South, and there was a desperate fight for the area around Pusan; an American force was overwhelmed and its general captured. But the American shuttle from Japan started to operate, and strategic B29 bombers shattered the North’s communications and supply dumps. General Douglas MacArthur then launched a very bold amphibious operation at Inchon, on Korea’s western coast, near Seoul. Against difficult weather, over a sea of mud, and with tides that required very precise timing, it succeeded; only a few thousand of the North Koreans escaped entrapment, and in October 1950 the Americans invaded North Korea. MacArthur’s weakness was vainglory, and he advanced, without considering the risks, to the Yalu river and the Chinese border, no doubt dreaming that he could reverse the verdict of the Chinese civil war (American warships were also now protecting Taiwan).

On 29 September Kim asked Stalin for ‘volunteers’ from China, and Mao ordered his forces to be ready, even calling his Politburo for a discussion (though he later said that the decision to intervene was taken by ‘one and a half men’, the latter being Chou En-lai. They gambled, as it turned out, rightly, that the Americans would not use the bomb, that Chinese superiority in sheer manpower would prevent defeat (and many of the hundreds of thousands to be sacrificed were anyway former Nationalist soldiers). Chou and Lin Biao went to see Stalin on the Black Sea on 10 October, talked through the night and obtained a guarantee of equipment though not of direct air support. On 19 October Chinese intervention did occur, as Mao mobilized his millions, moved them by stealth, in fact enlisted some Soviet fighter support (which proved to be very effective) and confronted American troops on 1 November. Now came the great surprise: these Chinese troops, lightly equipped and able to move fast, defeated the Americans. One division marched at night over mountain roads and managed eighteen miles per day for nearly three weeks on end, and with such feats the Chinese brought about the longest retreat ever undertaken by an American army; a vast evacuation had to be carried out at the end of 1950. The line stabilized, roughly along the 38th Parallel where it had started out, and Seoul was retaken, in utter ruins, in March 1951. In some desperation, MacArthur publicly suggested an aerial attack on China, with hints that the atomic bomb might be used as well. Was Korea worth a nuclear war? Truman’s allies were appalled, and that gave him an excuse to remove MacArthur from command. His more prudent successor elected to stay on the 38th Parallel.

Under the nuclear umbrella, wars of this sort developed the surreal quality that George Orwell had foreseen in Nineteen Eighty-Four. A stalemate, in horrible terrain and terrible weather, went on and on, punctuated by offensives that got nowhere and were probably not really meant to get anywhere. Meanwhile, American air power was used, and wrecked much of North Korea, though of course without affecting the Chinese bases. Stalin could sit back and rub his hands with glee at the discomfiture of America, and Mao could rejoice in the return of China as a military power: a very far cry from the days of yore, when the junks of the imperial navy had been smashed to matchsticks and the ports of the Mandate of Heaven had been grabbed by foreigners selling opium.

An effort, also surreal, was made at peace. At Panmunjom, between the front lines, teams of negotiators haggled for two years, while the war went on outside the barbed wire and the huts. Thousands of the Chinese and North Korean prisoners did not want to be repatriated at all, but the Communist side insisted, expecting that American public opinion (which had turned against the war) would eventually rebel. Delaying tactics were used: there were a few deluded souls in Chinese prisons who volunteered to stay there (they trickled back, crestfallen, decades later) and various well-meaning Western scientists, including Joseph Needham, were deployed to accuse the Americans (wrongly) of biological warfare.

This slow-moving but murderous farce went on until the Americans started to use nuclear language. Ostentatious test flights went ahead; the new President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, visited Korea late in 1952, and used harsh language. The threat of the bomb was real enough, but the key moment came in March, when Stalin died. His successors had had enough of direct confrontation, and sent peaceable messages to the West. In Korea, finally, on 27 July 1953, on an Indian proposal, a ceasefire was proclaimed at Panmunjom. ‘Only the provisional is lasting,’ says the French proverb, and so it proved, again in surreal circumstances, the armistice negotiation teams remaining in their huts, decades in, decades out, thereafter, while North Korea became the weirdest country on the globe, and South Korea became an extraordinary first-world success story. The Korean War ended, where it had begun, on the 38th Parallel, with hundreds of thousands of dead on the side of the South and the Americans, and millions on the side of the North and the Chinese. But it had a side-effect, not foreseen by Stalin. The Korean War created Europe.


China’s Expeditionary Forces and C.A.I.

In the history of China’s participation of war overseas, there were two Chinese Expeditionary Forces and one Chinese Army in India.

The first Chinese Expeditionary Force was sent from Yunnan in the spring of 1942 into Burma to participate in the defense of that country. The words “1st Route” were attached to this Expeditionary Force, as the Japanese aggressive campaign was then at the height of its fury, and it was planned that additional expeditionary forces, to be designated 2nd and 3rd Routes, would be dispatched by China to the aid of her Allies in Siam and even the South Pacific. The first force was, however, generally known to the world merely as the Chinese Expeditionary Force, the words “into Burma” being sometimes designated together. It was commanded by General Lo Cho-ying.

With the conclusion of the first Burma Expedition and the end of this mission of the first Chinese Expeditionary Force, the Chinese Army in India (C.A.I.) was created. This designation was adopted because there was no fighting in Indian territory, and an expeditionary force could not be stationed in an Allied country.

The C.A.I. was to become an important actor in the later Burma campaign which reopened the route between India and China. The New First Army, the achievements of which are recorded in this publication, constituted the major part of the C. A. I. Throughout its later activities in the successful counter-attack in Burma and until its return to China after the completion of its mission, the C.A.I. maintained its original designation.

The second Expeditionary Force sent by China into Burma was organized in 1944. This force entered Burma from western Yunnan, under the command of General Chen Cheng, and later of General Wei Lin-huang, to co-ordinate with the efforts of the C.A.I. attacking from India. The two Chinese forces eventually effected a junction at Mongyu after a brilliant campaign.

The First Force into Burma

The Pearl Harbor treachery in December, 1941, presaged a wild attempt by Japan to penetrate southwards into the Pacific. Following their capture of Singapore, the Japanese launched and intensified drive into Burma to deal a blow on our British ally and to cut off the sole surviving international route to China – the Burma Road. The combined forces of the Japanese 33rd, 55th and 18th Divisions took part in this offensive.

When Rangoon, capital of Burma, fell into Japanese hands on March 7, 1942, the Chinese Government at Britain’s request dispatched the 5th, 6th and 65th Armies, then stationed at Yunnan, into Burma – the first Chinese Expeditionary Force.

Out of this Expeditionary Force, the men of the New 38th Division and the New 22nd Division were later transferred to India to form the nucleus of the C.A.I.

The Birth of the C.A.I.

The first Burma campaign failed because of inadequacy of Allied preparedness and the lateness in the arrival of the Chinese forces. Nevertheless, during the campaign, the 5th Army inflicted a severe toll on the enemy, while the New 38th Division achieved the great feat of rescuing more than 7,000 British troops from a Japanese trap at Yenangyaung.

The withdrawal from Burma, in the face of overwhelming odds, was finally effected under great difficulties by June 8, 1942.

On June 14, 1942, a military review took place at New Delhi on the occasion of United Nations’ Day.

Advance Through Jungle

A squad from the New 38th Division represented China on the occasion, and made a plausible impression to the Allied leaders. Both British and Indian circles expressed open admiration for the Chinese achievements at the Burma expedition just concluded, and the foundations were laid for the stationing of a Chinese Army in India.

The 38th Division, which had withdrawn into Indian territory, was a month later transferred to Ramgarh for training. The division was soon joined by the New 22nd Division, originally intended to be withdrawn into Yunnan, but re-directed to India.

In August, 1942, the Chinese Army in India was officially formed. General Stilwell, Chief of staff in the China Theatre, was appointed Commander-in-Chief, with General Lo Cho-ying as his deputy.

In the spring of 1943, General Lo was transferred to a post at home. The High Command organized the New 38th Division, the New 22nd Division, and the newly created 30th Division (formed in India) into a new army – the New First Army. Lt. Gen. Cheng Tung-kuo was placed in command of the Army with Lt. Gen. Sun Li-jen as the Deputy Commander, who commanded the New 38th Division concurrently. The New 30th Division was commanded by Maj. Gen. Hu Shu, while Maj. Gen. Liao Yao-hsiang retained the command of the New 22nd Division. Artillery regiments, Engineering regiments, motor transport regiments, armored car units, anti-aircraft units, signal corps, special service units, military police units, and men and animal transportation units, either sent from home or newly organized in India, increased the strength of the Army which was subsequently further augmented by the 14th and 50 Divisions after its march into the Hukawng Valley.

The War Record in Burma

The counter-offensive in Burma really began in March 1943, when the vanguards of the New 38th Division undertook the duty of annihilating or expelling the enemy on the Indian border so that the initial engineering work on the India-Burma Road could be protected. This prelude to the actual campaign was successfully completed by the end of October, 1943, when the enemy’s 18th Division, reputed a strong force, was driven away from its stronghold. The operations at this juncture were carried out under greatest difficulties, for in addition to the obstinate enemy, our forces had to combat the reptile infested jungle, where communications were entirely underdeveloped.

On the eve of New Year’s Day of 1944, the New 38th Division successfully took Yupong Ga, and reinforcements arrived later.

By February, 1944, the New 38th Division, continuing its success, occupied Taipha Ga, while the New 22nd Division also captured Taro, and the two forces launched a combined attack against Maingkwan. The victory at Walawbum on March 9 concluded the Hukawng Valley campaign.

The enemy defense of the Mogaung Valley was aided by its geographical advantages and the Chinese progress was considerably checked by the difficult terrain. By the latter part of May, 1944, however, when a new strategy was employed we made our advance. In spite of the high water level on the river with the approach of the rainy season we succeeded in crossing the Namkawng River. This act surprised the enemy and cut off his retreat, capturing at the same time much of his supplies. The famous Battle of Seton ensued with disastrous results to the enemy. On June 16, we captured Kamaing, and on the 25th of the same month Mogaung also fell.

Simultaneous with this fighting in the Mogaung Valley, the fight for Myitkyina also raged high. A combined Chinese-American detachment, consisting of the New 38th Division, the 50th Division, and a portion of the 14th Division, with one regiment of American troops, attacked that important city. The Japanese staged a desperate defense and street fighting raged for 80 days. The city finally fell on August 4, and the first stage of the Burma counter-offensive was concluded.

During the temporary respite that followed this important victory, there were some changes in the organization and command of the Chinese Army in India. General Stilwell had been recalled to the United States and he was succeeded by Lt. Gen. Sultan, with Lt. Gen. Cheng Tung-kuo second-in-command. The Chinese Army in India was now composed of two armies – the New First and the New Sixth. The New First Army consisted of the New 30th Division and the New 38th Division. The New Sixth Army had under its command the 14th Division, the 50th Division, and the New 38th Division. General Sun Li-jen commanded the New 1st Army while General Liao Yao-hsiang commanded the New 6th.

The rainy season of Burma ended by October when C.A.I. commenced its second phase of offensive. The New 6th Army except the 50th Division which became part of the New First, had in the meantime been transferred to the home front and the New 1st Army continued its march towards Bhamo to complete the task of opening the overland road from India to China.

The siege of Bhamo reached its fiercest stage on November 17, 1944, when the Japanese resorted again to a desperate defense strategy. By December 15, enemy lines were fully penetrated, and the Chinese force pushing ahead passed Bhamo towards Namhkam. The Army was now met by the Japanese 49th Division, which had been specially transferred to Burma from Korea, only to be routed after five days of intensified combat.

Namhkam was entered by the New 30th Division on January 15, 1945. On January 27, the New 38th Division captured Mongyu, the junction between the new India Road and the former Burma Road. The following day, a ceremony was held to celebrate the junction of C.A.I. and Expeditionary Force from Yunnan, and Stilwell Road was fully opened.

To render effective assistance to our British allies fighting in lower Burma and to protect the newly opened Stilwell Road, the New First Army continued toi push southward towards central Burma. On February 20, the New 30th Division captured Hsenwi, while on March 8, the New 38th Division captured Lashio. At the same time, the 50th Division, sweeping down from Katha, also captured in succession Mwanhawn, Namtu, and Hsipaw. On March 20, Kyankme was captured, completing the chain of victories of the Chinese Army in the Burma campaign.

The campaign in Burma occupied two full years, practically all of which were fully taken up in fighting against all odds. The difficult terrain and jungle fighting will all its horrors were strenuously overcome. All these factors made up an epic episode of achievement in our military annal.

During the campaign, Chinese Army encountered the Japanese 2nd, 18th, 49th, 53rd, and 56th Divisions and the 34th Independent Brigade, as well as other special units. The enemy suffered 33,082 dead, including many ranking officers, while another 75,000 casualties were counted as wounded, and more than 300 prisoners taken. The enemy practically suffered total annihilation. Our casualties were about one-sixth of that of the enemy. Trophies which were taken included 7,938 rifles, 643 machine guns, 185 cannons, 553 motor vehicles, 453 locomotives and wagons, 67 tanks, 5 airplanes, 108 godowns, and more than 20,000 tons of metals. The area liberated cy C.A.I. was more than 50,000 square miles, in which were 646 miles of highways and 161 miles of railroads.

Chosen as the training center for Chinese Army in India, the small town of Ramgarh in the Province of Bihar soon bustled with life. The Chinese flag fluttered gaily over this part of land where Buddha was born.

Though in the winter nights the air is a bit cold, the sun remains hot all the year around. Training was usually undertaken in intense heat. Besides the daily drill by units themselves, the Army was given sunstantial training in motor driving, tank operation, artillery, anti-gas practices, signal communications, engineering, ordnance and veterinary courses.

As the ultimate mission of the Army was to recapture Burma, emphasis was placed on jungle fighting, hill and tree climbing, bridge building and similar exertions were being conscientiously gone through by both officers and men. The building up of a strong body was, of course, a primary prerequisite for all men. No time was spared in conducting a vigorous exercise as an all round activity.

Political training, morale up-lifting and general improvement on the Knowledge of the soldiers also occupied an important place in the schedule. English, Hindustani and Burmese were avidly studied in order to enable the men to cultivate a better understanding with the local people with whom they had to come in contact.

By the spring of 1943, the Army had fairly completed its training. The Burma Road had been closed for a year, and China was in dire need of a new international supply route for the importation of war supplies. The time came for launching a counter-offensive in Burma so that the supply line might be established. General Sun Li-jen, as Advance Commander, led the New 38th Division as the vanguard of the campaign. From Ramgarh the Division returned to Ledo and took up the duty in annihilating the enemy in the Hukawng Valley in order to safeguard the supply junction in India.

Ledo, a small hamlet on the edge of a primeval jungle, soon grew into a town with railroad extension from the Indian trunk lines. With the influx of troops it also became an armed camp, the operation base for launching a counter-offensive against the enemy in Burma and the springboard for an immediate campaign.

A further period of training in jungle fighting was given the New 38th Division before their actual drive into Burma.

On the path of the campaigners lay an immense tract of wild jungles and swamps infested by harmful animals, insects and brambles. Many lives had already been lost in this region during the Chinese troops’ earlier withdrawal from Burma into India. The memory of the past incited the Army to a full determination in accomplishing their task.

Eight months were spent in hewing a mountain path through this region, driving away the enemy, and allowing the engineers following in the wake of the Army to build the road.

Surmounting the almost unbelievable difficulties, the New 38th Division conquered the border jungle, and in the early winter of 1943, occupied Shingbwiyang, which served as the advance base for the push towards the Hukawng Valley.

The Hukawng Valley was one of the most strategic important areas in the Burma campaign. The 18th Japanese Division, accredited as the enemy’s “invincible” force, held sway over the area.

The Battle for Yupong Ga

The battle for Yupong Ga was the first fierce encounter in the counter-offensive in Burma. Chinese Army encountered an enemy force five times its own strength, and there was encirclement and re-encirclement of each other during the whole campaign. One battalion of the 112th Regiment was cut off from contact for 36 days, depending on supplies dropped by planes. Casualties suffered by both fighting parties were high.

On December 21, 1944, General Sun Li-jen personally led a rescue party and with courage and strategy completely routed a most obstinate enemy force, heralding other suvvesses that were to follow in the campaign. General Stilwell presented General Sun with a special pennant to commemorate this unprecedented victory.

The Battle for Taipha Ga

The enemy now entrenched himself at Taipha Ga. For the first time, the Chinese Army adopted the strategy of “swirving” fighting and divided forces to attack on all flanks. On February 1, the forces attacking the enemy’s left scored such successes that the enemy was forced to abandon his plan of defensive fighting and come out in the open, to be defeated and routed.

The Victories at Maingkwan and Walawbum

The building of the India-China Road had by this time made considerable headway, that the New 22nd Division was now able to launch forward from Ledo into the Hukawng Valley. After taking Taro in January the Division marched southwards toward Maingkwan, assisted by the 1st Tank Battalion in a joint operation. An American Regiment transferred from the South Pacific also joined in the campaign.

In the battle of Maungyang River, the 114th Regiment captured secret orders issued by the enemy and the New 38th Division was thus enabled to proceed to behind the southern lines of the enemy and cut off his retreat.

On March 4, the enemy was surprised at Maingkwan, which fell the following day.

The New 38th Division pushed on towards Walawbum, the last enemy stronghold in the Hukawng Valley. The enemy put up a stiff resistance at this point for four days, and casualties were heavy, no less than 757 corpses were left by him after the fall of the place.

With the capture of Walawbum on March 9, the campaign in the Hukawng Valley was brought to a successful end.

The Capture of Laban

Between the Hukawng Valley and the Mogaung Valley lies a 4,000-foot hill. A small path provides the only link between the two valleys. The New 22nd Division, with the Tank Corps, launched a frontal attack against the Mogaung Valley, while the New 38th Division, braving all difficulties of cliff climbing, went over to the back of the enemy.

Fourteen days’ arduous hill climbing brought the New 38th Division to a point 20 miles to the rear of the enemy, and Laban was taken immediately to cut off the enemy retreat. Meanwhile, the New 22nd Division also advanced against the enemy from the north and the two forces effected a junction at Shadazup.

Surprise Attack on Seton

The enemy took full advantage of the mountainous terrain of the Mogaung Valley in laying defense positions. The rainy season in Burma was approaching by the end of May, and advance was checked. The New 22nd Division was held by the enemy at Malakawng. General Sun Li-jen considered it necessary to employ special strategy if the Mogaung war was to be concluded before the full blast of the rainy weather. A bolder attempt to send a regiment to the rear of the enemy was made. The 112th Regiment chosen for the purpose ran the enemy blockade across the Namkawng River, and took by surprise Seton, five miles to the rear of enemy-held Kamaing on May 26. Confusion was poured into enemy ranks.

The enemy rushed reinforcements for the relief of the position, and during the fierce fighting that ensued, heavy casualties were inflicted on his troops, while the Chinese also suffered more than 300 losses.

The Forced Crossing of Namkawng River and the Capture of Kamaing

The loss of Seton sealed the fate of the enemy in Kamaing. From May 29, Zigyun on the bank opposite Kamaing was subjected to bombardment and it fell on June 9. On the morning of June 16, a forced crossing was made, the wait being occasioned by the need to obtain supplies of rubber boats. The enemy had lost his morale, and the capture was imminent.

The Fight for Mogaung City

While the 113th Regiment was still attacking Zigyun, the 114th Regiment had proceeded rapidly towards Mogaung City. By June 15, many points to the north of the city had been placed under control. At the same time, the 77th British Brigade which paratrooped into Katha two months previously was being encircled by the enemy and the Chinese came to their rescue in time. The city itself was captured after two days of hard fighting.

Enemy troops along the road from Kamaing to Mogaung still offered resistance despite the fall of both cities. They were duly taken care of.

The battle of the Mogaung Valley had been successfully concluded.

General Stilwell, in a telegram congratulating General Sun Li-jen, referred to the victory as a top-notch achievement.

The Divisional Commander of the 3rd British Indian Division congratulated General Sun and General Li-hung for the great victory, and expressed gratitude for the assistance rendered the 77th British Brigade.

Before the commencement of the battle in the Mogaung Valley, the New 30th Division of the New First Army had already been trained intoi a combattant unit. It was further reinforced by the 14th and 50th Divisions, airborne into Burma.

With the exception of the 149th Regiment of the 50th Division, the various units making up the three Divisions referred to in the first paragraph did not participate in the battle in the Mogaung Valley. They created a new battlefield for themselves.

In the latter part of April, while the fighting in the Mogaung Valley was in progress, another force consisting of the 88th Regiment of the New 30th Division, the 150th Regiment of the 50th Division, and a regiment of United States infantrymen was concentrated at Maingkwan, and pushed southeastward for a surprise attack on Myitkyina.

On May 19, the railway station was occupied for a time.

Further reinforcements arrived on May 21 from Ledo, this being the 42nd Regiment of the 14th Division.

The enemy, meanwhile, took advantage of the respite in sending for help and in consolidating his defense positions.

The combating forces were interlocked against each other from May to mid July, when the battle reached the decisive stage. On August 3, the 50th Division organized a Dare-to-Die Corps which broke down the last of the enemy’s stubborn resistance.

In the Burma Campaign, the Chinese and Americans undertook two different tasks. The first were engaged in fighting, the latter in transportation and supplies and their cooperation made success possible.

In addition to transportation and supply, the work of giving first aid was also undertaken by the service forces.

Ambulance and first aid work during the Burma Campaign was most satisfactory. From field surgeons tp field hospitals, station hospitals to base hospitals everywhere the work of giving medical attention to the needy was carried out efficiently and satisfactorily thus reducing the suffering of the wounded to a minimum.

The medical services were so satisfactory that during the Burma Campaign many soldiers returned to the front after being wounded many times over. No less than 18 men had been wounded six times. Excepting those who fell in actual fighting, a very high percentage of the wounded recovered and were fit for service after treatment.

The New First Army rested at Myitkyina for nearly two months. By October, the rainy season in Northern Burma was over, the C.A.I. launched its second major offensive. The New First Army was to launch a frontal attack on Bhamo, while the New 6th Army was to head towards Shwegu from the left. The last named post was captured on October 29, after which the New 6th Army was recalled to China Theater and the Burma Campaign thenceforth was solely undertaken by the New First Army.

From Myitkyina to Bhamo was mountainous terrain, which was helpful to the defense and provided difficulties for the attackers.

During its march towards Bhamo, the New First Army unearthed en route a stone memorial of great historical importance. It was a commemorating tablet of one of the Chinese expeditions to the district in the Ming Dynasty, and characters “Wei Yuan Ying” (Overwhelming Afar Barracks) were boldly engraved on the center of the tablet. A description of the events leading to the erection of the memorial testified to the military operations and established the strategic importance of Bhamo even in those old days.

Early in November, the New 38th Division had registered great progress in the advance. At this juncture, the Army made use of the great suspension bridge which had been built by one of the famous Chinese generals who undertook one of the expeditions into Burma during the Tsing dynasty.

The enemy made full use of the boggy nature of the terrain at Bhamo in laying his defense positions which, it was later made known, took eight months to build.

By November 16, the Chinese Army had taken the suburban regions and three of the airfields. The enemy retreated to the inner defenses within the city, and offered stiff resistance. He was immediately encircled.

Street fighting ensued and the Chinese encirclement of the enemy was gradually tightened. The city of Bhamo was completely captured on December 15. The enemy was completely wiped out, and a large booty was captured.

To commemorate this signal victory, the Allied Supreme Command in Northern Command named the road from Memauk to Bhamo the Sun Li-jen Highway, while a street in Bhamo was renamed Li Hung Road.

While the battle for Bhamo was still in progress, General Sun Li-jen ordered the New 30th Division to proceed forward beyond Bhamo, heading for Namhkam.


The Battle at Kaibtik

The enemy was given a surprise by the New 30th Division’s march on Namhkam while the New 38th Division was still fighting for Bhamo. Reinforcements were brought in hurriedly in an attempt to disperse the New 30th Division and thence to go to the relief of Bhamo. These forces, recently transferred from Korea, met the New 30th Division at the Kaibtik plateau, and the first frontal battle of Northern Burma took place.

Kaibtik is the highest salient between Bhamo and Namhkam and is of such strategic importance that its capture would be decisive in the battle for Namhkam.

After a number of battles, the enemy was completely routed, abandoning 1260 dead when they retreated by December 14.

The Crossing of the Shweli River

The approach to Namhkam is a narrow valley enclosed by mountains, and is neither easily attacked nor defended.

By this time, Bhamo had already fallen, and the forces attacking Namhkam were reinforced by two regiments from the New 38th Division.

The most eventful episode at this period of the campaign was the crossing of the Shweli River, a watercourse flanked by high cliffs offering a great risk to the undertaking.

The Capture of Namhkam

Little fighting was expected in the Namhkam Valley itself, but the problem was the securing of the mountains surrounding the valley.

After successfully crossing the Shweli River, the Chinese forces had little difficulty in breaking through enemy lines in the vicinity of Namhkam.

On the morning of December 15, the Namhkam Valley was enveloped in a thick fog. The 90th Regiment marched through the fields into the town of Namhkam, which was fully captured before noon that day.

After the capture of Namhkam, the New 38th Division did not allow the enemy breathing space, and continued to march rapidly on to Mongyu, the intersection point between the new India-China Road and the old Burma Road. The point was captured on January 27, 1945, and the historic junction of the Chinese Army in India and the Chinese Expeditionary Force from west Yunnan was effected.

The khaki-clad New First Army and the grey cotton-padded uniformed Expeditionary Force arrived at the appointed meeting place early in the morning when the ceremony was witnessed by a number of ranking Chinese and American generals. The Chinese National Flag and the Stars and Stripes were hoisted amidst the playing of the national anthems of the two countries and a salvo of gun fire.

In an address on the occasion, General Wei Li-huang referred to the junction as the most important achievement in Sino-American cooperation. The principal slogan of the day was “To Tokyo,” and the junction at Mongyu was celebrated as the prelude of the meeting of the Allies in Tokyo.

After the ceremony, the two forces parted company. The Expeditionary Force returned to China. But the Chinese Army in India had not yet completed its duties – the safeguarding of the Stilwell Road. The stalwart sons of the New First Army continued their march on Lashio.

With the junction of the Chinese armies at Mongyu, the India-China Road was cleared of the enemy. The road was officially opened and named after General Stilwell by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

One hundred and five vehicles participated in the ceremony for the opening of the highway – the first convoy traveling from India to China.

When the convoy passed through the Field Headquarters of the New First Army, General Sun Li-jen gave an official reception at which the guests were offered Chinese and Australian food, American cigarettes, British matches, and Indian liquor.

The official opening ceremony was held at Wanting, and presided over by President of the Executive Yuan Dr. T. V. Soong.

The opening of the Stilwell Road was soon followed by the opening of the India-China pipeline. Trucks using the highway sent supplies of arms for the improvement of the equipment of the Chinese fighting forces, while the pipeline brought into China the fuel needed for the motive power of the China war theatre. A great stride was made towards victory.

From Hsenwi to Lashio

While the enemy was cleared off from the Stilwell Road, he still maintained forces at Meng Yu and Namhakka. The New 50th and New 38th Divisions therefore continued to clear these districts of remnant enemy units, and the divisional commander of the enemy 56th Division barely escaped being taken prisoner in the engagement.

Hsenwi was captured by the New 30th Division on February 20, when the march on Lashio was launched.

The 30 odd miles separating Hsenwi and Lashio was very mountainous territory, and the progress was necessarily slow but now with the arrival of armored car units our forces were reinforced.

The old town of Lashio fell on March 6, while the new section of the town fell three days later.

From Mwanhawm to Hsipaw

The capture of Lashio completed the mission of the New 38th and the New 50th Divisions, but the 50th Division had still to effect the last act in the Burma campaign.

The 50th Division, after the Mogaung Valley campaign, was first charged with the task of affording assistance to our British Allies (36th British Division) in their attack of Katha which was successfully accomplished. The 50th Division then crossed the Irrawaddy to mop-up the remnant enemy units in that district. The battle for Mwanhawn was the fiercest engagement in this connection, and the point was captured after a series of vogorous attacks.

The 50th Division carried on its victorious march southwards and by the middle of March captured Hsipaw and on March 23 effected a junction with the New 38th Division on the Naphai Highway.

The area west of Hsipaw was virtually a British war zone but because of the swift advance of Chinese Army the British were enabled to push immediately southwards to lower Burma, leaving the Chinese forces to capture the important point of Kyaukme west of Hsipaw with which Chinese Army in India concluded its brilliant Burma campaign.

No less than six Japanese Divisions were routed by the New First Army in Burma, the casualties amounting to 100,000, with 323 taken prisoner. Trophies captured by the New First Army included 7,938 rifles, 643 machine guns, 186 cannons, 553 motor vehicles, 453 locomotives and wagons, 67 tanks, 5 planes, 108 warehouses and more than 20,000 tons of metals.

Prisoners of War  

It must be admitted that the Japanese soldier was fully imbibed with the spirit of sacrifice, which was especially demonstrated in the Saipan and Iwo Jima engagements in the Pacific where the Japanese willingly died rather than surrender. Accordingly, in the wide stretched battlefield of Burma where more than 2,000 engagements took place, only 300 odd prisoners were taken, amounting to 0.3 percent of the number of their casualties. However, a low ebb in Japanese morale was noticeable with his defeat at Yupong Ga, where the Japanese militarist hold on the rank and file began to lose his grip.

The best treatment possible was accorded the Japanese war prisoners who were subjected only to restrictions in their movements but received all the medical attention they needed. The stubbornness of these prisoners were soon won over and they were made to realize their folly in playing into the hands of their ambitious military aggressors.   The prisoners taken in Burma were ultimately transferred to internment camps kept by the Allied Command at New Delhi. Culture in Army Life   In addition to military training, spiritual training was given the Chinese Army.   During the training at Ramgarh, a campaign against illiteracy among the enlisted men was carried out.

When the men were sent into actual battle, their cultural life was not neglected. Newspapers were issued among various units.   Dramatic entertainment was also successfully carried on to benefit the men. Performances were often staged by their own members even during the progress of fighting. Motion picture squads were later also introduced as an additional recreation. The Army also undertook work in establishing good relations with the population in the war zones – a measure which proved most effective in promoting cooperation between the Army and the people.

Special Service workers of the Army visited villages to bring succour to the population suffering from the Japanese invaders. Their sympathy was soon won and they cooperated in various measures to the progress of the military operations.

The Army also took time to pay attention to the improvement of the large numbers of overseas Chinese communities in Burma. In this interaction, General Sun Li-jen was personally interested in various schemes for the betterment of the lot of the Chinese residents. After the victorious conclusion of the Burma campaign, the New First Army was assembled at Myitkyina to await orders for its triumphant return.

Towards the end of June, 1945, our Allied Air Force placed more than 30 air transports of the C-46 and C-47 models for the transportation of the New First Army back to China. The general counter-offensive in the China Theatre was to be launched, and the New First Army was to take up the task of the offensive against the enemy on the Liuchow Peninsula, to coordinate with the operations of our Allies in the Pacific.

While the New First Army was marching towards its new destination from Nanning in August, 1945, the Japanese announced their unconditional surrender. The Army was then commissioned with the new task of accepting the enemy’s surrender in the Canton area.

The Causes of Victory  

The brilliant victories scored in Burma by the Chinese Army in India were neither accidental nor sheer luck. The general conception that the success was chiefly due to the efforts of our Allies was also exaggerated. Of course, air support, efficient supply lines, and excellent first aid service by our Allies contributed much to the outcome, but the main source of success lay in the hardy fight put up by our own men.

High morale and capacity for endurance marked the principal characteristics of the C.A.I. The operations carried out over difficult terrain in northern Burma were further complicated by the roundabout movements which were employed on more than one occasion to surprise the enemy. The stamina and ability for physical endurance displayed by the Chinese troops made a great impression on the United States Medical Corps, and even on the enemy who prided his bushido.

Superior strategy and efficient command also marked the Burma campaign where the Chinese Army usually took the initiative in the engagements.

The intensive training received by the C.A.I., which was continued even during the campaign when no actual fighting took place, was another factor which ensured victory.


The Chinese Army in Burma, 1942–5

Nationalist survivors of the 1942 fighting in Burma take part in an assault course as part of their training in India. The helmets worn by the troops are M35s brought back from Burma by them, while their P-17 rifles have been donated by the Allies. With good training, regular meals and better uniforms, equipment and weaponry these soldiers soon became the elite of the Nationalist army.

US army instructor looks on as the crew of a PACK 75mm howitzer supplied by the USA fires its gun in the hills around the Ramgarh training centre in September 1943. US instructors were sent to set up a training scheme for the Nationalist artillery which involved new trainees then going on to instruct their comrades. The week-long training course was in most cases found to be adequate to get the Chinese up to a reasonable standard.

Soldiers of Y Force, the Allied trained and supplied army based in Yunnan province, cross a river in June 1943. Y Force was made up of eleven infantry divisions which were intended to enter Burma sometime in 1943–4. Their arms, equipment and training were not up to the standard of their sister organization, X Force, in India but were superior to other Nationalist formations. They were to be pitted against the 56th Division of the Japanese Imperial army fighting in some the most difficult terrain encountered during the Second World War.

When the Japanese Imperial navy’s aircraft attacked the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 China’s war changed. Overnight the Chinese had Allies against Japan who Chiang Kai-shek hoped would aid him in his four-year war. However, the reality was different with the Japanese blitzkrieg tearing through British, US and Dutch territories by early 1942. In the short term the Allies had enough to cope with without sending armaments or any other aid to Nationalist China. French Indo-China had already been taken over by the Japanese in 1940, cutting off supplies to the Nationalists from that direction. When the Japanese Imperial army invaded British Burma from Thailand on 15 December the last land supply line along the Burma Road was threatened. As with Malaya, the Philippines and other Allied territories, the Japanese advanced through Burma. They moved northwards with the British forces retreating in front of them towards the Burma Road in the north-east of the territory.

Disturbed by the Japanese punitive campaign in north China that followed the Doolittle raid, Chiang Kai-shek feared that the loss of the Burma Road and the demands of other theaters would cut Lend-Lease programs for China. His short-term concern was the expansion of the Japanese occupation into western China; his strategic goal was to strengthen the Kuomintang and Nationalist Army against the Communists. Chiang’s special problem was the senior American officer organizationally at his side but physically in India, Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell. As early as 1942 Stilwell found himself at odds with Chiang over the reform and employment of the Chinese Army. Stilwell had 2 divisions with him at Ramgarh, India (X Force), and he believed he controlled 12 more divisions in Yunnan province, China (Y Force). After the Burma campaign, none of these divisions had more than half their manpower, and they lacked weapons and training. Chiang did not view either force as adequate for his needs.

Instead, he presented an ambitious plan to Roosevelt in June 1942. The Three Demands, drafted by Brigadier General Claire L. Chennault, argued that China held the key to defeating Japan with land-based air power. Chiang could not wait for Stilwell to reopen the Burma Road with a new extension from Ledo in northern India. Instead, the United States should send three divisions to undertake this mission while Chennault built an American air force of over 500 aircraft in China. This force would employ heavy bombers that would attack Japanese supply lines and bases along China’s coast. Until the Burma Road reopened, air transports from India would supply the air force in China. Chiang demanded an airlift capacity of 5,000 tons a month, an incredible figure, since the designated transport, the twin-engine C-46, had only a four-ton load capacity. At the time of the Three Demands, Chennault’s 130 aircraft required 2,000 tons of supplies per month, which meant a 500-aircraft force would probably need 10,000 tons a month, not 5,000. Moreover, who would guard the air bases? The Chiang-Chennault plan said that an elite, American-armed Nationalist Army (Z Force) would perform this mission, which sent the logistical requirements even higher.

Roosevelt and the Joint Chiefs of Staff knew they could not meet the Three Demands, but they could not ignore the fact that the Nationalists might tie down much of the Japanese Army. A military renaissance in China, built around 30 elite Nationalist divisions, would protect the air force Chennault wanted. Despite British skepticism about China, Roosevelt promised to do something about getting money and Lend-Lease supplies to Chungking. He did so for several reasons: a sincere conviction that China might become a regional power; his optimistic expediency in military affairs; and his sensitivity to the China lobby, which included influential members of his own cabinet as well as Republican senators and media moguls.

By March 1942 Chiang had realized that as the fighting continued in northern Burma unless he offered forces to help the British they would soon be defeated. A Chinese expeditionary force, under the command of US General Stilwell, was deployed to north-eastern Burma. The Chinese sent some of their best troops into Burma, consisting of three armies, each with three divisions (Fifth Army: 22nd, 96th and 200th divisions; Sixty-sixth Army: 28th, 29th and 38th divisions; and Sixth Army: 49th, 55th and 93rd divisions). The 200th Division included eighty Soviet-supplied T-26 light tanks. Although this force appeared formidable on paper, each army was only the strength of a British or US division. Over the next two months the expeditionary corps fought well in several battles with the Japanese, especially their superior divisions such as the 22nd and 38th. By late May the British and their Chinese allies were defeated and began a long retreat into India in the north-west and into Yunnan province in China.

Once the British army defeated in Burma had reorganized itself in the relative safety of India, it was decided that the Allies would train and equip a Chinese army. This force would be created from the Nationalist troops who had escaped Burma with the elite 22nd and 38th divisions forming a hardcore. It was agreed that the Allies would provide training, equipment and weaponry for a large number of troops, to be designated ‘X’, or X-Ray, Force. A large training facility made up of various training schools was opened in 1942, with facilities to instruct trainees in military skills such as radio operation, veterinary care for draught animals and artillery operation. With good-quality food, new uniforms, equipment and weapons and proper medical care the Allies were confident they could produce a useful military force. In November 1942 Chiang Kai-shek promised twenty divisions’ worth of troops, which would be flown by Allied transport planes across the Himalayas. Training went well and by 1943 a 50,000-strong X Force with modern small arms, artillery and a tank force was ready to be sent into Burma.

From 1943 onwards, two other forces were trained in China by US advisors, with the first, known as ‘Y’, or Yoke, Force, set up in Yunnan province. The training for Y Force was not as intensive as that given to X Force in India but the troops and officers trained in Yunnan were still superior to most other Nationalist formations. By the early summer of 1943 a force of 100,000 Nationalist troops was available to be sent into Burma. Y Force was designated to advance westwards into Burma along the Salween River to link up with X Force advancing eastwards from India in 1944. A third smaller force, known as ‘Z’, or Zebra, Force was trained in Kwangsi province from late 1943. The intention was to create a thirty-division-strong force which would be given several roles in any 1944 campaign. With over 2,000 US instructors but with less facilities and few arms to hand to their trainees, Z Force would not reach the standard of either X or Y Forces. Z Force’s first role was to advance southwards to link up with any future Allied amphibious landing in southern China. Its other role was to provide a defence force for the US airbases being set up in Nationalist territory from where bombing missions would be launched against Japan.

By December 1943 X Force was ready to begin its advance but the planned linkup with Y Force was to be frustrated by Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang wanted to keep the newly trained troops in Yunnan to counter the threat of rebellious generals, particularly the province’s governor, General Lung Yun. Eventually, after threats by the Allies to withdraw their support, Y Force was sent across the Salween River into Burma in May 1944. Both forces had to fight not only against the Japanese Imperial army but in some of the most challenging terrain in the world. It took X Force until March 1944 to reach their first objective, the town of Maingkwan. When it fell Chinese labourers immediately moved in to start repairs on the vital Burma Road. Meanwhile, X Force continued its slow advance, taking Myitkyina in May and Bhamo in November. By January 1945 X Force was in a position to finally link up with Y Force, which it duly did on the 21st. It had taken Y Force until September 1944 to capture their first major town, Tengchung, after an epic battle. After the reopening of the Burma Road, Y Force had served its purpose and most of its units were sent back into China to defend several provinces under attack by the Japanese. X Force, the best of all the Allied trained Nationalist armies, was to be airlifted into northern China and its divisions were to be destroyed in the civil war in Manchuria in 1948.