Battle of Nanchang file photo [9936]

Battle of Nanchang

17 Mar 1939 - 9 May 1939


ww2dbaseConsolidated in newly conquered Wuhan, the Japanese Army decided to take on Nanchang, Jiangxi Province to the southeast which had gathered 200,000 Chinese soldiers in 39 divisions and had become a threat. At the same time, Nanchang hosted a military airfield, plus it was strategically located on an important railway that linked Zhejiang Province and Hunan Province, all making the city more appealing for the Japanese; the Chinese defenses were under the overall command of Xue Yue. The Japanese attacking force had 120,000 men organized into 3 divisions, with support from 130 tanks and tankettes; General Yasuji Okamura was in command of the offensive. The first action took place at Wucheng in Jiangxi Province, where Japanese troops were held down by Chinese positions near the Xiushui River for four days, dislodging the defenses only after what would become the largest artillery bombardment of the entire Second Sino-Japanese War (which utilized, among traditional shells, chemical weapons); after a three-day bombardment, Chinese troops withdrew from Wucheng on 26 Mar. Meanwhile, another Japanese force marching down from the north reached Nanchang's west gate on the same day, 26 Mar. The city was conquered by the end of the next day. Various Chinese positions west of Nanchang were taken in late Mar and early Apr.

ww2dbaseOn 21 Apr 1939, however, the Chinese 3rd and 9th War Areas mounted a surprise counter offensive from west and south of Nanchang, brushing aside Japanese positions and reaching Nanchang by 25 Apr. On 26 Apr, Chinese troops reached Shicha Street in southern Nanchang. The Japanese would continue to maintain use of the Xiushui River, on which additional troops and supplies would be brought in. On 27 Apr, the Japanese launched a counterattack south and southeast of the city, forcing General Duan Lang of Chinese 79th Division and General He Ping of Chinese 16th Division to fall back (Duan would soon be relieved of his duties on 1 May, while He would be told to redeem this shame). On 2 May, after a week of stalemate, the Chinese launched another assault on the city as Chiang Kaishek personally ordered the city to be taken back by 5 May. Meeting stiff Japanese resistance, the Chinese suffered very high casualties over the following few days, and the front line moved back and forth from day to day. On 9 May, the Chinese offensive was called off, ending the Battle of Nanchang. Equally exhausted, Japanese leadership in the region chose not to give chase to the withdrawing Chinese troops.

ww2dbaseAt the end of the battle, the Chinese suffered 51,328 casualties, and the Japanese 24,000. The Chinese claimed that after the battle, the Japanese inspected the captured Chinese troops and massacred all those who showed signs of being affected by chemical weapons.

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Chinese troops on the march near Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China, Mar-Apr 1939Japanese Infantry and a Type 89 tank during the Battle of Nanchang, China, 1939

Battle of Nanchang Timeline

12 Mar 1939 Japanese troops began advancing from Hubei Province, China toward Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China.
18 Mar 1939 A group of Japanese troops boarded barges at Xingzi, Jiujiang, Jiangxi Province, China, sailed south 10 kilometers on the Yangtze River, and disembarked to attack Chinese positions at Wucheng.
20 Mar 1939 Chinese troops repulsed a Japanese attack across the Xiushui River near Wucheng, Jiangxi Province, China; Chinese defenders reported that the Japanese were mixing chemical weapons among traditional artillery shells. To the west of Nanchang, the primary objective, Japanese troops reached the Ganjiang Bridge.
21 Mar 1939 Japanese 6th Division crossed the Xuishui River west of Jiujiang, Jiangxi Province, China and marched toward Wuning.
22 Mar 1939 Japanese troops attacked Fengxin County, Jiangxi Province, China.
23 Mar 1939 At dawn, the largest bombardment of the Second Sino-Japanese War was commenced on Chinese positions at Wucheng near the Xiushui River in Jiangxi Province, China where Japanese troops were held down by Chinese defenses since 18 Mar 1939; this bombardment would continue until 26 Mar 1939. Nearby, Japanese troops captured Fengxin County and Anyi County.
25 Mar 1939 Japanese troops defeated the Chinese 102nd Division west of Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China.
26 Mar 1939 Japanese troops captured Wucheng, Jiangxi Province, China. To the southwest, Japanese troops reached the west gate of the primary objective, Nanchang, and began the assault.
27 Mar 1939 Japanese 101st Division captured Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China.
28 Mar 1939 While the Japanese 101st Division secured Nanchang in Jiangxi Province, China, the 106th Division at Fengxin prepared for an additional offensive whose target was to be Chinese positions further west or the town of Gao'an.
29 Mar 1939 Japanese 6th Division captured Wuning, Jiangxi Province, China.
2 Apr 1939 Japanese troops captured Gao'an, Jiangxi Province, China.
17 Apr 1939 Chiang Kaishek cabled Bai Chongxi his plans for a counter offensive toward Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China, which was to be launched on 21 or 22 Apr 1939.
21 Apr 1939 Chinese 3rd and 9th War Areas attacked toward Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China, engaging Japanese troops at Fengxin and Gao'an.
23 Apr 1939 16th Division, 79th Division, and 5th Reserve Division of Chinese 32th Army crossed the Fu River near Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China.
25 Apr 1939 The Chinese counter offensive toward Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China reached the outskirts of the city.
26 Apr 1939 Troops of the Chinese 3rd and 9th War Areas breached into southern Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China.
27 Apr 1939 Japanese troops counterattacked against the Chinese offensive at Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China, engaging in combat south and southeast of the city.
28 Apr 1939 General Duan Lang ordered his Chinese 79th Division to disengage south of Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China after suffering high casualties during a Japanese counterattack.
1 May 1939 Chiang Kaishek ordered Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China to be taken back by 5 May 1939. He also relieved General Duan Lan of his duties for ordering his 79th Division to fall back, while General He Ping, who had also fallen back with his Chinese 16th Division, was told to redeem himself.
2 May 1939 Chinese troops launched a second counterattack on Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China, but all conquered positions would be retaken by the Japanese by the end of the day.
4 May 1939 Chinese troops attacked Japanese positions at Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China.
5 May 1939 Troops of the Chinese 26th Division broke through to the Xinlong airfield at Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China, destroying three Japanese aircraft.
9 May 1939 Chinese leadership called off the offensive toward Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Dave Sadler says:
6 Jan 2013 05:07:00 AM

I can understand that this topic is concerned with the actual battle for Nanchang, however though you mention the use of chemical weapons I do not see any mention of the wanton rape, killing and other atrocities that where performed by the invading Japanese army.
2. drminato says:
20 Mar 2014 07:22:20 AM

Hi Dave,

simply lets assume that the IJA in China used "wanton rape, killing and other atrocities" *everywhere* in China. So the easiest measure is to insert Your statement into each single campaign report page on the whole 2ww2db site. All the poor victims will be rightfully memorized by Your effort. Also all we dumb readers interested in the sinojapanese war, but have never heard of IJA in China "wanton rape, killing and other atrocities" or even willfully ignoring it (!) will be indebted to the enlightenment.
3. Andy A. says:
23 Apr 2014 01:03:03 PM

I'm guessing Dave is thinking of "The Rape of Nanking" aka Nanjing...not Nanchang. The word "wanton" is also poorly chosen when used in connection to Chinese history.

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» Kashimura, Kanichi
» Okamura, Yasuji
» Sun, Du
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» Zhang, Lingfu

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Battle of Nanchang Photo Gallery
Chinese troops on the march near Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China, Mar-Apr 1939
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