A glance at the map shows that between the territories conquered by Japan in North and Central China, lies a corridor about 190 miles wide, separating the Northern and Southern armies, which is still held by the Chinese. Its nerve center is Suchow, railway junction of lines running from north to south and from east to west. With the corridor removed, the Japanese would be able to resume rail service between conquered Peiping, Nanking and Shanghai.
They would also be in a good position to thrust westward, along the Lunghai railway, into the heart of China. Conquest of the Lunghai corridor would complete the occupation of the five northern provinces and give Japan full command of the Chinese seacoast as far south as Shanghai.
The campaign started as a concentrated drive against Suchow from north and south. Suddenly dropping Suchow as their main objective, the Japanese armies split into several columns and began to move on points between that rail junction and Chenghow, another rail junction two hundred miles west. Capture of Suchow alone wouId have left the Chinese a line of retreat westward, so the purpose of these Japanese maneuvers is to cut off Chiang Kai-Shek’s best troops from their source of supplies at Hankow. Reports indicate that the Japanese drive is spreading still farther to the west and is now aimed at the great bend of the Yellow River, where the Provinces of Shansi, Shensi and Honan are joined, Tungkwan, vital station on the Lunghai railway, gateway to S!]ansi ancl stronghold of the bitterly anti-Japanese Chinese Communists also lies directly south of the bend.
Judging from these maneuvers, it appears that the Japanese strategical plan now aims at crushing the Chinese armies in a vise-like movement from the north and south.
The immediate Japanese objective seems to be to effect a union of their northern and southern armies at Kweiten, cut off railroad communications and force the Chinese to retreat inland.
Japanese forces, moving down from Suchow and up from the Yangtze valley have been hammering for weeks against this corridor. It is reported that they are opposed by about 400.000 Chinese troops, commanded personally by Chiang Kai-Shek.
Of the many .Japanese thrusts seeking to cut the Lunghai railway, backbone of the Chinese military position, the one in Shansi Province alone (northwest of Suehow) has been making real progress. They have succeeded in capturing Sinsiang and Fengku, ten miles north of the Yellow River and only sixteen miles from Kaifeng, capital of Honan Province. A Japanese attempt to cross the Yellow River is to be expected very soon.
Below Suchow, Japanese troops which captured Nanking, after a brief period of rest, resumed the march north in two main lines: The eastern column along the Grand Canal and the western column along the Tientsin-Pukow railroad. Bad weather and stubborn resistance slowed up the advance, but the Japanese have succeeded in capturing Pengpn. However, Chinese engineers blew up dikes and levees along the Hwai (misty) River and the flood bogged down the ,Japanese columns advancing northward from Nanking toward Suchow, leaving still a gap of over 150 miles between the Pengpu column and the Japanese in Southern Shantung. (Figure 1.) In Gentral Anhwei Province, Chinese and Japanese are deadlocked in a series of bitter engagements with Japanese unable to make an appreciable advance north of the Hwai’ River.
Japanese columns have captured Wuhu, up the Yangtze from Nanking, but have been unable to advance because Chinese guerrilla bands have harassed them continually.
Guerrillas have been active in the entire Hangchow—Nanking—Shanghai triangle, holding up supply shipments and forcing Japanese to use part of their forces to garrison communication lines.
Recall of three of the highest Japanese commanders was announced 23 February following reports of a sharp Japanese setback in the front north of Nanking. General Shunroku Hata, inspector of military education in Japan has stepped into the shoes of General Iwane Matsui as commander-in-chief of the Japanese forces in the Shanghai-Nanking area, and faces the task of reorganizing Japanese Central China forces to provide fresh impetus for drives
against the vital I,unghai corridor. General Matsui was reculled, according to reports- because of the success of Chinese counterattacks in the Hwai River area, breaches of discipline in the Japanese Army and friction with other nations; The other two high officers ordered back to Tokyo were: Lieutenant General Prince Yashuhiko Asaka, commander of Japanese expeditionary forces and Lieutenant General Heisuke Yanagawa, commander of the Hangchow landing force.
Source: The Sino-Japanese War. Military Review, march 1938.