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Hsuchow

Hsuchow (Xuzhou; 117.199E 34.251N) was a city of central China with a population of about 150,000 in 1938. The city had an airfield and was an important rail junction, where the north-south Tsinpu Railroad crossed the east-west Lunghai Railroad. The city has been described as "the northern gateway to the Yangzi valley" (MacKinnon 2008).

A major campaign was fought for the city from late December 1937 to early June 1938. In February, 48 Army attempted to drive 3 and 11 Divisions out of Huaiyuan (117.204E 32.970N), on the Tsinpu line south of Hsuchow, but were unsuccessful. 11 Army  was held at Tenghsian () Elements of 9 Division were halted by 20 Army Group at Linyi (118.355E 35.047N), northeast of the city, in early March. The Japanese struck again with heavy artillery support on 23 March, driving the defenders out of Linyi but failing to rout them.

Battle of Taierhchuang. Earlier that month, the Chinese had garrisoned the walled city of Taierhchuang (117.787E 34.567N), where a rail spur joining the Tsinpu and Lunghai lines (bypassing Hsuchow) crossed the Grand Canal. Chinese troops retreating from Linyi regrouped here on 24 March, and 10 Division attacked the next day after a long artillery barrage. The Chinese defenders held, supported for once by their own artillery. On 29 March the Japanese penetrated into the city but were soon entangled in vicious close-quarter fighting that rendered their own artillery useless. The Chinese managed to isolate 10 Division, which was forced to break out, leaving behind some 16,000 dead. Although Chinese casualties were at least as great, the battle of Taierhchuang was recognized as one of the few clear Chinese victories of the war. However, by 15 April, the Japanese had once again driven the Chinese out of Linyi. Bombing of Hsuchow, which had occurred sporadically since August 1937, became heavier, and one Japanese air raid on 14 May 1938 killed 700 people.

The struggle for Hsuchow forced Japanese leaders to privately acknowledge that the China "Incident" was a full-fledged war likely to last at least three more years.

Both sides regrouped until May, when 14 Division severed the Lunghai line west of Hsuchow. To avoid entrapment, most of 20 and 22 Army Groups was ordered to retreat, breaking into groups, moving by night and crossing the railway in a heavy sandstorm. Though at the end of their own logistics, the Japanese entered Hsuchow on 19 May 1938. The city remained in Japanese hands for the remainder of the war.

Stilwell's early plans for a counteroffensive in China identified Hsuchow as the ultimate objective, from which Allied aircraft could bomb Japan itself. These plans came to nothing, both because the Chinese Army could never be built up to the necessary strength and because advances in bomber technology and the capture of the Marianas made air bases in China unnecessary.

Rail Connections

Kaifeng

Lianyungang

Pengpu

Tsinan


References

Drea (2009)

Hsiung and Levine (1992)

IMTFE Judgement (1948; accessed 2012-5-28)

MacKinnon (2008)

Mitter (2013)

Romanus and Sunderland (1952; accessed 2012-5-28)

Wen (1971)



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