Is the Battle of Shanghai a mistake for the KMT?

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Leonard
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Is the Battle of Shanghai a mistake for the KMT?

Post by Leonard » 17 May 2007 17:16

IMO, if KMT had sent the elite units northward to defend Shansi, the Yellow River, and Hwai River Line (as suggested by KMT German advisor), it might have altered the outcome of the war because:

1. The mountainous terrain of Shansi, together with Yellow River (almost impassable in winter when it is half-frozen) provide better defense than the Nanking-Shanghai area.

2. No need to face the onslaught of IJN air force and navy. By concentrating the Chinese air force in Suchow and Honan area, it will be a match of the not so advanced and not so numerous planes of the IJA, especially when the Soviet volunteer group arrives.

3. KMT can contain the growth of CCP in North China. One of the reason they grow so fast in N China is because of the weak presence of Central Army in this area.

4. IJN is not so keen on the war in China, without being provoked in Shanghai, its support of the war will even be less.

5. The outcome of Shanghai threatens the Chinese rear during the battle of Suchow. Taierchwang could have turned into a bigger victory if Japanese were not able to almost surround the 5th War Area.

Chiang Wei-Kuo has prasied the Shanghai Campaign for altering Japanese axis of advance from north-south to east-west. But I think the only reason Japanese has to move upward along Yangtze River (instead of advancing alone the Peiping-Hankow Railroad) is because of the breach of Yellow River Dikes and the subsequent floods.

If the main battle took place in the north, a stalmate is possible. Japanese army might be satisfied (at least for some time) to grasp the 5 northern Chinese porvinces and set up a puppet government there.

What are your opinions on this?

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Post by Jerry Asher » 18 May 2007 02:44

IMO--Jiang had no choice. Political circumstances are important, and indeed are tools. Witness how odd it is for an American Commander in Chief- a President to appoint a Czar for campigns in Iraq and Afganistan. Having said that however, I do fault Jiang for not manning the embronic line Jiangyin--Grand Canal--Tai Lake before his mid November retreat. Once the Japanese had linked up in early september, he could have had both, public symbolism, and a costly campaign for the IJA, According to some reports the Germans agreed however that Hangzhou Bay was not a site for a major amphibious ops.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 18 May 2007 03:46

According to Herbert Bix:
Chiang decided to abandon the north and by shifting the war to the lower Yangtze River region,starting at Shanghai,possibly involve the foreign powers in defense of their citizens living in China's largest and most international city...
No Western intervention did result but I guess Chiang was clutching at straws.

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Post by sjchan » 18 May 2007 05:10

Not fighting a pitched battle in Shanghai will certainly change the course of the war, but not necessarily for the better. There are quite a few things to consider:

(1) As Jerry has indicated, Jiang had little choice. He was already under heavy criticism for his "appeasement" policies, and to abandon Shanghai, Nanjing and his main power base without a good fight might have serious political consequence.

(2) Five years earlier, Chinese troops gave a fairly good account of themselves in another battle in Shanghai. The possibility of an encore was always possible.

(3) The Nationalist Army was never a really coherent army; only a relatively small core of elite troops were unquestionably loyal to Jiang. As the initial stages of the Sino Japanese War in Northern China showed very clearly, the different factions did not cooperate and were quickly routed by the Japanese in many cases. Northern China is not Jiang's power base and he would have to rely on factions that he did not trust.

Compared to open-field battles, the poorly trained and equipped Chinese troops had a better chance in the street fightings of Shanghai. Yes, they were decimated by Japanese aerial and naval power, but at least the Chinese army did not have to manuever. They just had to stand and fight without fearing for their flanks. Retreats, strategic or otherwise, are hard even for the best trained armies.

(4) I think the growth of the CCP was the furthest thing from anyone's mind. It is something that no one could really have anticpated, and in any case North China was not Jiang's power base.

I think a limited battle in Shanghai might be the best that Jiang could manage. His mistakes in my mind were

(1) Dragging on for too long. There were several reasons for this.

He certainly misjudged the possibilities of Western intervation. There were indications in Jiang's diary that indeed he was hoping for help from the Western natioins. Even in late October, when he was contemplating a retreat and there was a chance of extricating part of his forces in reasonable shape, he misinterpreted Roosevelt's "Quarantine Speech" and subsequent internatinoal actions and requested his troops to continue to defend Shanghai.

Jiang also misjudged the reaction of the Japanese. He had thought that by fighting a major battle in Shanghai and causing some kind of stalemate, Japan would be forced to mobilize, leading to internal objections of a full scale war. He thought that the Japanese would not be able to mobilize quickly, and that with superiority in numbers he could prevail or at least drag the whole thing out long enough that the Japanese would think twice. He did managen to keep it going for 3 months, but the Japanese mobilization was much quickly than he thought, and he certainly did not anticipate the Novermber landings.

(2) He had no real plans as to what to do after the Battle of Shanghai, and as subsequent events showed, this had disastrous consequence for the retreat from Shanghai and the Battle of Nanjing

Chiang Wei-Kuo's rationalization of the importance of the battle in changing the axis of the Japanese advance was just Monday quarterbacking. The Japanese simply had not decided on what to do in China at that point.

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Post by Leonard » 18 May 2007 09:08

Jerry, Peter, Sjchan,

Thanks for your response.

>>>(1) As Jerry has indicated, Jiang had little choice. He was already under heavy criticism for his "appeasement" policies, and to abandon Shanghai, Nanjing and his main power base without a good fight might have serious political consequence.

If Chiang had not ordered the attack of Shanghai on Aug 13, would there still be a battle there at all? I think the IJN is also weary of the 1932 battle.

Chiang could have concentrated his elite units northward for a major campaign somewhere in Shansi or Suchow. I remember reading that this was originally his plan after Marco Polo Bridge Incident. From a strategic point of view, Shansi is more defendable than the river plains in Kiangsu.

>>>>. Northern China is not Jiang's power base and he would have to rely on factions that he did not trust.

Since the north is not his power base, it gives him even more reasons to fight there. He could have used the incident to expand his power in the north, just like how he entered Szechwan during the North March.

>>>>He certainly misjudged the possibilities of Western intervation.

Agreed. I think Chiang made a huge gamble in Shanghai, and apparently losing it (all the elite units he had was lost, so he has to rely more on the warlords to fight the war).

The 1 good thing that comes out of this campaign is that he can now claim the moral higher ground (I can't imagine how difficult the decision must have been to appease the Japanese for so long). Other warlords, or any of his opponents, can no longer claim that he is pro-Japan after this battle.

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Post by sjchan » 18 May 2007 14:34

>>If Chiang had not ordered the attack of Shanghai on Aug 13, would there still be a battle there at all? I think the IJN is also weary of the 1932 battle.

The war was not going well for Jiang; he needed a victory. Plans for attacking Shanghai were formulated before hostilities, primarily to deprive the Japanese army of a base to attack Eastern China.

http://www.wehoo.net/book/wlwh/a30012/04678.htm

Jiang had thought that he should be able to handle the small Japanese forces initially in Shanghai using several of his own divisions; he underestimated the ability of Japanese troops to defend a strongly fortified position (particularly since the KMT army lacked heavy artillery).


>>>>. Since the north is not his power base, it gives him even more reasons to fight there. He could have used the incident to expand his power in the north, just like how he entered Szechwan during the North March.

Well, Jiang needed the necessary credentials first. I think he needed to demonstrate he could fight on his own turf before he could do it in someone's sphere of influence. The level of mistrust at this early stage of the war was vividly recorded by Li Zongren, a Guangxi warlord and one of the more able Nationalist generals, in his memoirs. He recalled that when Jiang called for a top level conference for the leaders of the various factions, the warlords of Yunnan and Sichuan warned him not to attend because they feared that it was just a ploy to harm some of Jiang's long standing rivals. Jiang was the undisputed leader because no one could replace him, not because he was trusted at all. It wasn't until later in the war that Jiang's credentials as an anti-Japanese fighter fully established.

>>>>>Chiang could have concentrated his elite units northward for a major campaign somewhere in Shansi or Suchow. I remember reading that this was originally his plan after Marco Polo Bridge Incident. From a strategic point of view, Shansi is more defendable than the river plains in Kiangsu.

Maybe so from a strategic point of view, but I think politically Jiang simply could not afford to loose the richest part of the country and his power base without a fight. Indeed I think a staged fighting withdrawal from Shanghai, then to the prepared defensive works east of Nanjing may be a better proposition than a pitched battle in Shanghai. (This is also the viewpoint of Li Zongren)

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Post by Leonard » 18 May 2007 21:08

>>>Jiang needed the necessary credentials first. I think he needed to demonstrate he could fight on his own turf before he could do it in someone's sphere of influence.

Agree, but wouldn't those northern warlords welcome his help when their own power bases are threatened?

>>>>politically Jiang simply could not afford to loose the richest part of the country and his power base without a fight. Indeed I think a staged fighting withdrawal from Shanghai, then to the prepared defensive works east of Nanjing may be a better proposition than a pitched battle in Shanghai.

Agree with the staged fighting strategy. But if he started with a defensive position, I don't think the Japanese would even consider attacking him there (it was never in their original plan to fight in the south). So there is no question about "losing the richest part of the country and his power base". A victory of the central army in the north can equally boost his credential.

>>>>Compared to open-field battles, the poorly trained and equipped Chinese troops had a better chance in the street fightings of Shanghai. Yes, they were decimated by Japanese aerial and naval power, but at least the Chinese army did not have to manuever. They just had to stand and fight without fearing for their flanks. Retreats, strategic or otherwise, are hard even for the best trained armies.

The even poorer equipped CCP troops put up a good fight in Shansi for many years, so why can't KMT do the same? Besides, it is exactly the confusion in retreat and the flank that Japanese lands that caused KMT the battle in Shanghai.

>>>>I think the growth of the CCP was the furthest thing from anyone's mind. It is something that no one could really have anticpated,

Furtherest from anyone's mind? What about Chiang's policy to stabilize inside first? To Chiang, CCP is always the sickness of the heart. Japan is just the sickness of the skin.


IMO, the book <中国抗日战争正面战场作战记> is bias as the writer has been a long time CCP mole in KMT. Same for Li's Memoir, especially when he talks about Chiang, for obvious reason. Many mainland research about the war have been based on these 2 books, which I don't think is fair. Although I agree with Li's about the mistakes in Shanghai, there could have been a better alternative.

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Post by sjchan » 19 May 2007 03:05

>>Agree, but wouldn't those northern warlords welcome his help when their own power bases are threatened?

I think it really depended on the individual. The reaction of these warlords reallly varied, with some embracing Jiang's stance and others trying to stay 'neutral' (after all these years of infighting between warlords, these folks were really schooled in the art of staying neutral or shifting alliance). Granted the level of patriotic fervour demanded at least some form of anti-Japanese resistance, but this thought of self-preservation nonetheless remained for some of these warlords. For instance, there was the case of the Shandong warlord who was executed by Jiang for not fighting the Japanese in Shandong, his sphere of influence.

>> Agree with the staged fighting strategy. But if he started with a defensive position, I don't think the Japanese would even consider attacking him there (it was never in their original plan to fight in the south). So there is no question about "losing the richest part of the country and his power base". A victory of the central army in the north can equally boost his credential.

I think the attack by the Japanese will be delayed if not provoked by Jiang, but in the context of an all-out war, it is bound to occur at some point, provoked or not, due to the importance of the city and the region. It is true that the Japanese's main effort was initially in the North, but I suspect an attack on Shanghai (by either army) was inevitable. IMO the only way Shanghai would stay out of it is for the Jiang to allow the Japanese to take over Northern China in some way so that all out war is averted, but I do not think this is likely giving the sentiment in China at that time (don't know about the Japanese side).

Sure a victory anywhere will boost his credentials, but doing it in Shanghai, where he thought he could overrun a small Japanese force in front of all the Westerner must have seemed to him as good a bet as any.


>>The even poorer equipped CCP troops put up a good fight in Shansi for many years, so why can't KMT do the same? Besides, it is exactly the confusion in retreat and the flank that Japanese lands that caused KMT the battle in Shanghai.

The CCP troops were good fighters, no doubt about that; they whipped the Nationalist troops repeated before they were finally driven out of their base in Jiangsi.

However they were able to hang around in Shansi because they were not taken very seriously by the Japanese who were focusing on the Nationalist, so they were left alone to do what they did best -- guerilla warfare i.e. until they foolishly launched the Hundred Regiments Offensive, which really ticked off the Japanese and led to brutal and severe reprisals. The CCP home base in the North were decimated by the subsequent operations.

I am not saying that the KMT troops could not fight a good battle in Shansi. They did put up a reasonably good fight there in the initial stage of the war, at least where they had competent generals and the advantage of superior defensive positions.

IMO fighting in Shanghai is not necessarily a bad idea, if it is a limited battle The key problem is that Jiang hang around for too long.

>>Furtherest from anyone's mind? What about Chiang's policy to stabilize inside first? To Chiang, CCP is always the sickness of the heart. Japan is just the sickness of the skin.

Yes, I was exaggerating a bit; the CCP was always in Jiang's mind. Jiang's policy certainly had always been to stabilize the country (i.e.fight the Communist) first before he tackle the Japanese. But once all-out war started, he had no choice but to deal with the more important problem first. But sure, I agree that if he decided to move to Shansi, he could have kept the CCP under a tighter leash. What I am saying is that he was much more preoccupied with handling the Japanese first, in what he thought was a good site for a battle.

>> IMO, the book <中国抗日战争正面战场作战记> is bias as the writer has been a long time CCP mole in KMT. Same for Li's Memoir, especially when he talks about Chiang, for obvious reason. Many mainland research about the war have been based on these 2 books, which I don't think is fair.

Definitely agree, although I would not throw out everything in these books. That's the good thing about this forum, it seems to have less dogmatic / political bias than some other forums, and hopefully we can have relatively bias free discussions :)

>>Although I agree with Li's about the mistakes in Shanghai, there could have been a better alternative.

I think it is an interesting alternative, just that I am not sure it will necessarily work out due to primarily political (not military) considerations. Glad you brought it up though.

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Post by Leonard » 19 May 2007 09:07

>>>>The reaction of these warlords reallly varied, with some embracing Jiang's stance and others trying to stay 'neutral'

Yes, I remember a commander of 29A originally wanted to forbid Central Army's 13th Army from entering Chahar, fearing that it may further provoke the Japanese. Ultimately he gives in. It is just too unpopular to be labelled as appeasing the Japanese at the time.

Han Fu-Chu (warlord of Shantung) has not been in good term with Chinag since he sided with the Young Marshal in Sian Incident. But I don't think he (or any warlord) has the gut to fight the central army if they force march into his province while Japanese is invading on the other side.

>>>IMO the only way Shanghai would stay out of it is for the Jiang to allow the Japanese to take over Northern China in some way so that all out war is averted, but I do not think this is likely giving the sentiment in China at that time (don't know about the Japanese side).

If Chaing had decided to fight in the north, the result will be good for both himself and the Japanese (but not necessarily good for China). Some kind of armistice (just like the Battle of Great Wall) might be reached. Chiang would be seen as a national hero of putting up a good fight in the north (and proof to the rest of China that he had fought, but China simply did not have the might to drive the Japanese out of China), while Japan grab what they want in the north.

Yes, ultimately an all out war is simply ineviatable (a few more months later maybe, the Japanese couldn't stand KMT cooperating with the Soviet but not them). I just think a defensive position in fortified position is a wiser move than to provoke the Japanese in Shanghai area at the start.

Now some historians (esp Japanese) are still arguing whether Japan has incited the China Incident. As we know now, the Chinese fire the first shot, both in Marco Polo Bridge and in Shanghai. I am not defending the Japanese (they are the agressor in any case). But the decision to attack Shanghai gives the Japanese a good excuse to escalate the war.

>>>>Sure a victory anywhere will boost his credentials, but doing it in Shanghai, where he thought he could overrun a small Japanese force in front of all the Westerner must have seemed to him as good a bet as any.

Chiang totally underestimate the air and sea power that Japan had. A 3-dimensional war is something entirely new to him.

>>>>The CCP troops were good fighters, no doubt about that; they whipped the Nationalist troops repeated before they were finally driven out of their base in Jiangsi.

I think it has more to do with their intellegience, organization, and the ignorance of some KMT officers, than to do with CCP being good fighters or not. The Hunderd Regiment Offense, though surprised the Japanese, is ultimatley a defeat for the CCP.


>>>I agree that if he decided to move to Shansi, he could have kept the CCP under a tighter leash.

If Chiang could hold on to even a small part of northern China in the fight with Japan, he could have killed 2 birds with 1 stone.

>>> just that I am not sure it will necessarily work out due to primarily political (not military) considerations

I agree. The First Shanghai Battle makes Chiang over-confident to play the most risky gamble.

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Status of the Jiangyin--Grand Canal--Tai Lake defense line

Post by asiaticus » 19 May 2007 21:51

I do fault Jiang for not manning the embronic line Jiangyin--Grand Canal--Tai Lake before his mid November retreat.
What was the status of this defense line?. I have seen an arial photo of some trenches dug IDed as being part of this system, supposedly designed by German advisors.

This map:
http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/ams/chin ... nh51-1.jpg

... does not show anything of this defense work.

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Post by Peter H » 20 May 2007 00:49

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Shanghai
In 1933, three military zones, Nanjing, Nanjing-Hangzhou, and Nanjing-Shanghai, were established to coordinate defenses in the Yangtze Delta. In 1934, with German assistance, the construction of the so-called "Chinese Hindenburg Line" began, with a series of fortifications to facilitate defense in depth. Two such lines, the Wufu Line (吳福線) between Suzhou and Fushan, and the Xicheng Line (錫澄線) between Wuxi and Jiangyin, were in position to protect the road to Nanjing, in case Shanghai should fall into enemy hands. In spring 1937, just barely months before the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the lines were finally completed. However, the necessary training of personnel to man these positions and coordinate the defense had not yet been completed when the war broke out.

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Post by Leonard » 20 May 2007 17:37

Peter,

Thanks for pinting that out.

Asiaticus,

Those map are for US Army in the 50's, not Chinese Army in 1937.

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Post by asiaticus » 20 May 2007 18:29

Dates of basis for the maps was, 1916, 1942 and 1944-45. That is right in there.


I am wondering if the Japanese demolished them or retained them for their own use?
Last edited by asiaticus on 20 May 2007 18:58, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Leonard » 20 May 2007 18:35

That is "basis" as you said, the US won't print the Maginot Line in a post war map, right?

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Post by asiaticus » 20 May 2007 20:31

Dont know, I would think those French fortresses were big enough and very permanant features that would show up on a map made for wartime. I would guess that these lines were not durable enough or extensive enough to show up on the map. Five years had passed by the time the Japanese made their map, and two more by the time the US did their arial survey. Maybe between the rains and farmers putting the land back into use as rice paddies they disappeared if they were mainly earthworks. However there is mention of Chinese forces being locked out of the defenses. That seems to indicate they had some kind of durable defensive structures that should not be disappearing. Maybe they were too small so show on this size map.

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