Huaihai Campaign (Chinese: 淮海戰役; pinyin: Huáihǎi Zhànyì) or Battle of Hsupeng (simplified Chinese: 徐蚌会战; traditional Chinese: 徐蚌會戰; pinyin: Xúbèng Huìzhàn, also Battle of Xu-Beng) was a military action during 1948 and 1949 that was the decisive battle of the Chinese Civil War. It was one of the few conventional battles of the war. 550,000 troops of the Republic of China (led by Kuomintang) were surrounded in Xuzhou (Hsuchow) and destroyed by the communist People's Liberation Army (PLA). This campaign is one of the three campaigns that marked the end of Nationalist dominance in northern China, the other two campaigns being Liaoshen and Pingjin.
ROC army deployment
After Jinan, the provincial capital of Shandong province, fell in the fall of 1948 to the communists, Xuzhou became an exposed salient. The Huang (Huai) River in Shandong and Jiangsu provinces was close by as was the Longhai Railway. In order to counter PLA advances toward Xuzhou, the gateway toward Nanjing and Shanghai, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek gathered five of his best American-trained and American-armed armies, and deployed two more armies as reinforcements, occupying crucial railways. As Chiang ordered Shandong province to be abandoned to concentrate his troop strength, highly placed communist moles in the ROC Army leaked important intelligence to the PLA commanders.[page needed]
Su Yu, acting commander of the Eastern China Field army proposed an operational plan to the Communist war council. The plan was to attack the ROC 6th and 7th armies still stationed in Shandong province. The council quickly approved his plan and ordered the Central Plains field army under Liu Bocheng, Chen Yi (Commander of the Eastern China Field Army and liaison to the Central Plains Field Army) and Deng Xiaoping (Political Commissar of the Central Plains Field Army) to attack ROC forces in Henan and Anhui provinces in hopes of breaking the government stronghold there.[page needed] The Huaihai campaign had begun.
The three phases of the battle
The Huaihai Campaign is usually divided into three main phases.
As ROC 6th and 7th armies started retreating to Xuzhou by crossing the grand canal, they were behind their original schedule. Lieutenant General Huang Baitao of the 7th army had to wait for three days before troops from the 9th Pacification Zone arrived and did not secure several bridgeheads before crossing. Two days later on November 8, two corps totaling 23,000 ROC troops under their commanders He Jifeng and Zhang Kexia (both secret communists) surrendered to the communists. The flank of 7th army was exposed and its retreat route to Xuzhou was cut.[page needed] 70,000 men of the 7th army were surrounded in Nianzhuang (碾庄) village east of Xuzhou, with another 30,000 wiped out during the river crossing by the communists. The deputy commander-in-chief of Suppression General Headquarters of Xuzhou Garrison Lieutenant General Du Yuming, who had taken over the field command from General Liu Chih, the ROC commander-in-chief of Xuzhou Garrison, devised a new strategy: The ROC forces would attack to the west and defeat the Central Plains Field Army and recapture Su Xian (宿县), a key railroad junction from the communists and then save Huang Baitao's seventh army. However, Chiang Kai-shek and Liu Chih overruled his plan as being too risky and ordered the Xuzhou Garrison to rescue the 7th army directly. The communists anticipated this move from good intelligence (thanks to the secret agents) and correct reasoning, deployed more than half of the Eastern China Field Army to blocking the relief effort. More importantly, Lieutenant General Qiu Qingquan, commander of the 2nd Army, had a personal feud with Huang Baitao (frictions created by communist secret agents) and mistrusted the faulty intelligences he has been given (communist secret agents) in previous battles, and did not commit his elite American-trained 5th corps into battle.[page needed] The 13th Army commanded by Lieutenant General Li Mi did try but was blocked by the communists. The 7th army managed to hold out for 16 days without supplies and reinforcement and inflicted 49,000 casualties on the PLA forces before being destroyed.[page needed] Huang Baitao committed suicide in his headquarters on November 22, 1948.[page needed]
Phase 2: 23 November to 6 January
With the 7th army gone, east of Xuzhou was exposed to the PLA forces. The communist-placed secret agent persuaded Chiang to order the Suppression General Headquarters of Xuzhou Garrison to retreat to the South.[page needed] Meanwhile the Central Plains Field Army surrounded Lieutenant General Huang Wei's 12th Army which had arrived from Henan as reinforcement, only to be caught in a well-placed communist trap when they tried to retake Su Xian from the communists. General Liu Ruming's 8th army and Lieutenant General Li Yannian's 6th army tried to help their trapped ROC armies but were blocked by the PLA forces. After nearly a month of bloody seesaw battles, the PLA forces completely destroyed the 12th army, captured a number of much needed supplies, and conscripted prisoners of war to their ranks.[page needed] Only Huang's deputy commander, Lieutenant General Hu Lien, riding in an armored tank, managed to penetrate the communist encirclement with 8,000 survivors but was badly wounded in the breakout.[page needed] Chiang Kai-shek tried to save the 12th army and ordered the three armies still under the Suppression General Headquarters of Xuzhou Garrison to turn southeast and relieve the 12th army before it was too late on November 30, 1948. However, the PLA forces caught up with them (communist secret agents' intelligence) and they were encircled only 9 miles from Xuzhou.[page needed]
On December 15, the day which the 12th army was wiped out, the 16th army under General Sun Yuanliang broke out from the communist encirclement on its own. Although Sun himself made safely back to Nanjing, most of his officers and soldiers were killed or captured in the process. Du Yuming decided to hold out as Chiang has ordered. As one of the ablest strategists in the ROC army, Du Yuming came up with three different options for the current hopeless situation: first, recall the ROC troops in Xi'an and Wuhan to battle the communists; Second, to wait for reinforcements; and the third was to breakout on their own. He was disappointed when Chiang chose the riskiest one: order them to breakout. Unfortunately, there were more than one month of heavy snowfalls, which made the ROC air forces impossible to provide air support to the besieged ground units. As food and ammunition diminished, many ROC soldiers killed their horses to feed themselves and communist forces used food to entice the ROC forces to surrender; about 10,000 did so. On January 6, 1949, communist forces launched a general offensive on the 13th army and remnants of the 13th army withdrew to 2nd army's defense area. Four days later, communist forces captured General Du Yuming; General Qiu Qinquan shot himself while trying to break out with his troops; only General Li Mi was able to escape back to Nanjing. The 6th and 8th armies of ROC retreated to the south of Huai river, and the campaign was over.[page needed]
Aftermath and consequences
Because the majority of Chiang Kai-shek's Whampoa troops were lost during this campaign, his position in the ROC government was greatly weakened. Chiang's old political rivals such as Vice President Li Zongren and Defense Minister Bai Chongxi attacked him on his policies and forced him to resign 11 days later. The military strength of the communists were now dominant in North and Central China, and poised to conquer the entire country; the loss of ROC government's best troops and majority of their American equipment meant that they could no longer effectively defend the Yangtze river delta from further communist attacks. The American government under President Harry S. Truman completely lost faith in the corrupt ROC government, therefore refused to give any further military and financial aid, and hastened the collapse of ROC regime on the mainland.
Some experts say the actual casualty of communist army definitely surpasses the official number of 0.133 million; the names of a lot of soldiers killed in action were not recorded in Huaihai campaign Museum, which has only some 30,000 names. One veteran launched a personal investigation into the casualty count after he discovered the official martyr number of his village was reduced to 40 in 1996 from 59 in 1995. He eventually discovered 83 soldiers killed in action from his village.
In the 1980s, the CCP made three epic war movies called the Three Great Campaigns to commemorate their victories and propagate the view that they created a new China based on communism. The recent film Assembly was also based on the Huaihai Campaign. More recently CCP made the 2009 film, The Founding of a Republic to commemorate the 60th year of the CCP, there was a scene dedicated to this campaign.
- List of Battles of Chinese Civil War
- National Revolutionary Army
- History of the People's Liberation Army
- Chinese Civil War
- Lung Ying-tai, dajiang dahai 1949, Commonwealth Publishing Press, Taipei, 2009, p.184
- Bjorge, Gary. Moving the Enemy: Operational Art in the Chinese PLA’s Huai Hai Campaign (PDF). Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: Combat Studies Institute Press.