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Thread: Japan in China: 1937 - 1945

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Default Japan in China: 1937 - 1945

    I am a bit puzzled about why - if I remember correctly - the Japanese counter-guerrilla tactics (and puppet -building practices) of Japan in China haven't been discussed here, ever.

    They had certainly a terrible population: occupation troops ratio, and given the length of the conflict may have to offer many insights.


    I guess this is a language barrier issue?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Why a silence: a few points?

    Fuchs,

    I suspect that the Japanese counterinsurgency action in occupied China is one of those forgotten wars for SWC. It is slightly puzzling initially as the USA had a "love affair" with China in WW2, plus the small scale presence of US citizens, then US military after Pearl Harbour and as mentioned on another thread the US role post-VJ Day in North-East China.

    There is a SWJ article on Japanese COIN in the Phillipines, in 2009:http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art...ppines-1942-45

    Having looked through the History section there are no threads on Japanese COIN.

    Google found a few sources, from RAND:in 1967 'Counterinsurgency in Manchuria: The Japanese Experience, 1931-1940' http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_memoranda/RM5012.html and a Japanese MoD think tank paper 'Japanese Intelligence and Counterinsurgency during the Sino-Japanese War: North China in the 1940s' http://www.nids.go.jp/publication/se.../201103/10.pdf

    The last paragraph in the Japanese paper, cited in part:
    the support of the local population is essential for successfully conducting guerrilla
    warfare. If military forces need to achieve popular support, appeasing the locals is not enough. The military should seize and attract the minds of the locals through the local governments, and it is highly critical to use locals for administration and give them free hands. Moreover, the military should keep their behavior above reproach. The IJA had failed in this respect. We have to keep in mind that one of the most reliable sources of information was always locals who supported the military from the heart, as Col. Sadashige Orita had noticed. Nevertheless, the IJA only considered military results important, and had no interest in the concerns of locals in general.
    Above all it is the documented savagery of the Japanese operations explains why the issue has lain dormant
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Default With friends like these…

    In college one of my classmates who was the daughter of an Indonesian politician let me read an oral history she had done with her father as a high school project. He discussed how he and a group of his friends came to the decision to join the PETA as a means of receiving military training for the post-War fighting they anticipated with the Dutch. As I remember it, his account of their first day of training went like this: 1) Kitted out with trousers, blouses, and boots. 2) Loaded into a small boat with their trainer and taken about 1km or so offshore. 3) Told by their trainer to jump out of the boat; compliance aided by repeated and vicious kicking. 4) Trainer informed them that those making it to shore with their kit intact would be allowed to continue the training, followed by drawing his sidearm and informing them that no one would be allowed to reenter the boat.
    Last edited by ganulv; 09-28-2011 at 05:01 PM. Reason: wording
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Maybe there are Japanese- or Chinese-speaking (whatever dialect) people here who can point us at (comprehensible, that is = English) documents about the episode?

    The Japanese would probably omit some not so comfortable info, but those omissions aren't about tactics to be adopted anyway.

    How about some exchange officer students at military colleges, bored military attachés?

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    See also the February 1968 Challenge and Response in Internal Conflict, Volume I: The Experience in Asia

    This volume has sections on China that cover the periods 1898-1901, 1927-1937, and 1937-1945.

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    My impression is that the Japanese saw the Chinese Theater as a conventional war. COIN was a supporting effort. I think their approach to COIN was to rely heavily on Chinese proxies. This included puppet regimes and armies in Manchuria and China proper. This approach had some merit because the Nationalist Government under Chiang never had firm control over the entire country. China was still a fragmented society and political entity.

    Despite the legend of mass resistance to the Japanese, I do not think the Chinese insurgency--Nationalist or Communists-was ever seriously aimed at ousting the Japanese. Stilwell's frustration with Chiang in the regard was well known, but I don't see the Communists as being significanly more aggressive.

    The Communists did not make a serious attempt to push back the Japanese after the 100 Regiments Campaign of 1940. Mao and Chiang were both focused on their decisive fight which they knew would come after the Japanese were defeated.

    People also forget that Chiang came close to crushing the Communists in his Encirclement Campaigns from 1931-1934. The first efforts failed but the fifth one compelled the Communists to begin the Long March. A strong argument can be made that the Japanese saved Mao by compelling Chiang to shift military resources away from the fight in the South.

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    This is a great book that covers the period.

    "China at War 1901-1949 ", Edward Dreyer

    http://www.amazon.com/China-War-1901...+war+1901-1949

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    This is another book that covers more specifically the period.

    http://www.amazon.com/Battle-China-M...=the+china+war

    I read it and it was extremely good. You come away with a huge respect for the endurance and determination of the Chinese people, and surprisingly considering what we've been told for years, Chiang and the KMT.

    From what I remember, Japan was interested in keeping the part of China they occupied and did what it took to do that. They never had any real problem with either Nationalist or Red guerrilla forces. Nationalist guerrilla forces fought to support Nationalist conventional forces and were mostly destroyed. Communists, after the 100 regiments attacks mostly concentrated on preserving their forces. If I remember correctly they ended up stronger at the end of the war than at the beginning.

    Perhaps one thing that can be learned is the importance of having a sanctuary and a source of external supply. The Chinese didn't have any of that in an important way until 1945.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Carl - +1 on your review of the book and general conclusions.

    I would disagree about the idea that Nationalist China did not have supply or sanctuary. For me the dominant feature of Japan's war was their complete lack of an overarching strategic plan for China. Their China policy seemed much more a set of improvisations, driven primarily by events and commanders in the field, especially early on ("Manchuria Incident" and assault on Shanghai). They wanted to protect their Manchurian resource enclave from the Nationalist threat, but they had no overall strategic plan as to why Manchuria was worth so much, or what they would do with it or the other parts of China.

    Yet in order to protect Manchuria, they decided to destroy the KMT army by attacking first Shanghai, then expanding ever onward in a vain attempt to pin and then destroy the Nationalists. Their entire campaign was an attempt to destroy the KMT's sanctuary and supply lines in the rest of China and SE Asia. In the end, they ended up garrisoning vast territories with overstretched armies, fighting swarms of guerrillas who could be wiped away easily but never quite eliminated, while chasing KMT armies who could be defeated but never quite destroyed completely. Meanwhile their efforts completely wrecked their diplomatic position and turned former Western allies pre-1932 into bitter enemies.

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Regarding foreign supply; Stalin was happy to help with Polikapov fighters and Tupolev bombers prior to '41 - in exchange for gold.

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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Manchuria must have seemed to be an excellent addition from the Japanese point of view. A good degree of key ressources which the island lacks, good internal shipping routes ,a relative short 'Chinese' frontier (considering the extent of the region), considerable strategic depth towards the Soviet Union and a relative small population ( in Chinese relations). Keep in mind that for a long time it was 'the' heavy industrial heartland of China with a hefty percentage of the GDP. This is before the big boom transformed the Chinese economy completely.

    It is difficult to understand why they extended their forces so much into China. I guess it was a case of too good a chance to pass, of complete victory just a step away, of not giving in to problems.
    Last edited by Firn; 11-13-2012 at 10:25 PM.
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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Tequila:

    I was thinking more along the lines of neither the Nationalist nor the Communist guerrillas having a sanctuary or an external source of supply. Neither of them could duck across a line of control or border into a place the Japanese would not go. The only thing they could do if they chose was to move far enough away that the Japanese Army didn't feel like following.

    Neither did they have supplies coming over from outside in any important way. The Japanese controlled the coast, not much came over the Hump or the over the mountain roads and the Soviets cut off supplies until they resumed their fight with Japan. For guerrilla forces or insurgencies, without sanctuary or supply things are close to impossible.

    I would disagree about the Nationalists having any important source of external supply after the Soviets cut them off. The routes over the mountains to the south just could provide enough to make a difference.

    Interestingly, they could supply enough that the USAAF and Chinese Air Force just about ran the Japanese out of Chinese skies by 1944-45. It is interesting too that that didn't stop the Japanese from going where they pleased and wrecking KMT military power in their final offensive to the south. From reading that book I got the idea that the Japanese Army was probably as responsible, or more, than any other factor for the ultimate victory of the Reds.
    Last edited by carl; 11-13-2012 at 11:03 PM.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Keep in mind outsider armies were used to the idea that you can venture into China and just beat Chinese rifles and swords-armed mobs up. Eventually, the emperor would agree to an unfair treaty.

    The Japanese were the unlucky ones who learned that this had changed. It could just as well have been the Brits, French or Americans.
    Being Japanese, they did probably not want to look inferior to the Europeans who had demonstrated Chinese defencelessness conclusively, after all!

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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Keep in mind outsider armies were used to the idea that you can venture into China and just beat Chinese rifles and swords-armed mobs up. Eventually, the emperor would agree to an unfair treaty.

    The Japanese were the unlucky ones who learned that this had changed. It could just as well have been the Brits, French or Americans.
    Being Japanese, they did probably not want to look inferior to the Europeans who had demonstrated Chinese defencelessness conclusively, after all!
    This might be a frequently overlooked aspect if you use the gift of hindsight. Well spotted.

    BTW a current graphic mapping the population density of China:



    The Japanese certainly controlled at least nominally a large percentage of Chinese population.

    Last edited by Firn; 11-13-2012 at 10:42 PM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

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    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Fuchs:

    The Chinese fought and fought and never gave up but it didn't make any difference against the Japanese. The Japanese lost China because of what happened in the Pacific, not because of anything that happened in China nor anything the Chinese did.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Firn,

    Two good maps. Is there one showing how far the Japanese expanded? In 1940 IIRC they occupied northern and then southern (Vichy) French Indo-China; my recollection is that the Japanese were by then on the land border.

    More generally and I rely on a conversation with Professor Steven Tsang, a British academic whose life target is to complete a biography of Chiang Kai-Shek.

    The Nationalists lost their best divisions, first the German-trained divisions in 1940 that tried to hold onto Shanghai (August to November 1937) and when they were reformed and re-equipped they were sent south to Yunnan, to help the Allies in Burma and re-opened 'The Burma Road' (December 1941-late 1944). Steven remarked that these divisions could ably resist their opponents - if Japanese air power was absent.

    Wiki links:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Sino-Japanese_War and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Shanghai
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    I was thinking more along the lines of neither the Nationalist nor the Communist guerrillas having a sanctuary or an external source of supply. Neither of them could duck across a line of control or border into a place the Japanese would not go. The only thing they could do if they chose was to move far enough away that the Japanese Army didn't feel like following.
    Both the Communists and the KMT found effective sanctuary within China: they couldn't duck across a border, but they could duck deeper into the China, which is a big place.

    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    For guerrilla forces or insurgencies, without sanctuary or supply things are close to impossible.
    This I think is exaggerated, and a dangerous assumption: it leads counterinsurgents to focus on whatever bad folks are providing that sanctuary instead of looking at the issues in their own goals, policies, and practices. To use a current analogy, that kind of thinking could lead us to think that our goals, policies, strategies, and tactics in Afghanistan aren't a problem, everything would be fine if it wasn't for Pakistan.

    I don't think either Mao or the KMT had any particular desire to fight the Japanese more than they had to. They'd have been quite willing, not unreasonably, to let the Americans fight the Japanese while they prepared to fight each other. Lack of supply would be a constraint, but no amount of supply will get people to fight if they don't think it's in their interest to fight.

    I think there are a number of reasons why guerrilla/counterguerrilla warfare in China hasn't received much attention. Most original source material would be written in Japanese or Chinese and heavily biased in both cases: there weren't many neutral observers on the ground. At the time this aspect of the fight was largely seen as a fairly insignificant adjunct to the dominant conventional warfare, and it didn't get much study in any theater. We also don't see much written on SWJ about, say, guerrilla resistance to German occupation in Russia or the Balkans.

    I think there's also a sense that there's little to be learned from Japanese counterguerrilla practice in particular because it was so diametrically opposed to current practice and to what is currently considered acceptable. Japanese COIN was not notably pop-centric and placed a fairly low priority on winning hearts and minds.

    As an aside, some time ago I looked into the differences between material published by Americans on guerrilla resistance to Japanese occupation of the Philippines and accounts coming from Filipinos. The differences were striking, to say the least. Even where written records exist they must be very carefully filtered for bias.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Fuchs:

    The Chinese fought and fought and never gave up but it didn't make any difference against the Japanese. The Japanese lost China because of what happened in the Pacific, not because of anything that happened in China nor anything the Chinese did.
    Well I would not say 'any difference'.

    Strength

    CHINESE
    5,600,000
    3,600 Soviets (1937–40)
    900 US aircraft (1942–45)[1]

    JAPANESE
    3,900,000[2]
    900,000 Chinese collaborators[3]

    Casualties and losses

    CHINESE
    Nationalist: 1,320,000 KIA, 1,797,000 WIA, 120,000 MIA, and 17,000,000–22,000,000 civilians dead [4]
    Communist: 500,000 KIA and WIA.

    JAPANESE
    Contemporary studies: 1,055,000 dead
    1,172,200 injured
    Total: 2,227,200[5]
    Japanese estimates—including 480,000 dead in total

    I think it is all to easy to fall into the mental trap of equating the (reveived) media coverage and the importance of an event. There is no doubt that the Japanese had allocated vast ressources of men and material to the Cinese theater of war. Especially Japanese man-power was in massively engaged.

    While obviously the Chinese did not play the Soviet part in the Japense downfall there are some interesting parallels with the German effort in the East. And in both instances the war against the 'Western Allies' demanded a far more capital and technology intensive approach. In the German case the contrast was arguably not as extreme and thus the ressource drain had greater consequences on it's Eastern front.

    Note: It is too easy to forget just how costly a big small war can be on your territory. 20 million dead civilians are clear reminder, especially since the war was concentrated mostly in areas of the North-east.
    Last edited by Firn; 11-14-2012 at 11:59 AM.
    ... "We need officers capable of following systematically the path of logical argument to its conclusion, with disciplined intellect, strong in character and nerve to execute what the intellect dictates"

    General Ludwig Beck (1880-1944);
    Speech at the Kriegsakademie, 1935

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Firn:

    Small difference then, if that is more acceptable. The Japanese Army was never in any danger at all of being pushed out of China by the Chinese. They left because they lost in the Pacific. They didn't lose in the Pacific because of any lack of manpower, those islands are only so big. They lost in the Pacific because our naval/air forces beat theirs. That is the tragedy of the thing, the Chinese tried so hard and lost so much for so long but it didn't do much to remove the Japanese.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Both the Communists and the KMT found effective sanctuary within China: they couldn't duck across a border, but they could duck deeper into the China, which is a big place.
    Yes I know that. Which is why I wrote that. However if you run far enough away from the Japanese that they can't easily get at you, you can't easily get at them. That is a bit different from ducking over a border into a sanctuary. They can't get at you at all but you can still get at them. That is an important thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    This I think is exaggerated, and a dangerous assumption: it leads counterinsurgents to focus on whatever bad folks are providing that sanctuary instead of looking at the issues in their own goals, policies, and practices. To use a current analogy, that kind of thinking could lead us to think that our goals, policies, strategies, and tactics in Afghanistan aren't a problem, everything would be fine if it wasn't for Pakistan.
    I don't think acknowledging the prime importance of sanctuary is at all misplaced. In the case you cite acknowledging that will lead to realizing that the problem can't be solved unless something is done about the Pak Army/ISI. In China, it helps explain why guerrilla forces didn't accomplish much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    I don't think either Mao or the KMT had any particular desire to fight the Japanese more than they had to. They'd have been quite willing, not unreasonably, to let the Americans fight the Japanese while they prepared to fight each other. Lack of supply would be a constraint, but no amount of supply will get people to fight if they don't think it's in their interest to fight.
    No, according to the book that is not true. The KMT fought quite a lot as proven by casualty figures. The Reds didn't fight so much. Which is the opposite of what we've been told all these years. The Chinese were very upset that the Japanese were around. They just couldn't get them out even though they tried.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    I think there's also a sense that there's little to be learned from Japanese counterguerrilla practice in particular because it was so diametrically opposed to current practice and to what is currently considered acceptable. Japanese COIN was not notably pop-centric and placed a fairly low priority on winning hearts and minds.
    Agreed. We don't look at it much because Japanese small wars practices were so savage there is nothing much to be gained by studying them. How much can be gained by going over publications such as "How to kill Filipinos".
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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