pitman wrote:Some western sources say that the Chinese burned down some of the city themselves, to somehow make it more defensible. I could not understand that, unless they meant parts of the city outside the walls (to increase fields of fire), but the references did not specify where the burning was taking place.
Among the instructions for preparation of defensive positions (which I have omitted in the previous post) is the following item:
For a clear field of fire, cutting down or burning obstacles can be considered based on the actual environment.
Hence it is quite likely that the Chinese did try to clear fields of fire in the suburbs, though I agree that it does not make much sense for them to burn down the city.
I found a couple of entries in Dai An-lan’s personal diary in which he expressed dismay that his subordinates were generally not much interested in the construction of defensive positions, and that he had to oversee, check and re-check how the positions were constructed. Given that the Japanese thought quite highly of the 200th D’s defence, Dai probably did a reasonably good job. Of course, the Japanese had not been able to bring up their heavy artillery until fairly late in the fight, but they had total command of the air to make up for it, not to mention good recon (not just from the air but also the presence of many sympathizers in the population).
Anyhow, to continue with the description of the battle,
(8) The Main Battle at Toungoo
At dawn on March 25, outposts along the north bank of Kabaung were attacked and the troops pushed back after about two hours; the bridges were destroyed. There was no further action during the day as the Japanese tried to probe the various Chinese positions on this part of the front. Meanwhile, at 1000 the position of the 3rd Battalion, 600th Regiment to the north-west of the city was infiltrated by plain-clothes troops followed by a full battalion in a major attack. Counterattacks by local reserves were launched and there was hand-to-hand fighting. However the Japanese who had broken through clung to houses and the wall surrounding the cemetery and inflicted heavy losses on the Chinese. After night fell, the 600th Regiment was withdrawn to take up new positions between the 598th and 599th Regiment; all three units now faced the Japanese to the north, west and south and with their backs to the Sittang River.
Full scale attacks by the Japanese commenced on March 26, first along the front of the 600th Regiment, then spreading to the 599th Regiment where Japanese artillery support was particularly strong (the bridge over the Sittang was destroyed in the bombardment). The Chinese held their positions, however, and the Japanese tried their luck on the 598th Regiment in night probes but to no avail.
Dawn on March 27 brought a lull in the ground action which rapidly gave way to continuous attacks by large groups (20+) of Japanese aircrafts. Follow up attacks by the Japanese were repulsed and the 2nd Battalion, 599th Regiment actually counterattacked and drove back the Japanese towards the bank of Kabaung momentarily. After 1500, the Japanese tried firing tear-gas at the south-west portion of the Chinese line but there was no breakthrough.
Battle continued to rage throughout March 28 and March 29 but there was no change in the Chinese line and morale was still high despite the emerging fight at the divisions HQ near Indaingon (see below). Ammunition was running to run low.
(9) Battle near Indaingon
Around 2000 on March 28, about 200+ Japanese troops appeared near the divisional HQ at Indaingon in front of the position of the 3rd Battalion, 599th Regiment and were driven off. Around midnight more than 1000 Japanese troops with cavalry and artillery support captured the Point 150 high ground brought the whole area under fire. Since the divisional HQ was in danger of being attacked, the 3rd Battalion of the 598th Regiment as well as part of the Corps 1st Replacement Regiment were urgently dispatched to deal with this threat. Flanking moves by the Chinese helped to stop the Japanese attack, but counterattacks against the high ground failed repeatedly with heavy losses.
(10) The Withdrawal
On the morning of March 29, orders were received from Corps HQ to retreat. It was not possible to disengage at that point, but preparations were made and the following order sent out at 0900.
(a) The 3rd Battalion of the 598th and 599th Regiment were to come under the command of the Corps 1st Replacement Regiment and continued to defend existing positions near Indaingon and to cover the retreat of the main divisional force.
(b) the 599th, 598th and 600th Regiments were to retreat in order after dusk towards Karen Chaung
(c) Divisional HQ and other divisional troops were to retreat to Karen Chaung via Thandaung.
This was achieved although a small contingent of Japanese troops made their way along the main road and received the eastern ramp of the Sittang bridge; they were dislodged by the 7th Company, 598th Regiment. The withdrawing troops forded the Sittang at different crossings and moved north in good order despite all the fighting around them.
The entire division reached Karen Chaung at 1000 on March 30, set up positions and established contact with the New 22nd D. On March 31 it moved north to Thagaya and reached the town during the evening of April 1. Order was received on April 3 to move to Yezin north of Pyinmana; trucks were dispatched for the move and the move was completed by April 5. Corps level troops were now detached from the division and returned to Corps command.
(11) Lessons Learned from the Battle
Characteristics of Japanese tactics
(a) Favored flanking movements
(b) Good in combined arms combat
(c) Showed great flexibility in deployment of troops
(d) Often attacked on a broad front to conceal the main point of attack
(e) When there is a lull in action, the Japanese were up to some alternate plans
(f) Avoided frontal attacks on strong positions
(g) Often attempted to lure Chinese troops into combat outside prepared positions
(h) Sharps attacks typically followed bombardments and aerial attacks
(i) Cavalry used extensively to envelop exposed flanks
(j) Artillery often moved close to Chinese positions
Japanese combat techniques (excerpts)
(a) Liked to position machine guns on trees
(b) Often carried ladders in night attacks to get onto roof tops or trees in preparation for assaults on the following day
(c) Often used Chinese-speaking troops to confuse the defenders in close range fighting (actually General Dai claimed that some Chinese troops who were captured at Kunlun Pass were used in this role)
(d) Sneaked up to Chinese outposts at night to snoop on the password from the sentries
(e) Recon troops often dressed in Chinese uniform
(f) Left small number of troops hiding within Chinese lines during night attacks to coordinate with attacks during the following morning
(g) Frequent use of plain-clothes troops for infiltration purposes
(h) Lots of fifth columnists among the monks
Attached a hand-drawn battle map of the Battle of Toungoo on March 25 (3rd picture - I always got the order reversed). Indaingon marked in green; Nyaungthonbi marked in red. The second diagam shows the shrinkage in the defense perimeter in the last stage of the battle; the relocated divisional HQ marked in blue. Finally the retreat path in the first diagram (route marked in red)
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