The Battle That Saved Taiwan

Chiang Kai-shek's last-gasp victory at Kinmen ensured his island nation's future

By Ronald Spector

(Annotated by BLACK WATER PICTURES)

Late in October 1949, Mao Zedong was on the verge of wiping out his enemy. For months, his Communist troops had been racking up victories against Chiang Kai-shek, including the capture of Beijing, Nanjing, and Shanghai. Nationalist forces retained firm control of only two provinces--Sichuan in the southwest and Fujian on the southeast coast

(BLACK WATER PICTURES NOTES: According to the news picture on February 1, 1950 by the Associated Press, it clearly indicates that Hainan Island, Tibet, Yunnan along with Sichuan were not in the Communist hands yet.)

--and were focused chiefly on the island of Taiwan, which Chiang was fortifying as his last defense.

The next target for Mao's People's Liberation Army was Kinmen Island, which lay in the South China Sea about eight miles off the coast, directly on the route to Taiwan. The Communists estimated there were 12,000 Nationalist troops at Kinmen, but these were the tattered remnants of units that had survived disastrous defeats in central China, along with green recruits from villages in Sichuan and Taiwan--a trifle for Mao's 13,000 battle-hardened veterans.

Around midnight on October 24, some 9,000 PLA troops began to cram into the wooden junks that would carry them across the sea to what they fully expected to be an easy and glorious triumph. But a battle that was to have marked the beginning of the end for Chiang instead turned into disaster for the Communists. Overconfidence, poor planning

(BWP NOTES: According to Mao Zedong’s military strategy, “Fight no battle unprepared, fight no battle you are not sure of winning”, the Communist troops only fight for win when circumstances are favorable. By September 17, the 28th Army was ordered to participate in the battle of liberation for Xiamen and Kinmen. The 10th Army Group proposed three different battle plans: “First take Kinmen then Xiamen”, ”First take Xiamen then Kinmen”, and ”Take Kinmen and Xiamen together”. The high command of the 10th Army Group evaluated them cautiously and repeatedly, and considered the operation details in a very thorough way. Besides, the Communists held in-depth knowledge about the Nationalist’s troop deployments on Xiamen and Kinmen. Finally the 10th Army Group decided to attack Xiamen first.)

, and horrible weather

(BWP NOTES: As a matter of fact, the weather that night of October 25 was never an adverse condition for the Communist’s operation. One Communist soldier recalled in an interview that he had even seen stars in the sky when hiding himself in the cabin of the junk, as the Communist fleet sailed for Kinmen that night. Most of the boats landed in the planned locations, which clearly presented the Communists’ initial ambition to obtain victory by waging a surprising attack.)

were about to sabotage what Mao had hoped would be his crowning moment.

At the conclusion of World War II, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, China's leader since the 1920s, was regarded in the United States and by millions of Chinese as one of the architects of victory over Japanese aggression. His picture had appeared more than once on the cover of Time magazine. V-J Day found Chiang "in an exuberant state mind," according to a longtime associate. "He felt that the struggle which he led personally, of resistance to the Japanese enemy...had been crowned with success. That China had at last been put on the map, so to speak, and had earned her place in the councils of the world."

A few days before the Japanese capitulation, China had signed a Treaty of Friendship and Alliance with the Soviet Union. It contained many concessions to the Soviets but recognized Chiang's regime as the sole legitimate government of China. The Soviet treaty, the recent victory, and the continued strong support of the United States appeared to place Chiang in an unassailable position in his struggle against the Chinese Communists for mastery of China.

That contest had raged since 1927, with an intermission between 1937 and 1945, when both sides had united against the Japanese

(BWP NOTES: Basically this is only an imagination of the Americans. The Communists’ performance in the War of Resistance Against Japan can not equate with the Nationalists’, let alone the word “united”. The Chinese Communist Party conducts vigorous propaganda that the victory of the War of People's Resistance against Japan was obtained under the leadership of the Party’s anti-Japanese national united front. The truth is there were all the Nationalist soldiers in the frontline battlefields, engaging in critical battles and fighting directly with the Japanese main forces at all costs. In the present time, the academic communities, the media, and even the ordinary civilians in China, begin to admit the Nationalists were the principal forces on anti-Japanese war. And the mythical image-buildings of the Communists’ astonishing achievement on battlefield behind enemy lines are now refuted one by one. During the eight years of anti-Japanese war, the Communists acted according to the internal resolutions made at Luochuan Meeting 1937. They aimed not only at increasing the military strength but also expanding their state within a state, and expected to create favorable conditions for seizing power after the victory against Japan. More and more information revealed by the Communists in recent years proves that they did take the strategy of nibbling at the Nationalist troops, forcibly seizing their territory, and set the CCP’s propaganda machines to make false countercharges of them. The information also shows the Communist New Fourth Army had never fought the Japanese in the southern region of Yangtze. The N4A actually made secret deals with the Japanese and took converging attacks on the Nationalist troops. Besides, the N4A also provided the Japanese with the intelligence of Nationalist government to exchange for the Japanese not attacking them.)

. The battles resumed in earnest in 1946 and 1947. Chiang Kai-shek had about 1.6 million men and some 6,000 artillery pieces. The Communists' regular forces, aside from guerrillas, included about 900,000 men, only half of them armed, with 600 artillery pieces. Many of Chiang's troops had been trained by American instructors and had the latest American equipment. Chiang's Nationalist armies also had several tanks, an air force, and a small navy composed of former American landing craft and escort vessels. Mao's Communists had few tanks, few warplanes, and no navy.

From 1946 to mid-1947 Chiang's Nationalist forces appeared to have the upper hand, even capturing the Communist headquarters city of Yan'an in March 1947. But beginning that summer, the Communists launched campaigns in Manchuria and central China that turned the tide. Nationalist generals often failed to cooperate or coordinate their efforts. Chiang repeatedly interfered in operations, ordering ill-advised or impossible measures. In almost every engagement, large numbers of Nationalist troops deserted or defected. Some of Chiang's generals switched sides, taking thousands of troops with them. During the three-year contest for control of Manchuria, Chiang had committed about half a million troops to the region. By November 1948 almost all had been lost, some in battle but many more as prisoners or defectors.

The climax came in the last two months of 1948. In massive battles near Suzhou, as they pushed their way south and east toward Shanghai, Communist armies encircled and destroyed 56 Nationalist divisions and took more than 300,000 prisoners. In January 1949 Chiang formally resigned as president of the Republic of China, leaving his hapless successor, General Li Zongren, to fight on or attempt to negotiate a peace agreement with the Communists.

Yet Chiang was not finished. Though he announced he had retired, he retained control of most of the government's military and financial resources. With the assistance of his sons, Chiang Wei-kuo and Chiang Ching-kuo

(BWP NOTES: Another impression created by most foreign scholars and viewed the Chiang family as the government manipulator. The opponent side has exaggerated the two brothers’ contribution to Chiang Kai-shek over a long period of time. Take Chiang Wei-kuo for example, he was only a colonel as the deputy commander of the Armored Force Command, and had merely limited influence then. )

, he prepared a new redoubt on the island of Taiwan. A Japanese colony for some 50 years, Taiwan had been returned to China after World War II. The generalissimo had been favorably impressed when he first visited the island in October 1946. Taiwan's industry was largely intact. There were no nettlesome warlords and the Communists had not infiltrated. "As long as we have Taiwan," Chiang Kai-shek observed to an aide, "the Communists can never win."

In early 1949, Chiang ordered navy and air force headquarters moved to Taiwan. Most of the remaining air force also moved to the island along with arsenals and other manufacturing facilities from southern China. Aid shipments en route from the United States were diverted to Taiwan. In Shanghai, Chiang Ching-kuo and some armed party loyalists paid a nighttime visit to the Bank of China

(BWP NOTES: It should be the Central Bank of China instead of the Bank of China. The two banks were next-door neighbors. And the gold bullion (of the Central Bank of China) was deposited in the basement vaults at the backyard of the Bank of China. They took the gold bullion and the foreign currencies through the lane between the Bank of China and the Peace Hotel, which could easily lead to confusion.)

, departing with truckloads of gold bullion and foreign currencies--most of China's financial reserves.

During the first half of 1949, while Chiang was transferring more than 300,000 troops to Taiwan, the Nationalist government suffered more military disasters. In January the old capital of Beijing, along with its garrison of 20 divisions, surrendered to the Communists. The following April, Communists crossed the Yangtze River along a 325-mile front and easily captured the Nationalist capital of Nanjing. Shanghai, which one of Chiang's generals had pledged to turn into "a second Stalingrad," surrendered without a fight on May 25

(BWP NOTES: The Shanghai Campaign started on May 12 and ended on the 27th, 1949. During the two week period, the Communist’s 420,000 men fought with the Nationalist’s 220,000 and tied. The Communist troops finally and rapidly disintegrated the body of the Nationalists with the assistance from the Chinese Communist Party of Shanghai.)

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The Nationalist defeats produced consternation in the United States, an American general observed, "[The Nationalists] could have defended the Yangtze River with broomsticks if they had the will to do it."

With the loss of Shanghai, Chiang held only Sichuan Province in the southwest and Fujian Province

(BWP NOTES: Not exactly. Please refer to the news picture on February 1, 1950 by the Associated Press.)

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across from Taiwan. "Henceforth we will focus on the defense of Taiwan first," the generalissimo told Ching-kuo in early June. A few days later the Nationalist government announced a blockade of all ports under Communist control, including Shanghai and surrounding areas.

The potential threat of Chiang's actions in the southeast did not escape the attention of Mao Zedong and the Communist leadership. The official party newspaper warned that "the imperialists are envisioning holding Taiwan, part of China's territory, as the springboard for conducting aggressive operations against mainland China....Reactionaries...headed by Chiang Kai-shek are dreaming of changing Taiwan, with the military protection of U. S. imperialists, into a base for their last-ditch struggle". In June 1949 Mao sent a message to General Su Yu, commander of the Third Field Army and one of the victors of the decisive battles of 1947 and 1948, directing him to develop a plan to take Taiwan.

In the late Summer of 1949 the People's Liberation Army 10th Army Group captured Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, on the coast near Taiwan, and headed south for Xiamen. Xiamen, a large urban island a little more than a mile offshore, is surrounded on three sides by the mainland. It was garrisoned by Nationalist units, chiefly the remnants of troops defeated on the Yangtze. They were poorly supplied and morale was low.

On October 16, four divisions of the PLA 10th Army Group embarked in junks and attacked Xiamen by sea. One division crossed to northern Xiamen under cover of darkness. Supported by heavy artillery fire, the Communist forces easily established a beachhead, though they took heavy casualties. Crossing back to the mainland, the junks brought in waves of reinforcements. Nationalist counterattacks were ineffective and eventually the defenders withdrew to southern Xiamen. From there some retreated on junks and fishing craft to Kinmen.

The conquest of Xiamen had been relatively easy, but aspects of the battle should have given PLA leaders pause as they planned the invasion of Kinmen. During the initial Xiamen landings, two assault regiments had been put ashore at the wrong place and had to advance on foot through half a mile of swamp under heavy fire. The first wave of assault troops landing on nearby Gulangyu Island, a kind of suburb of Xiamen, had been wiped out when winds and currents had prevented their junks from returning with additional troops.

Yet the PLA 10th Army Group, urged on by Mao, immediately set its sights on Kinmen, planning to strike on October 24

(BWP NOTES: The Communists originally planned to attack Kinmen on October 20, but postponed twice for the shortage of boats. They finally decided to launch the assault on October 24.)

. Only the northern beaches of the hourglass-shaped island were suitable for a landing and the tides dictated a nighttime assault; during the day the water was too shallow for the junks to approach the beach.

The attack was assigned to the 28th Army of the 10th Army Group, though it had no experience with amphibious operations and many of its soldiers had never seen the ocean before arriving at Xiamen

(BWP NOTES: Partly correct. The 82nd and 84th divisions had just sailed across the sea and taken an amphibious operation successfully on Pingtan Island.)

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The PLA had no real landing craft but relied on junks and fishing boats, many of them sail powered and too light to carry heavy weapons or artillery.

The 10th Army Group's artillery, mostly captured American-made 105 mm howitzers, could reach Kinmen from Xiamen

(BWP NOTES: The howitzer battalion of the 10th Army Group’s artillery regiment was positioned separately at Dadeng and Xiaodeng islets.)

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but was useful only for softening-up operations. Once the assault force was ashore, the Communists had no means of spotting or directing their fire to avoid hitting their own troops. Furthermore, the PLA had no naval forces to support the junk fleet, and the newly established Communist air force had only a single squadron of planes, and that was stationed far to the north near Beijing.

By late October, 10th Army Group had collected enough boats to carry about 13,000 men in three waves to Kinmen

(BWP NOTES: The Communists initially planned to attack Kinmen with six infantry regiments, i.e. to carry about 20,000 men in two waves.)

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The Communists estimated that the Nationalists had about 12,000 troops on Kinmen, a force that would be easily overcome, Mao and his generals surmised. Over the past two years the PLA had quickly destroyed Nationalist armies of equal or greater size, and Chiang's forces on Kinmen were inexperienced.

But PLA leaders had made some critical miscalculations. In fact there were close to 40,000 Nationalist troops on Kinmen

(BWP NOTES: According to the comparison table of fighting forces on both sides, made by the 22nd Army Group, indicates that there were fourteen Nationalist infantry regiments, along with two armored companies and five artillery companies in garrison of Kinmen Island during the battle. A total of 21,000 at most, but actually even less. Just as the author mentioned previously that the Nationalists were the remnants of troops defeated on the Yangtze, and most regiments contained only about 1,000 men. For instance, the combat capabilities of the 14th division were only two battalions left.)

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along with 21 tanks.

Aircraft from Taiwan could reach the island in less than 20 minutes

(BWP NOTES: It couldn’t be possible. The airline distance from Tainan to Kinmen is about 250 kilometers, and from Taipei to Kinmen is about 300 kilometers. The maximum speed of P-51 is 703km/hr. Despite the time on taking off and landing, it would take twenty one minutes from Tainan to Kinmen, and more than twenty five minutes from Taipei to Kinmen at least. By the way, during the battle of Kinmen, the P-51’s combat zone was focused on the Communist positions in the opposite shore, not the Kinmen island.)

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Xiao Feng, who was commanding the 28th Army, did not like the look of things. Recent intelligence suggested Kinmen had been reinforced. He had few experienced boatmen who knew the waters around Xiamen and there was no time for embarkation training or gathering hydrographic information

(BWP NOTES: According to the Xinhua News Agency’s report from Fujian frontline on October 19, the Communists had already begun to practice boat rowing and naval operation skills, and had made a great progress. The soldiers were very capable of operating the rudder, telling the wind directions and even reading various sea states. As to the hydrographic issue, the Communists did a good job, for they had selected the best landing locations and timing. Furthermore, the boatmen recruited by the 28th Army from Fujian and Xiamen, due to constant business around this area, had known the sea condition around Chonglin and Hosha very well.)

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Xiao and his like-minded political officer Li Mancun bombarded higher headquarters with their concerns. General Su Yu, the overall PLA commander for East China, was swayed. He directedthat additional experienced boatmen from the northern coastal provinces be sent to reinforce the assault and that 10th Army Group delay the invasion until shipping was available to carry 20,000 troops in the first wave

(BWP NOTES: The 10th Army Group had asked the Third Field Army for instructions on the battle plan of taking Kinmen and Xiamen. General Su Yu, the deputy commander, replied in telegram, “If all conditions were perfect, you can launch the assaults at the same time. Otherwise, it might be better to deploy some forces to pin down Kinmen and to take Xiamen first. We leave the final decision to your own judgment.” This text implies no delay for the invasion at all.)

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For reasons not entirely clear, 10th Army Group failed to act on Su's guidance and continued its preparations for an October 24 attack. The PLA's armada of junks and fishing craft assembled off Dadeng, a rocky islet north of Kinmen. The first wave would comprise three regiments from three different PLA divisions, an unorthodox order of battle that gave each division a chance to capture the Nationalists' modern American weapons and equipment. The initial wave would have no overall commander; the division-level headquarters that was to command their operations was to arrive in the second assault wave. This raised little concern; the capture of Kinmen would be easy, after all.

General Hu Lian and his ragtag 18th Army were responsible for the defense of Kinmen. After Hu Lian had graduated from the Whampoa Military Academy, he had taken part in Chiang Kai-shek's Northern Expedition, which nominally unified China in the late 1920s, and fought the Japanese in China's eastern provinces during World War II. Wounded several times, he was awarded the Order of Blue Sky and White Sun, China's highest military decoration for bravery.

In mid-October Hu drilled his troops in repelling a Communist landing from the sea, then departed the island briefly to attend to matters elsewhere

(BWP NOTES: After dispatching his troops in Shantou, General Hu Lian went directly to Taiwan to ask for further instructions. He did not go to train the troops personally in Kinmen first.)

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He was still away on October 24, when a detachment of infantry and

a platoon of American-made M5 Stuart tanks from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Tank Regiment was holding maneuvers on the northwestern beaches near the town of Guningtou

(BWP NOTES: 1. It should be the M5A1 Stuart light tank. 2. They held the maneuver at Longkou, in the northern shore of central Kinmen.)

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Toward evening one of the tanks broke down and was forced to remain on the beach overnight. The two other tanks of the platoon were assigned to remain with the disabled vehicle until morning.

Also spending an unplanned night on the beach was the Chung Lung, an American landing ship, now part of the Nationalist navy. In addition to its naval duties, the Chung Lung, like many other Chinese warships, carried on a robust business smuggling brown sugar from Taiwan to Kinmen in exchange for peanut oil. Kinmen factories had not produced their full quota of peanut oil by the time the ship arrived on the 24th, however, so the captain reported that he was obliged to remain anchored near Guningtou because of "bad weather"

(BWP NOTES: In fact, the Chung Lung landing ship was supposed to smuggle brown sugar to Dinghai, which was short of sugar, for bartering. For some reason, the Chung Lung could not make it to Dinghai and then decided to trade off sugar for peanut oil in Kinmen instead. Unfortunately, the factories would not deliver the oil completely until the next day. The captain, after discussing with the engineer officer, then commanded to sail the ship from Liaolo to Shuotou and dropped anchor there. He reported to the superiors for stormy waves and would depart on next day. The reason for the Chung Lung’s not going to Dinghai is believed to lure the hidden Communist agents out with disinformation. )

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The Nationalist troops on Kinmen could see scores of junks assembling on the opposite shore and knew an attack was imminent. Civilians were put to work assisting the soldiers in constructing defensive emplacements. By late October the Nationalists had constructed about 400 fighting positions of various types a little over 100 yards apart on the likely landing beaches.

The sea was choppy and the winds brisk as the last boats straggled into the rendezvous point in the early hours of October 25, and the PLA armada finally set sail. It was a short, unpleasant journey for the troops, many of whom were seasick. The PLA's plan was to land near the village of Longkou on the narrowest part of Kinmen. But because the boats varied in quality and maneuverability, the rough weather scattered them and carried most west past Longkou toward a place on the hilly northwest shore of Kinmen called Guningtou

(BWP NOTES: The three Communist regiments of the first wave had planned to land at three separate locations. The wind’s impact on deviation is limited but the author exaggerates it.)

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At around 1:30 a.m. on the 25th,

a Nationalist patrol on the beach near Longkou accidentally triggered a land mine

(BWP NOTES: The Nationalist technical warfare force had adapted aerial bombs into tripwire mines. First lieutenant Bian Li-jong, the leader of an assault platoon of the 201st division, was believed to trigger the adapted landmine accidently.)

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The explosion alerted units all along the northern shore. Flares were fired, revealing a terrifying sight: "Hundreds of junks were approaching us," recalled one Nationalist soldier. "We had never seen such a strange and magnificent sight. Instinctively we fired the machine guns. Within half an hour, five thousand bullets had been fired."

PLA artillery fire from the mainland covered some of the boats as they approached the shore but it was lifted once the soldiers began to disembark. The assault troops, some of whom had to wade or swim 650 yards to shore, were for a time unable to answer the steadily increasing fire from the island's defenders. The three tanks that serendipitously happened to be on the beach also opened a devastating fire with their 37 mm guns. The Chung Lung, anchored nearby, still carried the multiple 20 mm and 40 mm antiaircraft guns installed by the Americans in 1944 to deal with kamikaze attacks, and bright orange and blue flashes lit up the darkness as it fired on the Communists.

Communist losses were heavy. Many units lost more than a third of their personnel during the landing. Once ashore, however, the veteran PLA troops easily overran or enveloped the inexperienced troops of the 201st Division of the Nationalist "Youth Army"

(BWP NOTES: The 201st division was equipped with American-made weapons and accepted the American training methods, young but full of strong combat capabilities. Most of the Communist soldiers were found dead on the beaches with only one bullet after the battle of Kinmen, which proves the 201st division was not inexperienced at all.)

that held the beach positions. With the beach defenses broken, the Communists were poised to bring in reinforcements and then crush the Nationalists.

Yet first light revealed that the PLA forces on Kinmen would essentially be on their own. The tide, which had begun to recede at 2 a.m., had left more than a hundred of the invasion junks grounded on the beach. Nationalist gunboats offshore opened up on the stranded flotilla, while warplanes swooped in to set them afire with rockets. With few boats left on the mainland, the remaining four regiments of the 28th Army

(BWP NOTES: The second wave of the Communist assault troops contained three regiments: the 245th and 246th regiments from the 82nd division of the 28th Army, and the 259th regiment from the 87th division of the 29th Army.)

watched helplessly as the struggle for Kinmen continued over the next 48 hours.

Though isolated and outnumbered, the Communist forces on Kinmen were still formidable. Pushing the Nationalists back, they seized the high ground around Guningtou and attempted to move east.

Both the Communists and the Nationalists lacked an overall commander

(BWP NOTES: Xing Yongshen, the 244th regiment’s commander of the left wing of the main attack, was the chief commanding officer of the first wave of assault. While he was wounded in the morning of October 25, the 28th Army then assigned Liu Tianshiang of the 251st regiment to be Xing’s successor. As for the Nationalist side, Tang Enpo and Lee Liangrong were both the operational commanders while the battle raged. More details could be found in Tang’s headquarters’ combat order No. 3.)

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The second wave with the 28th Army's high command never made it to Kinmen, and Nationalist general Hu Lian was still away from the island. There was considerable disorganization and confusion on both sides, but the Nationalists, despite being outmaneuvered and often outfought by the Communists, did not panic or disintegrate. Through the lanes and byways and among the clusters of houses and farm buildings of Guningtou and its surrounding hamlets, the two sides waged a stubborn, close-quarters battle.

The PLA troops had plenty of machine guns and were expert at field fortification and employing interlocking fields of fire. But they had no artillery or antitank weapons

(BWP NOTES: 1. According to the quantity statistics of captured weaponry made by the Nationalists, the Communist troops of the battle of Kinmen were equipped with 75mm packed howitzers, mortars(including 60mm mortars, chemical mortars), infantry cannons, and bazookas. 2. According to the Communist prisoners’ statements, they had already been informed that there was a tank battalion garrisoned in Kinmen Island. The first wave was even embarked with a bazooka platoon of the 28th Army, with estimated 36 bazookas at least. Besides, the Communists had developed some anti-tank strategies in advance for the troops to apply.)

--and the Nationalists had over 20 tanks. The Nationalists also had American-made B-25 and

B-26 medium bombers

(BWP NOTES: According to the summary of assisting the battles in Kinmen and Xiamen made by the R. O. C. air force, three types of B-24, B-25 and FB-26 bombers were employed. While the comparison table of fighting forces on both sides made by the 22nd Army Group shows the B-24 bombers of the 8th Group of the ROCAF was sent to combat in the battle of Kinmen. As to the B-26 bombers, they were handed over to Taiwan at the end of the Korean War, and affiliated to the Black Bats Squadron for aerial reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering over mainland China.)

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which, along with fighters, flew from Taiwan to bomb and strafe the Communist positions.

Casualties were heavy on both sides; the Communist regiments on the island had lost about 50 percent of their strength by the end of the first day's fighting.

While the fighting raged, the Nationalist unit commanders elected General Gao Guiyan, one of their most experienced leaders, as acting commander in chief

(BWP NOTES: General Gao Guiyan was originally the commander of eastern Kinmen garrison forces. He was later authorized by the 22nd Army Group, before General Hu Lian’s arrival, to take the counterattack forces against the Communist troops. And General Gao completed the assigned mission.)

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Advancing slowly behind their tanks, Gao's men gradually drove the Communists from fighting positions on the high ground. By the close of the 25th, the Communists, who had had no food since landing and were running short of ammunition, had been pushed into a small corner of Guningtou. At nightfall, General Gao, fearing a second Communist landing, halted the Nationalist advance and redeployed his troops around the Communist position.

Mao's forces were indeed trying to organize a second invasion but with little success. The 10th Army Group desperately searched for boats to carry sufficient reinforcements to Kinmen. Constant attacks and shelling from Nationalist warships and planes also rendered impossible a daylight departure from the mainland. By evening the 10th Army Group had collected only enough boats to carry four companies, fewer than 9,000 men. Some of the 28th Division staff argued that these vessels should be used to withdraw the PLA units on Kinmen, but the 10th Army Group decided to dispatch the reinforcements, hoping even this relatively small force would tip the balance.

It did not. Around 3 a.m. on October 26 the PLA reinforcements arrived off Kinmen. Two companies landed with few losses but found themselves pinned down near the beach. The other two companies, their boats battered by high wind and waves, managed to put only four platoons ashore. Some of these men fought their way into Guningtou and joined up with the original invasion force. But it was already too late. As dawn broke on October 26, General Hu Lian returned to Kinmen with sizable reinforcements

(BWP NOTES: General Hu Lian departed for Kinmen by Min Yue steamship which carried military supplies at the night of 24th, along with General Luo Zhuoying, the deputy director of the southeast military administration senior official government office. The ship arrived at the night of 25th, due to heavy waves, and finally reached the shore until the morning of 26th. No more reinforcements with General Hu’s arrival.)

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Resuming his position as commander in chief, Hu Lian organized a final offensive against the remaining Communist positions. The Nationalist attack, spearheaded by tanks, drove the PLA from its remaining strongholds. Low on ammunition and desperately hungry, some PLA soldiers surrendered; others fought their way to the beach hoping they would be evacuated. It was there, on the night of October 26, that the Communists made their last stand. The following morning the survivors surrendered. PLA casualties totaled almost 4,000 killed and another 5,000 taken prisoner

(BWP NOTES: From the sum of the Communist casualties and prisoners, we can find there were at least 9,000 men in the first wave of attack in the battle of Kinmen. But numerous Communist prisoners were immediately drafted for the Nationalist replacements during the three-day battle. Take the 354th regiment of the 118th division for instance, they supplemented over 1,000 Communist prisoners within three days but didn’t put down in written reports. Considering the structure of the participating units of the first wave, you may get a more precise number of 12,000 at least.)

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The Nationalists lost around 1,200 killed. (Numbers of wounded are unknown.)

Compared to the gigantic clash of armies in Manchuria, around Suzhou, and in other campaigns of China's civil war, the Battle of Guningtou seemed almost a minor skirmish, the tiniest hitch in Mao's progress. Within two months the Communists completed their conquest of the mainland

(BWP NOTES: not exactly. Please refer to the news picture on February 1, 1950 by the Associated Press.)

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sweeping through southwest China and capturing Chongking, Chiang's wartime capital.

In April 1950 two divisions of the PLA 's Fourth Field Army launched a well-planned and massive seaborne attack on Hainan, China's second largest island, southwest of Hong Kong. The large Nationalist garrison on Hainan, poorly led and demoralized, collapsed in four days, although many soldiers escaped by ship to Taiwan. The easy capture of Hainan may have unnerved Chiang, who ordered the evacuation of the Zhoushan islands off the coast of Shanghai. With these Communist successes, the path to an assault on Taiwan seemed open.

But the Nationalist victory on Kinmen made the Communists cautious in their second attempt, which would prove critical. General Su Yu, the principal planner for the assault on Taiwan, estimated half a million troops would be required. With the lessons of Guningtou and Hainan fresh in mind he insisted on naval and air support and an invasion fleet that could not only carry a first attack wave but also deliver reinforcements and supplies. That meant successfully crossing the Taiwan Strait and having sufficient naval forces and aircraft to keep the strait open and support the landing force. Beginning in February 1950 Mao Zedong and other Communist leaders embarked on an accelerated program to train pilots, acquire planes from the Soviet Union, repair and reequip captured Nationalist warships, and purchase shipping from foreign sources.

All that took time. Beijing expected the Red Chinese air force and navy to be at least equal to their Nationalist counterparts by the end of 1950, while Su Yu planned to start large-scale maneuvers for the amphibious attack forces by the spring of 1951.

But on June 25, 1950, troops of Kim Il Sung's Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel and started the Korean War. Almost immediately Mao began to strengthen Chinese forces in the northeast. In September 1950 the IX Army Corps that had formed the nucleus of the projected Taiwan invasion force was transferred to Manchuria. With the outbreak of war in Korea, President Harry Truman had ordered the U.S. Seventh Fleet to patrol the Taiwan Strait to forestall any Communist attack on the island and to prevent Chiang from launching raids or landing on the mainland.

Although Beijing officially cancelled the Taiwan operation in 1951, the Communist bombardment of Kinmen in 1954 and 1958 would lead to two major Cold War crises, and as recently as 1996 the People's Republic of China held military exercises and tested nuclear-capable missiles in the Taiwan Strait. But no attack on Taiwan ever materialized, and it, and Kinmen Island, remain in Nationalist hands to this day.

RONALD SPECTOR, an MHQ contributing editor, is a professor at George Washington University. His most recent book is In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia.


In 1949 Mao crammed 9,000 men into junks for an attack on Kinmen.  But tides stranded the fleet on the beaches and Nationalists destroyed it.
In 1949 Mao crammed 9,000 men into junks for an attack on Kinmen. But tides stranded the fleet on the beaches and Nationalists destroyed it.

Mao attacked on October 25 with Longkou as the target, but rough weather carried most junks northwest toward Guningtou(right).  The Nationalist air force on Taiwan could reach Kinmen Island in just 20 minutes. (BWP NOTES: Basically impossible.)
Mao attacked on October 25 with Longkou as the target, but rough weather carried most junks northwest toward Guningtou(right). The Nationalist air force on Taiwan could reach Kinmen Island in just 20 minutes. (BWP NOTES: Basically impossible.)

Communist leader Mao Zedong(in an American jeep captured from Nationalists) won massive victories against Chiang Kai-shek(right) after World War II; by 1949 some 800,000 Nationalist troops had been killed or captured, or had defected.
Communist leader Mao Zedong(in an American jeep captured from Nationalists) won massive victories against Chiang Kai-shek(right) after World War II; by 1949 some 800,000 Nationalist troops had been killed or captured, or had defected.

Although Communist troops seized the high ground around Guningtou, without reinforcements or antitank guns they could not hold on, and Nationalist tanks and artillery slowly rolled them up.
Although Communist troops seized the high ground around Guningtou, without reinforcements or antitank guns they could not hold on, and Nationalist tanks and artillery slowly rolled them up.

Nationalist defenders keep an eye on Mainland China.  Bombarded in 1954 and 1958, Kinmen remains in Taiwanese hands today.
Nationalist defenders keep an eye on Mainland China. Bombarded in 1954 and 1958, Kinmen remains in Taiwanese hands today.

News picture on February 1, 1950 by the Associated Press
News picture on February 1, 1950 by the Associated Press

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