AUGUST I 1937
While monsoon rains continue in most of China, sunshine and a first spell
of dry weather have arrived in the plains of Shantung and southern Hopei
(Zone 8), seas rough.
Japanese Player Turn
Dead set to give the enemt no respite, the Japanese juggernaut ground its
way forward from the Peiping-Tientsin District through deep mud at a
painfully slow pace of about three to four miles per day (2 hexes per turn
in the old one-two of overrun and combat) through hordes of factional
Chinese. Prisoners were taken by the thousands. The main axis of attack is
southward along the Tientsin-Nanking rail line. The tactic is to push
full-tilt along the road and thereby force the defenders right and left to
pull back lest they be cut off. Last resistance by the 37 Division in
Peiping’s northern suburbs was quelled. Some ground was also gained to the
west and northwest of the that city.
Railway engineers were brought into Tientsin to start repairing and
upgrading the Nanking rail line.
A daring amphibious operation code-named Orca, led by capable General
Hwang Yng-Long, was staged close to Tsingtao. Marines and the 5 Mountain
Division landed on the bayshore opposite the city and overwhelmed the
hapless defenders of the little port of Taiohshien. However, even in the
more sheltered waters of the Bay a good number of the landing craft were
damaged because of the high swells from last week’s storm and will require
repair. Orca has cut off the Tsingtao peninsula from the mainland, but the
Japanese foothold is tenuous as long as the city itself has not been taken.
A cruiser squadron and the carriers Kaga and Akagi stand by off-shore to
help repel any effort to relieve the city. Also, a squadron of fighters has
transferred to Kaiohshien to provide CAP.
In Tokyo, the fact of all-out war has been grudgingly accepted. The debate
now centers on the assembly and release of a strike force to relieve the
Navy troops in Shanghai’s International Concession before they are
Chinese Player Turn
A heated debate at the Generalissimo’s headquarters over what to do about
Orca. The chances of success of a relief attempt were carefully weighed,
but judged too slim in the face of massive Japanese naval support and
because of the impossibility of bringing enough troops and attack supply in
over the poor roads and the single, low-volume rail line with precious
little rolling stock. A number of the good regular National divisions
heading north from Nanking were redirected to the Shantung peninsula at
least to contain the Japanese beachhead. An air drop of supplies from
Nanking was considered, but was also decided against: even if the
transports survived the Japanese fighters and flak, their loads were too
likely to becomes hopelessly scattered. This leaves the small Tsingtao
garrison in the lurch.
Orca paid an unexpected dividend. Nationalist Navy Commander Leu Rong-Jin
at Tsingtao had been under orders to launch an amphibious raid directed at
the Jehol coast with his destroyer escorts and a Marine battalion on
commandeered coastal barges (an MNF RT). Orca upset the preparations (had
to be cancelled because Leu Force at Tsingtao came into Japanese ZoC).
Considering the situation at Tsingtao hopeless, Leu nevertheless decided to
break out in a moonless and foggy night. He succeeded in evading the
Japanese taskforce off Tsingtao (to react, the TF would have had to break
off its preparation for NGS, without which the beachhead would have been in
jeopardy). Although spotted at dawn by reconnaissance aircraft from the
Japanese carriers, he reached safety in the port of Lienyunkang near
Tunghai (had to cross open sea to reach protected waters, but contact rolls
failed; an escape northward would have emabled Leu to sail in protected
waters throughout, but would have left his Marines out on a limb on the
Shantung peninsula that is in danger of being cut off).
At the Tientsin front, the order of the day is sauve qui peut. Rather than
throwing in fresh troops piecemeal, the Chinese appear intent on merely
gaining time to prepare defenses where the Japanese onslaught will have
lost momentum. Usually reliable sources are quoted as saying the KMT’s
original plan called for a defense at the mighty Hwang Ho (Yellow River),
possibly combined with a delaying action in the line Tsinan-Shihkiachuang.
Now Orca, outflanking the Yellow River position, has given rise to second
thoughts and a retreat to the Yangtze is in the cards.
Thanks logistics Tsar Chen, most of the troops at the wavering Tientsin
front now enjoy supply (can be traced to the net but is limited by the
net’s capacity). This is being put to good use as it enables even the
poorly equipped factional “divisions” to engage in scorched earth. Bridges
and railway tracks are being blown to slow the Japanese advance. Even so,
in the long run their low mobility will spell doom for the bulk of the
factional rabble. Their loss is the price to pay for gaining time to scorch
the soggy earth and set up of guerrilla bases and for forcing the invaders
to expend precious supplies and resources.
In Shanghai city, the Chinese consolidated their positions around the
International Concession and occupied the industrial sections in strength,
in preparation for removal of the factories (still a little too weak here
to risk assuming aggressive posture).
Lin Piao’s 8 Route Army made good progress and is approaching the Wutai
mountains. Its 129 Division is marching north toward Inner Mongolia in
anticipation of a Japanese move into that province.
A KMT guerrilla base has been set up in the rice paddies of central Hopei,
a CCCP. Having failed to obtain material aid, the Chinese government has asked
President Roosevelt personally for the loan of a group of Zuni or Navajo
Indian medicine men to perform rain dances.
The comments I have seen so far on the list seem to indicate that I am
overestimating the ability of the Chinese to resist forward of the Yangtze
River. This may well be so. But then my Chinese have been rather lucky with
the weather (always mud where it counts), Japanese reaction attempts (none
successful so far), and Tokyo Mandate rolls (always “9,” maddeningly just
short of triggering). It is true that losses of Hopei and MNF ants at the
Tientsin front have been significant, but so far not a single KMT unit has
bit the dust. A few KMT divisions are now in action south of Tientsin, but
only behind overrun-proof stacks of factional units, themselves in stacks
strong enough to discourage direct attack, and so placed that they have a
safe retreat route. However, this tactic will no longer work when the
weather turns dry, and a speedy retreat will then surely become necessary.
Meanwhile, as the old saying goes, make hay while it rains!