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Posted on Jun 10, 2007 in Front Page Features, War College

The Huaihai Campaign

By Joshua Gilbert

Phase II was set to begin. With the successful destruction of the 7th Army the first phase of Su Yu’s plan had been fulfilled. Now the second phase could begin. The main focus of this phase lay in the destruction of Huang Wei’s reinforcement army, the 12th, which had arrived in the Xuzhou area attempting to save the 7th. On November 23rd Huang Wei joined the battle in full when he opened on the Communist 4th Column, CPFA, at Nanpingji. Both Liu Bocheng and Su Yu knew they had to deal with this new situation quickly. Using the 4th Column and the Yu Wan Su brigade (an independent formation) they led the 12th Army into a trap. Meanwhile the two Communist armies manueuvered to prevent any aid from greater Xuzhou to arriving in the trap area. As with the 7th, only airlifts would be able to help them. Once Huang Wei arrived at Shuangduiji, the trap was sprung. Liu Bocheng committed most of his command to the destruction of the 12th Army. The ECFA committed some troops but mostly was tied down fighting with increasing NRA forces attempting to breakthrough.


Once Du Yuming became aware of what was happening to his strongest reinforcements he gathered whatever forces he could and attempted to break the siege. Because of Communist moles in Nanjing near to Jiang Jieshi, with whom Du was in constant communication, Su Yu was able to successfully ‘check’ any move by Du Yuming. When he left his positions around Xuzhou City the ECFA were there to meet his forces and block them. On November 24th a general attack order was given against Du Yuming’s command, with the main attack falling on the Mengcheng area. On the following day the same order was given against the 12th Army. Surprisingly Huang Wei was able to break out of Shuangduiji and headed for the southern bank of the Kuaihe River. His ultimate objective was to link up with Du Yuming’s command. Using his armored arm skillfully Huang Wei was able to carve out an escape route on the 26th. When the escape attempt was launched the following morning the unexpected happened. The 110th Division, Jiang Jieshi’s elite guard, defected. After a fierce struggle the Communists beat back the 12th Army to Shuangduiji.

By the time December rolled around it was clear the destruction of the 12th Army was just a matter of time. Du Yuming’s command of three armies had moved into Xuzhou City itself and were contained. Li Yannian’s command was also contained around Bengbu. But the Communists were soon to suffer a setback of their own. On December 1st the continuing argument between Du Yuming and Jiang Jieshi over the course of the campaign effectively ended when Jiang threatened to cut off the air supply drops and bombing runs. Unless Du gave the order to abandon Xuzhou and retreat to Nanjing as planned. This entire debate had occurred between the inner circle of the Guomindang only, so the Communist spy network had no clue to what was being planned.

When Du Yuming returned to Xuzhou later that day he set the plan in motion. That night the combined command of Du Yuming left Xuzhou City, with several decoy formations also being used. When the Communists realized what was happening, and the scale of the deception, they were caught completely unaware. An impromptu strategy session would ultimately result in a solution that would turn their problem into an advantage. On the morning of December 2nd the Army Group of Du Yuming found itself confronted by the ECFA and Liu Bocheng himself. This would mark the beginning of a 40-day battle as Du Yuming tried in vain to break through Liu’s lines. Meanwhile, at  Shuangduiji, the noose tightened on the 12th Army. On December 6th the order came down to finish it.

Liu Bocheng arrived with Chen Yi to personally oversee the operation just as the battle began. For this battle, and for the first time, the Communists committed their column of siege artillery. The first move was made against the villages of a Lishilou and Xiaozhouzhuang. A counterattack stalled the advance on the 8th at Lishilou but resumed on the 9th following the capture of Dawangzhuang. But again the attack stalled when Dawangzhuang was captured by NRA troops later in the day. The village became the center focus of the fighting on the 10th, but ultimately the Communists retook it. This prompted the surrender of Xiaowangzhuang that night by two regiments of the 23rd Division. On December 12th Liu Bocheng and Chen Yi presented Huang Wei with terms of surrender. Huang’s  response was to bombard the Communist lines. This prompted the allocation of more men to the destruction of the 12th Army.

At dusk, December 14th, a combined attack force from the CPFA and ECFA, backed by two siege battalions, struck Shuangduiji itself. The city was breached, spelling the end of the 12th Army, although the end did not come until the following day, when the last remnants were wiped out and Huang Wei captured. The 12th Army had been destroyed, the 16th Army as well (On December 6th, which allowed Liu Bocheng to leave the area). Completing both operational objectives (originally just the 12th’s destruction, changed to include the 16th’s on further thought from Su Yu). All that remained was Du Yuming’s force, as Li Yannian had managed to safely withdraw out of Xuzhou.

Du Yuming, protégé of Jiang Jieshi

With the destruction of the 12th Army the campaign was nearly at an end. By December 15th the main Communist objectives had nearly all been achieved, and nearly the entire NRA presence in Xuzhou was wiped out. The escape of Li Yannian’s command had been unexpected but judged inconsequential by the CMC. Which was about to make a radical decision on the course of the campaign. On December 16th Su Yu was ordered to halt all attacks against Du Yuming’s remaining forces, that is the remnants of the 2nd Army and the 13th Army. They ordered a 10 day break in the fighting for rest, to allow the CPFA to move up in support, and allow for a propaganda campaign. There was also a larger strategic concern. There was much worry in the CMC that if the Huaihai Campaign continued at the current tempo then Jiang Jieshi would move Fu Zuoyi and his massive command (500,000 men) out of the Beiping-Tianjin area. That would force the CMC to scrub the Pingjin Campaign strategy that was already underway, so they decided to slow the tempo’.

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  1. It is well documented about this historical even which determined th fate of China.

  2. I disagree with the statement in the article that the Nationalists were “war-weary” from fighting the Japanese while (the article says) the Communists were “fresh.”

    The Nationalists had low morale due to systemic and political shortcomings: internal corruption and dissention, and economic problems.

    The Communists had subsisted for years in the Japanese rear, but morale was high because they seemed to offer a vision of a new China.

    Anyhow, the war against Japan had ended three years earlier.

    • Also the fact that the US provided miss matched ammunition and weapons.

    • Mao did not attempt t o engage the Japanese in open pitched battle but Chiang Kai Shek did and his army suffered enormous casualties as a result. Next, the US cut off funds at a certain point to Chiang due to the fact communist spies in our Treasury Department and other branches of government (yes McCarthy as correct) spread the usual leftist canard that Chiang was corrupt etc.


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