(From Soviet-empire): Chronology of naval warfare during the Sino-Soviet War of 1929

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(From Soviet-empire): Chronology of naval warfare during the Sino-Soviet War of 1929

Post by lupodimare89 » 12 Aug 2023 14:03

This thread it’s a preserved version of latest updated page on the currently (hopefully not forever) closed forum “Soviet-empire”. Years ago I begun a process of reading, studying and researching entirely for hobby/amateur interest the history of naval warfare involving the Soviet Union. Years by years, my interests expanded to other conflicts (Russian and Spanish Civil Wars, Cold War conflicts etc.) often poorly described in mainstream media and sites. It doesn’t claim to be definitive or error-free, but I believe it’s valuable or interesting for people curious to see aspects of less known naval warfare (especially in English). This and my other works can be obviously used or re-posted for not-commercial purpose on other sites/forums, I've sadly seen how there is some commercial exploitation (publications of few books i am absolutely not involved at all!). Obviously these "authors" probably never checked the original sources or bothered to notice how each of these works it's not immutable and sometimes changes and corrections happens after years.

This article merged various sources with valuable Q&A and info provided by dedicated users on tsushima.su

1) This article doesn't have differences from the last-updated page on Soviet-empire forum.
Only the intro received a shortening of the first lines to avoid repetitions but i added few-line for the seaplane-carrier "Amur" and its unique importance at the end of the intro.
2) Names of Chinese vessels may change in books/sources out of different transliteration

INTRO: The Sino-Soviet War of 1929 was without doubt the larger scale naval conflict with gunnery fights of the history of the Soviet Navy, by sheer numbers and power of units involved. It included the most decisive naval battle won by the Soviet Navy resulting in the almost complete destruction of an enemy fleet and insignificant losses for the Soviets, with a direct impact on the outcome of the conflict.
The conflict was also important for being one of the few wars of the 20th century centered about naval warfare in rivers, resulting into a large clash between the two fleets, and being with little doubt one of the last expressions of this kind of naval warfare (excluding the so-called "Brown Water" warfare of Cold War, that saw no direct naval fighting between opponent ships).

At the beginning of the‘900, the Imperial Russian Navy decided to strength the riverine fleets, and such plans resulted in the creation of monitors of the Tayfun-class: on this field, the Russians proved advanced, and the class was for many years the most powerful kind of riverine ships in the Far East. Differently from most of the eastern riverine gunboats and monitors, that adopted a “colonial police” style (large superstructures, smaller guns), the Tayfun-class were designed for the most harsh combat situation: they had very little superstructures, and the most prominent features were the four large armored towers for guns.
Eventually the Soviet navy further developed this style, creating the impressive Khasan-class that however saw no battles with the Japanese in 1945.
Of particular interest was the modified Tayfun-class ship "Amur", turned into a sea-plane carrier with hangar for seaplanes: she likely scored the only sinkings achieved by ship-launched planes in the history of the Soviet Navy (despite intense activity, no such feat was reported for the Russian Civil War seaplane-carriers operative in Volga River).


22 July 1929
Official beginning of the War.

In the Amur River, the Soviet Fleet captured two Chinese merchant ships: the Yilan and the Haicheng. The US Consul described the Soviet attacking ships with the old term “men-of war”: this could point to the largest Soviet available vessels, the famous riverine Tayfun class.
Modern research by Alexey Pastukhov (2019) identify the Soviet steamer Chita as responsible for the seizure of Haicheng, alongside the towed barge Huake (256 passengers and crew arrested but later released) (cargo: 20pounds of gold on steamer, rifles and machineguns on the barge). There is discrepancy on date, because seizure of Haicheng and Huake mentioned both on 22 July but also on same day of August.

Early August 1929
Another Chinese steamer captured (crew suffered killed and wounded).

12 August 1929
Soviet monitor Lenin shelled Chinese positions and landed troop on the Chinese side of Amur to chase White Russian volunteers.

Mid-August 1929
Other two steamers captured by Soviets in Sungari River.

10 October 1929
Chinese reportedly seized Soviet rafts carrying woods (intended to build barracks for the Red Army). These seizures (albeit quite insignificant) appears to be the only Chinese “successes” of the riverine conflict. According the modern author Alexey Pastukhov (2019), the incident did not occur at all and it was entirely a claim by Soviet press.

12 October 1929
Battle of Lahasusu (known in China as Battle of Sanjiangkou).
The first action was a patrol mission by Soviet minesweepers to be sure that the mouth of Sungari River was clean of mines.
Then the fleet could move on, led by Yakov Ivanovich Ozolin.
The Soviet Fleet begin the operation when the monitors Krasnyi Vostok and Lenin, followed by the older gunboat Buryat, shelled Chinese ground positions, while the patrol boat Pika and the minelayer Silnyi landed troops.
The seaplane-carrier Amur launched her aircrafts, but with poor effects: two bombs fall close the gunboat Li Chieh, and a third one fall nearby the floating battery Tung-I (well-armed, with two 120mm guns and two 76mm guns).
Chinese ships engage the Soviet fleet to stop the landing of troops.
The gunboat Li Chieh was at first effective: she scored a hit with her 52mm guns on the gunboat Proletaryi, and then three hits on the monitor Sun Yat Sen, but in both cases, there were no significant damages.
The monitor Krasnyi Vostok quickly aimed at the gunboat and hit the Li Chieh that was grounded and lost (sometimes this victory was wrongly claimed by Sverdlov).
Meanwhile the gunboat Bednota had troubles, because was accidentally grounded but Buriat and Krasnoye Znamya landed further troops.
Finally one of the seaplanes managed to score a direct hit with a bomb on the Tung-I causing an hole, but the ship still kept floating (but did not open fire on the Soviets: she was abandoned by the Chinese and then captured by the Soviet troops).
The other Chinese gunboats attempted to press on their attacks, but with little results: Li Sui suffered a hit from Lenin and retreated to repair the damage, while chased by Sverdlov that (despite claims) did not score further hits. Meanwhile Krasnyi Vostok shelled the wreck of the Li Chieh, and then switched target, shelled and sunk the third gunboat: Zhang Ping.
Soviet seaplanes attacked without success the Li Sui that was retreating alongside the flagship (gunboat Kiang Heng) and the transport ship Li Chuan.
Soviet monitors Sun Yat Sen and Sverdlov chased the Chinese ships and could reach the retreating auxiliary gunboats: Sun Yat Sen was particularly effective, first damaged Kiang Tai (she managed to escape) and then hit and sunk both Kiang Pai and Kiang Nai (the latter sunk in deep waters).
During this last clash, Sverdlov had a sudden fault at the electric system (with the turrets immobilized) and could have been an easy target, but the enemy did not notice these troubles.
Soviet troops quickly occupied the enemy fortress at Lahasusu, while most of the Chinese troops (2200 men) fled after having witnessed the defeat of their naval force.
In the end, the Chinese suffered roughly 200 killed (on both sea and land) and 98 prisoners. At the end of the battle, the Soviets had captured the Tung-I (damaged by seaplane), 4 barges, 2 motorboats, 12 guns, 13 mortars, 15 machineguns and 3000 guns. Other source indicate the seizure of transport steamer n°18 and seven barges (possibly “merging” barges with motorboats).
On sea, the Soviet Navy suffered only 1 dead and 4 wounded (three of the wounded men were sailors of Sun Yat Sen, after an accidental explosion).

30 October 1929
The next target of the Soviet forces was conquering the city (and the fortress) of Fugdin. There were several landings from the Soviet ships and shelling of the enemy forces, but there was no clash with the survived enemy ships. The Chinese flagship Kiang Heng briefly opened fire at excessive distance against minor ships, without results and without reaction from the Soviets.

31 October 1929
Further Soviet operations against Fugdin. During the fight, Chinese ground artillery opened fire against the gunboats but without effect.
Seaplanes MR-1 made nine raids on the city.
Two of the seaplanes departed from the seaplane-carrier Amur spotted the Chinese flagship Kiang Heng and sunk her with bombs.

On unclear date, the seaplanes also bombed and sunk the armed transport Li Chuan (250 tons, armed with a 76mm gun).
Between 30 and 31 October, Chinese also scuttled the survived ships: auxiliary gunboats Kiang Tai, Kiang Un and Kiang Tun, possibly earlier damaged by Soviet air raid. It is worth to remember that during the whole conflict the Soviets enjoyed absolute air-superiority: Chinese had only 5 Breguet aircrafts in the region but they never reached the front in time.

22 December 1929
Republic of China signed Khabarovsk protocol, ending the war.

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