pitman wrote:Do any of the accounts of the fighting of Kunlun or Toungoo mention the exploits of any individual soldiers (perhaps one who won a medal) or particular "colorful" incidents during the battles? I'm looking for a couple of interesting details or tidbits to add to the more mundane "this regiment did this, this battalion did that" accounts of the actions.
Most of the accounts written by the higher ranking officers are pretty mundane affair; individual soldiers are seldom named and ‘colorful’ episodes rarely recorded -- not very many front line troops survive these and subsequent battles (including the civil war).
More colorful (or at least more vivid) stories can be found more easily on the Web; authenticity cannot be verified but I include one concerning the fate of some Chinese special assault troops (literally ‘dare-to-die’ squads) used to take out Japanese strong-points. Success or not, no medals. These are for the commanders.
Yuen was a young men barely 15 years old who lived near [Gaofengai], a vital highground near Kunlun Pass. When his village were destroyed by the Japanese when they took Kunlun Pass, he hid in the caves. However he could not stand the fleas there, and eventually was recruited by some troops of the 508th Regiment, 135th D hiding nearby and assigned to do clerical work at the regimental HQ since he has attended high school.
In late December, 1939, the commander of the counteroffensive on Kunlun Pass, General Pai Ch'ung-hsi (former warlord of Kwangsi province where Kunlun Pass is located), personally arrived at the HQ of the 508th Regiment to oversee the attack on [Gaofengai]. He wanted a 100-strong special assault force, and since General Pai enjoyed tremendous prestige among the tropps (the 135th D was a Kwangsi outfit), everyone thought it would be successful and the quota was quickly filled and many more had to be turned away. Each men was given 4 silver yuan (a tidy sum) and a good meal with fish, pork and even good wine, so it was considered a good deal. Yuen watched enviously since the troops rarely had meat to eat.
After the meal, each member of the assault force was given two old pistols and 6 grenades. They were the vanguard for the 3 battalions of the regiment. Yuen was to be the guide for the special assault force and the supporiting 2nd Battalion since he knew the local terrain well.
It was a clear night, and by midnight they have made their way to just below the hill opposite [Gaofengai]. All the 27 light machine guns of the entire battalion were lined up at the ridgeline facing the Japanese positions; they commenced covering fire at 3 a.m. as the special assault force rushed up the ridge. The Japanese had carved out five 1 meter wide square caves about 20 meters apart, with a single rifleman within each cave. It was extremely difficult to get to them, and ultimate took an entire hour to silence them all. Next up were the machine gun positions; they were the key to the defense but despite all effort the Chinese troops could not get through. Dawn came amid a deadly silence: all 100 men of the special assault force were dead. The 2nd Battalion also had more than 200 casualties and the slopes were full of the dead and the wounded. Yuen had gone back to the HQ before the actual fight and wanted to see what the situation was, but the regimental commander told him that the carnage was too much for someone so young to see.
The Japanese next turned their artillery and air strikes on the regiment, which kept retreating until they reached [Wumingjie], which was easily to defend since it was walled. Finding the town too hard to take by frontal assaults; the Japanese called in air strikes which leveled the small town and just about wiped out the entire 2nd Battalion there. General Pai Ch'ung-his ordered the town to be retaken at all cost. By then the regiment was down to about 2 companies but the regimental commander launched the attack anyway. The Japanese, surprised by the counterattack and probably thinking that the Chinese had been reinforced, fell back and the two sides faced off tensely.
Yuen eventually enrolled at the Whampoa Academy and became an officer in the KMT army. Few of the troops he met during the Battle of Kunlun Pass lived to see the end of the war.
This is based on http://war.163.com/07/1127/14/3UAFLU9B00011MSF_2.html
I suppose the 200th D fared a bit better then the poorly equipped Kwangsi troops (it has supporting artillery) but basically this is pretty much the story at Kunlun Pass; costly frontal assaults against strongly entrenched Japanese positions where the Japanese, as usual, fought to the last.
Incidentally, the Chinese has often claimed that Major Gen. Masao Nakamura, commander of the IJA 21st Infantry Brigade, marked in his diary before he died (he was wounded in battle and had the misfortune of a stray mortar shell hitting the roof of the hut where he was being operated) that: his brigade was known as the 'steel' brigade since it has proved to be stronger than the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War, but at Kunlun Pass he has met a foe which is stronger than even the Russians and a match for his troops.
Just wondering if the Japanese experts on this forum can comment on whether this is true or Chinese propaganda?