First Battle of Changsha file photo [2282]

First Battle of Changsha

17 Sep 1939 - 6 Oct 1939


ww2dbaseAfter two years of near stalemate, Lieutenant General Seishiro Itagaki led the Japanese 101st and 106th Divisions to Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, while the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 13th, and 33rd Divisions invaded the general northern Hunan region to assert additional pressure against the city. The Japanese forces totaled 100,000 men, commanded from the field by Yasuji Okamura.

ww2dbaseThe Chinese defenses were led by Nationalist Generals Chen Cheng and Xue Yue. Outnumbering the Japanese nearly two-to-one, they were able to entertain the plans for a counteroffensive as soon the Japanese attack launched on 17 Sep 1939. The two forces met in Jiangxi Province to the east of Hunan, resulting in a quick Chinese victory that pushed the westward marching Japanese invasion force back.

ww2dbaseOn 19 Sep, the Japanese launched a poison gas attack, against the laws of war set by the Geneva Protocol, on the Chinese forces along the Sinchiang River, driving the Chinese forces out by 23 Sep.

ww2dbaseAfter nearly a week of fierce fighting, the Japanese reached the outskirts of Changsha on 29 Sep, but by this time the Japanese forces were already weakened by heavy casualties estimated at over 40,000, with a bulk being fatalities. After constant harassment, the over-stretched supply lines were also in danger of being completely severed. The remnants of the Japanese forces fled north by 6 Oct. The 16 Oct 1939 issue of Time Magazine reported that

"the Chinese turned around and, with a fury they have never shown before, lashed the Japanese back and back.... the Chinese destroyed every rail line, every road. The Japanese blithely advanced over this torn-up area until they were in the worst military position known to man: on a thin front without communications behind. That was when the Chinese struck. The Japanese had nothing to do but run."

ww2dbaseThis battle represented the first major defeat of the Japanese Army at a major Chinese city since the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in Jul 1937.

Time Magazine (16 Oct 1939)

Last Major Update: Oct 2006


Chinese soldiers charging an enemy position in Changsha, Sep-Oct 1939Chinese Type 24 machine gun crew near Changsha, Hunan Province, Sep-Oct 1939

First Battle of Changsha Timeline

17 Sep 1939 Japanese 101st Division (Lieutenant General Masatoshi Saito) and 106th Division (Lieutenant General Ryotaro Nakai), having recently captured strategic locations in Jiangxi Province, China as a preparation, began marching toward Changsha in the neighboring Hunan Province. Meanwhile, 3rd Division (Lieutenant General Shinichi Fujita), 6th Division (Lieutenant General Shiro Inaba), 13th Division (General Shizuichi Tanaka), and 33rd Division (Lieutenant General Shigetaro Amakasu) attacked targets in northern Hunan Province. In support of this attack, Japanese Navy's China Area Fleet dispatched 13th Gunboat Unit of 11th Battle Squadron, Shanghai Special Naval Landing Force, and 4th Guard Unit.
19 Sep 1939 En route toward Changsha, Hunan Province, China, Japanese troops used poison gas against Chinese defensive positions along the Sinchiang River.
23 Sep 1939 In Hunan Province, China, Japanese Army 6th Division crossed the Sinchiang River at dawn, followed by a similar crossing by another division at 0620 hours at Yingtian (now Miluo). Also on the same day, naval vessels landed Japanese Navy Shanghai Special Naval Landing Force and Japanese Army 3rd Division east of the city of Changsha. Surrounded on three sides, Chinese troops fell back to prevent encirclement, opening the way to Changsha.
29 Sep 1939 Japanese troops reached the outskirts of Changsha, Hunan Province, China; the Japanese had thus far suffered 40,000 casualties on this assault.
1 Oct 1939 Japanese 6th Division began to fall back from Changsha, Hunan Province, China across the Laodao River.
3 Oct 1939 Seeing that the Japanese assault on Changsha, Hunan Province, China was beginning to falter, an order for general counter offensive was given. Chinese troops pushed Japanese troops to Jinjing and Fulinpu, while Chinese aircraft bombed the Japanese airfield at Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
4 Oct 1939 Chinese troops captured Miluo and Xinshi near Changsha, Hunan Province, China.
5 Oct 1939 In a downed aircraft, Chinese troops discovered General Yasuji Okamura's order calling off the offensive on Changsha, Hunan Province, China. Nearby, Chinese 23rd Division attacked a Japanese Navy anchorage at Yingtian (now Miluo), damaging several vessels.
6 Oct 1939 Japanese troops called off the attack on Changsha, Hunan Province, China after suffering heavy casualties.
8 Oct 1939 Chinese 195th Division pursued the retreating Japanese troops in the Miluo River and Sinchiang River region in Hunan Province, China.
10 Oct 1939 Chinese troops recaptured all territory in Hubei, Hunan, and Jiangxi Provinces in China that the Japanese had captured as part of the recently-failed advance on Changsha, Hunan.

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More on First Battle of Changsha
» Bai, Chongxi
» Chen, Cheng
» Li, Jue
» Liu, Yuzhang
» Lu, Han
» Okamura, Yasuji
» Sun, Du
» Xia, Chuzhong
» Xue, Yue
» Zhang, Lingfu
» Zhang, Zhizhong

» China

First Battle of Changsha Photo Gallery
Chinese soldiers charging an enemy position in Changsha, Sep-Oct 1939
See all 2 photographs of First Battle of Changsha

Famous WW2 Quote
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