Battle of Changde

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.

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]

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.[4][5][6][7][8] American government film footage showed victorious Chinese troops with Japanese prisoners and captured Japanese flags and equipment on display after the battle.[9] In addition, an American newsreel titled "Chinese troops drive Japs from Changteh" showed Chinese troops firing, with dead and captured Japanese on display.[10]

Battle of Changde
Part of the Second Sino-Japanese War of World War II
Changde battle

Chinese troops in combat at Changde
Date2 November 194320 December 1943
Changde and vicinity
Result Chinese defensive victory[1]
Japanese capture the city, but later withdraw in January 1944[2]
Republic of China (1912–1949) Republic of China Empire of Japan Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
Republic of China (1912–1949) Sun Lianzhong
Republic of China (1912–1949) Wang Yaowu
Empire of Japan Isamu Yokoyama
~210,000 61,000
Casualties and losses
20,000 1,274 dead
2,977 wounded[3]


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]

On 14 November the Japanese 13th Division, with aid from collaborators, drove south and broke through the Chinese defensive lines placed by the 10th and the 29th Group Armies. On 16 November, the Japanese paratroopers 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 the Chinese 57th Division from the 74th Corps, whose commander, Yu Chengwan, led his single division of 8,000 men to fight against the two invading Japanese divisions. Despite of overwhelming numerical inferiority, 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]

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.[11] 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]

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 had 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]

Changde prisoners
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.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Documentary about the Battle of Changde – via You Tube.
  2. ^ a b c ed. Hsiung, James C. and Steven I. Levine China's Bitter Victory: The War with Japan 1937–1945, p.161
  3. ^ Japanese Monograph No. 71, "Army Operations in China" pp. 170
  4. ^ Simon Newton Dexter North; Francis Graham Wickware; Albert Bushnell Hart (1944). The American Year Book: Volume 29. T. Nelson & Sons. p. 94. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  5. ^ George Creel (1949). Russia's race for Asia. Bobbs-Merrill Co. p. 214.
  6. ^ Free world, Volume 8. Free World, Inc. 1944. p. 309.
  7. ^ Philip J. Jaffe (1943). Amerasia, Volume 7. Amerasia, inc. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  8. ^ Inc, Time (21 February 1944). "LIFE". Time Inc. Retrieved 5 June 2016 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ "HD Stock Video Footage – Chinese troops defeat the Japanese in Changde China and capture their military equipment during World War II". Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  10. ^ "HD Stock Video Footage – Newsreel 'Chinese troops drive Japs from Changteh'". Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  11. ^ Agar, Jon Science in the 20th Century and Beyond, p.281


  • 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. 412–416 Map 38
  • Daniel Barenblatt, A plague upon Humanity, HarperCollins, 2004, pp. 220–221

External links

Coordinates: 29°02′00″N 111°40′59″E / 29.0333°N 111.6830°E

116th Division (Imperial Japanese Army)

The 116th Division (第116師団, Dai-hyakujūroku Shidan) was an infantry division of the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call sign was Storm Division (嵐兵団, Ran Heidan). It was formed on 15 May 1938 in Kyoto as a B-class square division, simultaneously with the 106th Division. The nucleus for the formation was the 16th Division headquarters. The division was originally subordinated to the Central China Expeditionary Army.

1943 in China

Events in the year 1943 in China. The country had an estimated population of 444,801,000 in the mainland and 6,507,000 in Taiwan.

3rd Division (Imperial Japanese Army)

The 3rd Division (第3師団, Dai-san shidan) was an infantry division in the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call sign was the Lucky Division (幸兵団, Kō-heidan).

68th Division (Imperial Japanese Army)

The 68th Division (第68師団, Dai-rokujūhachi Shidan) was an infantry division of the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call sign was the Cypress Division (檜兵団, Hinoki Heidan). It was formed on 2 February 1942 in Jiujiang city as a class C (security) division, simultaneously with the 69th and 70th divisions. The backbone of security division has consisted of the eight independent infantry battalions, and it does not have an artillery regiment. The nucleus for the formation was the 14th Independent mixed brigade.

69th Division (Imperial Japanese Army)

The 69th Division (第69師団, Dai-rokujūkyū Shidan) was an infantry division of the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call sign was the Winning Division (勝兵団, Katsu Heidan). It was formed on 2 February 1942 in Linfen city as a class C (security) division, simultaneously with the 68th and 70th divisions. The backbone of security division has consisted of the eight independent infantry battalions, and it does not have an artillery regiment. The nucleus for the formation was the 16th Independent mixed brigade and a reservists from the former 108th division, recruited from Hirosaki mobilization district.

Army groups of the National Revolutionary Army

The army groups (Chinese: 集團軍, also translated as group armies) of the National Revolutionary Army were the largest conventional mobile formations in the organization of the army of the Republic of China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The first army groups were established immediately after the Japanese attack at Marco Polo Bridge on 7 July 1937, and new army groups continued to be formed throughout the war.

During the war, the only military formations larger than the army group were the military regions, which were defined by geographical boundaries, and the army corps, of which only four were formed and only during the Battle of Wuhan. In effect, the army group was the largest fighting unit of the National Revolutionary Army, and usually exercised command over two or more field armies or several corps, and assorted lesser units. They were roughly equivalent in size to an Army in British or American military terminology. By the end of the war with Japan, 40 army groups of China were in existence. The civil war saw three additional army groups being formed, even as they were gradually being replaced by newly formed army corps, by then a largely analogous formation. The following list provides an overview of the army groups in the National Revolutionary Army, including their organization, commanders, and important battles.


Changde (Chinese: 常德; pinyin: Chángdé [ʈʂʰǎŋ.tɤ̌]) is a prefecture-level city in the northwest of Hunan province, People's Republic of China, with a population of 5,717,218 as of the 2010 census, of which 1,232,182 reside in the built-up area (metro) made of 2 urban districts of Dingcheng and Wuling. In addition to the urban districts, Changde also administers the county-level city of Jinshi and six counties. Changde is adjacent to Dongting Lake to the east, the city of Yiyang to the south, Wuling and Xuefeng Mountains to the west, and Hubei province to the north.The area has been inhabited by humans since around 8,000 years ago. In that time, the city has changed names several times, but it has been known as Changde since the 12th century. The city is well known for the Battle of Changde during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) and the atrocities committed then by the Imperial Japanese Army.

In the past decade, the city has seen a massive construction boom. New highrises have sprung up, roads were rebuilt and new schools, parks and museums have opened. Locals and tourists often visit the Changde Poetry Wall, covered in a variety of poems mostly from ancient China. The wall stretches for 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) along the Yuan River downtown and functions as a flood wall. It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest wall with engraved arts in the world.

Death and Glory in Changde

Death and Glory in Changde is a 2010 Chinese war film based on the events in the Battle of Changde in 1943 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Chinese title of the film literally means "bloodbath, isolated city". Directed by Shen Dong, the film starred Ray Lui, Yuan Wenkang and Ady An in the lead roles. The film was released in mainland China on 19 August 2010.

Fang Xianjue

Fang Xianjue (Traditional Chinese: 方先覺 ; Simplified Chinese:方先觉) was born in a small Jiangsu (now in Suzhou, Anhui) village gentry family in 1903. After studying with the village tutor, he went to Xuzhou Provincial High School, and later studied at the Nanjing 1st Industrial School, then later went to National Central University (later renamed Nanjing University in mainland China and reinstated in Taiwan). After completing his formal education, he decided to attend Whampoa Military Academy and graduated class of 1926.

He started as a platoon leader in the National Revolutionary Army (NRA), and got promoted to the rank of army general during the Second Sino-Japanese War. After KMT lost the Chinese Civil War, he relocated with the Nationalists to Taiwan and later became the deputy commander of the NRA army group in charge of defending the Pescadores Islands. General Fang personally participated in the Battle of Taierzhuang, the Battle of Changde, and the Battle of Changsha. Retired from military in 1968 and later died in 1983.

Isamu Yokoyama

Isamu Yokoyama (横山勇, Yokoyama Isamu, 1 March 1889 – 21 April 1952) was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army, commanding Japanese ground forces in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War and Pacific War.

Japan and weapons of mass destruction

Beginning in the mid-1930s, Japan conducted numerous attempts to acquire and develop weapons of mass destruction. The 1943 Battle of Changde saw Japanese use of both bioweapons and chemical weapons, and the Japanese conducted a serious, though futile, nuclear weapon program.

Since World War II, the United States military based nuclear and chemical weapons and field tested biological anti-crop weapons in Japan.

Japan has since become a nuclear-capable state, said to be a "screwdrivers turn" away from nuclear weapons; having the capacity, the know-how, and the materials to make a nuclear bomb. Japan has consistently eschewed any desire to have nuclear weapons, and no mainstream Japanese party has ever advocated acquisition of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons are forbidden by the Japanese constitution.

Japan is the only nation that has been attacked with atomic weapons. In 1995 it was attacked with chemical weapons in a domestic terror attack.

List of World War II battles

This is a list of World War II battles, sorted by front location.

List of military engagements of the Second Sino-Japanese War

The battles listed here are ones that have corresponding Wikipedia articles. A flag icon to the left of a battle's name shows the victorious side in the engagement. The date to the right of a battle's name shows when it began, except in the case of 1942's Battle of Changsha, which began in December 1941.

Liu Chen-san

Liu Chen-san was a Chinese Nationalist General in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

In the beginning of the war in the battle of Battle of Beiping-Tianjin he commanded a brigade of the 38th Division, that beat back the Japanese in the Langfang area. From late 1937 to 1943 he was the general commanding the 180th Division in the Battle of Xuzhou and Western Hopei Operation. In 1943 he was given command of 59th Corps which he held to the end of the war. He commanded 59th Corps during the Battle of Changde and the Battle of West Henan-North Hubei.

Proposed Japanese invasion of Sichuan

The proposed Japanese invasion of Sichuan, also known as the Sichuan invasion, Szechwan Invasion, Chongqing Operation, Chongqing Campaign or Operation 5, was the Imperial Japanese Army's failed plan to destroy the Chongqing-based Chiang Kai-shek government during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It was to be a stepping stone for Japan's final control of the Chinese mainland.

The operation started in spring of 1942, after the first phase of operations had been concluded in south China, and continued through spring of 1943. The operation is noted for Japan's sustained bombing of cities in central west China.

Sun Lianzhong

Sun Lianzhong (Chinese: 孫連仲; Wade–Giles: Sun Lien-chung; 1893–1990) was a Chinese general during the Warlord Era, Second Sino-Japanese War and Chinese Civil War. Best known for his commanded of the 2nd Group Army in the Battle of Taierzhuang, he had a long career in the army.

In the Warlord Era he was in the Northwest Army of Feng Yuxiang, Northern Expedition with Zhang Zuolin and Northwest Army for Yan Xishan against Chiang Kai-shek in Central Plains War. Then he commanded forces during the 2nd, 3rd and 5th Campaigns against the Jiangxi Soviet.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War he commanded the 1st Army in the Northern Peiking – Hankow Railway Operation (August 1937). Also the 2nd Group Army in the Battle of Taiyuan, Battle of Xuzhou where was in the Battle of Taierzhuang, Battle of Wuhan, Battle of Suixian-Zaoyang, 1939-40 Winter Offensive, Battle of Zaoyang-Yichang, and Battle of South Henan. As Deputy commander of the 6th war Area he was in command of the Battle of West Hubei, and as commander-in-chief 6th War Area defeated the Japanese in the Battle of Changde. He went on to command the 6th War Area for the rest of the war.

In 1945 Sun Lianzhong was made commander-in-chief 11th War Area and was to take command of the Tianjin, Beiping, Baoding, and Shijiazhuang area and take the surrender of the Japanese troops there. However the KMT forces had conflicts with the Communist forces and the Chinese Civil War broke out in full force again. After two years he resigned his posts in North China and moved to the capital and then in 1949 to Taiwan.

Xue Yue

Xue Yue (Chinese: 薛岳; pinyin: Xuē Yuè; Wade–Giles: Hsüeh Yüeh; December 26, 1896 – May 3, 1998) was a Chinese Nationalist military general, nicknamed by Claire Lee Chennault of the Flying Tigers as the "Patton of Asia" and called the "God of War" (戰神) by the Chinese.

Zhang Lingfu

Zhang Lingfu (traditional Chinese: 張靈甫; simplified Chinese: 张灵甫; pinyin: Zhāng Língfǔ; August 20, 1903 – May 16, 1947) was a high-ranking general of the Chinese National Revolutionary Army. He successfully fought against the Communists and the Imperial Japanese Army. In 1947, his unit was surrounded by Chinese communist forces commanded by Field Marshal Chen Yi and General Su Yu. Zhang was unable to breakout from the communist encirclement because the relief efforts headed by his nationalist colleagues did not arrive on time, and he was killed in action in the Menglianggu Campaign on May 16, 1947.


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