|Battle of Tashan|
|Part of the Chinese Civil War|
|National Revolutionary Army||People's Liberation Army|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Que Hanqian 阙汉骞||Cheng Zihua 程子华|
|Casualties and losses|
|9,549 killed||23,774 (7878 killed)|
The battle of Tashan (塔山爭奪戰) was a battle fought between the nationalist and the communists during the Chinese Civil War in the post-World War II era in Northeast China, and resulted in communist victory. Tashan (塔山) with literal translation meaning Pagoda Mountain was short for Tashanbao (塔山堡), meaning Pagoda Mountain Bunker. Contrary to its name, there was neither pagoda nor mountain, and the only bunkers were the ones hastily built by the communists temporarily for the upcoming battle. The place was actually a village of one hundred or so households 30 km away from Jinzhou and the road to Jinzhou directly pass through the center of the village. The battle of Pagoda Mountain (Tashan, 塔山) was critical to determine the outcome of the Battle of Jinzhou and consequently, that of the Liaoshen Campaign. The battle is more commonly known as Blocking Action at Tashan (塔山阻击战), as called by the communists.
Facing with the nationalist reinforcement of a total of eleven divisions not counting the nationalist air and naval assets, the communists were well aware the importance of stopping the nationalist reinforcement and deployed a total of eight divisions and an artillery brigade at Pagoda Mountain (Ta Shan, 塔山) with Cheng Zihua (程子华), the commander of the communist II Corps in charge. In order to better assist local commanders, Luo Ronghuan got approval from Lin Biao to send Su Jing (苏静), a senior staff officer at general headquarter of the communist force in Northeast China to Pagoda Mountain (Ta Shan, 塔山).
However, the local communist commanders especially those of the communist 4th Column resented Luo Ronghuan’s decision after Su Jing (苏静) had reached the headquarter of the communist 4th Column, jokingly called Su Jing (苏静) as the equivalent of ancient overseer of the imperial Chinese army, feeling that Luo Ronghuan and Lin Biao were doubtful that they were competent enough to accomplish their assigned mission. Luckily, the excellent work of the political commissar of the communist 4th Column, Mo Wenhua (莫文骅) was able to resolve the issue and the communists had avoided similar situations in the nationalist camp.
Order of battle
Attackers: nationalist order of battle:
- The 54th Army (Three divisions)
- The 62nd Army (Three divisions)
- Two divisions of the 39th Army
- 21st Division of the 92nd Army
- The 62nd Division
- The Independent 95th Division
- Naval and air assets
Defenders: communist order of battle:
- The 4th Column (Three divisions)
- The 11th Column (Three divisions)
- Rehe Independent 4th Division
- Rehe Independent 6th Division
- An artillery brigade
The battle started before the dawn. On October 10, 1948 at 3:00 AM, the nationalists successfully launched a surprise attack with numerical and technical superiority, taking the Fishing Mountain (Da Yu Shan, 打鱼山) Island held by the enemy at low tide. The Fishing Mountain (Da Yu Shan, 打鱼山) Island was a critical position in that whoever controlled the islands would threaten flank of Pagoda Mountain (Ta Shan, 塔山). The grave danger was realized by the commander of the communist 4th Column, Wu Kehua (吴克华), who immediately ordered a counterattack to take back the island, which was successfully accomplished, and the island remained firmly in the communist hands for the entire battle.
Although the nationalist aircraft dropped over 5,000 heavy bombs on the enemy position with the further help of naval shelling, the attack was not well coordinated because the local nationalist commanders on the ground lacked the authority to command nationalist air and naval assets, which were under the direct control of Chiang Kai-shek and his high command. As a result, the enemy was able to escape underground without suffering significant casualties despite most of their fortifications above the ground was destroyed by the nationalist attack from air and sea. Despite nationalist encouragements including half a million dollar incentive rewards for each troop, the repeated nationalist army-sized charges on the enemy positions were beaten back. The enemy used nationalist cadavers to build temporary fortifications above the ground, which proved to be a psychological shock to the attacking nationalists.
On October 15, 1948, the news of the fall of Jinzhou had reached the nationalist reinforcement stopped at Pagoda Mountain (Ta Shan, 塔山), realizing there was not any meaning for further attack and fearful of an all out counterattack by the enemy which by now had most of their troops freed after taking Jinzhou, the nationalist reinforcement at Pagoda Mountain (Ta Shan, 塔山) made a hasty retreat at noon, leaving a total of 6,549 cadavers behind, and the battle concluded with communist victory. The price communists paid for their victory included 7827 killed, 15922 wounded, 3 captured and 22 missing.
The nationalist defeat at Pagoda Mountain (Ta Shan, 塔山) was one of the most important factors that contributed to the fall of Jinzhou, which resulted in the nationalist defeat in the Battle of Jinzhou, and consequently, the nationalist defeat in Liaoshen Campaign. It could be argued that the nationalist failure had much more to do with internal power struggles and problems among the nationalists themselves rather than the enemy’s action, and Chiang Kai-shek, the nationalist supreme commander was the first to blame: the communists had little chance of stopping the nationalist reinforcement if Wei Lihuang’s original battle plan had been carried out by the capable nationalist commander, Chen Tie (陈铁), Wei Lihuang’s deputy. Putting the deputy commander-in-chief in command of this battle illustrated that the local nationalists realized the importance of this battle but such attempted was completely negated by the nationalist supreme commander himself: Chiang Kai-shek selected Que Hanqian (阙汉骞) to replace Chen Tie (陈铁), and Que Hanqian (阙汉骞) was directly commanded by Chiang, not taking orders from Wei Lihuang, thus the original perfect nationalist plan was ruined. Chiang’s move also alienated other nationalists in Northeast China who felt that Chiang did not trust them and believed that they were incompetent, and as a result, they lost incentives to work with Que Hanqian (阙汉骞) and help him, because Que Hanqian (阙汉骞) succeeded in defeating the enemy, it would strengthen Chiang Kai-shek’s negative opinion about them. The commander of the nationalist 62nd Army, Lin Weichou (林伟俦) had openly clashed with Que Hanqian (阙汉骞) and refused to take his order.
Furthermore, not only the commanders sent by Chiang Kai-shek could not get along with the local commanders, they could not get along with each other either. Que Hanqian (阙汉骞) was constantly interfered by Luo Qi (罗奇), the other senior commander who was also sent by Chiang Kai-shek, and Luo Qi (罗奇) had constantly secretly reported to Chiang on local commanders’ behavior, including Que Hanqian (阙汉骞), who was accused by Luo Qi (罗奇) of not being enthusiastic about mission. It was obvious the nationalist commanders were not able to effectively direct the combat operations under such conditions. Not only the nationalist frontline commanders were unable to effectively command the nationalist army units, they were also completely incapable of directing any nationalist air and naval assets. Chiang Kai-shek had ordered the nationalist air force and navy to provide support, but without giving any authorities to the local nationalist commanders on the ground to direct the naval and air assets, which only took orders from Chiang, even Que Hanqian (阙汉骞) and Luo Qi (罗奇), those two senior commanders Chiang had personally sent did not receive any authority from Chiang to direct air and naval assets.. As a result, the nationalist naval shellings and air strikes were not coordinated with the nationalist ground units to any great effect. Another reason of ineffective nationalist air and naval operations in the battle was that all nationalists including Chiang Kai-shek himself had doubt on the success of the mission, and the nationalists were faced with a dilemma: should they risk the few valuable air and naval asset to a plausible lost cause (especially when the overall situation in Northeast China would not change for the better even if the battle was won) or preserve these valuable assets to be used elsewhere in other Chinese battlefields where the nationalists had brighter prospect? The decision was difficult and this certainly had limited the usage of these assets.
The personality of the local nationalist commanders was also a contributor to the nationalist defeat. Hou Jingru (侯镜如) and Hui De’an (惠德安), the commander and deputy commander of the nationalist Qinhuangdao-Jinxidisambiguation needed garrison were capable commanders originally tasked to assist Chen Tie (陈铁), deputy commander-in-chief of the nationalist force in Northeast China to command, and this had certainly proved that the nationalists had put a heavy emphasis on the battle. However, despite their excellent capability, Hou Jingru (侯镜如) and Hui De’an (惠德安) were extremely loyal and obedient to Chiang Kai-shek and in fact, after the 21st Division of the nationalist 92nd Army under the command of Hou Jingru (侯镜如) was annihilated by the enemy in the Autumn Offensive of 1947 in Northeast China which was not his fault, Hou Jiru (侯镜如) did not voice any complaints to his superior Chen Cheng and Chiang. As a capable military commander, Hou Jingru (侯镜如) had also reached the same conclusion of his superior Chen Cheng: the Northeast China was a lost cause for the nationalists who would be much better off if they had given up Northeast China and use the freed troops elsewhere in China where the nationalists were in better positions, and then take back Northeast China when things had turned better. However, unlike his outspoken his superior Chen Cheng who openly advocated this idea, Hou Jingru (侯镜如) kept quiet and faithfully carried on the impossible tasks for Chiang to the end. Hou Jingru (侯镜如) had earned Chiang’s deep trust by doing so but this would come at a heavy price: when Chiang Kai-shek personally sent two of his senior officers to replace the much more capable Chen Tie (陈铁), deputy commander-in-chief of the nationalist force in Northeast China, Hou Jingru (侯镜如) and Hui De’an (惠德安) did not voice their concern despite the fact that the two new commanders were impotent in comparison to the much more capable Chen Tie (陈铁). At the same time, Hou Jingru (侯镜如) and Hui De’an (惠德安) were also well aware the nationalist problems they could not solve, and not wanting to be scapegoats of failure and not wanting to be blamed for wasting valuable troops by sending them to the impossible mission, the two chose to wait by not going to help the two new senior commanders, who did not want them to be involved anyway.
The primary reason Chiang Kai-shek got personally involved and sent two of his own senior officers to direct battle was the result of strategic difference between him and Wei Lihuang, commander-in-chief of nationalist force in Northeast China: Chiang was still infatuated with holding on as much land as possible and as long as possible, while Wei Lihuang believed that nationalists should save as many troops as possible, even if that would mean giving up lands temporarily because troops saved could be later used to recover the land previously given up. For Chiang and most nationalists, however, giving up anymore lands was politically unacceptable at the time. Nationalists were well aware the importance of the battle, including Chiang Kai-shek, who personally commanded in the hope of defeating the enemy and revert the situation in Northeast China for the nationalists, but very unfortunately, despite his good intentions, his personally involvement, as well as the commanders he chose, turned out to be a disaster for the nationalists and caused them not only the Battle of Tashan (塔山), but also the Battle of Jinzhou, as well as Liaoshen Campaign.
- List of battles of the Chinese Civil War
- National Revolutionary Army
- History of the People's Liberation Army
- Chinese Civil War
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