Battle of Dachen Archipelago
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|Battle of Dachen Archipelago|
|Part of the Chinese Civil War|
|National Revolutionary Army||People's Liberation Army|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Chiang Ching-kuo||Zhang Aiping|
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Dachen Archipelago (Chinese: 大陈等岛之战) was a struggle between the Nationalists and the Communists for the control of several archipelagos just off the coast of Zhejiang, China during the Chinese Civil War in the post-World War II era, and it was part of the First Taiwan Strait Crisis. The Communists targeted and eventually took the Dachen Archipelago, and the other two smaller archipelagos from Nationalists: the Southern Muntjac Archipelago (南麂山列岛, Nan Ji Shan Lie-Dao) and the Southern Deer Mountain Archipelago (南鹿山列岛, Nan Lu Shan Lie-Dao).
The Communists had already targeted Dachen Archipelago when they attacked Yijiangshan Islands, but the Communists were incapable of simultaneously taking both. When the Communists bombed Dachen Archipelago during the Battle of Yijiangshan Islands, it was mainly to prevent the Nationalist garrison of Dachen Archipelago from reinforcing Yijiangshan Islands. In fact, from November 1, 1954 thru November 4, 1954, the Communist air force flew 49 sorties to bomb Dachen Archipelago, but none of the 721 bombs dropped hit their intended targets. On November 10, 1954, the Communist bombers flew 28 sorties and communist fighters flew 46 sorties in support of the bombers to strike Nationalist warships in the Dachen Archipelago, but only resulted in minor damages of a mere five warships. The unsuccessful Communist strikes were because the experienced aircrew was busy preparing for the Battle of Yijiangshan Islands and missions against Dachen Archipelago were performed by inexperienced aircrew. However, after experiencing the two rather unsuccessful bombings, the Nationalists mistakenly believed that this was all the Communist air force was capable of and relaxed, and they would pay a heavy price later, after the end of the Battle of Yijiangshan Islands, when the combat-hardened aircrew with experience struck the archipelago again.
After the main battle of the Battle of Yijiangshan Islands had subsided, the Communists immediately turned their attentions to Dachen Archipelago before declaring the Yijiangshan Islands secured. On January 19, 1955, the first Communist bombing mission specifically targeting Dachen was carried out by combat-hardened aircrew with experience. Due to the previous two unsuccessful Communist bombing missions, the Nationalists believed that this third air raid would be equally inept and were not fully prepared. As a result, the infrastructures on the islands, especially those for communication were severely damaged. Despite the casualties being minimal, and the local Nationalist garrison was forced to use unencrypted radios to communicate with Taiwan and among themselves. Since the Communists used Nationalist equipment captured during the Chinese Civil War, they were able to intercept Nationalist communications, since both sides used radios made in America.
The second wave of attack also occurred on the same day on January 19, 1955. Though the local Nationalist garrison regrouped and set up more effective air defense, the effort was futile because the second wave of attack struck a place completely unexpected by the local defenders: the reservoir, which was not considered a military target with any significance. The reservoir was completely destroyed and without any fresh water supply readily available, it was nearly impossible to defend the archipelago. On February 2, 1955, the Communist air force bombed the Southern Deer Mountain Archipelago.
The Dachen Retreat
After much debate, the Nationalist government in the Republic of China controlling the Dachen and adjacent archipelagos finally agreed with the Americans to hold out until an evacuation can be carried out by the American Navy in February 1955 to Taiwan more than 200 miles to the south. The decision was made to withdraw on February 5, 1955, and the U.S. Seventh Fleet used 132 boats and 400 aircraft to move 14,500 civilians, 10,000 Republic of China servicemen, and 4,000 guerrilla fighters, along with 40,000 tons of military equipment and supplies from the island. After the evacuation, the last Flag of the Republic of China in Dachen was lowered by Chiang Ching-kuo, and the Zhejiang province government was abolished in the Republic of China as Dachen was their last stronghold in the province.
After the retreat, Northern Muntjac Island (北麂山岛, Bei Ji Shan Dao) was the first to be taken by the People's Liberation Army on February 8, 1955, and by February 12, 1955, the entire Dachen Archipelago had fallen into the enemy hands. On February 13, 1955, the entire Southern Muntjac Archipelago was taken by the Communists.
The Nationalists had left a single regiment to garrison the Southern Deer Mountain Archipelago to the south of Dachen Archipelago for a symbolic struggle, and the regiment held out until late February 1955. The local commander realized the struggle was futile and was unwilling to waste troops in the lost cause, and thus asked and received permission to withdraw. On February 26, 1955, the People's Liberation Army took the Southern Deer Mountain Archipelago and the battle concluded.
For the Communists, the gaining of these archipelagos had eliminated the Nationalist threat to the vital coastal shipping line, and the Nationalist bases to strike coastal regions, but as Chiang Kai-shek grudgingly allowed the archipelagos to fall to the Communists so that the other offshore island groups, Kinmen and Matsu, could be successfully defended with American help, the result of the battle is therefore a draw.
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