(Oct. 2, 2020) This week, 80 years ago, a Nationalist Chinese force, commanded by Han Deqin (Te-ch’in), attacked the 7,000-man-strong Communist New Fourth Army, commanded by Su Yu at Huangqiao (“Yellow Bridge”), in the coastal province of Jiangsu, whose capital is Nanking.
The province has a coastline of 620 miles along the Yellow Sea. The 1,100-mile-long ancient Grand Canal traverses the province from north to south. Han was born there in 1892.
Su Yu was one of the top three Chinese generals of that era, with Communist Marshal Lin Biao and Nationalist Gen. Bai Chongxi being the other two. Su Yu was born in Hunan Province in 1907, and would be named Chief-of-Staff of the People’s Liberation Army in 1954.
In 1937, when open warfare with Japan began, the Communist Party’s leader, Chairman Mao-tze Tung and the Nationalist leader, Generalissimo Chaing Kai-shek, had agreed to cease fighting each other and present a “United Front” against the invader.
However, in July 1940, Chairman Mao ordered General Yu’s New Fourth Army to cross the Yangtze River and eliminate the Nationalist position in the town of Huangqiao, which it did. The next month, Nationalist General He Yingqin ordered Eighteenth Army, commanded by Gen. Deqin, to counter the Communist move.
He Yingqin earned the sobriquet “Lucky General.” He served two terms as Nationalist China’s minister of defense. He also served as director of China’s military delegation to the United Nations for two years. The “Lucky General” lost his last battle on Taiwan, at the age of 97.
On Sept. 3, General Deqin’s forces advanced toward Jiangyan, which is now a part of the city of Taizhou, on the north bank of the Yangtze River. It is 146 miles north of Shanghai and 95 miles east of Nanking. The Communists stopped Gen. Deqin’s forces and captured Jiangyan on Sept. 16. In response, Gen. Deqin counterattacked the 7,000-man Communist force on Sept. 30, causing the New Fourth Army, now commanded by Gen. Yu, to abandon Jiangyan and retreat to Huangqiao.
After being delayed by bad weather, the Nationalist 89th Corps, commanded by Li Shouwei, attacked the Communist position on Oct. 4. By the end of the day, the 33rd Division was close to capturing Huangqiao, but Gen. Shouwei called a halt. The next day, the Communists counterattacked and overwhelmed the Nationalists, who suffered 11,000 casualties, including 30 senior and 600 junior officers captured. Gen. Shouwei drowned attempting to avoid capture.
In addition, the Communists captured 3,800 rifles, 189 machine guns, three mountain guns, 59 mortars, much ammunition and medical supplies. Communist losses are estimated at between 900 and 2,000.
The Communists described the battle as, “a model case of the few defeating the many.” It marked the end of the “United Front” between Chairman Mao’s Communists and the Generalissimo’s Nationalist forces.
Next week: Battle of Cape Passero
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.