Photograph of Japanese troops advancing on Changsha

Wikipedia Commons

Changsha (Chángshā; 112.988E 28.192N) was founded over 2000 years ago and became an educational and cultural center. It was opened to foreign trade in 1904. Vessels of up to 500 tons were able to reach the river port from the Yangtze via Tunting Lake, and it was a major rice marketing center. The population was in the ballpart of 400,000 persons in 1941.

The city was bombed starting on 8 November 1938, and on the 12th Chiang Kai-shek ordered the city put to the torch as part of a scorched-earth policy. However, the anticipated Japanese move against the city did not materialize. The Japanese first marched on Changsha on 29 September 1939, but this was a limited campaign aimed more at keeping the Chinese off-balance than at seizing territory. However, Chiang hoped to trap a significant Japanese force in the city, positioning troops of 9 War Area under Ch'en Ch'eng on the flanks of the Japanese advance. The Japanese fought their way out of the trap but suffered significant casualties, and the Chinese claimed a great victory.

The second campaign, beginning on 18 September 1941, was the brain child of Anami Korechika, commander of 11 Army, who in April 1941 proposed a campaign to simultaneously destroy the Kuomintang armies (300,000 strong) defending the area and deprive the Chinese of its grain production. Anami believed that this would be sufficient to end the war in China. The proposal was shelved after Germany invaded Russia in June, but was revived in August 1941 after the Japanese command decided to move against southeast Asia instead of Russia. Anami attacked with four divisions and reached the city in ten days, but a Chinese counteroffensive against I'chang forced the Japanese to withdraw after suffering numerous casualties. It was probably the worst defeat the Japanese suffered in China prior to the outbreak of war in the Pacific, and demonstrated to the Japanese that the Chinese were not about to capitulate. However, it was a costly victory; the Japanese later reported casualties of 850 killed and 2700 wounded while claiming Chinese casualties of 44,000 killed and 4000 prisoners. Japanese frustration over the protracted Chinese war combined with the threat of American economic sanctions was an important factor in bringing about the Pacific War.

The third Changsha campaign was launched on 24 December 1941 and was aimed largely at keeping the Chinese preoccupied while the Japanese seized Hong Kong. 11 Army mustered 120,000  men and 600 artillery pieces and was supported by the aircraft of 1 Air Brigade, the largest air formation left in China after most were pulled out to participate in the Centrifugal Offensive. When Hong Kong fell on 23 December 1941, the Japanese decided to continue the Changsha campaign, which had gone well so far, and capture the city for its value as a symbol of Chinese defiance. This played into the hands of the Chinese, whose commander, Hsueh Yueh, allowed the Japanese to penetrate deeply into the Changsha area, then cut off the two Japanese spearhead divisions. The Japanese were forced to retreat by 15 January 1942 after losing tens of thousands of casualties.

The Japanese captured the city again on 18 June 1944 with relative ease as part of the Ichi-go offensive. Unlike the previous attacks on the city, this attack was well supported on the flanks, negating the previously succesful Chinese strategy of allowing the Japanese to advance to the city, then attacking their flanks. The Chinese artillery on Yueh-lu Shan, a 900' (300 m) peak northwest of the city, was driven off by 34 Division on 16 June while 58 Division, which had crossed the Liu-yang Ho River on 10 June against negligible opposition, turned west to attack the city. The defending 4 Army abandoned the town over the next two days, claiming they had been driven out by gas attack, but American observers saw little evidence of this. Changsha was occupied by the Japanese on 18 June, while the commander of 4 Army, Chang Teh-nang, was executed for cowardice.

A counterattack in July failed to dislodge the Japanese.

Rail connections




Dorn (1974)

Drea (2009) (accessed 2012-5-18)

Hsiung and Levine (1992)

Peattie et al. (2011) (accessed 2014-6-8)

Romanus and Sunderland (1953; accessed 2012-5-18)

Taylor 2009

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