(Nov. 13, 2020) This week, 80 years ago, the Communist Chinese Eighth Route Army, under the command of Zhu De launched the “Hundred Regiments Offensive” against the Japanese North China Area Army commanded by Hayao Tada.
Gen. Tada had held that command for a year. He first saw action in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905.
He was commander of the China Garrison Army, which participated in the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of July 7, 1937, which precipitated war between China and Japan.
Before his appointment to command of the North China Area Army, he had commanded the Third Army, stationed in Manchuria/Manchukuo. In July 1941 he was promoted to general and retired from active duty.
Two months after Japan surrendered, he was arrested and charged with Class “A” War Crimes. He died in prison on December 16, 1948, before trial.
Zhu De had been responsible for the reconstruction of the Red Chinese Army after the “Long March,” and is considered the army’s founder. In the 1920s, he had studied in Germany and the Soviet Union.
At the time of the offensive, he was also Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Second War Area. After the war, he was Commander-In-Chief of the People’s Liberation Army until 1949, when he became Minister of Defense, a position which he held until 1954, when he became Deputy Chairman.
In 1959, he became Chairman of the National Peoples’ Congress, a position he held until the “Cultural Revolution,” in 1966. He died in July of 1976, having achieved the rank of Marshal in 1955.
Peng Dehuai was the field commander for the 100 Regiments’ Campaign. During the Korean War, he was the Commander of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army and also became a Marshal in 1955.
Following the Korean War, he succeeded Gen. De as Defense Minister for five years. During the “Great Leap Forward,” he fell from grace after criticizing it too harshly. In the early 1960s, he made somewhat of a comeback, but then was arrested during the “Cultural Revolution” and publicly beaten. He died of cancer November 29, 1974. After the “Long March,” Chairman Mao wrote a poem about his contributions -
“High mountains, dangerous roads, deep pits,
Red Army circling around the enemy
Who dares to put the glaive crosswise and draw the horse to a stop?
Only our Great General Peng!”
The “Hundred Regiments Offensive” was launched, in part, because of criticism that the Communists were not doing their part in the war against the Japanese Empire. One objective was to destabilize the puppet Chinese government, headed by Wang Jing-wei, that the Japanese had installed in territory which they had conquered.
Wang Jing-wei became the head of this “government” on March 30, 1940. It called itself the Republic of China, which was the name used by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s government, and flew the same flag! It took as its capital, the former Nationalist capital of Nanking.
It was originally intended to “govern/administer” all of the Chinese territory (except Manchuria/Manchukuo) under Japanese occupation. However, it never achieved that aim. On Jan. 9, 1943, it declared war on the Allies.
Wang Jing-wei died on November 10, 1944, of wounds sustained in an assassination attempt by agents of the Generallissimo in 1939. Otherwise, he surely would have been executed as a traitor at war’s end, as were many of his associates. Following his death, he was buried in Nanking near the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum.
With the defeat of Japan, the Generallissimo’s forces destroyed the tomb and burned the body. Today, there is a small pavilion identifying Wang as a traitor.
In Communist China, his name is used as a synonym for traitor, much as “Benedict Arnold” or “Quisling” are used here and in Norway.
The “100 Regiments Offensive” was divided into three phases. The first: Aug. 20 through Sept. 10; the second from Sept. 20 to the end of October; and the third phase from Oct. 6 to Dec. 5.
Preparations began in the middle of July. Intelligence was collected, terrain was surveyed, explosives and food stuffs were stockpiled, Japanese language propaganda materials were printed, and peasants mobilized in the vicinity of the targets.
Forty-seven regiments of the Communist 129th Division, 22 regiments of the 120th Division and 46 regiments of the 115th Division were involved in the campaign. As many as 400,000 Communist soldiers were involved.
At 8 p.m. on Aug. 20, the Communists launched their assault. In reality, the “100 Regiments Offensive” was not a set-piece battle, but rather more of a concerted, coordinated guerilla offensive. Railway lines, bridges, highways and telephone lines were destroyed.
Outposts were attacked. The Chingching coal mine, which supplied much of the coal for the steel factories in Manchuria/Manchukuo, was assaulted and rendered inoperable for six months. In the initial phase, the Japanese were caught by surprise.
It was during the Second Phase that Japanese resistance became more effective, as the Communists attempted to take Japanese strongholds in Taihang Mountains. During the Third Phase, the momentum shifted, as the Japanese launched offensives in Shansi and Hopeh.
When confronting regular Imperial Japanese troops, the Chinese Communists suffered heavy casualties. They fared much better when facing the troops of Wang Jing-wei’s “government.”
At the conclusion of the campaign, Mao’s men claimed: 20,545 Japanese casualties; 5,155 Chinese puppet casualties; 5,400 guns and 200 heavy machine guns captured; 11 tanks, six airplanes, 600 miles of railway and 2000 miles of highway destroyed; and 260 bridges, tunnels and train stations sabotaged.
Control of 26 county seats reverted to the Communists. The Chinese Communists suffered 22,000 casualties in the campaign.
The “Hundred Regiments Campaign” inspired the Japanese to respond with a “security-strengthening movement,” a component of which was the “Three Alls Policy.” The “Three Alls” were, “Kill All,” “Burn All” and “Loot All.”
More than 2.7 million Chinese civilians are estimated to have died during the policy’s implementation. It had been the brainchild of Maj. Gen. Ryukichi Tanaka, chief-of-staff of First Army. He escaped responsibility and died of colorectal cancer in 1972.
The policy was implemented by Gen. Yasuji Okamura, commander of the Japanese North China Area Army. In the last year of the war, he commanded the China Expeditionary Army and represented the Empire at the surrender ceremonies at Nanking on Sept. 9, 1945.
Although he was convicted of war crimes by the Nanking War Crimes Tribunal in July 1948 for his participation in the “Three Alls” policy, he was, essentially, pardoned by Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek, and hired, by him, as a military advisor. He returned to Japan in 1959 and died there in 1966.
With the “100 Regiments Offensive” Mao served notice on Chaing’s Nationalists and the Japanese that the Communists were a force with which both would have to reckon.
Mr. Wimbrow writes from Ocean City, Maryland, where he practices law representing those persons accused of criminal and traffic offenses, and those persons who have suffered a personal injury through no fault of their own. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next week: Sea Battle of Spartivento