Scenario: The Fight for Laoyang (Operation Ichi-Go)

The walled city of Laoyang has not changed in thousands of years and is a great setting for a battle or series of battles, either in a video game engine that can make use of the rich Chinese scenery, or for wargamers who are looking for something new and different.
Battle of Central Henan, The Fight for Luoyang, May 24, 1944
Operation Ichi-Go (Operation 1), Central Plains Phase 
IJA Type91 Broad Gauge Rail Tractor Moves Deeper into China During Operation Ichi-Go 
1944_Operation_Ichigo_IJA_armor_rail-car
The “Fight for Laoyang,” was one stepping stone in a string of victories of Japan over China during Operation Ichi-Go. The actual battle began on May 24, 1944 as a part of the Kogo Central Plains Phase. It is not a story sung by the Chinese or Japanese today, and was never broadly advertised by China’s Allied partners, either. The Chinese lost the battle, the U.S. lost confidence in China, and despite the successes of the Japanese, the impact of the string of victories in Laoyang and elsewhere in China did not significantly change the tide of the war.  It is, however, worth noting as a battle since the victory the Japanese Army had against U.S.-backed Chinese troops there was a herald for the loss of more Chinese cities and U.S. Airbases, and it contrasts sharply against how Japan was losing battles on the islands of the Pacific.
  • Since the Chinese had significant forces defending the city, it is worth considering as a historical scenario for games.
  • From a military buff’s perspective, it is interesting because it was one phase of a huge sink of Imperial Japanese troops and resources, similar to Germany’s push into the Soviet Union.
  • From a Chinese Army perspective, this can be seen as a successful struggle for resistance, since Japan’s isolated victories did not mean domination of China overall.
  • Operation Ichi-Go, while late in the war involved 12,000 vehicles including armored cars, trucks, 800 tanks, and 70,000 horses. Compared to how “starved” for armored vehicles Japanese forces stranded on Pacific Islands were, this is a surprising contrast.
Zaloga (Japanese Tanks 1939-45 (New Vanguard) also marks this as a significant operation for Japanese tanks and largely unknown by the West. It involved a series of skirmishes that included the largest successful concentration of offensively deployed Japanese armored vehicles during the war. It is in this battle that Japanese armored divisions were able to shine on a large scale effectively perhaps for the first time since their incursions into Manchuria and China during the 1930s.
Japanese troops in a Ro-Ke Primemover towing artillery:
Primemover Ro-Ke
Summary of the Battle of Central Henan:
In April, the Japanese army gathered in Henan Province, with large troop concentration to the south of Dao-qing Railway and near Kaifeng, as well as Yuanqu of Shanxi Province. Total troops assembled included six infantry Shidan (divisions), one armored vehicle Shidan, one cavalry Ryodan (brigade), and one artillery Rentai (regiment). The Japanese repaired the Zhengzhou Yellow River Iron Bridge.
The largest number of Japanese tanks ever amassed (from a total of 800 for Operation Ichi-Go overall) were used to support infantry in this push into China. While Japanese armor was scarce on Pacific islands where the Japanese faced an Allied onslaught, a large number of tanks and armored cars were already in Manchuria and China, and were used as part of the attack.
Three remaining Chinese divisions defending Luoyang were routed by the Japanese tank, armored car, and infantry onslaught, and the IJA forces moved on to their next target.
Objectives of Operation Ichi-Go:
On April 19 1944 Imperial Japanese forces launched Operation Ichi-go with 400,000 men organized in 17 divisions, supported by 12,000 vehicles including armored cars, 800 tanks, and 70,000 horses.
The operation had three major objectives:
  • Control the entire length of the railroad between Beiping and Hong Kong
  • Link up the forces in China and those in French Indochina
  • Dominate Allied air fields in southern China from which U.S. bombers could attack Japanese interests
Additionally, the Japanese troops were told to destroy crops and other food supplies whenever the opportunities arose as an attempt to further worsen the Nationalist Chinese food situation.
Conclusion of the Overall Campaign:
Although the Japanese achieved victory all across the board with Operation Ichi-go, strategically the effect was marginal. The Allied air forces, consisting mainly of the US 14th Air Force, simply moved to airfields further inland and continued their operations from there. The threat of American B-29 bombers in China on the Japanese home islands was indeed eliminated by taking the airfields, but it was only temporary; by early 1945, the bombers were transferred to the new airfields in the Marianas and attacked Japan from there. Nevertheless, General Joseph Stilwell was relieved in Oct 1944 by President Franklin Roosevelt after Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek’s complaints that the burden of the losses during Ichi-go fell on Stilwell’s shoulders.
The Story of the Battle for Central Henan:
Chinese forces defend with U.S. supplied tanks:
Chinese_Tanks_WW2.jpg
It was spring of 1944, and the Chinese Army was on its heels, defending while retreating from key cities. With railroads, resources, and U.S.-run airbases as their target, the Imperial Japanese Army pushed hard with several divisions into Central China.
The Chinese command, supported with weapons, operational airbases, and supplies by General Joseph Stilwell of the USA thought that the Japanese intended to open up the Ping-Han Railway, and nothing more. They underestimated the maximum Japanese troop level to be four to five Shidan (divisions). In fact, the Japanese had deployed eight and a half Shidan, plus attached troops and armor, with a total of headcount of roughly 150,000 men, a campaign that Takushiro Hattori, who designed the Ichigo Campaign for Tojo Hideki, called by the “Great Centennial Expedition.”
In April, the Japanese army gathered in Henan Province, with large troop concentration to the south of Dao-qing Railway and near Kaifeng, as well as Yuanqu of Shanxi Province. Total troops assembled included six infantry Shidan (divisions), one armored vehicle Shidan (division), one cavalry Ryodan (brigade), and one artillery Rentai (regiment). The Japanese repaired the Zhengzhou Yellow River Iron Bridge.
The largest number of Japanese tanks ever amassed (from a total of 800 for Operation Ichi-Go overall) were used to support infantry in this push into China. While Japanese armor was scarce on Pacific islands where the Japanese faced an Allied onslaught, a large number of tanks and armored cars were already in Manchuria and China, and were used as part of the attack.
From north of the Yellow River, the Japanese 62nd Shidan and 110th Shidan in northern Henan crossed the river on the morning of April 19 to attack the Chinese defenders of the 85th Corps on Mt. Mangdoushan.
The Japanese breached the Yellow River defense works on the 21st, and went on to occupy Guangwu, Yingyang, and Sishui. The would mount another attack at Zhengzhou by crossing the Yellow River on April 18th, 1944. The Japanese took over Zhengzhou on April 22nd, and then targeted the Luoyang city.
After continuing to surround Louyang, the Japanese joined forces coming from the Kaifeng to lay siege to Luoyang, then Jiang Dingwen’s “First War Zone” command headquarters.
At Luoyang, the Japanese army, consisting of the 63rd Shidan, the 3rd Armored Shidan and the Inagaki Daitai of the 110th Shidan, launched an onslaught against the city. The defenders fought until the evening of the 25th, when they were routed.
The Japanese victory at Luoyang, after thirty-seven days of battles leading up to it, was a temporary stop of the “central plains phase” of the Ichigo Campaign. After success at defeating the Chinese First War Zone troops, the IJA continued to push west and south.
Sources:

ichi-go2

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s