Battle of Guningtou
|Battle of Kuningtou|
|Part of the Chinese Civil War|
ROC-held islands (red) off the coast of Mainland China (light grey), relative to Taiwan (yellow, in inset). Kinmen is the large red highlighted island group.
|Republic of China Armed Forces||People's Liberation Army|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Chiang Kai-shek
| Mao Zedong
|Roughly 40,000 garrisoned troops from the ROC 18th Army, air support from ROC Air Force, maritime support from ROC Navy.||19,000 infantry from PLA 29th Army Corps and the 244th, 246th, 251st, 253rd regiments from the PLA 28th Army Corps (Only 9,086 actually landed); 200 landing vessels (mostly confiscated fishing boats), mainland artillery support.|
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Guningtou (simplified Chinese: 古宁头之役; traditional Chinese: 古寧頭之役; pinyin: Gǔníngtóu zhī Yì), also known as the Battle of Kinmen (simplified Chinese: 金门战役; traditional Chinese: 金門戰役; pinyin: Jīnmén Zhànyì), was a battle fought over Kinmen in the Taiwan Strait during the Chinese Civil War in 1949. The failure of the Communists to take the island left it in the hands of the Kuomintang (Nationalists) and crushed their chances of taking Taiwan to destroy the Nationalists completely in the war.
Following the establishment of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, the government of the Republic of China under Chiang Kai-shek began withdrawing its forces from mainland China to Taiwan. However, ROC garrisons remained stationed on the islands of Kinmen and Matsu, located off the coast in Fujian Province. Commanders of the PRC People's Liberation Army (PLA) believed that Kinmen and Matsu had to be taken before a final assault on Taiwan. The PLA planned to attack Kinmen by launching a first attack with 9,000 troops to establish a beachhead, before landing a second force of roughly 10,000 on Greater Kinmen Island, expecting to take the entire island in three days from an ROC garrison not expected to be larger than two divisions. The Communists had incorrectly estimated that there were only 12,000 Nationalist soldiers on the entire island–a calculation that would contribute to their calamitous defeat. Expecting that a PLA attack was imminent, ROC commanders ordered the immediate construction of fortifications. By October, ROC troops had laid 7,455 land mines, and constructed roughly 200 earthen bunkers on the shores of Kinmen, as well as several anti-amphibious landing beach obstacles. The ROC garrison on Kinmen was also reinforced with more armor, troops and supplies. In the opening hours of October 25, the PLA's armada (consisting of hundreds of wooden fishing boats) set sail for Kinmen. They intended to land near the village of Longkou on the narrowest part of the island. But due to the crudeness of their craft, choppy waters and winds, many of them were scattered and carried past Longkou and northwestwards toward the shore of Guningtou instead.
October 25, 1949
Around 01:30 on October 25, a Nationalist patrol accidentally set off one of the land mines. The blast alerted other units all along the northern shore and the PLA's quiet approach to Kinmen was compromised. Immediately, flares were fired into the air by ROC troops, which brightly illuminated the PLA's fleet and gave the Nationalists clear shots at the former. Later at about 02:00 when the tide had begun to recede, PLA troops from regiments 244, 251, and 253 landed on the north side of Greater Kinmen Island at Guningtou (古寧頭), Huwei (湖尾) and Longkou (壟口). Regiment 244 was the first ashore landing near Lungkou where Nationalist defenders raked them with machine-gun fire, artillery, and mortars. They suffered heavy casualties. Regiments 251 and 253 fared better, landing near Guningtou and Huwei respectively where they broke through ROC defenses and continued to head inland. Arriving at high tide, many of the PLA landing vessels became caught on submerged anti-amphibious landing beach obstacles and immobilized. When the tide went out, the PLA landing vessels became beached and were unable to return to the mainland to transport the second wave of reinforcements. Although these Communists were initially supported by artillery fire from the mainland, it had to cease firing once the infantry disembarked. Some of the troops, stranded in their vulnerable landing craft still far from shore, had to swim or wade some 650 yards (594.4 meters) in order to reach it, rendering them also sitting ducks for the defenders. The beached PLA vessels were destroyed shortly afterwards by gunfire from two ROC Navy vessels patrolling off the northwest coast of Guningtou, as well as by ROC troops who burned the mostly wooden boats using flamethrowers, grenades, gasoline and oil.
The advancing PLA forces were met by the ROC 18th Army and US-made M5A1 tanks of ROC 1st Bn, 3rd Tank Regiment. PLA Regiment 244 held high ground at Shuangru Hill (雙乳山), but were beaten back by ROC armor by early morning. PLA Regiment 253 holding Guanyin Hill (觀音山) and the Huwei Highlands (湖尾高地) were also forced to fall back by 12:00 after an overwhelming ROC counterattack of infantry, tanks, and soldiers with flamethrowers. They were also supported by mortars and artillery. The PLA troops were attacked from three sides. PLA Regiment 251 managed to break out of an ROC encirclement and entered the village of Guningtou, and dug in at Lincuo (林厝). Shortly afterwards, Regiment 251 was attacked by the ROC 14th and 118th divisions, with the ROC 118th division suffering heavy casualties. By the end of the day, the PLA had lost its beachheads at Huwei and Lungkou.
October 26, 1949
At 03:00 on October 26, around 1,000 troops in 4 companies from PLA Regiment 246 and the 85th division landed on Kinmen to reinforce PLA forces already on the island landing again at Huwei and Guningtou. At dawn, Regiment 246 managed to break through ROC forces surrounding the village of Guningtou, making a rendezvous with the surviving PLA troops holed up in the town. At 06:30, the ROC 118th division launched a counterattack along the northern coast on PLA forces in Guningtou at Lincuo. The resulting battle was extremely bloody and soon turned into urban warfare in the streets and alleyways of Guningtou. With air support from American-made B-26 and B-25 bombers of the ROC Air Force, ROC forces eventually prevailed, taking Lincuo by noon and Nanshan (南山) at 3PM. Surviving PLA forces began falling back to the coast.
October 27, 1949
By the early morning of October 27, the surviving People's Liberation Army forces had exhausted their food and ammunition. 1,300 PLA troops retreated to the beaches north of Guningtou. After a final ROC assault, the remaining PLA troops surrendered to ROC forces at 10:00 on that day. All of the PLA troops who had landed on Kinmen were lost.
Following the failure at Guningtou, PLA General Ye Fei submitted an official apology to Mao Zedong asking to be punished for his failure. General Ye attributed the failure of the operation to three factors: An insufficient number of landing vessels, failure to properly secure the beachheads, and the lack of an overall commanding officer to oversee the three regiments involved in the first wave. As Ye was one of Mao's favorite generals, Mao never took any action against him.
For ROC forces accustomed to defeat after defeat against the PLA while fighting on the mainland, the victory at Guningtou provided a much needed morale boost. The failure of the PRC to take Kinmen effectively halted its advance towards Taiwan. With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 and the signing of the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty in 1954, the PRC's plans for the assault on Taiwan were put on hold.
Due to its defeat, the Battle of Guningtou was not widely publicized in the PRC until recently with the publication of articles within the PLA examining reasons for its failure due to lack of amphibious landing experience, not enough landing crafts, no armor or anti-armor ability, and expecting to win the battle after one day of fighting and therefore not bringing enough ammunition, supplies and water with the first wave. The battle is seen as being highly significant in Taiwan as it laid the foundation for the current status quo between mainland China and Taiwan.
Fortuitous ROC defenses at the landing site
The M5A1 tanks employed by the ROC forces on Kinmen proved to be effective in countering the human wave attacks employed by the initial PLA landing forces, which were mostly composed of light infantry. ROC tank crews who had depleted their ammunition used their tanks as road rollers to crush PLA infantry. The pivotal role these tanks played caused ROC troops to give the M5A1 the nickname "Bear of Kinmen" (金門之熊). The PLA's initial landing force of the 244th regiment at Longkou (壟口) was met by three tanks (#64, #65, #66) of the 1st platoon, 3rd company of the ROC 1st Battalion, 3rd Tank Regiment. The #66 tank had broken down on the beach the previous evening after company exercises, and the other two tanks in the platoon had been ordered to stay and guard it while repairs were attempted.
An ROC Navy tank landing ship (LST 210, Chung Lung (中榮)) was anchored near the PLA's landing site on October 25, and used its significant firepower (2x2 40mm guns, 6x1 40mm guns, 8x1 20mm guns) to destroy beached PLA landing craft, again made up mostly of wooden junks and fishing boats, during the battle. LST 210 was supposed to leave on the evening of October 24 after offloading its cargo, but remained, offering an official excuse of "bad weather". The unmentioned real reason the ship remained in the area was that it was running a side business of smuggling brown sugar from Taiwan island in exchange for peanut oil. However, there was not enough peanut oil on the whole island for the deal, so the ship was forced to stay for another day while waiting for more peanut oil to be produced, making it the accidental hero of the battle.
- List of battles over Kinmen
- List of Battles of Chinese Civil War
- National Revolutionary Army
- History of the People's Liberation Army
- Chinese Civil War
- Guningtou War Museum
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- Battlefield Monuments at Kinmen National Park
- Interactive map of Kinmen from the Kinmen County Government