World War II: China--Communist Military Forces (1937-45)

Eighth Route Army
Figure 1.--This press photo was cationed, "Red rider: This young Communist cavalryman -- the average age of Eighth Route Army soldiers isabout 16 or 17, says Formann-- is as hard as nails, and he looks it. He can ride fifty miles or more a day, from dusk to dawn. This ability has been responsible for many a surprise victory by the Chinese Reds." In actuality, Mao held the 8th Route Army back from major military action with the exception of the Hundred Regiments Offensive (1940). Source: Acme 591383ro.

The communist Red Army was founded when the Nationalist 27th Division mutinied and joined the Communists. This became the core of the Communist military forces which fought the Natiionalists for 10 years. The civil war with the Natiionalists was complicated when the Japanese after seizing Msnchuruia (1931), invaded China proper (1937). The Communists and Nationalists formed a United Front, at least publically. Under the terms of the truce with the Nationalists, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) was nominally incorporated into a Chinese national army. Mao rejected, however, Chiang's proposal that he directly control the CCP forces. The Communists has two primary military formations: the 8th Route Army and the New 4th Army . The larger Communist formation was the 8th Route Army. . It was designated the Chinese 18 Army Group. The Communist Party political leader was Mao Zedong. Their primary military commander was General Zhu De. He was a long-time associate of Mao and given command of the 8thRoute Army. The 8th Route Army was a relatively small force at the time of the Japanese invasion--about 30,000 men (1937). The Communist built their forces and generally avoid major combat with the Japanese. The fight was primarily carried by the Nationalists. As a result the Communists had a substantial force of about 0.4-0.5 million men (1940). This was done by infiltrating behind Japanese lines in Northern China. The Japanese controlled the cities and major rail lines, but did not have an adequate military force to control the countryside. Thus the 8th Route Army was able to recruit men and establish many operational bases. The force is probably better desribed as a militia with limited military training. This limited themilitary effectiveness, but vit also made it difficult for the Japanese to destroy the formation in a conventional sense. The Communists finally committed the 8th Route Army in the Hundred Regiments Offensive (1940). This appears to have reduced their force to about 0.3 million men. After this the Communists generally held back from major fighting with the Japanese. As aresult by the end of the war with Japan (August 1945), the Communists had rebuilt their forces to about 0.6 million men. The 8th Route Army consisted of three divisions: the 115th commanded by Lin Biao (who would play a major role in later Chines history), the 120th, and the 129th divisions. The 8th Route Army had a conventional capability, but also was capable of operating as a guerrilla force behind Japanese lines. Here it could attack over streached Japanese supply lines and isolated garrisons. The Communists assigned the 8th Route Army to carry out political and propaganda work in an effort to build support among the Chinese people. Like the Nationalists they were planning for the renewed civil war after the Japanese were defeated. The other large Communist formation was the New 4th Army. It has received less attention because it was not under Mao's control. It was organized by Hsiang Ying who become disaffected with Mao's leadership in 1931. He was left behind in the Long March.


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Created: 6:19 AM 3/20/2010
Last updated: 6:19 AM 3/20/2010