Henan Campaign file photo [2192]

Henan Campaign

7 Feb 1938 - 10 Jun 1938


ww2dbaseBattle of Lanfeng
May 1938

ww2dbase20,000 men of the Japanese 1st Army of the Japanese North China Area Army attacked Lanfeng, supported by tanks. The Chinese successfully counterattacked and thwarted the initial invasion. Nevertheless, on 19 May, major Henan province cities of Kaifeng and Xinzheng were threatened. Kaifeng, the capital of the province, fell on 6 Jun.

ww2dbaseThe Yellow River Flood
9 Jun 1938

ww2dbaseHaving just lost Kaifeng, the Nationalist Chinese central government was desperate to slow the Japanese advance. The Japanese now threatened Zhengzhou, an important rail junction linking major cities of Wuhan and Xi'an. Former Zhejiang governor Chen Guofu, whose administration had great success rerouting the Huai River to improve irrigation and to control flooding, suggested breaking dikes on the Yellow River, thus creating a flood to slow the Japanese. Between 5 and 7 Jun 1938, the dike near Huayuankou, Henan Province was destroyed by tunneling, resulting in the flooding of about 54,000 square kilometers of land. It was decided that military secrecy was important, thus no warning was issued. Thousands of villages were destroyed, killing many and forcing several million civilians to relocate. Several thousand Japanese troops were killed, but it was generally agreed that the flood did little to blunt the Japanese campaign. Nevertheless, it did prevent the Japanese from exercising effective control over the entire flooded region (over 54,000 square kilometers of land). A Nationalist Party post-war commission estimated about 800,000 civilians were killed due to the effects of the flooding, and later scholarly investigations lowered the estimate to be between 400,000 to 500,000 dead. Communist figures tended to be higher, for propaganda purposes; for example, an official history published by the Communist Party in 1994 put the death figure at an impossibly high number of over 10,000,000 civilians, claiming that most of these numbers were war refugees, which was conveniently impossible to track. The flood waters eventually flowed into the Jialu River and Huai River, forever changing the course of the Yellow River.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Update: Oct 2006

Henan Campaign Timeline

5 Jun 1938 Suggested by Chen Guofu, Nationalist Chinese troops began digging tunnels under dike at Huayuankou, Henan Province, China.
6 Jun 1938 Japanese troops captured Kaifeng, Henan Province, China.
7 Jun 1938 The dike at Huayuankou, Henan Province, China was destroyed by tunneling by Nationalist Chinese troops. Flood waters from the Yellow River quickly flooded about 54,000 square kilometers of land. Thousands of Japanese troops and at least 400,000 Chinese civilians were killed.


A bombed-out building in Qiankou, Henan, circa May-Jun 1938Chinese civilians displaced by the Yellow River flooding, circa Jun 1938Japanese Type 95 Kurokane scout car being bogged down by the flood caused by intentional opening of Yellow River dikes by Chinese troops, Henan, China, 17 Jun 1938Aerial view of Yellow River flooding, Henan Province, China, Jul 1938
See all 6 photographs of Henan Campaign

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» Chen, Guofu
» Ding, Delong
» Doihara, Kenji
» Ma, Bufang

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Henan Campaign Photo Gallery
A bombed-out building in Qiankou, Henan, circa May-Jun 1938
See all 6 photographs of Henan Campaign

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