Battle of Hainan
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
The island of Hainan (Japanese: Kainan or Kainanto) was situated off southern China, at such a location that, if occupied by the Japanese, the Chinese would lose all capabilities to import supplies by sea via any southern ports that were still under Chinese control. The island hosted a population of 2,200,000, and it was guarded by a small force, 5th Security Brigade of the Chinese 152nd Division (1,600 men, organized into two regiments) and the Xiuying Battery Garrison (250 men, with the main coastal guns not yet operational). The regular troops were supported by poorly trained militiamen (1,750 men, organized into seven battalions). There were also about 300 Communist fighters on Hainan, who naturally would not consider supporting the Nationalist regular forces, but were another small obstacle for the Japanese nevertheless. The Chinese had no aircraft support and had little in the ways of anti-aircraft weaponry.
At the very end of the day on 9 Feb 1939, Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondo's Japanese 5th Fleet, also known as the South China Naval Force, arrived off Qinghai Bay. At 1200 hours on 10 Feb, Special Naval Landing Forces troops were disembarked at the city of Haikou on the northern coast, while Japanese Army and Japanese Navy troops coordinated to secure the entire northern region of the island. On 11 Feb, Japanese troops landed at the city of Sanya (Japanese: Samah) on the southern coast, capturing strategic positions at Yulin on the coast and Yai further inland. Throughout the entire invasion, carrier aircraft from Akagi and Chiyoda maintained air superiority with little opposition from the Chinese. Organized Chinese resistance ceased to exist shortly after the fall of Sanya, but guerrilla fighters, notably the Communist irregulars led by Feng Baiju, continued a campaign of resistance for the remainder of the war.
It was interesting to note that while the majority of the invasion troops were Japanese, a small number were ethnically Chinese by means of the Taiwan Mixed Brigade. This brigade contained two infantry regiments and one mountain gun regiment.
Under Japanese occupation, the Japanese developed Hainan into a naval base as originally intended, forming the Hainan Guard District Headquarters. The number of airfields to be established on the island would launch aircraft in support of operations in the opening stages of the Pacific War. Between Feb 1939 and Aug 1945, approximately one-third of the male population of Hainan were deported for labor, killed by the Japanese, or killed in resistance action.
Battle of Hainan Timeline
|9 Feb 1939||The Japanese 5th Fleet arrived off Qinghai Bay, Hainan island in southern China some time between 2300 hours and the end of the day.|
|10 Feb 1939||Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces troops landed at Haikou, Hainan island in southern China.|
|11 Feb 1939||Japanese troops landed at Sanya on the southern coast of Hainan island in southern China.|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939