Chinese 200th Division: descriptions of actions needed!

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asiaticus
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Post by asiaticus » 02 Sep 2007 10:36

Well the 200th D was not purusing anyone after the fall of Lashio, it's just a matter of retreating and getting home.


What I mean to say is that the allies seem to have been thinking the 200th Division attack on Taunggyi and the advance as far as Hopong and Loliem would cut the Japanese 56th Division's line of communication ( from Toungoo to Loikaw, Hopong, Loilem and on toward Lashio) cutting it off.

But the fall of Lashio on April 29th, revealed that it was they that were cut off, the Japanese apparently being prepared to be out of communications for a time in order to take Lashio and threaten Mandalay from the rear. With no effective counterattack that could clear the 56th Division from Lashio being in prospect and the Japanese closing in on Mandalay which fell on April 31 the allies were retreating from Burma. Cut off from retreat back down the road to Thazi and to Mandalay the 200th Division had to find way another way to withdraw with the Japanese north of them at Mandalaly and Lashio.

I wonder why the 200th Division did not move north and east to the Salween and Yunnan instead of moving north and west into the teeth of the Japanese between Mandalay and Lashio.

I made a mistake in translating the second river they crossed, it was not the Salween (not possible, it was too far to the east). It is actually the Shweli Rirver.


Ok that makes a bit more sense. Still what a long difficult way to get home! I dont think they could have found a longer route if they tried!

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Post by sjchan » 02 Sep 2007 13:49

Still what a long difficult way to get home! I dont think they could have found a longer route if they tried!


Well there is, as usual, a little story regarding the decision to retreat to the north rather than to the east, which would have been shorter and easier. And not surprisingly, it has to do with the complex web of factions and cliques that was common in the Chinese army (or should I say the entire Chinese society).

The shortest path was to the east (the path taken by the 6th Corps). However the 200th D did not want to join the 6th Corps, and instead opted to try to catch up with the bulk of the 5th Corps which were then way to the north. However when that did not work out they decided to return to China instead of going to India. Hence the path they took.

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Post by sjchan » 08 Sep 2007 14:44

asiaticus wrote:Thanks for the info on the Japanese moves on Pyinmana and Loikaw. I was wondering how that worked. Got to get that book.


Finally found a copy of Burma 1942 : The Japanese Invasion By Ian Grant in a local library. It had about two pages on the Japanese advance in the Shan States. It did have a color(!) map on that part of the campaign.

In general it is a fairly objective book, and its subtitle "Both sides tell the Story of a Savage Jungle War" summarizes its main strength; it has a Japanese second author and makes extensive use of Japanese sources. The same subtitle also reveals its limitations, as the Chinese side of the story is not really considered and the standard sources in English are used. For instance on p. 347 it was stated that "the figures for Chinese losses are not available and it is doubtful whether any such records were kept". Well, Chinese casualties estimates are widely available in Chinese works. For instance, one tabulation for the losses of the 5th Corps alone is as follows:

Forces directly attached to the 5th Corps 150000 1300 3700 10000
200th D 9000 1800 3200 4000
New 22nd D 9000 2000 4000 3000
96th D 9000 2200 3800 3000
Total 42000 7300 14700 20000

The first number is the initial strength, the second number is the number of combat casualties, the third number is the losses incurred during the retreat (mostly not due to enemy action), and the fourth number those who made it back. Note this is for the 5th Corps only, and the number already exceeds that of the total official British casualty figures in the campaign. The Chinese had paid dearly for their effort in Burma, and the 5th Corps was one of their best.

I am no expert of the Burma campaign, yet as I compare the viewpoints of the different sides the discrepancy is readily apparent.

For instance Stilwell's decsion to send the 200th D to Kyaupadaung was termed a 'bold' decision in this book; but to the Chinese it was a grave mistake as it showed that Stillwell (and Alexander) did not realize the impending disaster on the Chinese left flank. The 6th Corps defending the Shan states was not even close to the 5th Corps in terms of quality, and moving the 200th D to the wrong place is to me hardly the right move. Of course, the Chinese committed enough blunders themselves -- one of the most important one is the failure to blow up the bridge over the Sittang mentioned in many Western accounts (but not in the Chinese accounts). But dismissing the Chinese effort entirely (often with contempt) is not always fair.

To Grant's credit he included on p. 328 of Burma: 1942 the report "Lessons Learnt from the Burma Operation" published by the HQ 15th (Japanese) Army. The Japanese did not seem to such lopsided views of the Chinese:

"The British forces were superior in weapons, tanks, artillery and vehichles but their fighting spirit was inferior. They did not carry out aggressive actions and were lazy in digging trenches and positions. They were excellent at concentrating artillery, mortar and machine gun fire on the front line but were not good at jungle fighting. Commanders did not control their units well and coordination between units were poor. However they were persistent, and British officers believed in the superiority of the British Empire and were convinced of the final victory of Britain.

The Chinese forces in Burma showed remarkable fighting strength in the early stages, notably at Toungoo and Pyinmana which were comparable to the battles at Shanghai. Cooperation between the Chinese and British was loose"

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Post by asiaticus » 08 Sep 2007 22:39

Forces directly attached to the 5th Corps 150000 1300 3700 10000


I think that first number is 15000. Typo no doubt.

These figures reeally tell the story. Interesting that the 200th Division had the fewest battlefeild casualites of the 3 divisions, I would guess the 5th Corps attached unit combat losses were mostly from that cavarly and engineer unit in the Toungoo fighting. If so they werent kidding about the cavarly getting mauled in the skirmishing between the Kan River and Oktwin. It would seem the engineers that were in acton vs the 56th Division recon Regiment were roughly handled too. Possibly one reason why they werent able to blow the bridge over the Sittang.

BTW what source did these figures come from?

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Post by sjchan » 09 Sep 2007 16:11

Tie Xue Yuan Zheng : zhong guo yuan zheng jun yin mian kang zhan (History of the the Chinese Expeditionary Army in Indo-Burma) by Tian Yuan, published in 1994 by the Guangxi Teachers University Press, p. 118.

Incidentally, according to the same source casualties (mostly dead /missing) for the two divisions of the 66th Corps totalled 7000+ out of the original strength 10000+, with probably only 3000 combat related. The rest were the result of the retreat over the horrible terrain.

As usual, these are estimates only, and I noted even contradictions within that particular book, not to mention other sources. But they should give some idea of the magnitude of Chinese losses.

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Post by asiaticus » 10 Sep 2007 21:29

Thanks for the source on that. One more for the list to look for.

Interesting about the 66th Corps casualties. Did the remaining 6th Corps that was pushed out of Loikaw suffer that badly too?

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Post by sjchan » 15 Sep 2007 07:35

Forgot to add that the casualties of the 66th Corps in the previous post are for the New 28th and New 29th D. These were very low quality divisions. The New 38th D, which distinguished itself in the battles in Burma, chose to retreat to India and became the nucleus of the Chinese force that were to help retake Burma under Stillwell. That story is well documented. The N 38th D did not suffer as badly as the others, as it maintained its cohesion and discipline even though it fought a number of tough battles with the Japanese during its retreat.

The 6th Corps retreated early and fast, and yet it still could muster little more than 6000 men when its survivors regrouped in China. Its commander was relieved of command due to his poor performance.

Overall, the Chinese lost more than half of the 100,000 men which started the campaign, and many who escaped were support troops which as usual were able to retreat the fastest. There were reports that many of the senior supply officers made a lot of money off the huge amount of material they moved back to China. Most of the military supplies stockpiled went up in flames so that the Japanese could not get them, this probably is was as scostly to the Chinese war effort, if not more so, than the 50,000+ casualties incurred.

Incidentally there is another version of the 96th division casualties: it started the battle of Pyinmana with 9863 men and lost 4081 killed and wounded in that battle, with 453 missing. 1500+ died during the long retreat, leaving 3000+ weary survivors.

Most of these figures taken from the recollections of various commanders in 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

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Post by asiaticus » 16 Sep 2007 19:33

Thanks for the reply. That operation against Lashio from Toungoo by the Japanese really seems to have been the critical move in the campaign. What catastrophic consequenses for the Chinese in particular and the allies in general.

One wonders what would have happened if the British had supported the Chinese better at Toungoo when their ally had made such a determined defence and gave the allies a chance to make an effective counterattack with the New 22nd Division and possibly some British forces. Given what one Chinese regiment supported by a company of British tanks and an artillery battery did in the counterattack at the battle of Yenangyaung the mind boggles at the possibilites of an adaquately supported Chinese Divison doing the same thing against a much weaker Japanese force.

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Post by sjchan » 18 Sep 2007 15:50

asiaticus wrote:One wonders what would have happened if the British had supported the Chinese better at Toungoo when their ally had made such a determined defence and gave the allies a chance to make an effective counterattack with the New 22nd Division and possibly some British forces. Given what one Chinese regiment supported by a company of British tanks and an artillery battery did in the counterattack at the battle of Yenangyaung the mind boggles at the possibilites of an adaquately supported Chinese Divison doing the same thing against a much weaker Japanese force.


Not sure which is the Japanese force you characterized as weak.

The 55th D had been joined by the Japanese 18th D (which arrived at Toungoo around April 16). The 56th D had started its flanking move by April 1 and all troops were on the road a few days later, so there is a small window of time during which the 55th D stood alone. But Chinese forces were usually much better in defensive than in offensive actions, and without suitable terrain the 3 divisions of the 5th Corps might not be strong enough to handle the 55th D. That was why they planned on a fighting withdrawal back to Pyinmana where the terrain was deemed more suitable and the new 22 D and the 96th D were both in prepared positions. Unfortunately the Japanese did not oblige, the 200th D was sent to the wrong place, and when the 18th Japanese D joined the fray the Chinese were outgunned (though not necessarily outnumbered - a rough rule of thumb is that one Chinese Corps can only take on a single Japanese division).

The 96th D which was not as highly rated a division as the 200th D actually put up a stiff fight in the battles around Pyinmana, considering that it was handling elements of two Japanese divisions. But it suffered heavily, losing half its strength.

Incidentally, the battle of Yenangyaung has traditionally been hailed as a big victory by the Chinese. However, the opinion of the Japanese based on Senshi Sosho is much more subdued, the contribution of the New 38th D was just mentioned in passing. The British seemed more impressed (not with the timing, which was to them very late, but with the spirit with which it was conducted). Interestingly, the contribution of British armour and artillery in the battle was not mentioned in all the Chinese accounts I have seen.

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Post by asiaticus » 19 Sep 2007 04:16

I was thinking of the period of conflict when the 200th was holding out against the 55th Division at Toungoo and the New 22nd Division was at Yedashe. A counterattack at this time into the flank and rear of the Japanese might have been devastating, especially if the British had scraped together some artillery and some tanks to support it as was done at Yenangyaung. The 55th Division at this time had been worn down a bit with the fighting around Toungoo and was missing one of its three Infantry Regiments to begin with and was more like a strong Mixed Brigade than a Division. However getting the British and Chinese to cooperate seems to have been a problem.

After reading this 7th Armoured Brigade sites account
http://www.desertrat.brigades.btinterne ... AB1942.htm

I think the reason cooperation went so well at Yenangyaung was that Sun Li-jen was able to communicate easily with the English due to his years of education in the USA and military training there, plus he seems to have been a pretty exceptional officer on top of that. From the account it sounds like the British commander Anstice worked well with Sun too, making cooperation go pretty smoothly between their two forces. That seems to have been an exception to the usual state of cooperation between the two armies.

I think Yenangyaung was big only in that it was one of the few bright spots in this disaster of a campaign for the allies. It probably kept that disaster from becoming a catastrophe. If the 33rd Division had not been stopped from cutting off the Burma Division I doubt the British would have been able to extract themselves from Burma as well as they did. Mandalay might have become another Singapore.

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Post by sjchan » 22 Sep 2007 17:27

Ian Lyall Grant indicated in "Burma 1942" that the failure of the Chinese to blow the bridge over the Sittang River at Toungoo was a major blunder; but some Chinese sources claimed the bridge was blown. My reading of the Chinese translation of Senshi Sosho does not provide conclusive evidence either way. Anyone has other information on this?

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Post by asiaticus » 22 Sep 2007 20:25

Your accout of the battle above indicated the bridge was pretty battered by Japanese shelling in that vehicles could not get across. It would need repair at the least. It seems troops could get across without a bridge when the 56th Division detachment got across to attack the eastern bank and later when the Chinese pulled out of the city. I beleive it was the dry season and the rivers were pretty low at the time.

I would bet that even if the bridge was blown the Japanese could have ferried over what they needed. Though I am pretty sure their Engineers could have built a pontoon bridge pretty quickly if needed.

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Burma 1942 on 200th Divsion at Toungoo and later.

Post by asiaticus » 13 Oct 2007 06:45

I finally got my own copy of Burma 1942 by Grant and Tamayama.

Went to the section on Toungoo and found it mentions several items of interest to our previous discussions.

The location of their first covering position south of Oktwin that the Japanese attacked on the night of the 20/21st as Nyaungchidauk 20 mi. south of Toungoo. Not much more detail on that. Maybe that location was the flank of their line that held the bridges to the west and the Japanese did a night attack on that position. However this does not match up with the account earlier on this thread that has this fighting on the 18th/19th.

Discribes General Dai's defenses at Toungoo in more detail. He made positions for all around defense with bunkers and and trenches linking them up. Buildings were torn down to clear feilds of fire.

The brick fortress wall around the city was a real impediment to the Japanese attack on Toungoo. The Japanese engineers had to blow a hole in the southern wall on the 30th to advance there.

The Sittang Bridge at Toungoo WAS fully prepared by Burma Division sappers to be destroyed when the Chinese took over the defense of the area. The rapid onslaught of Japanese 56th Divison recon forces seized it before it could be blown. Somehow the Chinese slipped up here or maybe the preparations failed somehow, (German demolition failures at Nimegan and Remagan come to mind).

After Toungoo, the 143rd Regiment supported by medium artillery captured Yedashe on April 7. After a series of rearguard actions the 55th Division reached Thawatti on April 15th. Advancing again on the 16th they encountered 2 Chinese rearguards (96th Division?) and entered Pyinmanna against "slight opposition" on the 19th.

The newly arrived 18th Division now took over the advance. They came on two strong Chinese positions: Kyidaunggan, a village 10mi north of Pyinmanna on the railroad and Position 642 an elevation 4miles NE of Pyinmanna, apparently overlooking the road north. Position 642 was taken by 55th Regt and a battlaion of 114th Regiment after they surrounded it on the afternoon of the 20th. At Kyidaunggan the Chinese held the 56th Regiment until the night of the 21st when the Japanese regiment changed in with the bayonet and took the town killing 40 Chinese. The Japanese commander decided the time was right to pursue and anihilate the Chinese and ordered 18th and 55th Divisions to advance rapidly and try to pin the Chinese on the river near Madalay. A battalion of motorized infantry and tank company of 1st Tank Regiment raced up the road and took Yamthin against slight resistance by Chinese 96th Division on the 24th, Pyabwe held by New 22nd Division was taken without a fight as was Ywathit on the 25th, Thazi on the 26th. Another 55th Divison motorized infantry column reached a village 6 miles southeast of Mekilla on the 25th.

The capture of Thazi on the 25th explains why 200th Division was prevented from retreating west from Taungyyi. In this book they say 200th Divsion retreated east with 6th Army. So they seem to a have no idea of Dai Anlan's anabasis to the northwest across the Burma Road and then northeast to Yunnan.

They definately need some imput from Chinese sources. This book is very sketchy about their role.

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Post by pitman » 14 Oct 2007 17:50

I wonder if one of the Chinese-speaking/reading participants might be able to help me out a bit with this webpage.

http://web.wenxuecity.com/BBSView.php?S ... _lang=big5

What interests me here is this page's description of the history of the 200th Division from 1944 through its eventual demise in the Chinese Civil War.

Unfortunately, the Internet translation of this section leaves a lot to be desire.

I wonder if someone here might be willing to give me a quick summary or translation of this page's description of the final years of the 200th Division?

If you could, I would be greatly appreciative. Thanks in advance for any help that you could provide. I have found this whole thread to be fascinating.

best regards,

Mark

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Post by asiaticus » 15 Oct 2007 00:13

Its in Traditional Chinese script.

I am looking at it with two translators. Often one catches things the other misses. Would be better with someone how knows the language translating though.

Some interesting details about its early organization and fighing in Lanfeng, Changsha, the Kunlun pass fighting and Burma.
It says Kunlun losses were 2/3 of the Division so it makes sense that the unit had to be rebuilt as an infantry division. Must have had only a battalions worth each of tanks and armoured cars maybe less to make up the independant Armoured Regiment with 5th Corps in Burma.

Looks like it continued as a unit after a long refit after Burma. 1944-45 was in some fighting vs the Japanese. 1946 - 1949 involved in the Civil war until defeated and captured.

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