MAY I 1938
Clear skies and dry spring weather everywhere except in the south, where the monsoon season is now in full swing. Seas are rough in the Formosa Strait, otherwise calm. Rice growing season everywhere.
Japanese Player Turn
A puppet government of Anhwei was constituted at Wuhu. Having cleared the Taiheng range of guerrilleros, 5 Mountain with accustomed verve took on an easier task: to squash a band of volunteers from Luan that had sneaked into the mountains nearby. Luan itself was occupied by a cavalry brigade to prevent recurrence. Near Linfen in southern Shansi, 8 Division pursued the survivors of the city’s garrison into the foothills, but was unable to catch them. At Shanhsien in the Yellow River valley the troops are digging in for defense so as not to be exposed to envelopment.
16 Division engaged factional troops at the Hwai river near the Honan-Hupei border and caused some losses [DH at 7:1]. However, any advance into Hupei would invite becoming trapped. The other strong Division in the Big Bend, the 20th, retreated eastward to avoid becoming entangled with advancing Chinese hordes. So did the reservists at Hwangkang near the Tri Cities, who were being outflanked from the north.
The countryside of northern Kiangsu is now reasonably effectively being policed by security forces. The guerrilleros have kept a low profile in their hide-outs in the rice-paddy country. Their recruiters will now have a harder time [all reference cities now garrisoned].
The main combat actions occurred on the Yangtze south bank southwest of Wuhu. With four elite divisions abreast, Central China Army rolled over poorly armed rearguards of draftees from Yunnan and Szechwan and advanced beyond fortified Matang, but the KMT core of Chinese 1 Army once again managed to slip away [DR].
Brave but lone 9 Division on the Hangchow-Nanchang road continued its slow retreat toward Shangjao and the Chekiang border to avoid becoming encircled by ever growing hordes of Chinese.
In Fukien the siege of Foochow continues [why attack full-strength defenders when next turn they will be quartered for isolation and no supply as their GSPs have been used up?]. Meanwhile, a mountain artillery regiment on foot and the Kure Marines on barges escorted by gunboats advanced up the Min river toward Nanping to weed out the last fertile Chinese recruiting ground in the province [last unconquered replacement city other than Foochow]. The fleet-footed mountain gunners cleared the way and were joined by the Marines who disembarked just downstream of the city. [Ironically, the mountain artillery, thanks to its high movement rate in rough terrain, was able to gain ownership of one riverbank and so allowed the RT and RF to move upstream in their wake.] With support by aircraft from Putien and fire from the gunboats the city was taken, but the defenders got away [DR].
Bombers from Shanghai, Nanking, Wuhu, and Hwaining conducted a successful night terror raid on Hankow in an effort to demoralize the KMT (and disturb Chiang Kai-Shek’s sleep). Anti-aircraft fire remained ineffective, but a small number of aircraft were damaged when landing at night upon their return [1 A].
All guerrilleros kept a suspiciously low profile [no base active at this time]. The calm before the storm?
Chinese Player Turn
Commanding over a plentiful treasure chest and facing crisis times, Chiang Kai-Shek wisely shunned no expenses to keep his warlords happy and loyal. [2 ResPts for every faction ensures continuing cooperation and was given to all that still exist, except only the MSF. Ironically, the MSF rolled a
“10” and would have reverted to cooperative if it had been bribed.] In Ningwu in northern Shansi, a town still untouched by the Japanese, a formation of volunteers was organized and equipped with whatever arms could be found. They are heading for still distant mountains. The CCP guerrilla base in the Taiheng range continued its recruiting, but still kept its people out of harm’s way.
In southern Shansi the last survivors of the Linfen garrison, a KMT brigade, reached the local mountains and went underground to start forming a guerrilla base. With their pursuers hard on their heels, their original plan to reach the Taiheng range farther east had proved suicidal. The CCP regulars in the Liuliang Mountains west of the central valley are still biding their time, waiting for the moment when a dash east across the open central valley will have become safe.
Now that the CCP guerrilla base in the loess country is out of the way, the massed troops in the Yellow River valley crossed the border into Honan, eager to confront the outnumbered Japanese that face them at Shanhsien. A smaller group is advancing into Shansi along the rail line to Linfen and Yanku.
In central Honan a collection of factional units force-marched northeastward to outflank the Japanese forces at the Hwai river. Forward elements reached the Sha river near Hiangcheng, just 70 miles south of the Yellow River and almost a hundred miles north of the Hwai. They are threatening to cut the vital supply line from Chengchow.
Closer to Hankow the human wave inched forward to the north and the east. In the north the forward elements are closing to the Hwai river, in the east vanguard have reached the foothills of the Tapieh Mountains in the center of the Big Yangtze Bend. Japanese troops were encountered only in a few places
and then found too strong to be attacked. Engineers from Hankow are fortifying the right bank of the Yangtze between Hankow and Lake Po Yang as well as the west shore of that lake where it can be crossed.
VII Corps on the Yangtze left bank retreated through Hokou and then along the east shore of Lake Po Yang into the rice paddies. Rearguards composed of cavalry and factional draftees were left behind to slow the Japanese advance. In Ningkwo and Hweichow, two backwoods towns in eastern Anhwei, ad hoc KMT brigades were raised from locals. They destroyed the airfields and then scurried into the mountains to join the guerrilleros [a Japanese miscalculation not to have gained ownership of these towns; it was feared they would too easily be recaptured by guerrilleros, causing trouble for the new Anhwei government]. Also, three KMT brigades that had been hiding in the Nen Mountains emerged and are making for the Hangchow-Nanchang rail line on which 9 Division relies for its supplies.
The pursuit of 9 Division on the Hangchow-Nanchang road and rail line continued. The Japanese are too strong for a frontal attack along the road and retreat just fast enough to evade any flanking moves. Despair reigns in besieged Foochow. Food and ammunition are used up, and no relief is in sight. The Marines evicted from the city found refuge in the nearby mountains and are setting up a guerrilla base. The troops evicted from Nanping are also heading for the mountains. The defenders of Foochow would
love to do likewise, but cannot because the city is surrounded.
What the Japanese must now beware of is casualties from Chinese or guerrilla attacks and loss of regional governments. These are what can give the Chinese stability points. A loss of ground and reference cities is of lesser importance. Even if a provincial government is brought down through loss of a reference city, it reappears the very next turn, and the effect is minor unless it causes the fall of a regional government at a time when it cannot be reinstated before the next stability check. [Three provincial governments of the region must be operative at start of the turn for the regional government to be formed, that is, before a provincial government can be reinstated. This causes a delay by one game turn if one of the three provincial governments has been toppled through loss of a reference city and has dragged the regional one down with it.] On the other hand, the loss of a dot city such as Linfen or Loyang would bring the provincial government down until the city is recaptured, which might take longer. As to casualties, the danger is low-odds attacks by the Chinese hordes. The Chinese can afford massive losses in their attacks, the Japanese cannot when defending. This is what makes the now rising “human waves” dangerous and explains the seemingly cowardly Japanese tactics in Honan,
Hupei, and Kiangsi where they face them. Although at an advantage, the Japanese haven’t won yet. As Yogi Berra was wont to say, it ain’t over before it’s over.
The so far successful Japanese tactic against the human wave is to concentrate in one central stack that blocks the road and is too strong to be taken on frontally, and then to retreat just as far as necessary to avoid being attacked from more than one hex. This must be paid for with some loss of conquered territory, but at the present time territory is less important than to avoid losses.
The Fukien expedition was designed to liquidate the MSF once and for all (For non-WoRers, MSF stands for miscellaneous southern factions). Its provinces are Chekiang and Fukien, and all of Chekiang is held by Japan. No MSF units were left on the map except at Foochow and Nanping. If all replacement cities of a faction have been captured, all replacements points are lost and no further ones accumulate (40.B.3). Replacements start to accrue again only if a replacement city is recaptured by the original owner (the faction), and the lone MSF 1-4 that might or might not get away into the mountains will
hardly be able to do that. If I misinterpreted the rules here, maybe Mark Royer will again set me straight again.
Night terror bombing was started as an insurance policy. There is not enough AA to have much effect at night, terror hits can help to offset stabilization points the Chinese might still gain with guerrilla and suicidal human wave attacks or toppling of regional governments in a new Tet offensive, and ARPs to repair air units aborted in crash landings are in ample supply. The only other productive employment for the airforce at this point would have been a systematic bombing campaign against the South China seaports to choke off imports and western foreign aid, but that would have taken time to make itself felt.
The Chinese faced a difficult problem in deciding when to spring their guerrilleros again. The ideal obviously is a simultaneous new Tet in all the provinces, coordinated with human wave attacks by the regular front troops in Hupei, Anhwei, and Kiangsu. To wait for the arrival of the new recruits in June
I would allow a build-up to maximum guerrilla strength. However, by that time the Japanese might have strengthened their rear area security again, as they are apt to do now that their current offensives have mostly run their course. What tipped the scales and made the command decide to hold until June I is that a chief aim is to have the regional governments of North and Central China toppled and not reinstated before the July I stability check. Since there is no realistic chance of recapturing a major or dot city, the regional governments will reappear like Phoenix from the ashes with only one turn delay after reference cities have been lost. This calls for activation of the bases and maximum guerrillero deployment at the end of the June I exploitation phase and all-out attack on reference cities in Hopei, Honan, Shansi, Kiangsu, and Anhwei in June II. An earlier start might or might not have more success in killing some Japanese garrisons, but would expose the guerrilleros and their bases to massive retaliation before the critical June II turn. Only the future can show whether the decision on timing was correct. That a technicality in the victory conditions should seriously affect such timing decisions is probably not intended. Maybe the Chinese could be given stability points for recapture of cities and toppling of puppet governments during the entire time span since the last stability check?
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