Battle of West Hunan

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Battle of West Hunan
Part of the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II
Date6 April – 9 June 1945
West Hunan, near Zhijiang
Result Allied victory
Flag of the Republic of China.svg  China
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Japan
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg He Yingqin
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Wang Yaowu
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Tang Enbo
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Liao Yaoxiang
Flag of the Republic of China Army.svg Zhang Lingfu
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Yasuji Okamura
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Kazuyoshi Sakanishi
110,000 in Hunan
200,000 in total
400 aircraft
Casualties and losses

Chinese figures:

  • 20,660
    • 7,817 killed
  • 11 American pilots

Japanese figures:

  • ~27,000 killed and wounded

Chinese figures:

  • 35,805
    • 12,498 killed
8,563 civilians

The Battle of West Hunan, also known as the Battle of Xuefeng Mountains and the Zhijiang Campaign, was the Japanese invasion of west Hunan and the subsequent Allied counterattack that occurred between 6 April and 7 June 1945, during the last months of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Japanese strategic aims for this campaign were to seize Chinese airfields and secure railroads in West Hunan, and to achieve a decisive victory that their depleted land forces needed.

Xuefeng Mountains

The Xuefeng Mountains are a mountain range of China in western Hunan province.

Hunan Province

Hunan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze watershed in South Central China; it borders the province-level divisions of Hubei to the north, Jiangxi to the east, Guangdong and Guangxi to the south, Guizhou to the west, and Chongqing to the northwest. With a population of just over 67 million as of 2014 residing in an area of approximately 210,000 km2 (81,000 sq mi), it is China's 7th most populous and the 10th most extensive province-level by area.

Second Sino-Japanese War military conflict between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan from 1937 to 1945

The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan from July 7, 1937, to September 2, 1945. It began with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937 in which a dispute between Japanese and Chinese troops escalated into a battle. Some sources in the modern People's Republic of China date the beginning of the war to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931.


This campaign, if successful, would also allow Japan to attack Sichuan and eventually the Chinese war time capital Chongqing. Although the Japanese were able to make initial headways, Chinese forces with air support from the Americans were able to turn the tide and forced the Japanese into a rout, recovering a substantial amount of lost ground.

Sichuan Province

Sichuan is a province in southwest China occupying most of the Sichuan Basin and the easternmost part of the Tibetan Plateau between the Jinsha River on the west, the Daba Mountains in the north, and the Yungui Plateau to the south. Sichuan's capital city is Chengdu. The population of Sichuan stands at 81 million.

Chongqing Municipality in Peoples Republic of China

Chongqing, alternately romanized as Chungking, is a major city in southwest China. Administratively, it is one of China's four municipalities under the direct administration of central government, and the only such municipality in China located far away from the coast.

This was the last major Japanese offensive, and the last of 22 major battles during the war to involve more than 100,000 troops. Concurrently, the Chinese managed to repel a Japanese offensive in Henan and Hubei and launched a successful attack on Japanese forces in Guangxi, turning the course of the war sharply in China's favor even as they prepared to launch a full-scale counterattack across South China.

The Second Guangxi Campaign was a three-front Chinese counter offensive to retake the last major Japanese stronghold in Guangxi province, South China from April to August 1945. The campaign was successful, and plans were being made to mop up the remaining scattered Japanese troops in the vicinity of Shanghai and the east coast when the Americans dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading to Japan's surrender and ending the eight-year-long Second Sino-Japanese War.


By April 1945, China had already been at war with Japan for more than seven years. Both nations were exhausted by years of battles, bombings and blockades. From 1941-1943, both sides maintained a "dynamic equilibrium", where field engagements were often numerous, involved large numbers of troops and produced high casualty counts, but the results of which were mostly indecisive. Operation Ichi-Go in 1944 changed the status quo, as Japanese forces were able to break through the inadequate Chinese defenses and occupy most of Henan, Hunan and Guangxi, connecting Japanese-held areas from north to south in a continuous front.

Operation Ichi-Go military campaign

Operation Ichi-Go was a campaign of a series of major battles between the Imperial Japanese Army forces and the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China, fought from April to December 1944. It consisted of three separate battles in the Chinese provinces of Henan, Hunan and Guangxi.

Henan Province

Henan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the central part of the country. Henan is often referred to as Zhongyuan or Zhongzhou (中州) which literally means "central plain" or "midland", although the name is also applied to the entirety of China proper. Henan is the birthplace of Chinese civilization with over 3,000 years of recorded history, and remained China's cultural, economical, and political center until approximately 1,000 years ago.

Guangxi Autonomous region

Guangxi ( ; formerly romanized as Kwanghsi; Chinese: 广西; Zhuang: Gvangjsih, officially the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China, located in south China and bordering Vietnam. Formerly a province, Guangxi became an autonomous region in 1958.

However, the Japanese victory resulted in very little actual benefit for them: [1] :246–247 the operation drained Japanese manpower and a weakened Japanese army had to defend a longer front with more partisan activity in occupied areas. The opening up of north-south railway connections did little to improve Japanese logistics, for only one train ran from Guangzhou to Wuhan in April 1945, and due to fuel shortages the primary mode of transportation for Japanese troops was on foot.

Guangzhou Prefecture-level and Sub-provincial city in Guangdong, Peoples Republic of China

Guangzhou, also known as Canton and formerly romanized as Kwangchow or Kwong Chow, is the capital and most populous city of the province of Guangdong in southern China. On the Pearl River about 120 km (75 mi) north-northwest of Hong Kong and 145 km (90 mi) north of Macau, Guangzhou has a history of over 2,200 years and was a major terminus of the maritime Silk Road, and continues to serve as a major port and transportation hub, as well as one of China's three largest cities.

Wuhan Prefecture-level & Sub-provincial city in Hubei, Peoples Republic of China

Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province, People's Republic of China. It's the most populous city in Central China, and one of the nine National Central Cities of China. It lies in the eastern Jianghan Plain on the middle reaches of the Yangtze River's intersection with the Han river. Arising out of the conglomeration of three cities, Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang, Wuhan is known as 'China's Thoroughfare'; it is a major transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and expressways passing through the city and connecting to other major cities. Because of its key role in domestic transportation, Wuhan is sometimes referred to as "the Chicago of China" by foreign sources.

On the other hand, although the Chinese government in Chongqing had lost land access to their remaining forces in Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangxi with their defeat in Ichi-Go, Chinese fortunes in the war improved with the retaking of northern Burma by Allied and Chinese forces. On 4 February 1945, the first convoy of trucks reached Kunming from the British railhead in Ledo, India, over the newly completed Stilwell Road and the northern section of the Burma Road; using this road link, over 50,000 tonnes of petroleum started to arrive into China every month. [1] :233 By April 1945, enough materiel had become available to the Chinese army to equip 35 divisions with American equipment. [2] A major counter offensive was planned.

Zhejiang Province

Zhejiang is an eastern coastal province of China. Zhejiang is bordered by Jiangsu and Shanghai to the north, Anhui to the northwest, Jiangxi to the west, and Fujian to the south. To the east is the East China Sea, beyond which lie the Ryukyu Islands of Japan.

Anhui Province

Anhui is a province of the People's Republic of China located in the eastern region of the country. The province is located across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River, bordering Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a short section in the north.

Jiangxi Province

Jiangxi is a province in the People's Republic of China, located in the southeast of the country. Spanning from the banks of the Yangtze river in the north into hillier areas in the south and east, it shares a border with Anhui to the north, Zhejiang to the northeast, Fujian to the east, Guangdong to the south, Hunan to the west, and Hubei to the northwest.

Order of battle


  • 26th Corps: Ting Chih-pan
41st Division: Tung Gee-Tao
4th Division: Chiang Hsiu-jen
  • 94th Corps: Mu Ting-fang
5th Division: Li Tse-fen
43rd Division: Li Shih-lin
121st Division: Ch Ching-min
  • New 6th Corps: Liao Yao-hsiang
14th Division: Lung Tien-wu
New 22nd Division: Li Tao
  • 18th Corps: Hu Lien
11th Division: Yang Po-tao
18th Division: Chin Tao-shan
118th Division: Tai Pu
  • 73rd Corps: Han Chun
15th Division: Liang Chi-lu
77th Division: Tang Sheng-hai
193rd Division: Hsiao Chuang-kuang
  • 74th Corps: Shih Chung-cheng
51st Division: Chao Chih-tao
57th Division: Li Yen
58th Division: Tsai Jen-chieh
  • 100th Corps: Li Tien-hsia
19th Division: Yang Yin
63rd Division: Hsu Chih-hsiu
13th Division: Chin Li-san
6th Provincial Division: Chao Chi-ping
assorted independent units
  • 39th Corps; Liu Shang-chih (uncommitted)
51st Division; Shih Hun-hsi
  • 92nd Corps; Hou Ching-ju
21st Division; Li Tse-fen
142nd Division; Li Chun-ling (uncommitted)
Air Support (400 aircraft)
  • Chinese Air Force
1st Air Group
2nd Air Group
3rd Air Group
5th Air Group
  • U.S. Air Force
14th Air Force

Sources [3] [4] :458


Sources [4] :457

Japanese strategic objectives

For this campaign, the Imperial Japanese had three main objectives. The first of which was to neutralize the Chinese airfield at Zhijiang, [4] :458 whose complement of USAAF and ROCAF was ensuring Allied air superiority in the region and a base for U.S. bombers, either by physically reaching the airfield, located only 435 km (270 mi) from Chongqing, [5] and securing it, or simply by pressing forward close enough to the airfield to force the Chinese to destroy the installation. [1] :248</ref>

Their second objective was to secure their control of the Hunan-Guangxi and Guangzhou-Hankou railways. [4] :458 A third objective was to preemptively disrupt the planned Chinese offensive in the region. [4] :458

Preparations for battle

By this point of the war, Japan was losing the battle in Burma and facing constant attacks from Chinese forces in the country side. Spare troops for this campaign were limited. The Japanese army began preparations for the battle in March 1945, constructing two highways with forced Chinese labor: the Heng-Shao Highway ran from Hengyang in a northwest direction to Shaoyang, a Japanese-controlled city in central Hunan a mere 100 km (62 mi) from Zhijiang; and the Tan-Shao Highway from Xiangtan, southwest to Shaoyang. Supplies and equipment were stockpiled near Shaoyang, to be the headquarters of the Japanese 20th Corps, led by Ichiro Banzai. Under it were the Japanese 34th, 47th, 64th, 68th and 116th Divisions, as well as the 86th Independent Brigade, massing at various locations across Hunan, for a total of 80,000 men by early April. [1] :248 [4] :458

In response, the Chinese National Military Council dispatched the 4th Front Army and the 10th and 27th Army Groups with He Yingqin as commander-in-chief. [4] :458 At the same time, it airlifted the entire New 6th Corps, an American-equipped corps and veterans of the Burma Expeditionary Force, from Kunming to Zhijiang. [1] :248 Chinese forces totaled 110,000 men in 20 divisions. They were supported by about 400 aircraft from the CAF 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th Air Groups and the USAAF 14th Air Force. [3]


Japanese forces took over the outskirts of Hunan with little resistance. However, they didn't realize that the Chinese forces were well prepared for the Japanese assault. The mountainous terrain was ideal for ambushes and mortar bombardment on approaching Japanese forces in the lower grounds.

The Chinese also had air superiority in this battle. After some defeats Japan decided to retreat. However, Chinese forces gave chase and inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese. The local Chinese guerrilla forces then attacked the Japanese positions. Japan ended up losing a large amount of territory that they once occupied.


After the battle, the Japanese first announced that they only had 11,000 casualties (5,000 KIA). They later revised the figures to include an additional 15,000 casualties "due to diseases". Finally, they admitted to a casualty figure of 27,000. On the other hand, the Chinese claimed to have inflicted on the Japanese 36,358 casualties, including 12,498 KIA. The Chinese sustained 20,660 casualties with 7,817 KIA, of which there were 823 officers. [6]

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