The Battle of Pingxinguan 1937 - Axis History Forum

The Battle of Pingxinguan 1937

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Li Tsung Jen
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Postby Li Tsung Jen » 04 Apr 2007 09:44

Does anyone have a detailed info on this battle?

Order of battle for both the Japanese and CCP troops?

A battlefield map or a map with the units in the area?

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Kim Sung
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Postby Kim Sung » 04 Apr 2007 13:06

If you can read Chinese, there are innumerable sites on the Battle of Pingxinguan (平型关大捷).

Chinese order of the battle

Photos of the battle ... 995302.htm
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Kim Sung
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Postby Kim Sung » 04 Apr 2007 13:17

The Chinese victory at the battle of Pingxingguan wiped out Chinese defeatism against the Japanse invaders (恐日病).

White Star
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Postby White Star » 04 Apr 2007 15:56
A link from Wikipiedia, maybe it'll help you.
It was the first victory of the 8th Route Army.
And here is a speech of Chairman Mao about the battle.

Best Regard

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Postby sjchan » 17 Apr 2007 11:05

I think there are quite a few problems with the Wiki entry. For instance, the 5th division suffered only relatively minor losses in the attack by the 115th division and certainly cannot be said to be "severely damaged as an operational unit".

For a more recent study (in Chinese) of the battle by Professor Yang Kui Song, check out the following link:

In my mind it reflects the latest scholarship based on source material in mainland China, Taiwan and Japan and is a fascinating study which strips away some of the myth and hype that have long been associated with the battle.

I suppose I can post a partial translation if there is interest.

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Postby asiaticus » 17 Apr 2007 18:58

It would be interesting to see that translation.

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Postby sjchan » 18 Apr 2007 09:36

I will do a rough translation (Disclaimer: I am neither a native English speaker nor a professional translator) in several installments; it is a fairly long scholarly article and I have skipped some of the more repetitive parts (primarily refutations of flawed interpretations of the battle). Incidentally, the battle continues to a focus of much debate, as the article indicates clearly, there are many details which are still unknown.


The Battle of Pingxingguan was the first victory of the 8th Route Army as well as the Chinese Army in the War of Resistance against Japan. As a result it has received much attention from mainland Chinese historians. However, academic research on what happened during the Battle of Pingxingguan only started in the 1980s, and even up to now, there is still much controversy regarding the battle in the many types of works that have appeared. This article will study and explore some of the more important problems based on mainland Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese historical sources and recent research results.

The Annihilated Japanese Forces are Primarily Non-Combat Forces

During the official announcements of the 8th Route Army during the war, the force attacked by the 115th Division of the 8th Route Army is usually described as the 3rd Battalion, 21st Regiment, 21st Brigade, 5th Japanese Division. In the 1980s, most of the authors of related military records or memoirs had already modified their stance, and affirmed that the annihilated Japanese forces contained supply units. However, official mainland Chinese military history still did not totally accept this change, and continue to emphasize that the annihilated enemy was “part of the 21st Brigade and its supply vehicles”, or “the rear echelon troops of the 21st Brigade, 5th Division were riding in some 100 vehicles, along with about 200 supply trucks “. Taiwanese scholars, on the other hand, were adamant that the Japanese forces that were ambushed and annihilated did not contain any combat troops. In fact, there are problems with both viewpoints.

First of all, it must be affirmed that the battle that the 8th Route Army fought at Pingxingguan was primarily an ambush, and that it was primarily supply and transportation troops and not combat troops that were annihilated. The detailed after action reports of the 685 Regiment, 115th Division contained clear evidence to support this viewpoint. Written not long after the battle had finished, the report noted that “The enemy forces that participated in this battle consisted of the supply troops and a mechanized contigent of the 21st brigade of the 5th Division (19th and 20th Regiments), all under the command of the 21st brigade”.

Next, it should be noted that the 8th Route Army did fight with Japanese combat troops. However, these combat troops belong neither to the rearguards of the supply column nor to the rear echelons of the 21st Brigade. Instead they were the several companies of 3rd Battalion, 21st Regiment, 21st Brigade which came to the rescue of the ambushed troops, in addition to the guards of the supply column. This is clearly confirmed by Japanese historical records, which indicated that the ambushed column was guarded by combat troops, which included “a company of infantry (relief force)”, the supply column’s own guard, as well as the 高桥 company of the 神代 battalion along with 4-5 soldiers who had just recovered from sickness”. In addition, at 11 a.m. on the day of the battle, the 3rd Battalion which had been responsible for attacking Pingxingguan had already known that its supply troops were ambushed, and responded immediately by sending almost three companies of troops including a machine-gun company for the rescue operation. This attempt was however, blocked by the 8th Route Army, and the battle continued until that night when the relief force had to retreat due to the difficult situation it found itself. Thus the relief operation ended in failure. After the 8th Route Army left the battlefield in the early hours of the 26th , the relief column was finally able to move forward after two more days. Thus it is not hard to determine that the 8th Route Army fought with regular Japanese troops with fairly strong firepower including automatic equipments, and hence it is probably fair to say that it battled with the 3rd Battalion, 21st Regiment, 21st Brigade.

But if we just say in general terms that the 8th Route Army in the Battle of Pingxingguan annihilated “part of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Regiment, 21st Brigade and its supply troops.”, it is easy to get the impression that the 8th Route Army annihilated mainly combat troops, which is clearly not the case. If we believe that in a battle that lasted not much more than 10 hours, the poorly-equipped 8th Route Army was able to wipe out a large number of well-equipped first class Japanese troops, not only would that not conform with the available primary resources, but the subsequent decision by the 8th Route Army to stick to guerilla warfare due to difficulties in fighting Japanese forces would not make sense.

<Translator: skipped a paragraph on subsequent 8th Route Army strategies etc.)

In fact, based on simple logic, it must be admitted that the success of this battle is because most of the killed Japanese were primarily non-combat troops and were in fact supply troops, although the 8th Route Army did fight some pitched battles with Japanese combat forces.

The Ambushed Japanese Forces Consisted of Two Groups Moving toward Each Other and were Annihilated Separately.

Another question that needs to be further discussed is that what was the condition of the Japanese forces when they were ambushed? In the various memoirs and histories written by mainland authors, whether they agree on whether the troops were mainly supply troops, concur that the ambushed troops left LingQiu and moved westwards to Pingxingguan. But after careful scrutiny of the Chinese and Japanese historical sources, it can be deduced that this description is not correct.

Scholars from Taiwan were among the first to identify and clarify this problem, and can be used as reference here. They stated that: “On the 25th, the 21st brigade stationed at LingQiu received a request from the 21st Regiment that they urgently needed supplies due to falling temperature. The supply troops of the 21st Regiment set out with 70 horse-drawn vehicles with 50 horses, filled with clothes, food, ammunition and proceeded westwards towards Pingxingguan. This supply column was lead by Lieutenant 高桥义夫 of the 3rd Company, 12th Battalion, and consisted of 15 supply troops and 70 escorts. In front of the supply column was a small bus carrying a staff officer of the 5th Division, Lieutenant Major 桥本顺正 . Around 10 a.m., the supply colum passed into a defile with the two sides rising up more than 10 meters; they were heading towards Cai Jia Yu (蔡家峪) about 3 km away.” “At the same time, a motorized column belonging to the Japanese 6th Depot commanded by 新庄淳left Guan Gou (关沟) and headed east. The column was led by First Lieutenant 矢岛俊彦 and the 2nd company, which consisted of 176 men in 50 trucks and followed by the 3rd company under Major 中西次八with 30 trucks. 新庄淳was riding in a truck at the point, with 6 officers from the depot and 15 solders. Both of these non-combat formations: a supply column leaving LingQiu heading to the west, and a motorized column heading east towards LingQiu, entered into the ambush set by the 115th division after 10 a.m. on the 25th.

The viewpoint of the Taiwan scholars was based on Japanese military history. The detailed after action report of the 6th Depot remarked that the 2nd and 3rd companies under 新庄淳had already arrived at the frontlines held by the 21st Regiment, 21st Brigade which was responsible for the main attack on Pingxingguan, and had distributed ammunition and other supplies to the troops. However, since the Japanese force had suffered considerable losses due to the disparity in strength between the two sides, brigade commander 三浦敏事 decided to move the 大场 Infantry Regiment forward as reinforcement. As a result of this decision, 新庄淳 brought his two transport companies not from LingQiu towards Pingxingguan, but from the Pingxingguan frontline back to LingQiu to transport reinforcement. This column was ambushed as it approached Xiao Zhai Cun (小寨村) . The lack of automatic weapons meant that within 2-3 hours of the fight the column suffered heavy losses, and新庄淳was killed as well.

This sequence of events was confirmed by the after action report of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Regiment which participated in the relief attempt. <Translator's note: next section skipped due to much duplication>

There is no corresponding account for the other Japanese force. This is because the supply column in question was totally annihilated and all the officers were killed in action, and hence there was no official after action report. But the after action report of the 3rd Battalion did comment on the fate of this force. The report indicated that the relief forces entered the scene of the ambush in the morning of the 28th, and notes that this “supply column was attacked and almost all of the more than 100 troops died”. <Translator's note: next section skipped>

Analysis of the Composition of the 8th Route Army Participating in the Attack

This is much uncertainty as to how many regiments within the 115th Division participated in the attack. According to the “Military History of Chinese War of Resistance against Japan”, the entire 115th Division took part in the battle, with the 685th, 686th and 687th Regiments participating in the ambush and the 688th Regiment in reserve. On the other hand, Zhang Hongzhi accepted the viewpoint of Nie Rongzhen, who was a key commanding officer of the battle as well as direct witness of the battle: only the 685th and 686th Regiments were involved in the main battles at Pingxingguan. <next section skipped> Taiwan scholars agree with this author’s view regarding the disposition of the forces in the ambush by the 115th Division: the 687th Regiment was responsible for the south-easternmost part, the 685th Regiment was responsible for blocking the enemies in the south-west direction near Guan Gou and Xin Zhuang, while the 686th Regiment was responsible for ambushing the Japanese forces with the cooperation of the other two regiments.

However, according to the description by Zhang Hongzhi in his book, the 687th Regiment did participate in the battle, only that it was moved there at the last moment. This clearly contradicted Nie Rongzhen’s account, in which he recalled that although his ordered the 343rd Brigade to start moving into the ambush area at midnight, followed by the 344th Brigade. However it was raining heavily that night, leading to some flash floods. As a result not all the troops managed to get across, and only one of the regiments got across, and the other blocked by the floods. Consequently, Nie Rongzhen and Lin Biao decided to change the original disposition, and to let the 687th Regiment be the general reserve. Hence he confidently stated that the Battle of Pingxingguan only “involved the 685th Regiment commanded by comrades Yang Dezhi and Chen Zhengxiang, as well as the 686th Regiment commanded by comrades Li Tienyou and Yang Yong.”

Nie Rongzhen was one of the most senior commanding officers during the battle, and his account of how one regiment was prevented by flashfloods from joining in the ambush should be creditable. Moreover, his memoir was also confirmed by other primary sources. Lin Biao, besides wiring his final report on the 26th to Mao Zedong, Zhu De and Peng Dehuai, also wired reports to Xu Haidong, the commander of the 344th Brigade. If the 344th Brigade HQ troops and the 688th Regiment participated in the battle on the 25th, and if Xu Haidong actually commanded the 687th and 688th Regiment during the battle, as claimed in some books, then it would not have been necessary for Lin Biao to wire the report to Xu Haidong, Thus, it can be concluded that the 688th Regiment did not participate in the actual fighting at Pingxingguan.

Of course, there is still room for further discussion and study regarding whether the 687th Regiment actually took part in the battle. This is because on 2nd June, 1938, Zuo Quan, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the 8th Route Army, mentioned in a citation for the commanding officer of the 344th Brigade that “the commander of the 687th Regiment, Tian Shouyao, was bold and decisive during the battle, and was wounded while leading the troops in the fight.” Although this took place nearly 9 months after the battle, and was not supported by other evidence, it still needs to be considered. Maybe as postulated by Zhang Hongzhi, although this regiment was in reserve, since there was no major engagement elsewhere, parts of this force was thrown into the battle involving the 686th Regiment?

(Translator’s note: it is interesting to note that even now it is not clear which regiments on the Chinese side were involved: could there be political reasons here?)

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Peter H
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Postby Peter H » 18 Apr 2007 11:45

Jung Chang Mao,page 212-13:

...although this was a minor clash..and against a non combat unit,which according to Lin Biao,was mainly asleep--it was the first time Communists had killed any Japanese(outside Manchuria)....Mao was furious about Pingxingguan.This fighting .he said,was 'helping Chiang Kai-shek',and had done nothing to advance his goal--which was to establish Red territory.But for propaganda purposes Mao had Pingxingguan inflated out of all proportion in an effort to demonstrate that the CCP was more committed to fighting the Japanese than the Nationalists were.One reason the Communists kept citing it was because it was,literally,the only 'battle' they had with the Japanese for years*,one that killed a couple of a hundred Japanese at the very most.

*Footnote-confirmed by Lin Biao himself in his report for the Russians of February 1941.The CCP "to this day exploits this battle for agitational[propaganda] purposes.In all our documents this is the only battle cited...'

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Postby sjchan » 19 Apr 2007 08:38

Part (II)

The Number of Japanese Troops Killed

Currently most scholars on the mainland agreed that more than 1000 Japanese troops were killed during the Battle of Pingxingguan. <Translator’s note: The number has decreased steadily through the years from absurd numbers such as tens of thousands killed>. But as our analysis above indicates, this rough figure does not provide any information on the specific units destroyed or the original strength of the units, and hence leaves many questions unanswered. It will be much easier to arrive at the number of Japanese killed in the battle if one understands the units that were destroyed at Pingxingguan.

The viewpoint that the 8th Route Army killed more than 1000 enemy troops was based on the memoirs of the participants of the battle such as Yang Dezhi or the reports of the front line units. The earliest and most important figure on the number of enemy troops killed was the report wired by Lin Biao, commander of the 115th Division, on the second day of the battle i.e. 26th September, 1937. The report indicated that “Yesterday fought against the 21st Regiment for the whole day and night, and killed more than 1000 enemy troops”.

When both the participant’s memoir and after action reports sent immediately after the report are on hand, the numbers are generally believable. Moreover, with more than 4000 mainline combat troops taking part in an ambush, killing more than 1000 non-combat troops is not impossible. But the question is, other than the battle that blocked the relief forces of the Japanese 3rd Battalion which is quite difficult to perform a detailed analysis, the main forces annihilated in the battle were supply units, and it is important to clarify what is the strength of these units. According to some scholars from Taiwan, the two Japanese forces only had 283 men, including 86 men in the supply column, 6 staff officers from the depot and 15 soldiers, plus the 176 men of the 矢岛company. This is a key reason why these scholars are adamant that the 8th Route Army did not achieve any important results in this battle.

Now which is more accurate: more than 1000 killed or 200-300 men skilled? Let’s start from the historical records. According to the after action report of the 6th Army Depot, we can see that this force consisted of “7 men from the depot, 15 supply troops, 176 men of the 矢岛company” for a total of 198 men. However, there were also the 中西company which followed the first group, plus one squad of reinforcing infantry as well as some wounded soldiers being transported. It is not hard to see that the Taiwanese scholars have neglected to include the latter contingent. Although the strength of the中西company was not stated in the documents, its establishment was probably similar to that of the矢岛company. Now it is known that the矢岛company consisted of 3 motorized squads, one maintenance squad, one baggage squad and an escort squad for a total of 176 men and 50 vehicles. Thus the中西company with its 30 vehicles should have at least 110 men. With the reinforcing squad of infantry contributing about another 50 troops, this force should number at least 360 men, instead of the less than 200 men claimed by the Taiwanese scholars. As for the supply group of the 21st Regiments with its various supply and baggage groups, there was a total of “about 70 supply trucks, with 15 supply troops, and 70 special purpose troops” in addition to “the 高桥squad of the 神代company as well as some 4-5 troops returning from convalescence acting as guards” So 15 supply troops and 70 special purpose troops gives a total of 85 men, and the 高桥cavalry should have an establishment of 50-60 men, so together with the 4-5 troops returning from convalescence produces an estimate of 120-150 men. Furthermore, besides the supply troops and their escort squads, with so much supply there should be at least an equal number of laborers (Korean or Chinese). Thus the two group together should total 700-800 men (Translator’s note: I thought we are talking about Japanese troops killed here, not some poor Chinese souls working for the other side), and including the battles involving the relief force, it is not hard to have more than 1000 Japanese killed.

However, from the Japanese after action reports, the group moving eastwards toward LingQiu was not totally destroyed. Considering that both company commanders escaped to file detailed reports regarding the ambush and the subsequent breakout, it is probable that part of the force managed to escape from the encirclement. However, the two Japanese after action report did not agree on the losses. The report from the 6th Army Depot Motorized Group stated that “the losses for the battle were as follows: 41 dead and 50 wounded or missing in action.” However, when this report is compared to that of the 3rd Battalion as well as the work by 儿岛襄 who made extensive use of Japanese war-time material, it can be concluded that the above report is probably not complete.

According to the report by the 3rd Battalion, when the regimental commander received news of the ambush at 11 a.m., he immediately sent 4 companies (minus 4 squads) to mount a relief operation. The troops in relief force were riding in trucks when they came under fire at 关沟and forced to dismount and continue their advance. However, since the blocking force of the 8th Route Army was fairly strong, the Japanese relief force found the going very rough and was unable to complete its mission. Its report indicated that it faced off with the enemy until night fell, and even then it had no information on the fate of the ambushed troops. “Not until the 28th, when it was able to enter the battlefield, that it discovered that the motorized column appeared to be ambushed and annihilated, with more than 100 vehicles destroyed, with the wreck of one vehicle every 20 meters. The dead, including Lieutenant 新庄淳and numerous others, and burnt bodies lying in the driving compartment of the vehicles, all made for a horrible sight”. 儿岛襄, in his book on the battle of Pingxingguan, stated that of the 81 vehicles attacked, only 5 escaped. This means that the中西company which followed the矢岛company into the trap also suffered heavy losses. Based on these evidence, the two companies together should have suffered higher losses than indicated in their own reports.

Moreover, one detail has been overlooked in previous studies on the battle, namely, there should be a group of wounded soldiers returning from Ling Qiu after the battle on the 23rd-24th. It is known that the 3rd Battalion alone suffered 22 dead and 80 wounded in battle. Although the lightly wounded men would have been dressed up and stayed in the battle, the more seriously wounded and the dead would have been transported back. Since the report by the Depot troops did not include the losses suffered by the squad which was sent as reinforcement, its report on casualties will naturally be incomplete.

<Translator’s note: skipped a section mainly on description of the battle scene>

Here, we should also analyze and calculate the losses suffered by the relief force sent by the 3rd Battalion on the 25th. According to the records of the 21st Regiment, the relief force consisted of the following troops from the 3rd Battalion: the 9th Company (minus one squad), the 10th Company (minus one squad), the 11th Company (minus 2 squads) and the 12th Company. Note that although these forces conducted a raid in the early hours of the 25th in the direction of Pingxingguan where it incurred minimal losses, the bulk of the forces were immediately recalled and sent to rescue the ambushed troops. The troops left behind were attacked by Kuomintang troops in the evening, but there was no record of a major battle. This can be confirmed by after action reports by the Kuomintang troops.

It can be seen that there is no major action between the 3rd Battalion and the Kuomintang troops, and the losses suffered by the 3rd Battalion would most likely have been inflicted by the 8th Route Army on the relief force. Based on the 3rd Battalion’s report, the 9th Company suffered 6 dead and 21 wounded, the 10th Company 4 dead and 5 wounded, the 11th Company 3 dead and 31 wounded, and the 12th Company 25 dead and 3 wounded, for a total of 98 casualties. Most of these casualties should have been inflicted by the 8th Route Army.

Consolidating the Japanese reports, it can be seen that in this ambush the main Japanese force destroyed was the supply troops from Ling Qiu to Pingxingguan and the cavalry squad which acted as the escort, totaling 120-150 men. The number of men killed in the other force is unknown, but a conservative estimate is that about half of the force was wiped out, i.e. about 200. When the casualties of the 3rd Battalion and the wounded soldiers returning from Ling Qiu are added to the total, the number of Japanese troops killed should be 4-500 men.
This figure was actually confirmed by Zhu De shortly after the battle. At the end of 1937 he stated in one of his works in the battle “they lost 500 men”. <Translator’s note: next part skipped>

Based on the above, it can be confirmed that the viewpoint that states more than 1000, or the other view that less than 200 Japanese were killed are both debatable. Although there is still room for further research, it is closer to the truth to say that the battle resulted in the death of several hundred enemy troops.

<Translator’s note: next section on captured weapons skipped except for the concluding paragraph>

Based on the above, in the entire battle of Pingxingguan, the 115th Division only captured about 100 rifles, 10 light machine guns, 1 gun, 2000 shells and some clothing and food of the Japanese 21st Regiment. At the same time it destroyed about 70 trucks and 70 horse-drawn carts; scores of horses were also killed.

Losses suffered by the 115th Division

As for the casualties of the 115th Division, the estimates tend to increase with time. As of now, there are at least 4-5 different figures. They are listed below in chronological order:
The earliest figure appeared in the after action report sent by Lin Biao and Nie Ronzhen to Zhu De and Peng Dehuai, in which it was stated that “our losses amounted to only 300-400”. The following day, after the troops had left the battlefield, they reported further that “we suffered 300-400 casualties; two regimental commander, 2 battalion commanders were wounded; further investigation still proceeding”. After 10 days. i.e. on 3rd Octobter, 1937, when Zhu De sought citation and rewards for the 115th Division, he stated that “ <translator’s note: list skipped> … We suffered more than 600 casualties, included two deputy regimental commanders and two battalion commanders.” A few years later, in a pamphlet published by the Propaganda Unit of the 8th Route Army titled “The 8th Route Army and the New 4th Army during the War of Resistance against Japan”, it was stated for the first time that the 115th Division suffered almost a thousand casualties. After the recent liberalization, a new view was presented based on memoirs of medical staff in the Field Hospital Unit of the 115th Division in which it was claimed that during the 4-5 days after the battle, the hospital took in 800-900 men, together with over 200 killed in action, and 300-400 lightly wounded who did not need to be hospitalized, for a total of some 1500 casualties. The latest figure appeared in a public interview by Xu Yan in 2005, who claimed that the 8th Route Army lost 800 killed and wounded even though it had the benefit of superior position; most of the casualties were old cadres who had taken part in the Long March.

Which of these views is more accurate? Common sense dictates that the report of the commanding officer, Lin Biao, should be more reliable. The drawback of this is that there is little time to consolidate and tabulate losses due to the lack of time, and it is possible to miss some information. There is no change in the total number of casualties from the first report filed immediately after the battle to the next report filed after the troops were out of the battle; the only difference being that more details regarding losses among the officers at the battalion level were added and also there was an additional note saying that “investigation of further losses proceeding”. This implies that Lin Biao only had the total number of casualties but did not have a detailed list of the names and rank of the dead and the wounded. The accuracy of the report by Lin and Nie can be confirmed by the after action report of the 685th Regiment. In its detailed report, it was stated that the regiment lost 233 in killed and wounded in the fight. Since it is known that this regiment was located closest to the main Japanese forces near Pingxingguan and hence bore the brunt of the fighting in intercepting the Japanese relief force, it was involved in the heaviest fighting of all and hence suffered much greater losses than the other two regiments. It is also known that the 687th Regiment was not involved in the fighting, and even if it had been involved, it could not have taken part until during the afternoon, and was unlikely to have suffered too many casualties. Thus if we believe that 685th Regiment suffered twice as many casualties as the 686th Regiment, and that the 686th Regiment suffered twice as many casualties as the 687th Regiment is a reasonable estimate, then the total number of casualties would not have exceed 400 odd men, and it is impossible to be as high as 800 or even 1000 or 1500. We can get even more support for this figure from the wire sent by Zhu De 10 days after the battle seeking for benefits for the killed and wounded.

Zhu De’s report included description of the battles, captured weapons and losses since the main elements of the 2 divisions under the 8th Route Army entered Shansi. It is difficult to imagine that Zhu De would reduce the number of casualties by more than half when he was seeking benefits for the deceased, given the lack of financial resources at that time. Moreover, any money given need to be mapped to specific individuals and subject to audits, hence it is unlikely that Zhu would exaggerate numbers. Hence the number in this wire should be quite accurate.
<Translator’s note: skipped some details here>

Hence we can say that the majority of the losses in Zhu De’s report of more than 600 casualties should be attributed to the 115th Division at the Battle of Pingxingguan. Of course, other units of the 8th Route Army including the Independent Regiment of the 115th Division also fought with the Japanese during September, and they had also captured enemy weapons and suffered casualties, but the total number for the various battles should be less than 200. Since the Battle of Pingxingguan was the largest battle with the highest casualties, if the 8th Route Army suffered more than 600 casualties, it is reasonable that 400+ casualties were incurred during the Pingxingguan battle, and it is clear that other figures based on memory or propaganda material are not very reliable.

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Postby sjchan » 20 Apr 2007 04:29

Part (III)

On the Victory Reports about the Battle of Pingxingguan

So far, it is clear that the battle reports of the 115th Division e.g. the 685th Regiment’s after action report, as well as the reports filed by Lin Biao during and after the battle, including Zhu and Peng’s report to Jiang Jieshi regarding the battle and the associated request for reward/benefits were all quite close to the facts.

The person who advocated the exaggeration of the battle for propaganda reasons was Mao Zedong. When he received the report from Zhu and Peng in the morning of the 26th, he immediately drafted and dispatched a victory report for propaganda purposes. He also wired Zhu and Peng at around 11 a.m. telling them that “I have sent out a short victory report in the name of the 8th Route Army staff via wired and wireless communications, stating that we have defeated more than 10,000 enemy troops, killing many of them and capturing some; in addition a lot of vehicles and other equipment were captured and were still being counted.” Mao also proposed that “the report of the amount of captured material filed with the Kuomintang should not be exaggerated, but for the general public the number can be increased somewhat: can we say that we have captured more than 1000 Japanese, 80+ trucks, 5 tanks, 3 guns, 3000 shells; please modify and let me know for the sake of uniformity.”

However Zhu and Peng had already dispatched a victory report (based on the version sent to Mao Zedong earlier) to Jiang Jieshi and Yan Xi Shan at Nanjing, indicating that “more than 60 trucks. 3 small motor cars, 1 gun and 2,000 shells were captured … More than 300 enemies were captured; another group of 400-500 and scores of horses were encircled. They refused to disarm and were all killed”. Hence they did not think it is appropriate to enlarge the number of enemies to more than 10,000 and the number of captured to more than 1,000. They then jointly sent a reply that evening saying that “we think it is not necessary to enlarge the victory in our announcement to both the Kuomintang and the general public; it is better to use our original report to Jiang and Yan.” <Translator’s note: even this report was already an exaggerated!>

But it was already impossible to withdraw the victory report issued by Mao. So there were two versions of the victory report with major discrepancies in the content: one was the military report issued by Zhu and Peng, and this was the report received by the Kuomintang. However, the report received by various newspapers and publicized at Yenan was the version sent by Mao. This version stated that “on 25th September, our 8th Route Army fought a major battle with more than 10,000 enemy troops at Pingxingguan in northern Shanxi, our troops fought bravely and defeated the attacking enemies completely, capturing the area to the north of Pingxingguan in the process. The bodies of the dead enemies were everywhere; some enemy troops were captured, along with sizable quantities of motor cars, tanks, guns and other military supplies which were still being counted. The remnants of the enemy force retreated back to Xiao Zhai Cun where they were encircled by our troops.” This was the origin of the claim that more than 10,000 enemy troops were killed. However, considering that in the entire War of Resistance all parties involved, including the Kuomintang, tended to exaggerate in their propaganda, and even many battle reports were based on exaggerations or even falsified, so the occurrence of this particular incident is understandable. The important thing is that with hindsight, we need to be careful in our analysis and research and not be biased.

The Contribution of the Kuomintang Army in the Battle of Pingxingguan

In the Battle of Pingxingguan by the 8th Route Army, one of the most overlooked problems is the contribution by the Kuomintang army. The role of the latter was typically totally neglected or even denigrated in most of the military history or other research work. <Translator’s note: this probably applied primarily to mainland sources> For instance, it has been claimed that when the 685th and 686th Regiments were attacking the Japanese, the Kuomintang forces at Pingxingguan stayed put and simply observed the fight, and when the routed Japanese troops approached their positions, they even retreated without a fight etc. But was that what actually happened?
First of all, according to the current consensus, we can affirm that the Battle of Pingxingguan was simple a part of the Pingxingguan campaign. This means that the 8th Route Army, as a mobile force under the command of the 2nd War Area, acted under the command of the War Area to take coordinated action to attack the enemies’ flank while the Kuomintang army maintained the main line of defense. The troops unexpected discovered the motorized column and supply troops when they entered into their pre-planned positions. Thus, a battle which started out with the intention of encircling and destroying the Japanese forces attacking Pingxingguan quickly changed into an ambush of Japanese supply troops. Although some of the troops still made attacks on the main Japanese force, the focus of battle had now changed into the destruction of the Japanese troops. Nonetheless, this battle was undoubtedly an action designed in conjunction with the main defensive effort of the Kuomintang troops, and it is not possible to have this victory without the command and planning of the 2nd Army and the defensive activities of these troops.

<Translator’s note: skipped the rest of the section on the details of Kuomintang troops’ action, will simply quote the conclusion: “it can be seen that on the day of the battle there was no such thing as the Kuomintang troops purposely avoiding action or even retreating without a battle.”>

Prof. Yang’s article is certainly not the last word on the subject; he is a historian but his specialty is not military history. (There was a very lengthy reply on Prof. Yang’s site by a reader providing an even more detailed description of how the claims of enemy dead evolved: I suppose his interest in the battle is to examine how a relatively minor battle evolved into a major victory, and how the various aspects of the battle have been distorted.

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Postby asiaticus » 20 May 2007 21:14

Thanks for posting this translation sjchan.

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Postby zstar » 02 Jun 2007 12:53


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