Battle of Changde

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Battle of Changde
Part of the Second Sino-Japanese War of World War II
Changde battle.jpg
Chinese troops in combat at Changde
Date2 November 1943 (1943-11-02) – 20 December 1943 (1943-12-21)
Changde and vicinity
Result Chinese defensive victory [1]
Japanese capture the city, but later withdraw in January 1944 [2]
Flag of the Republic of China.svg Republic of China Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Sun Lianzhong
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Wang Yaowu
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Isamu Yokoyama
~8000 61,000
Casualties and losses
7913 Japanese claim: [3]
1,274 dead
2,977 wounded

American and British claims: 40,000+ killed and wounded [4] [5]

The Battle of Changde (Battle of Changteh; simplified Chinese :常德会战; traditional Chinese :常德會戰; pinyin :Chángdé Huìzhàn) was a major engagement in the Second Sino-Japanese War in and around the Chinese city of Changde (Changteh) in the province of Hunan. During the battle, the Imperial Japanese Army extensively used chemical weapons.

Simplified Chinese characters standardized Chinese characters developed in mainland China

Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, they are one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China in mainland China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to encourage literacy. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China and Singapore.

Traditional Chinese characters Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau, and in the Kangxi Dictionary. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty, and have been more or less stable since the 5th century.

Pinyin Chinese romanization scheme for Mandarin

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.


The purpose of the Japanese offensive was not to hold the city, but to maintain pressure on the Chinese National Revolutionary Army to reduce their combat ability in the region, and their ability to reinforce the Burma Campaign. [2]

National Revolutionary Army Nationalist Army of the Republic of China

The National Revolutionary Army (NRA), sometimes shortened to Revolutionary Army (革命軍) before 1928, and as National Army (國軍) after 1928, was the military arm of the Kuomintang from 1925 until 1947 in the Republic of China. It also became the regular army of the ROC during the KMT's period of party rule beginning in 1928. It was renamed the Republic of China Armed Forces after the 1947 Constitution, which instituted civilian control of the military.

Burma Campaign Series of battles fought in the British colony of Burma, South-East Asian theatre of World War II

The Burma Campaign was a series of battles fought in the British colony of Burma, South-East Asian theatre of World War II, primarily involving the forces of the British Empire and China, with support from the United States, against the invading forces of Imperial Japan, Thailand, and collaborator units such as the Burma Independence Army, which spearheaded the initial attacks against British forces, and the Indian National Army. British Empire forces peaked at around 1,000,000 land and air forces, and were drawn primarily from British India, with British Army forces, 100,000 East and West African colonial troops, and smaller numbers of land and air forces from several other Dominions and Colonies.

The Japanese were initially successful in their offensive operation, capturing the city of Changde and causing terror among its civilians. However, they were pinned down in the city by a single Chinese division long enough for other Chinese units to surround them with a counter-encirclement. Heavy casualties and the loss of their supply lines then forced the Japanese to withdraw, returning territorial control to the original status quo. [1]

Some contemporary Western newspapers depicted the battle as a Chinese victory. [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] American government film footage showed victorious Chinese troops with Japanese prisoners and captured Japanese flags and equipment on display after the battle. [11] In addition, an American newsreel titled "Chinese troops drive Japs from Changteh" showed Chinese troops firing, with dead and captured Japanese on display. [4] A British newsreel titled "Japs Loose Changteh Aka Japs Lose Changte' showed similar footage. [5]


Japanese offensive

On 2 November 1943 Isamu Yokoyama, commander of the Imperial Japanese 11th Army, deployed the 39th, 58th, 13th, 3rd, 116th and 68th divisions—a total of around 60,000 troops—to attack Changde from the north and the east. The Changde region was defended by the Chinese 6th War Zone's 10th, 26th, 29th and 33rd Army Groups, as well as a river defense force and two other corps, for a total of 14 corps. [1]

Isamu Yokoyama Japanese general

Isamu Yokoyama was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army, commanding Japanese ground forces in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War and Pacific War.

Imperial Japanese Army Official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan, from 1868 to 1945

The Imperial Japanese Army was the official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan from 1868 to 1945. It was controlled by the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office and the Ministry of the Army, both of which were nominally subordinate to the Emperor of Japan as supreme commander of the army and the navy. Later an Inspectorate General of Aviation became the third agency with oversight of the army. During wartime or national emergencies, the nominal command functions of the emperor would be centralized in an Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ), an ad-hoc body consisting of the chief and vice chief of the Army General Staff, the Minister of the Army, the chief and vice chief of the Naval General Staff, the Inspector General of Aviation, and the Inspector General of Military Training.

Eleventh Army (Japan)

The Japanese 11th Army was an army of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

On 14 November the Japanese 13th Division, with aid from collaborators, drove south and broke through the defensive lines of the Chinese 10th and the 29th Group Armies. On 16 November, Japanese airborne forces landed in Taoyuan County to support the assault on the city proper. At the same time, the Japanese 3rd and 116th Divisions also joined the combined assault. The city was guarded by only a single Chinese division - the 74th Corps' 57th Division. Division commander Yu Chengwan led his single division of 8,000 men to fight against the two invading Japanese divisions. Despite being outnumbered by more than three to one, the Chinese stubbornly held onto the city. Eleven days and nights of fierce fighting saw heavy casualties on both sides. When the Chinese reinforcements finally arrived in the city, they managed to evacuate the remaining 100 survivors in the 57th Division, all of whom were wounded, from the city. On 6 December the city of Changde fell to the Japanese control. [1]

Collaborationist Chinese Army

The term Collaborationist Chinese Army refers to the military forces of the puppet governments founded by Imperial Japan in mainland China during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. They most notably include the armies of the Provisional (1937–1940), Reformed (1938–1940) and Reorganized National Governments of the Republic of China (1940–1945), which absorbed the former two regimes. Those forces were also commonly known as puppet troops but went under different names during their history depending on the specific unit and allegiance, such as Nanjing Government Army. In total, it was estimated that all pro-Japanese collaborationist Chinese forces combined had a strength of around 683,000.

Taoyuan County County in Hunan, China

Taoyuan County is under the administration of Changde, Hunan Province, China. The Yuan River, a tributary of the Yangtze, flows through Taoyuan. It covers an area of 4441 square kilometers, of which 895 km2 (346 sq mi) is arable land. It is 229 km (142 mi) from Zhangjiang Town, the county seat, to Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province. The county occupies the southwestern corner of Changde City and borders the prefecture-level cities of Zhangjiajie to the northwest and Huaihua to the southwest.

While the Chinese 57th Division pinned down the Japanese in the city, the rest of the 74th Corps, as well as the 18th, 73rd, 79th and 100th Corps and the 9th War Zone's 10th Corps, 99th Corps and Jiangxi's 58th Corps, arrived at the battlefield, forming a counter-encirclement on the Japanese forces. [1]

Chinese counter-offensive

Fang Xianjue's 10th Corps was first to strike, successfully retaking Deshan on 29 November before attacking the Japanese positions at Changde from the south. Unable to withstand the fierce Chinese assault, the Japanese utilized chemical weapons. [12] The battle lasted for six days and nights, during which the Chinese Reserve 10th Division's commander Lieutenant General Sun Mingjin(zh:孙明瑾) received 5 gunshot wounds to the body and was killed in action. [1]

At this time other Chinese units were also pressing onto the Japanese positions. On 11 December Chinese reinforcements broke through the Japanese lines and into the city, which resulted in intense house-to-house fighting. The Chinese then proceeded to cut the Japanese supply lines. Depleted of food and ammunition, the Japanese retreated on 13 December. [1] The Chinese pursued them for more than 20 days. By 5 January 1944 Japanese forces had withdrawn to their original positions before the offensive. [1] Following the battle, the Chinese displayed an array of captured Japanese weapons and equipment, as well as numerous Japanese troops taken as prisoners, for inspection by allied military observers. [4] [5]

During this campaign, apart from the Reserve 10th Division's Sun Mingjin, two other Chinese division commanders were killed: the 44th Corps' 150th Division's Lieutenant General Xu Guozhang(zh:许国璋) was killed at Taifushan in Changde's northwest, aged 37, while the 73rd corps' 5th Division's Lieutenant General Peng Shiliang(zh:彭士量) was killed at the Taoyuan-Shimen line, aged 38. [1]

The Changde campaign saw the largest participation of the Chinese air force since the Battle of Wuhan. [1]

Reporter Israel Epstein witnessed and reported on the battle. Witold Urbanowicz, a Polish fighter ace engaged in air combat over China in 1943, saw the city just after the battle. According to Urbanowicz, nearly 300,000 civilians died during the fighting in Changde. [2]

Japanese prisoners taken at Changde. Changde prisoners.jpg
Japanese prisoners taken at Changde.

Cultural references

The 2010 Chinese war film Death and Glory in Changde is based on the events in this battle.

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Coordinates: 29°02′00″N111°40′59″E / 29.0333°N 111.6830°E / 29.0333; 111.6830