Chinese 200th Division: descriptions of actions needed!

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pitman
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Post by pitman » 12 Aug 2007 01:35

This is great information. Do any of the sources mention the Japanese employing AFVs at Toungoo against the 200th?

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asiaticus
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Post by asiaticus » 12 Aug 2007 06:02

None of these accounts so far do. I beleive the 55th Division had no armour attached to it. 56th Division did have the 14th Tank Regiment attached to it but I dont think they had made their way up from Rangoon to the Toungoo area during the battle, only some of its leading divisional infantry elements.


The only Armour seems to have been armoured cars with the Chinese cavalry. I wonder if those were Russian or German AC's.
Id like to know the organiztion of this motorized cavalry regiment.

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Post by sjchan » 12 Aug 2007 10:23

Yuan zheng Yin Mian kang zhan, Battles of the Expeditionary Force in India and Burma, a collection of memoirs and first hand accounts by KMT officers -- this is published by 中国文史出版社, which published a series of about 12 books containing such first hand accounts. They have been republished recently, I think, under different titles.

Here's some further information from another detailed account of the battle, from
Zhongguo yuan zheng jun zhan shi (A History of the Chinese Expeditionary Army) by Xu Kangming, published in 1995, pp. 87-105.

On Toungoo:

Toungoo city itself was divided into the old and new town, with the new town to the east of the railway and the old town to the west. The old town has a city wall which provided a natural defensive position for the Chinese. The land around Toungoo was flat and featureless, except for the Sittang River to the east.

On the ambush at Pyu River and the subsequent battle of Oktwin:

The Chinese blew up the bridge while the Japanese were crossing and then attacked the troops on the southern bank sending them retreating after an hour long battle. The following the Japanese were back in force, and wiser after the drubbing the previous day. Chinese positions were probed and then air and artillery attacks called in. After repulsing more than 10 attacks in two days, the Chinese retreated to Oktwin, where they have set up carefully concealed positions and bunkers. The Japanese attacked in force on March 22, and at the height of the battle several hundred Japanese were trapped within the village whereupon the Chinese set fire to the bushes and virtually annihilated the Japanese soldiers who tried to escape. Japanese reports conceded that they met strong resistance at Oktwin and over-confidence cost them dearly. On March 23, with the aid of guns, tanks and armored cars plus air support, the Japanese attacked again. The Chinese responded with clustered grenades and destroyed a number of Japanese vehicles. During the evening, the Japanese finally penetrated Chinese positions. On March 24, due to the success achieved by the Japanese in capturing the airfield, the 200th D pulled back its defensive positions back to Toungoo itself. By this time it had suffered 700-800 casualties.

On the fighting within Toungoo on March 26:

After the Japanese captured the western part of the city, both sides faced each other across the railway at a distance of less than 100 m., making life difficult for Japanese air and artillery support. Eventually the Japanese withdrew some 200 m. to allow their planes and guns to go to work. The Chinese hid in their camouflaged positions and held their fire until the Japanese were within 40-50 m. and then hit them with machine gun and grenades. This happened repeatedly and by the end of the day the 200th D had suffered almost a thousand casualties, but the Japanese also suffered heavily and were hard pressed to continue these frontal attacks. The Japanese also had to send a blocking force to stop the New 22nd D from reaching Toungoo.

On the retreat:

The Chinese moved along the eastern bank of the Sittang River to an assembly position about 6 km east of Yadahe. The 200th D. suffered a total of almost 2500 casualties in the entire battle.

As indicated in my previous post, a major reason why the 200th D was able to retreat sucessfully was that the Japanese had to divert some of their forces to deal with the New 22nd D's relief force.

I am getting my hands on a partial Chinese translation of the Japanese account in Senshi Sosho so hopefully I will get the viewpoint from the other side as well.

Chinese accounts claimed that the Japanese employed AFVs in many of the attacks by the 55th Divison, but I am a bit wary of these accounts because the Chinese frequently claimed the presence of Japanese armored units which did not exist (at least based on the the Japanese OOB) -- and not just at Toungoo. Can't comment until I get the Japanese view or some Japanese experts provide additional information.

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Post by pitman » 12 Aug 2007 18:05

It is interesting that the city wall has survived intact. The moat around it is said to be mostly dry--I presume that was the case in 1942, too, but I don't know that for a fact.

Irritatingly, Google Maps has higher resolution photos of the area immediately north of the old city, but only a lower resolution photo of the city wall area itself.
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Post by sjchan » 13 Aug 2007 17:02

This is the Japanese version of the Battle of Toungoo, abstracted from a Chinese translation of Senshi Sosho commissioned by the Ministry of Defense in Taiwan in 1997. This is the first installment.

The (Japanese) 55th Division left Daiku on March 14, with the Cavalry Regiment on the right thrusting north along the eastern bank of the Sittang River and the 143rd Regiment (minus one battalion) moving along the main road, bolstered by the supply of some 30 trucks at Daiku.

On March 18, about 600 troops along the northern bank of River Kan were attacked and defeated in night attacks.

On March 20, the 143rd Regiment attacked about 500 Chinese troops with AFV at 良賓沙, and defeating them at 0500 on March 21. The 598th Regiment of the 200th Chinese Division put up a strong fight and more then 200 were killed before they retreated. Maps regarding Chinese positions were obtained from dead Chinese officers.

On March 21, the same regiment routed more Chinese troops with armoured support in the vincity of Kywebwe(?).

On March22, the 112th Regiment attacked Oktwin, where there were about 1000 Chinese troops with mortars and field guns as well as cleverly camouflaged positions. The battle was vicious and breakthrough was difficult. After much fighting, Oktwin was captured at 2100 on March 24. This is the first strongly fortified position encountered since the division moved out, and the troops were over-confident resulting in the initial attacks being repulsed; there were a number of cases where the enemy positions were erroneously thought to have been captured, leading to much confusion and hard fighting. Meanwhile, the 143rd Regiment circled around the west and captured the airfield north of Toungoo at 1400 on March 24, defeating about 300 men even though they had artillery and machine gun support.

Toungoo itself was defended by about 3000 Chinese troops with many mortars. The city walls had a height of 20 m and a thickness of 12 m, and a width of some 300 m at the front. The 112th Regiment attacked on the right with the 143rd Regiment on the left, while the Cavalry Regiment plus a company of infantry attacked along the western bank of the Sittang River.

The 112th Regiment attacked on March 26 and took the south-western corner of Toungoo but was unable to make any further progress due to heavy resistance. On the left, a flanking move to attack the north-western part of Toungoo was no more successful. The Cavalry Regiment’s attack was also repulsed. The Chinese launched counterattacks against the 112th and Cavalry Regiments with about 300 troops in each sector. These were repulsed, but losses were heavy and offensive strength dropped. To make matters worse, the 2nd Battalion of the 143rd Regiment was sent north to Yedashe to block any Chinese threats from the north, greatly reducing its attacking strength. The third regiment of the division, the 144th Regiment, as well as a battalion of artillery as well as a company of cavalry were not with the main body of the division in the Battle of Toungoo, so that the division really did not have sufficient manpower. The attack totally bogged down as a result.

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Post by sjchan » 14 Aug 2007 06:12

It was then decided to wait for the 3rd Field Artillery Regiment with its 15 cm howitzers to arrive to attack the Chinese positions again on March 28, which will be supported by air attacks. However, the 6 light bombers did not arrive until 1500 due to heavy fog at the airfields, and while the right wing of the attack managed to destroy many Chinese strongpoints with artillery support, overall it was not possible to overcome stubborn resistance from the in-depth positions of the Chinese even though the fighting lasted into the evening.

Meanwhile, the Reconnaissance Regiment of the 56th Division, consisting of two motorized infantry company and a machine gun company, a field artillery company and a platoon of engineers, was moving rapidly north. A column of troops in 45 trucks, with a company of 6 armoured cars and a total of some 404 men, made rapid progress along the main road to Toungoo and reached divisional HQ of the 55th Division by noon on March 28. It was decided to move this force east of the Sittang River to attack the rear of the Chinese positions, which it did during the evening of the same day by fording the Sittang, whose water was only breast high.

Covered by the intense fight to the west, this force moved north and attacked the divisional HQ of the 200th Division. By 2200 on March 29, this force had closed in on the bridge over the Sittang River. It had suffered 13 killed and some 24 wounded in this operation, mostly among the infantry.

On March 29, the 55th Division used its last ounce of strength to attack. The city was on fire and fighting continued into the dark. Although the attacks were supported by all available guns, the Chinese continued to resist stubbornly and no progress was made. However, by noon, the troops on the left were able to advance into the north western part of the city, and the escape route of the Chinese was threatened. There were signs of wavering in the Chinese forces by nightfall.

On March 30, the force on the eastern bank of the Sittang River near the Toungoo Bridge made a frontal attack and broke through, advancing into the city at 0700.

The 55th Divison pressed home their attacks all along the front. But resistance was still heavy. After the engineers managed to blow up Chinese positions and strongpoints at 0850, the troops finally broke through and linked up with the troops of the 56th Division which had penetrated the city from the east. Thus ended the Battle of Toungoo, which lasted for four days starting from March 26.

The Chinese force fought with high morale and much tenacity. In particular, even in its withdrawal the rearguard units fought and held their positions until the last moment. It is certainly a foe worthy of respect, and even the Commander of the 15th Army praised its courage. He also noted the excellent elan shown by the 56th Division, and that it had done well in contributing to the defeat of the 200th Division, one of the best Chinese divisions. The courage of the Divisional Chief of Staff, who directed the battle at the front and was able to spot weaknesses in the Chinese positions, was also noted. In contrast, the performance of the 55th Division, particularly its leadership, was criticized. The commander of the 112th Regiment was replaced in the middle of the battle and sent to a hospital in Rangoon (his nerves was failing him). Moreover, the divisional chief of staff was also sacked by the divisional commander after repeated clashes between them.

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Post by major grubert » 14 Aug 2007 06:53

Do any of the sources mention the Japanese employing AFVs at Toungoo against the 200th?
From Burma 1942: The Japanese Invasion

"Wasting no time, its [56 Division's] motorised Reconnaissance Regiment drove up towards Toungoo on the 27th. This unit had been reinforced to make a powerful battalion group with six armoured cars, a company of mountain guns, an MMG company, an engineer platoon and a truck company. Leaving their trucks behind, they crossed at Wagyi to the east bank of the Sittang that night. On the 28th they attacked the Chinese flank guard east of the river and by midday on the 29th had overrun it. They then seized the vital bridge over the Sittang before it could be destroyed and at 7am on the 30th attacked Toungoo from the east."

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Post by pitman » 14 Aug 2007 15:25

That is a great account from the Japanese perspective! Thanks for posting it.

I'm a little confused about the walls being 300m, since from the photo above (and scale next to it) that doesn't seem to be true. Perhaps the Google maps scale is incorrect?

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Post by sjchan » 14 Aug 2007 15:39

The meaning of the Chinese text is not very clear. It says literally "the front is 300m", so once again someone who has access to the Japanese original is welcome to clarify things.

The Chinese and Japanese views generally match, though we have the usual problems (e.g. inflated casualties figures for the opponents). Speaking of casualties, I hope I did not misread the text, but apparently the entire Japanese 15th Army suffered a total of only 2431 casualties in the conquest of Burma. Can this be right? 703 (almost 30%) were attributed to the 55th Division. But the figures are very strange: 626 killed and only 29 wounded (and 47 ‘others’? presumably missing in action). Can’t be right, I assume it is a problem in the translation from Japanese into Chinese. I would love to hear from someone who has access to Senshi Sosho (not the translations).
Last edited by sjchan on 14 Aug 2007 17:15, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by major grubert » 14 Aug 2007 16:50

The total of 2431 seems correct.

From Burma 1942: The Japanese Invasion (Ian Lyall Grant & Kazuo Tamayama):
The numbers of dead then recorded, and the figures may be taken as accurate, were:
18 Division: 123
33 Division: 730
55 Division: 702
56 Division: 286
Other Units: 590
Total: 2431 (161 were officers)
sjchan, I don't suppose you'd happen to have access to Chinese accounts of the fall of Lashio and the retaking of Taunggyi?

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Post by sjchan » 14 Aug 2007 17:13

Well, on reading the translated text more carefully, it does state the table was for number of dead. The confusion occurs in that there is a breakdown for dead, 'wounded' and others in the Chinese translation. I suspect the number for 'wounded' could perhaps be for those who died because of sickness or something? I suppose that's the problem with a translated text, particularly for such a huge amount of information, some ambiguity or downright mistranslation are unavoidable (this volume on the conquest of Burma alone is almost a thousand pages).

Burma was one of the most well documented the campaign in Chinese so yes, there is a wealth of literature available.

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Post by sjchan » 16 Aug 2007 06:26

One last piece of information regarding the battle; here is a map from the Chinese translation of Senshi Sosho.
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Post by asiaticus » 16 Aug 2007 08:51

Thanks for the Japanese translation and map of the Toungoo fighting. This is really helpful.

Any idea what 200th Div. troops were protecting the Divisional Headquarters and the bridge on the east bank?


It seems the 200th Division was involved in the later Battle of Pyinmana April 17-20, 1942,
Battle of Hopong - Taunggyi April 20-24, 1942 , and Battle of Hsipaw-Mogok Highway May 23, 1942

Looking at the Topo maps to the east and noth of Toungoo it is really rough country that the Japanese made their way thru to defeat the 6th Corps and outflink the Chinese 5th Corps defenses north of Toungoo that held out during April. Once Toungoo fell the road was open to the east that allowed the Japanese to make this flanking move. It seems the New 22nd Divison kept the Japanese tied up in the narrow river valley to the north for the better part of April.

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Post by sjchan » 16 Aug 2007 13:43

The Chinese forces east of the Sittang were described in a previous post.
sjchan wrote: The Japanese made use of the cover offered by the jungle and wooded area towards the west of Toungoo to make a surprise attack on the airfield and railway station during the morning of March 24. The Chinese contracted their defensive positions as follows: the 598th Regiment defended northern part of the Toungoo defense, the 599th Regiment held the high ground to the south of Toungoo, and portions of the replacement regiment of the division which arrived on March 23 were posted on the eastern bank of the Sittang River, where they were to extend the positions northward to cover the remaining lifeline of the division (which was encircled on three sides by now) as well as the divisional HQ. At around 8 p.m. on March 28, the Japanese sent a column of mixed mobile troops on a flanking movement and attacked the divisional HQ. If successful, the entire 200th Division will be encircled. The divisional commander personally organized the defence; the 3rd Battalion of the 598th Regiment was also ordered to attack the exposed left flank of the Japanese. A vicious fight continued within the city of Toungoo as well as around the divisional HQ, but by and large the Chinese were able to hold their ground.
I do not think the New 22nd D did that much to delay the Japanese, which made good progress. Most of the Chinese divisions (including the N 22 D) were strung out all over the place due to constant bickering between Stilwell, Alexander and Jiang Jieshi and only the New 38th D gave the Japanese much trouble in another battle. It was a sad story all around. The 200th D was indeed involved in a number of other actions, but that's for another day.

Incidentally, the map shows clearly where the Reconnaissance Regiment of the 56th Division ford the Sittang, it also indicates that it left its vehicles behind.

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Post by pitman » 16 Aug 2007 21:15

Is the northernmost position on that map the airfield?

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