The Nationalist Army 1 94549

Strength and organization

The Nationalist army had been reduced in size from 3 million men in August 1945 to 2.6 million in 1946 as an economy measure. Out of this total about 870.000 were service and logistical troops of little combat value, leaving a paper fighting strength of about 1.73 million. By late 1946 the field armies were built around a core of 30-plus divisions that had been trained and equipped largely by the US in India and western China since 1942, with a divisional establishment of just under 11.000 men. By late July 1945 the US training programme had given 13 weeks' instruction to 11 Chinese divisions and had begun training another 22« and Lend-Lease supplies -of weapons, uniforms, equipment and vehicles -were flooding in.

The five divisions of the New 1st and New 6 th Armies, trained at Ramgarh under the inspiration of Gen Stilwell and more or less fresh from fighting c in Burma, were the best Nationalist formations. In fact, so different were they from the normal run of troops that they were often mistaken for foreigners by the civilian normlation. and

Chinese Nationalist Air Force

The crew of a camouflaged German 20mm anti-aircraft gun, wearing the M35 helmet. Most modern equipment like this gun was supplied to the ten German-trained divisions that formed the backbone of the army in 1937. and were destroyed in the early fighting.

1937 Parliament India Old Images

BELOW A Chinese soldier on the Burma front in 1944 poses proudly with his US 75mm M1A1 pack howitzer on an old M1 carriage. These ingeniously designed mountain guns, which could be broken down into six loads for animal transport and were easily air-transportable, were one of the mainstays of the Chinese artillery right through to the end of the Civil War. Weighing 3411b. they fired a 141b HE shell out to 9.610 yards.

The crew of a camouflaged German 20mm anti-aircraft gun, wearing the M35 helmet. Most modern equipment like this gun was supplied to the ten German-trained divisions that formed the backbone of the army in 1937. and were destroyed in the early fighting.

their elite status was reflected in their nickname -The Best Army under Heaven'. However, their deployment to Manchuria in 1945-46 wasted their potential in static defence. These and some other good units began the Civil War with high morale, but this was soon diluted by bad leadership, neglect, and the dispiriting effects of having to serve alongside less competent and motivated troops.

Other good formations and units did exist, their quality being dependent on the stewardship of outstanding individual commanders. Unfortunately for the Nationalists such able leaders were few in number, and even they were often sidelined for some perceived lack of personal loyalty to Chiang. The better forces included the Kwangsi Armies under Gen Li Tsung-jen, the Northern Armies under Gens Fu Tso-yi and Sun Lien-chung, and the North-Western Armies under Gen Ma Huna-ku'ei. The latter included a large number of elite Muslim c C

cavalry who were said to be a match for any Communist unit.

The organization of formations during the Civil War was extremely loose, and both nominal brigades and divisions might have strengths of approximately 10.000 men. Often the only support element within these formations was a battalion of artillery. When compared with its US Army equivalent, a Nationalist division had about two-thirds of the personnel and about one-third of the artillery. A Nationalist army comprised three divisions: it was numerically roughly equivalent to a US corps, but had only the same artillery strength as a single US division.


By September 1948 the Nationalist army had been reduced to about 1.500.000 men, of whom only about 500.000 could be considered first line troops. In a period of four and a half months of 1948 the Nationalists lost 45 per cent of their strength through death or desertion. Just as in World War II. the vast majority of their divisions were of poor quality and were usually under-strength; less than half had over 50 per cent of their establishment. The Nationalists had be21111 the war with a three-to-one numerical advantage over the Communists in both men and equipment, which if properly marshalled should have seen them achieve final victory. However, many weaknesses permeated the Nationalist armies from top to bottom.

By the outbreak of the real fighting in 1946 these armies had been fatally weakened by eight years of devastating war against Japan. Although the war inside China had settled down into something of a stalemate in 1942, this had been broken by a number of savagely fought campaigns, notably in summer 1944. The Nationalists had already suffered catastrophic losses in 1937-41; by 1945 some 100.000 of their trained officer corps had been lost, with particularly damaging effects 011 the efficiency of the army. A high proportion of the remaining commanders were KMT appointees who owed their ranks and postings to supposed political loyalty rather than to professional competence. Such men had 110 culture of disinterested national service, care for their troops' welfare, or collective mutual solidarity; mentally, they were soldiers from a previous aae of the world.

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