Defense of the Great Wall of China
- 1 Early Results of the Battle of Hopei
- 2 Defense of the Great Wall Commanders
- 3 Defense of the Great Wall Order of Battle
- 4 Chinese Refusal to Withdraw from the Great Wall
- 5 Battle for the Shanhai Pass Aftermath
- 6 Defense of the Great Wall
- 7 Retreat from the Great Wall
- 8 Aftermath of the Battle
- 9 Defense of the Great Wall References
Who Attacked the Great Wall of China?
The Defense of the Great Wall was a series of battles between the Japanese Empire and the Republic of China. They took place before the Second Sino-Japanese War. In Japan, it is known as Operation Nekka and in English sources it is commonly known as First Battle of Hopei. The battle took place between January 1st, 1933 and May 31st, 1933.
Early Results of the Battle of Hopei
When the battles began Japan captured the Mongolian province Rehe from China and made it part of its puppet state Manchukuo, with that effectively the front lines were extended to the Great Wall of China. At the eastern end of the Great Wall of China, where the wall comes near the ocean the Japanese army had a small number of its men. The decision for this was made at the Boxer Rebellion in 1901. In 1933, the commander of that Japanese garrison created an incident, aimed at creation tension. The Japanese army used this incident as an excuse to demand that the Chinese army, located at the eastern end of the Great Wall, withdraw.
Defense of the Great Wall Commanders
China Chiang Kai-shek
China Zhang Xueliang
China He Yingqin
China Song Zheyuan
Japan Nobuyoshi Muto
Manchukuo Chang Hai-peng
Defense of the Great Wall Order of Battle
Northeastern Army: 50,000+
Great Wall Order of Battle (Specific Units)
Chinese Refusal to Withdraw from the Great Wall
When the Chinese army naturally refused to do so, the Japanese army gave them an ultimatum and then attacked them with 10 tanks and 4 armored trains. They also had some air support from bombers as well as support from the sea in form of a dozen warships. A few days after the start of the first battle in the Defense of the Great Wall, the Chinese commander, Shi Shian, had to evacuate his position as he didn’t have the forces to withstand the attack. Earlier he had lost half of his men.
Battle for the Shanhai Pass Aftermath
After the Battle for the Shanhai Pass ended, the Japanese set their eyes on the next target – the province of Rehe. The province of Rehe was located on the northern side of the Great Wall of China. The Japanese declared that Rehe was historically a part of their Manchuria puppet state and they hoped that they would get Rehe without actually battling. They hoped that they could gain it with the defection of General Tang Yulin. This didn’t work out and, the Japanese started the military operation to seize Rehe. The Japanese army requested permission from the Emperor to engage the Chinese forces in Rehe. The Emperor hoped that this would be the last military operation in that area and that with it the whole Manchurian affair would be ended, so he approved the operation but stressed that the military was not to go further than the Great Wall. In February of 1933, the
operation began. By the end of February the Japanese forces had taken Kailu and Chaoyang. When they arrived at Sun Dianying, Japanese forces encountered resistance but nonetheless had taken Chifeng but a day later. By early March the Japanese captured the capital of Rehe, Chengde.
Defense of the Great Wall
Two Chinese divisions then retreated, the 32nd Crops to Lengkou Pass, the 37th Division to Xifengkou Pass and the 25th Division to Gubeikou Pass. The Chinese forces succeeded in holding the line at Lengkou Pass and the 67th Corps also held the Japanese at Gubeikou Pass. By March 11, the Japanese were pushing towards the Great Wall, hence the name of the battle “Defense of the Great Wall”. The next day command change and the new commander was given the duty to secure the defenses at the Great Wall.
Retreat from the Great Wall
The Chinese army was out-equipped and didn’t have the logistics of the Japanese forces. Many of the Chinese troops only had trench mortars, machine guns, rifles and hand grenades while the Japanese not only had superior firepower but also had air support and even sea support depending on the battlefield. By May 20, the Chinese forces were retreating from the remainder of their positions at the Great Wall.
Despite losing at the Defense of the Great Wall, the Chinese army still held up very well against the much better equipped Japanese forces. They held their post for 3 days before being overrun.
Aftermath of the Battle
On May 22nd, 1933 representatives of the Japanese and Chinese governments held a meeting at Tanggu, Tianjin to negotiate an ending to hostilities. The end result was the Tanggu Truce which created a demilitarized zone that extended 100 km south of the Great Wall. The Chinese Army was subsequently barred from entering this region which impinged on the territorial security of mainland China. As part of the agreement, Japanese forces were allowed to use both aircraft and ground forces to ensure the Chinese complied with the agreement. Additionally, China was forced into granting the independence of Manchukuo and losing Rehe.