Monday, October 13, 2008

Operation Ichi-Go

Operation Ichi-Go was a campaign of a series of major battles between the Imperial Japanese Army forces and the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China, fought from April to December 1944. It consisted of three separate battles in the Chinese provinces of Henan, Hunan and Guangxi, which were the Japanese Operation Kogo or Battle of Central Henan, Operation Togo 1 or the Battle of Changheng, and Operation Togo 2 and Togo 3 or the Battle of Guilin-Liuzhou respectively. The two primary goals of Ichi-go were to open a land route to French Indochina, and capture air bases in southeast China from which American bombers were attacking the Japanese homeland and shipping.

In the operation was called ''Tairiku Datsū Sakusen'' while the Chinese refer to it as the ''Battle of Henan-Hunan-Guangxi'' . The words Ichi-Go directly translate to "Number One".

Course of the campaign

There were two phases to the operation. In the first phase, the Japanese secured the Pinghan Railway between Beijing and Wuhan; in the second, they eliminate the US air forces stationed in Hunan province and reached the city of Liuzhou, near the border with Japanese-held Indochina. 17 divisions, including 400,000 men, 12,000 vehicles and 70,000 horses participated in this operation.

In the , 390,000 Chinese soldiers, led by General Tang Enbo , were deployed to defend the strategic position of Luoyang. The 3rd Tank Division of the IJA crossed the Yellow River around Zhengzhou in late April and defeated Chinese forces near Xuchang, then swung around clockwise and besieged Luoyang. Luoyang was defended by three Chinese divisions. The 3rd Tank Division began to attack Luoyang on May 13 and took it on May 25.

The second phase of Ichigo began in May, following the success of the first phase. Japanese forces advanced southward and occupied Changsha, Hengyang, Guilin and Liuzhou. In December 1944, Japanese forces reached French Indochina and achieved the purpose of the operation. Nevertheless, there were few practical gains from this offensive. US air forces moved inland from the threatened bases near the coast. The U.S. Fourteenth Air Force often disrupted the continuous railway between Beijing and Liuzhou that had been established in Operation Ichigo. Japan continued to attack airfields where US air forces stationed up to the spring of 1945.

The XX Bomber Command operating Strategic B-29 bombers of the Twentieth Air Force, which were attacking the Japan in Operation Matterhorn, were forced to move as well, but although this affected their efficiency for a short time, in early 1945 the Twentieth Air Force moved to newly established bases in the Marianas under the command of the newly established . This nullified the limited protection that the Japanese home islands had received from Operation Ichigo.


The failure to hold onto the coastal airfields led to a loss of confidence in the American General Joseph Stilwell by Chiang Kai-Shek and Stilwell was recalled to the United States in October 1944 by . He was replaced as Chief of Staff to Chiang Kai-Shek and commander of the U.S. Forces, China Theater by Major General Albert Wedemeyer. His other command responsibilities in the were divided up and allocated to other officers.

A highly different interpretation of events was that General Joseph Stilwell, pressing for a more full engagement of Chinese forces, had made diplomatic inroads with the Chinese Communist Red Army commanded by Mao Zedong. He had gotten them to agree to follow an American commander. Because of the displeasure of Chiang Kai-Shek of being bypassed by the American general, he had Stilwell recalled to the United States. ''New York Times'' reporter Brooks Atkinson wrote at the time: The decision to relieve General Stilwell represents the political triumph of a moribund, anti-democratic regime that is more concerned with maintaining its political supremacy than in driving the Japanese out of China. America is now committed... to support a regime that has become increasingly unpopular and mistrusted in China, that maintains three secret police services and concentration camps for political prisoners, that stifles free speech and resists democratic forces... The Chinese Communists... have good armies that are now fighting guerrilla warfare against the Japanese in North China... The regards these armies as the chief threat to his supremacy... has made no sincere attempt to arrange at least a truce with them for the duration of the war... No diplomatic genius could have overcome the Generalissimo's basic unwillingness to risk his armies in battle with the Japanese....

But the ''Time Magazine'' article in which Atkinson was quoted went on to analyze the true failure of Stilwell's aims by stating that: The Chinese, exhausted by seven years of almost singlehanded war against Japan, were reluctant to give General Stilwell the troops he wanted for the Burma offensive; the Japs might suddenly crack down on them in earnest. When the Japs began the drive that last week seemed on the verge of cutting China in two, Chiang Kai-shek's Government might well have felt that its go-slow policy was justified..."

This devastating loss coupled with the negative public opinion in the U.S. that followed caused the U.S. to lose confidence in the Chinese troops' ability to fight the Japanese, and subsequently the China-Burma-India Theatre lost its priority. Instead the U.S. focussed all its resources on the Island-hopping offensive in the Pacific.

''Mountain Road'', by Theodore White, Time Magazine correspondent in China at the time, deals with a group of American soldiers retreating before this Japanese offensive.

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