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I’chang


Photograph of I'chang circa 1932

Naval History and Heritage Command #NH 80118

I’chang (Yíchang; 111.317E 30.676N) is located on the Yangtze River at the entrance to the famous gorges that mark the limit of steamer navigability of the great river.  Goods were transshipped to river barges at this point and pulled by coolies through the rapids.  Because of its location, the city was subject to disastrous flooding from time to time.

The city first fell to the Japanese on 3 June 1940 as part of an offensive designed to place military pressure on Chiang Kai-shek to accept a negotiated settlement of the China Incident on terms highly favorable to the Japanese. There was no intention to hold the city and the Japanese force withdrew on 16 June. However, the Navy wished to establish a forward base for air attack on Chungking, and the Army retook the city. The loss of I'chang was a severe blow to the Kuomintang, severing most of the supply lines from Chungking to the front lines, but it was also a costly victory for the Japanese.

The Chinese attempted to retake the city in early October 1941 with a force totaling 71 divisions, and 13 Division found itself cut off and besieged for ten days. The situation became so desperate that the division staff began making preparations to burn their secret papers and the regimental flags, then commit suicide.  However, the Japanese diverted forces from their campaign at Changsha and successfully relieved the city.

I'chang marked the limit of Japanese control of the Yangtze valley throughout the Pacific War. Following its capture, a debate broke out int he Japanese high command over whether to withdraw some troops from China in order to better train and equip the remainder. I'chang was probably garrisoned by 13 Division and 39 Division when war broke out in the Pacific.

References

Collingham (2011)

Drea (2009)
Peattie et al. (2011)

 


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