APRIL I 1938
The storm fronts have passed. The sun shines and the ground has dried
wherever it matters. The seas have calmed. Can you wish for more?
Japanese Player Turn
A regional North China government under Japan’s auspices has taken its seat in Tsingtao. Now that any threat from Shansi has faded, long idle Jehol cavalry from Kweihwating bestirred themselves to take out the small garrison of Paotao, end of the rail line in Mongolia. 11 Army in Shansi speeded up its advance on Linfen. After supplies were rushed forward [rail and SMPs], two divisions attacked the city and seized it, but some of the defenders escaped [DH]. Meanwhile, the mountain divisions pounced on a brigade of CCP regulars from the Shensi guerrilla base who tried to sneak into the Taiheng Mountains. That encounter was bloody, but none of the infiltrators got through [HX]. A half-hearted guerrilla sweep by the garrisons of the Hopei towns remained unsuccessful.
All quiet in the Yellow River valley. Covering forces protect Shanhsien (close to the Shensi border), Loyang, Chengchow, and Kaifeng. Two divisions and assorted small fry are marching south toward Hankow. Engineers and construction units are arriving to start repairing the countless destroyed bridges in the water wonderland between China’s the two mighty rivers. In the Big Bend country of the Yangtze between Nanking and Hankow the mop-up continues. The last KMT remnants at Lake Chao were bagged and a few forlorn stragglers were caught before they could escape across the Great River.
The city of Hwaining was seized without a fight. With help of one of the divisions from the southern wing and 108 Division diverted from 2 Army in Honan, isolated Nanking was stormed at a surprisingly low cost in casualties [DR at 4:1]. Dead tired from the turmoil of the past weeks the city remained quiet [no rampage]. Engineers are working overtime to rebuild dismantled track and are preparing to raise the rail ferry.
[Can’t find rules for destruction and repair of rail ferries, so we are using the same rules as for bridges over major rivers.]
Farther south, the advance on Wuhu, weakened by the release of one of its best divisions, gained a few miles against KMT VII Corps [DR at 6:1 -1]. In northern Kiangsu the catch-me-if-you-can continues. Two KMT brigades that had not managed to go underground in time were liquidated. The chase is on for two others on the move north toward Shantung, the one province that so far has escaped guerrilla disruption.
The stalemate on the Hangchow-Nanchang road continues. No troops and supplies can be spared to jump-start this drive again as long as the battle of the Yangtze is still in full swing. A static brigade from Japan and siege artillery held in reserve on Formosa disembarked at Putien and, with the Kure Marines in the van, attacked toward Foochow while a security regiment from Shantung took over the protection of the port. They made short shrift of a factional brigade blocking the way, but are still 30 miles short of their objective and too weak anyway to tackle it alone.
Anxious to strike before the start of the monsoon season, the Shanghai and Sasebo Marines took on Amoy. With all-out support by 5th Fleet and aircraft from the Pescadores, Formosa, and the carriers the island fortress was stormed. A few defenders scurried to the mainland hoping for sanctuary in the rice paddies [DH]. Coastal steamers that tried to escape were sunk. One more big port seized! The Fleet lost no time departing to assume a blockade of Foochow, last unconquered port on the Fukien coast.
Chinese Player Turn
As had to be expected, the reverses of the last few weeks have further eroded public confidence. Despite all his best efforts, Chiang Kai-Shek sees his hold onto power slip. The future looks dimmer than ever. [Stability level dropped to 1. Maximum geographical objective points, two operative regional governments, and more than six guerrilla bases in existence gave Japan a solid lead despite points for air and ground unit losses. Only random rolls higher by 3 for China would have saved the day.] To add insult to injury, the factions in Fukien have had their fill and refuse any further cooperation. There had been deep dissatisfaction with the utter lack of assistance from the central government except for the arrival of a few beat-up fighter aircraft and with the fact that foreign aid unloaded at Fukien ports was diverted to other provinces. The fall of Amoy was the last straw. The Soviet fighter aircraft at Foochow hurriedly rebased to other fields while the KMT Marines in the city found themselves unceremoniously evicted .
[With Chekiang gone and Fukien on the brink, the MSF were no longer considered worth a bribe and, with 2D6 of “3,” promptly became uncooperative. In game terms this is of little consequence, though, as the Japanese still have to fight the renegades.]
Pestered no end by the local Shensi command and intent of scoring a success for a change, Chiang Kai-Shek overruled the moderates in his cabinet and reverted to his old strategy of hitting the CCP, come what may and to hell with public opinion. He gave free rein to the Shensi garrison to do all they
can to wipe out the guerrilla base in the loess country. The military brass in the province are jubilant, the soldiers to do the job less so. A first sweep promptly was a dismal failure [1D6 “1” -1 for NE even with 15 attack factors (DRM -1 in fair weather, my saying -2 in March II was a typo)].
Meanwhile the troops at the Shansi border extended their positions both north and south in preparation for a broad-front advance, but did not cross the border. New recruits were raised in northern Kiangsu to keep the Japanese security forces on their toes. Two brigades made further headway toward Shantung, but a lack of almost everything makes the going painfully slow [isolation, no supply].
At the lower Yangtze the retreat continued. Wuhu was evacuated except for engineers to destroy the freight yard. VII Corps is retreating parallel to the river in order to block any Japanese attempts to cut the troops off. At Yukiang on the Hangchow-Nanchang road, additional reinforcements arrived. The troops fanned out both north and south and are threatening to encircle the Japanese 9 Division. The garrison of Foochow is bracing for the inevitable. A small airlift from Hankow with desperately needed ammunition was received with jubilation but did not change the governor’s resolve to go his own way.
Finally, at long last a success! At Canton a KMT division had laboriously worked its way around the city toward the south and joined up with an artillery-supported factional outfit that had come down the Hsi and another ferried in along the coast. The little army attacked and overpowered the Japanese regiment that had been garrisoning the port of Sunwul. Peanuts, but a victory nevertheless: a fried egg on your hand is better than a broiled chicken on the roof. News spread, and a popular uproar in Canton forced the despised puppet government to resign, throwing into disarray all efforts to raise Japanese-controlled military and police units.
To shift KMT recruiting into high gear, ex logistics czar Chern Jia-Ming was appointed Minister for Manpower. On his orders, KMT recruiters are ruthlessly combing the countryside of the western provinces. Any and all healthy males they can find are herded to Yangtze ports to be crowded onto barges bound for Hankow, where new KMT divisions are being raised.
The expedition to Paotao, last Suiyan city, puts a stop to Chinese recruiting in that province. It cost the attack supply at Kweihwating that had been hoarded for defense, but seemed no longer needed.
The fall of Nanking and the forthcoming formation of a provincial Kiangsu puppet government give Japan quite a boost by unifying and greatly increasing the capacity of the supply net (Shanghai alone contributes 9 pts) and linking the main and Shanghai-Hangchow rail nets. Yet, the war has ceased
to be a purely military affair, if it ever was. The greatest problem for Japan now is how to police effectively a vast and hostile chunk of land in the face of pervasive infiltration and proliferating guerrilla bases.
The planning of the Amoy venture was a gamble. It would have had to be canceled if monsoon rain with rough seas had arrived. As it turned out, not even the available attack supply was needed.
The April stability roll done with, the Chinese decision to attack the CCP guerrilla base in Shensi was based on the expectation to wipe it out with one or two sweeps in the good-weather season so that the garrison troops can attack into Honan and Shansi. A gamble for sure, but only desperate gambles can now save the day. Another alternative to just sitting still would have been to defy the garrison requirement and attack into Honan now. That, however, would have resulted in a stability penalty every turn for the remainder of the game. Better an end with horror than horror without end! Quite apart from the fact that the complete lack of attack supply and any means of securing it would have made an offensive difficult to sustain despite numerical superiority.
The loss of Sunwul and the resulting fall of the Kwangtung puppet government are little more than an annoyance for Japan. Since Canton and Swatow are still in their hands, a new puppet government will be installed right away. The port of Sunwul is not needed and was in fact a drag on manpower. Better to lose it now than later with a lot of puppet brigades raised in the meantime.
It will be difficult to keep the stability level from dropping to zero in July. The only silver lining is that recruitment has begun to outpace losses. This makes it possible to assemble a massive army around Hankow, though of admittedly inferior troops, and has given the Chinese one last trump card: At any time the can unleash a human-wave offensive from Hankow into Honan, coordinated with another Tet-style guerrilla operation in Hopei, Kiangsu, and possibly Shantung, and, after the CCP base in Shensi has been liquidated, an offensive from Shensi into Honan and Shansi. Although the troops have little combat value and almost all will operate without supply, their sheer numbers might swamp the Japanese. If some cities can be recaptured, provincial puppet governments will fall and drag regional ones down with them. This and luck with the random rolls can avert disaster one more time. Hope springs eternally!