Nationalist Tanks at Wusu

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Stephen_Rynerson
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Nationalist Tanks at Wusu

Post by Stephen_Rynerson » 12 Mar 2015 05:57

This is a continuation of a discussion that started here: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... &p=1859738, but I thought it was sufficiently off-topic from the original thread that I should start a new one.

I finally got around to ordering a copy of Jack Chen's The Sinkiang Story. I was incorrect when I said in the original thread that Chen was only using secondary sources. He actually claims in the book to have conducted "scores" of interviews with Xinjiang residents. (Chen, p. 208.) The interviews were presumably conducted between 1957, when Chen says he first visited the province, and the mid-1970s, as the book was published in 1977. However, (a) he doesn't list the specific interview subjects in the bibliography (which is why I thought he was relying entirely on secondary sources from what I could see of the book on GoogleBooks' preview), and (b) he doesn't use either footnotes or endnotes, making it impossible in most situations to identify the specific source for his account. That said, here is his description of the Nationalists' use of armor at Wusu (which Chen refers to as "Hsiho") on or about September 4, 1945 (Chen gives September 6 as the date Wusu fell to the insurgent forces and the narrative appears to place the encounter with the tanks two days before that):
Hsiho was defended by some eight thousand Kuomintang troops armed with submachine guns in considerable numbers, light and heavy machine guns, some artillery and -- this was not known when the attack started -- a couple of light tanks.

The attack was mounted by the Suidun Infantry Regiment, the Sixth Independent Kazakh Cavalry Regiment, the Mongolian Cavalry Squadron and the motorized battalion. Though this force numbered three thousand men, none of these units was fully armed.

* * *

The first day the Suidun fighters advanced with spirit and according to all the lessons they had learned in their months of training. Their attack was well delivered and forced the Kuomintang back from their forward defense lines. The next day the elated fighters prepared to repeat their performance. They advanced straight down the toad and its flanks in good order, when suddenly the Kuomintang unmasked its tanks. This took the Suidun men completely by surprise. They had been taught how to deal with "tanks" simulated by carts covered with paper, but the real thing spitting fire caught them off balance. The Kuomintang counterattack threw some of the raw recruits into confusion and a disorderly retreat commenced. The tanks and enemy riflemen took full advantage of this near rout and mowed down men who had given up cover and were running in bewilderment. Hard-fought-for ground was lost in a matter of minutes. The Suidun veterans, however, kept their heads and brought up armor-piercing bullets and an anti-tank rifle. With his first shot their Uighur gunner Saud killed the driver of the first tank and put it out of action. The second tank, attempting to take evasive action, overturned in a ditch. It was captured intact. The situation was saved.
(Chen, pp. 233-234.)

The description unfortunately doesn't do much to answer the question of what kind of tanks were used by the Nationalists, but the description of panic amongst the insurgents upon seeing the vehicles (and since Chen is clearly sympathetic to the insurgents in his writing, it seems unlikely that he would overstate their fearful reaction) does incline me toward thinking that these were actual tanks rather than armored cars. My admittedly unscientific reasoning is simply that I'd think tracked AFVs would be much more intimidating to unsophisticated troops than armored cars, especially given that the insurgent forces in this battle were already familiar with regular wheeled motor vehicles. I draw that latter conclusion from the fact that the "motorized battalion" referred to by Chen in the passage above is described by him elsewhere as consisting of captured Nationalist trucks. (Chen, p. 228.)

I'll also add that, not withstanding Chen's pretty strong partisan bent in his writing, the book probably has the best English language account of battles at the tactical level during the Yili Rebellion/Three Districts Revolution. (The other books on the subject, Under the Soviet Shadow: The Yining Incident: Ethnic Conflicts and International Rivalry in Xinjiang 1944-1949 by David D. Wang, The Ili Rebellion: The Moslem Challenge to Chinese Authority in Xinjiang, 1944-1949 by Linda Benson, and Clouds Over Tianshan: Essays on Social Disturbance in Xinjiang in the 1940s also by David D. Wang, focus more on the operational/strategic level when discussing the military aspects of the conflict.)

Conversely, Chen's account of the battles fought in Xinjiang during the early 1930s is worthless. His discussions of the 1931-32 and 1933-34 uprisings and Ma Zhongying's invasions during the same periods are cursory. For example, the entirety of the founding and destruction of the Turkish Islamic Republic of East Turkestan is covered in literally just two paragraphs. Chen also omits any reference to Soviet involvement in the 1933-1934 battles, which frankly has to be willful on his part because Chen includes Sven Hedin's The Flight of Big Horse, Aitchen K. Wu's Turkistan Tumult, and Peter Fleming's News From Tartary in his bibliography, all of whom discussed the Soviet intervention to one degree or another.
Last edited by Stephen_Rynerson on 13 Mar 2015 04:47, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Nationalist Tanks at Wusu

Post by YC Chen » 12 Mar 2015 16:57

Extremely interesting information and reasoning! However much more information is needed before any conclusion can be drawn...

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Re: Nationalist Tanks at Wusu

Post by Stephen_Rynerson » 13 Mar 2015 05:04

YC Chen wrote:Extremely interesting information and reasoning! However much more information is needed before any conclusion can be drawn...
Thank you, YC Chen. And yes, this certainly isn't a definitive answer to the question of Nationalist armor assets in Xinjiang during the period. I'm wondering now whether Jack Chen's interview notes are archived somewhere (probably Cornell University, because he taught there) and if there might be more insight in those. (Chen himself died in 1995 according to what I can find on-line, so we can't ask him directly, unfortunately.) Any Axis History Forum members in the Ithaca, New York area up for checking this out? :wink:

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Re: Nationalist Tanks at Wusu

Post by YC Chen » 13 Mar 2015 10:01

I'm glad to tell you that I have just found that a close friend of mine, forum member "zoboe" has done extensive research on AFVs during the Yili Incident from Chinese sources. Perhaps I can translate some of his work and post it here later. However he has also never seen such detailed description of this battle.

BTW, any more information on Jack Chen, the author of that interesting book? When did he come to the US?

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Re: Nationalist Tanks at Wusu

Post by YC Chen » 14 Mar 2015 14:21

Hello all,

Here is the information provided by the long-time armor researcher Zhong Bo(forum member "zoboe"):

"In July 1945 the Xinjiang National Army(Yili force)'s intelligence report revealed that the Nationalist force in the town of Wusu included a "tank company"(in fact 1st Independent Tank Squadron(第1独立战车中队) of Nationalist force). In September, the Nationalist garrison of Wusu consisted of the headquater of N2A and a battalion of the "Special Mission" regiment(特务团), the 2nd Battalion of 20th Regiment of Reserved 2nd Division, 3rd Battalion of 3rd Regiment of 45th Division, 1st Independent Tank Squadron and an AAMG company, all commanded by Xie Yifeng(谢义锋), commander of N2A.

"At dawn of 4th September, the National Army launched its attach to the town in central position. The 1st and 2nd Battalion of 1st Suidun(or Suiding in Chinese sources) Infantry Regiment quickly occupied Ka'erdun on the north of Wusu which formed the first line defense. At 15 o'clock the Nationalists launched counter-attack leaded by two light tanks but was fiercely fought back by Suidun infantries. Several Suidun fighters advanced in low position and blew up one tank. At this moment a National Army aircraft flew in and bombed Naionalist position and Suidun infantry started charging. During retreat, the other Nationalist tank was struck in the deep water moat of their own defense position. (Some other sources says the fighting occured on 5th September, one tank was destroyed by a heroic Uygur fighter who sacrificed his life). On 8th September the National Army occupied the whole of Wusu; according to the report of 1st Suidun Infantry Regiment stated that 2 tanks(some other sources says 1), 9 pieces of artillery and more than 50 trucks were captured in the battle.

"Interestingly according to the memoir of a Nationalist officer the National Army attached with superior heavy artillery, tanks and air support, which is probably far from being the case. However this is much more realistic when comparing the statement made by all Taiwanese sources and some other Naionalist memoir published in the Mainland that the National Army's attack was aided by tanks, artillery and air support from the Soviet Red Army, which is utterly ridiculous.

As for the type of tank used by the Naionalists, it was most probably T-38 amphibious tankette as only one T-38 and two BA-6 were in the hands of the Naional Army(probably all captured from the Nationalists) and was used until the arrival of PLA in 1949. "

Hope this would be of interest.

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Re: Nationalist Tanks at Wusu

Post by Stephen_Rynerson » 15 Mar 2015 05:51

YC Chen, thank you very much. That is indeed quite helpful. And to answer your question about Jack Chen's background, my searches on-line have revealed that his Chinese name is Chen Yifan. He was apparently a journalist and author in the PRC, but emigrated in 1971. If Google Translate is correct, I believe this is a news article about him: http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2007-01-24/154412127690.shtml

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Re: Nationalist Tanks at Wusu

Post by YC Chen » 15 Mar 2015 10:55

Stephen_Rynerson wrote:YC Chen, thank you very much. That is indeed quite helpful. And to answer your question about Jack Chen's background, my searches on-line have revealed that his Chinese name is Chen Yifan. He was apparently a journalist and author in the PRC, but emigrated in 1971. If Google Translate is correct, I believe this is a news article about him: http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2007-01-24/154412127690.shtml
So he is the son of Eugene Chen(Chen Youren, 陈友仁)?!

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