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Battle of Nanchang


Battle of Nanchang

Battle of Nanchang
Part of the Second Sino-Japanese war
Date March 17 – May 9, 1939
Location Nanchang and proximity
Result Decisive Japanese victory
 National Revolutionary Army  Imperial Japanese Army
Commanders and leaders
Xue Yue Yasuji Okamura
200,000 troops in 39 Divisions in 4 Army Groups: 19th, 1st, 30th and 32nd Army Groups, Hunan–Hupei–Kiangsi Border Area Guerrilla Command 120,000 troops in 3 Divisions: 6th, 101st and 106th, Ishii Tank Unit (130 tanks and tankettes), 1 Cavalry Regiment, 1 Artillery Brigade, 2 Artillery Regiments (200 artillery pieces), 30+ ships and 50 motor boats and one battalion of Marines, and several air squadrons
Casualties and losses
51,328 24,000

The Battle of Nanchang (simplified Chinese: 南昌会战); traditional Chinese: 南昌會戰, was a major battle between the Chinese National Revolutionary Army and the Japanese Imperial Japanese Army in the Second Sino-Japanese War. It was the first major conflict to occur following the Battle of Wuhan.

After the Battle of Wuhan, Wuhan was the base of the 11th Army of the Imperial Japanese Army, and was surrounded by the 5th and 9th Military Regions of the National Revolutionary Army. Nanchang was a railway center and the western terminus of the Chekiang-Hunan Railway. Due to these connections, Nanchang was a major supply line between the 3rd and 9th Military Regions, and site of the airbase threatening Japanese shipping in Yangtze River. In addition, its proximity to the center of the Shanghai-Wuhan strip controlled by Japan was a strategic threat.[1]

The 9th Military Region was reshuffled, with Chen Cheng staying as the supreme commander in name and Xue Yue becoming the commander in actuality. 200,000 troops in 52 divisions were gathered near Nanchang. However, lacking vehicles, the reorganization took a long time and the planned attack was delayed.


  • Order of battle 1
  • Japanese attack 2
  • Chinese counterattack and retreat 3
  • Aftermath 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6

Order of battle

Japanese attack

In July 1938, Japanese troops had tried to approach Nanchang during the Battle of Wuhan, but they were stopped at Xiushui River. Despite having gathered a strong force from their base at the Yangtze port 80 miles to the North, the Chinese force of 200,000 troops were well entrenched.[2] These strong opposition measures, combined with unfavorable weather conditions, halted the Japanese advance to Nanchang in 1938 and led to a standstill during the winter months.

The Japanese troops waited for reinforcements, and come spring they began a second invasion with their new force of 120,000 troops. In March 1939, the Japanese troops commanded by Yasuji Okamura began their advance and met the opposing Chinese troops at the Xiushui River (see Battle of Xiushui River). The defensive positions of the Chinese troops proved difficult to break through, and for four days the Japanese remained held down. To end the standoff and counter the Chinese defense, the Japanese deployed 130 tanks and artillery and began the largest artillery barrage of the Second Sino-Japanese War.[3]

An example of the Type 89 tanks used in the Xiushui barrage.
Early model of Type 89 I-Go.

An example of the Type 89 tanks used in the Xiushui barrage.

Along with traditional artillery shells, the bombardment also included the use of toxic gas chemical weapons which had also been deployed elsewhere in China during the war.[4] After several days of bombardment, having met no resistance, the Japanese ceased their fire and began to advance across the river.

Starting at 07:00 on 21 March, they advanced 2 km (1.2 mi), and began to build bridges. On 23 March, Wucheng where the Xiushui River enters Poyang Hu was devastated by sustained naval bombardment and airstrikes followed by a landing by Naval Landing forces.

By 26 March, Japanese troops supported by tanks had broken out of their Xiushui River bridgehead and reached the west gate of Nanchang, defeating Chinese reinforcements from the 3rd Military Region. Yasuji Okamura’s troops were joined by another Japanese regiment coming down from north at Nanchang and together they surrounded the city and laid siege.[5] On 27 March, Nanchang had fallen to the siege, and the Chinese troops had suffered heavy casualties. Following the successful capture of the city, other defensive outposts in the surrounding countryside were also taken throughout March and April. This was the end of the first phase of the battle.

Chinese counterattack and retreat

However, the battle was not over. During a period lasting until the end of April some Japanese forces were moved to support operations in other areas (see Battle of Suizao). The Chinese Nationalists saw an opportunity in this weakening of available Japanese manpower, and planned a counterattack to retake the city. Their directive was to cut off the Japanese contact and disrupt the enemy from the rear.[5]

On 21 April, a surprise attack by the forces of the 3rd and 9th Military Regions began from the north, west, and south of Nanchang.[6] It began with the 1st Army Group in the 60th Army Division as well as the 58th Army Division attacking from the North.[5] They were later joined by the 74th and 49th Army Groups as they pushed in through Japanese defenses. In the south, this sudden offensive quickly broke through the Japanese positions as they advanced towards Nanchang proper. After five days of relentless advancement, the 32nd Army Group at the front of the Southern Chinese spearhead reached the outer area of Nanchang.[3] Throughout the Chinese attack, the Japanese still retained control over the Xiushui River and continually received supplies and reinforcements throughout the five-day advance of Chinese troops.

Beginning on 27 April, the Japanese began a counteroffensive against the Chinese push by attacking the southern troops. Supported by heavy artillery fire, and air support the Japanese retook several of their strongholds around the city and forced the Chinese divisions to fall back.[7] For the following week, progress was at a standstill on both sides as they held their defensive positions. Hoping to end the conflict quickly, Chiang Kai-Shek ordered the Chinese divisions surrounding Nanchang on 2 May to retake the city by 5 May.[3]

Following this order, the Chinese launched a new offensive to try to end the conflict over the city, but the continued reinforcements of the Japanese were unable to be pushed back. After several days of intense fighting, and heavy casualties for the Chinese army, the Chinese were exhausted and forced to retreat on 9 May.[5] Also exhausted from the battle, the Japanese did not pursue the retreating Chinese army.[3]


While the battle ended in defeat, the offensive against the Japanese boosted the morale of the Chinese National Army and led many division to lead counterattacks against Japanese incursions throughout the region.[5] However, even with the motivational boost, the loss of Nanchang rail lines affected the major supply line of the 3rd Military Region of the National Revolutionary Army as the southeast provinces of China came under increasing threat.

See also


  1. ^ 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. pp. 293-300 Map. 14-15
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d
  4. ^ Yoshimi and Matsuno, Dokugasusen kankei shiryô II, Kaisetsu 1997
  5. ^ a b c d e
  6. ^ Peattie, M., Drea, E. & Ven, H. (2011). The battle for China : essays on the military history of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.
  7. ^ Sino-Japanese Air War 1937–45
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