Republic of China (1912–1949) Republic of China

Empire of Japan Empire of Japan

Commanders and leaders Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Li Zongren
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Pang Bingxun
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Sun Lianzhong
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Han Deqin
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Bai Chongxi
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Sun Zhen
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Tang Enbo
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Wang Mingzhang
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Zhang Zizhong
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Guan Linzheng War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svg Rensuke Isogai (10th Division)
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svg Itagaki Seishiro (5th Division) Units involved

Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg National Revolutionary Army

War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svg North China Area Army, 2nd Army

Strength 100,000-400,000 troops in 10 divisions[1] 40,000-70,000 troops in 3 divisions[1][2]
80+ tanks
11+ armored cars
8+ armored fighting vehicles
Unknown number of planes[2] Casualties and losses 20,000[3] Japanese figures: 11,198 casualties[2]
Chinese estimate: 24,000 killed[2]
30 tanks destroyed[3][4]
719 captured
31 artillery pieces
11 armored cars
8 armored fighting vehicles[5]

The Battle of Tai'erzhuang (Chinese: ; pinyin: Tái'érzhūang Huìzhàn) was a battle of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1938, between the armies of the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. The battle was the first major Chinese victory of the war. It humiliated the Japanese military and its reputation as an invincible force, while for the Chinese it represented a tremendous morale boost.

Tai'erzhuang is located on the eastern bank of the Grand Canal of China and was a frontier garrison northeast of Xuzhou. It was also the terminus of a local branch railway from Lincheng. Xuzhou itself was the junction of the Jinpu Railway (Tianjin-Pukou) and the Longhai Railway (Lanzhou-Lianyungang) and the headquarters of the KMT's 5th War Zone.

Events leading up to the battle

In January 1938, the Japanese army disregarded the Tokyo headquarters' policy for a one-year truce and pursued the Chinese army retreating from the Shanghai-Nanjing theatre, driving northwards into the three provinces of Jiangsu, Shandong and Henan. These provinces were the area of operations of the KMT 5th War Area. The Japanese planned to fight through the Jinpu Railway from the north and south, regrouping at Xuzhou. From there, they would attack Wuhan and force the KMT into surrender. At this time, the Japanese armies were very powerful, so this operation should have been done with relative ease. As a result, the commanders did not deploy their full forces to complete the task.

But unexpectedly, from January to March, Rippei Ogisu's 13th division met stiff resistance from the forces of KMT commanders Wei Yunsong and Yu Xuezhong during its attack along the southern section of the railway. Eventually, KMT general Liao Lei's forces arrived, and the bloody battle became tightly entangled. The Japanese were forced onto the southern bank of the Huai River, unable to escape. As a result, it was unable to launch the planned pincer attack on Xuzhou with the Isogai division (10th division).

In the northeast, the Itagaki division (5th division) was also advancing towards Xuzhou. However, it was halted at Linyi by KMT generals Pang Bingxun and Zhang Zizhong and their Northwestern Army. Although insufficiently trained and not very well equipped, the Chinese troops inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese, who retreated. This engagement not only broke the myth of Imperial Japanese invincibility but also humiliated Japanese commander Seishirō Itagaki. Even the Tokyo headquarters were shocked. Although the 5th division picked itself back up and tried again, it had already lost the element of surprise. As a result, the Chinese victory at Linyi would later have a big impact on the actual battle in Tai'erzhuang.

Of the three Japanese divisions driving into the 5th War Area, the Isogai division (10th division) was the most successful. This division came from Hebei, crossing the Yellow River and moving southwards along the Jinpu Railway. Because of KMT general Han Fuju's desertion, the division occupied Zhoucun and moved into Jinan without meeting any resistance at all. From there, they arrived at Tai'an. Here, they were faced with fierce resistance from the forces of KMT generals Sun Tongxuan and Sun Zhen. Although the Japanese did suffer losses, the Chinese were very poorly equipped. As a result, the Chinese soldiers could only form line after line of defence in a desperate attempt to fight off the Japanese, who were backed up by planes, tanks and heavy artillery. When one line was wiped out, they would move onto the next line. Step by step, the Chinese fell back. By mid-March, the 10th division had fought its way to Yixuan.

At this time, KMT commanders Sun Lianzhong and Tang Enbo arrived in the region with their forces. Although Sun's second group army consisted of two armies, it had taken heavy casualties during the defence of Niangzi Pass in 1937 and had not recovered yet. As a result, its actual strength was only three divisions. These three divisions were Zhang Jinzhao's 30th division, Chi Fengcheng's 31st division and Huang Qiaosong's 27th division. The 30th and 31st divisions made up the 30th army (under command of Tian Zhennan), while the 27th division made up the 42nd army (under command of Feng Anbang). 5th War Area commander Li Zongren gave the responsibility of defending Tai'erzhuang to Sun Lianzhong, who stationed Chi Fengcheng's 31st division inside the district.

On the other hand, Tang Enbo brought 4 full-strength divisions. They were Zheng Dongguo's 2nd division, Zhang Yaoming's 25th division, Chen Daqing's 4th division, and Zhang Xuezhong's 89th division. The 2nd and 25th divisions made up the 52nd army, while the 4th and 89th divisions made up the 85th army. All of these divisions were reorganised according to the German model and had German advisors attached. As soon as Tang's troops arrived at the battlefield, they began engaging the Japanese north of the Tai'erzhuang area. However, Li Zongren thought that there was too big of a risk losing the Central Army's elite divisions. His plan was to open up a route for the Japanese to drive southwards into Tai'erzhuang. Then, as long as Chi Fengcheng could hold onto the district, Tang Enbo's forces could drive around the back of the Japanese forces to encircle them and give the Chinese the upper hand.

On the Japanese side, Rensuke Isogai's 10th division was not supposed to drive deep into enemy territory alone and attack Tai'erzhuang. It was supposed to have waited for Rippei Ogisu's Ogisu division (13th division) to close in on Xuzhou and Itagaki Seishiro's 5th Division to pass Linyi for additional safety.

However, Isogai was confident enough in his forces. His plan was to take out Tai'erzhuang in a single swift blow to complete the objective of clearing the Jinpu Railway. At this time Tang Enbo ordered Chi Fengcheng to send out a small force to the north and attack the Japanese 10th division. His aim to lure the Japanese into Tai'erzhuang was successful. Isogai deployed 40,000 troops and around 80 tanks to attack Tai'erzhuang from the north. From the 21st of March onwards, the Japanese Air Force launched an extensive bombing operation on the Chinese positions, causing the civilians to flee in terror. On the 23rd, the district was razed by artillery fire. On the 24th, KMT generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek flew to the front lines to inspect the defences. He also left general Bai Chongxi there to help Li Zongren. The Battle of Tai'erzhuang had begun.[2]

The battle

The battle involved a Japanese plan to conquer Xuzhou, a major city in the East. However, the Japanese failed to consider the plans of generals Li Zongren and Bai Chongxi, who planned to encircle the Japanese in the town of Tai'erzhuang. The Japanese operation started on 24 March. Overconfidence led the Japanese commanders to overlook the thousands of inconspicuous "farmers" in the area, who were affiliated with Li Zongren and cut communication lines and supplies, diverted streams, and ruined rail lines. By late March, supplies and fuels were being dropped from airplanes to Japanese troops, but the quantities were insufficient.

On 29 March 1938, a small band of Japanese soldiers tunneled under Tai'erzhuang's walls in an attempt to take the city from within. They were caught by the Nationalist defenders and killed. Over the next week, both sides claimed to hold parts of the city and surrounding area, and many were killed in small arms battles.

Finally, the Japanese attacked frontally, failing to consider the greater Chinese numbers. A major encirclement on 6 April, with Chinese reinforcements, preceded a major Japanese defeat and retreat, which the Chinese failed to capitalize upon fully through pursuit due to a lack of mobility.

The Chinese captured 719 Japanese soldiers and large quantities of military supplies, including 31 pieces of artillery, 11 armored cars, 8 armored fighting vehicles, 1,000 machine guns and 10,000 rifles.[4][6]

A "dare to die corps" was effectively used against Japanese units.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13] They used swords[14][15] and wore suicide vests made out of grenades.[16][17]

Chinese suicide bomber putting on an explosive vest made out of Model 24 hand grenades to use in an attack on Japanese tanks

Due to lack of anti-armor weaponry, suicide bombing was also used against the Japanese. Chinese troops strapped explosives like grenade packs or dynamite to their bodies and threw themselves under Japanese tanks to blow them up.[18] Dynamite and grenades were strapped on by Chinese troops who rushed at Japanese tanks and blew themselves up.[19][20][21][22][23][24] During one incident at Tai’erzhuang, Chinese suicide bombers obliterated four Japanese tanks with grenade bundles.[25][26]

Amid the celebrations of the victory in Hankou and other Chinese cities, Japan initially denied their defeat and ridiculed the reports of the battle for days. It was reported in the foreign newspapers, however.

The Chinese victory at Tai’erzhuang was their first major victory in the war. The battle broke the myth of Japanese military invincibility and resulted in an incalculable benefit to Chinese morale.



  1. ^ a b Page 190, Mao Zedong - Selected Works Volume II
  2. ^ a b c d e Program about the Battle of Tai'erzhuang https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGVIvWGgBFo
  3. ^ a b ShenZhen TV Documentary 'Solving mysteries: Against the common enemy - The War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfEO6j-mmVc&feature=relmfu The Tai'erzhuang Campaign
  4. ^ a b 中国历史常识 Common Knowledge about Chinese History pp 185 ISBN 962-8746-47-2
  5. ^ Baike Encyclopedia Article: The victory of Tai'erzhuang http://baike.baidu.com/view/52810.htm
  6. ^ Baike Encyclopedia Article: The victory of Tai'erzhuang http://baike.baidu.com/view/52810.htm
  7. ^ Fenby, Jonathan (2003). Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the China He Lost (illustrated ed.). Simon and Schuster. p. 319. ISBN 0743231449. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Fenby, Jonathan (2009). Chiang Kai Shek: China's Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost. Da Capo Press. p. 319. ISBN 0786739843. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Fenby, Jonathan (2008). Modern China: the fall and rise of a great power, 1850 to the present. Ecco. p. 284. ISBN 0061661163. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Li, Leslie (1992). Bittersweet. C.E. Tuttle. p. 234. ISBN 0804817774. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  11. ^ Gao, James Z. (2009). Historical Dictionary of Modern China (1800-1949). Volume 25 of Historical Dictionaries of Ancient Civilizations and Historical Eras (illustrated ed.). Scarecrow Press. p. 350. ISBN 0810863081. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  12. ^ Fenby, Jonathan (2010). The General: Charles De Gaulle and the France He Saved. Simon and Schuster. p. 319. ISBN 0857200674. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  13. ^ http://bwww.republicanchina.org/Taierzhuang-Campaign.pdf
  14. ^ Jonathan Fenby (27 April 2009). Chiang Kai Shek: China's Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-7867-3984-3. 
  15. ^ Jonathan Fenby (24 June 2008). Modern China: The Fall and Rise of a Great Power, 1850 to the Present. HarperCollins. p. 284. ISBN 978-0-06-166116-7. 
  16. ^ http://war.163.com/15/0427/09/AO6TATTL00014OMD.html
  17. ^ http://www.88p4.com/2015/04/27/taierzhuang-street-fighting-executive-power-to-make-those-who-have-dared-to-retreat-across-the-river-unforgiven-124486.html
  18. ^ Schaedler, Luc (Accepted in Autumn Semester 2007 On the Recommendation of Prof. Dr. Michael Oppitz). Angry Monk: Reflections on Tibet: Literary, Historical, and Oral Sources for a Documentary Film (PDF) (Thesis Presented to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Zurich For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy). University of Zurich, Faculty of Arts. p. 518. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-07-19. Retrieved 24 April 2014.  Check date values in: date= (help)
  19. ^ "Chinese Tank Forces and Battles before 1949". TANKS! e-Magazine (#4). Summer 2001. Archived from the original on 7 August 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2014.  chapter= ignored (help)
  20. ^ Xin Hui (1-8-2002). "Xinhui Presents: Chinese Tank Forces and Battles before 1949:". Newsletter 1-8-2002 Articles. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2014.  Check date values in: date= (help)
  21. ^ Ong, Siew Chey (2005). China Condensed: 5000 Years of History & Culture (illustrated ed.). Marshall Cavendish. p. 94. ISBN 9812610677. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  22. ^ Olsen, Lance (2012). Taierzhuang 1938 – Stalingrad 1942. Numistamp. Clear Mind Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9838435-9-7. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  23. ^ "STORM OVER TAIERZHUANG 1938 PLAYER'S AID SHEET" (PDF). grognard.com. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  24. ^ Dr Ong Siew Chey (2011). China Condensed: 5,000 Years of History & Culture (reprint ed.). Marshall Cavendish International Asia Pte Ltd. p. 79. ISBN 9814312991. Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
  25. ^ International Press Correspondence, Volume 18. Richard Neumann. 1938. p. 447. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  26. ^ Epstein, Israel (1939). The people's war. V. Gollancz. p. 172. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  • Hsu Long-hsuen and Chang Ming-kai, History of The Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) 2nd Ed., 1971. Translated by Wen Ha-hsiung, Chung Wu Publishing; 33, 140th Lane, Tung-hwa Street, Taipei, Taiwan Republic of China. Pg. 221-230. Map. 9-1
  • Taierzhuang Campaign

External links