Western Hunan Battle: prelude to Chinese counterattack in War of Resistance to Japan
May 8, 1945, is the day 75-year-old Zhu Guoxuan, a resident in Jiangkou Town, Dongkou County in western Hunan province, central-south China, has remembered clearly for the past six decades.
It was the day in the famous Western Hunan (or Xiangxi) Battle between Chinese soldiers and intruding Japanese troops that a turning point emerged.
The last large-scale battle in China's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945), the Xiangxi Battle, which started April 9, 1945 in western Hunan, lasted two months and involved 280,000 troops.
Japan mobilized five divisions and three independent mixed brigades, with a total of some 80,000 forces, to seize the air base in Zhijiang. In defense, China assembled 20 divisions, about 200,000 soldiers and deployed more than 400 battle planes
The Japanese army quickly marched toward their destination with hardly any resistance at first but were blocked on May 1 near the Xuefeng Mountain. They were finally defeated at that spot.
"I can still recall that on the day full 60 years ago, the Chinese and US air forces aroused batches of battle planes to in turn bombard the positions of the Japanese army at my hometown and the nearby Qingyan Village," said the old man.
"The fierce battle outbroke from dawn and the roars of guns and artillery did not cease until four o'clock in the afternoon. My pals and I then went to the battlefield. Seeing the corpses of Japanese soldiers scattered far and wide on the hillsides and fields, we all acclaimed with the greatest excitement that 'the Japs are defeated and we win,'" Zhu said.
His fellow villager Xiao Yansheng was even more excited when looking back the battle.
Xiao pointed at a forest of the Xuefeng Mountain in the town and said he saw from the mountain that the planes of Chinese and US air forces came one batch after another on May 8 around Jiangkou and Qingyan, bombing and strafing the intruding Japanese troops there.
"The Japanese army had no anti-aircraft weapons and scampered off like frightened rats. The corpses of the Japanese soldiers were seen all around the mountain."
"The Japanese army were routed like an ebb tide since that afternoon. Actually no one expected they lost the battle so quickly," Xiao said.
The battle 60 years ago was of extraordinary importance, said Xiao Dongliang, researcher of the Hunan Academy of Social Sciences.
"It was the first thorough victory that Chinese people achieved in battling against foreign intruders during the past century and more," Xiao said.
The expert on Chinese anti-Japanese history said "the turning point of Xiangxi Battle on May 8, 1945 not only brought about China's triumph over this central-south province campaign but also signified the prelude to China's all-around counterattack to Japan during the eight-year war of resistence."
Xiao said the Chinese army won the battle mainly through strategy.
During the first stage of the battle, the Chinese troops posed themselves in a defensive position and launched irregular attacks to the Japanese army so as to eliminate the enemy's strength.
Xiao said Chinese army's defense blocked the Japanese aggressors on the east side of the Xuefeng Mountain, forcing them into a long and narrow strip. This led to the final victory.
In the Xiangxi Battle, 12,498 Japanese soldiers were killed and 23,307 others were wounded. China won the battle at the cost of 7, 737 men. Senior military officials from China and the United States went to the battlefield about ten days later to commend the troops on their success.
Xiao said Xiangxi Battle proved that China was an important battlefield in the world anti-fascist war during World War II and was a major site of the fight against the Japanese forces.
China pinned down and eliminated a large proportion of Japanese military forces during its eight-year resistance war, which was conducive to Japan's unconditional surrender and also contributed to the anti-fascist wars in Europe and the Pacific.
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