National Revolutionary Army

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The National Revolutionary Army (NRA; 國民革命軍), sometimes shortened to Revolutionary Army (革命軍) before 1928, and as National Army (國軍) after 1928, was the military arm of the Kuomintang (KMT) from 1925 until 1945. It also became the regular army during the KMT's period of party rule beginning in 1928.

Originally organized with Soviet aid as a means for the KMT to unify China during the Warlord Era, the National Revolutionary Army fought major engagements in the Northern Expedition against the Chinese Beiyang Army warlords and in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) against the Imperial Japanese Army. It was during the latter conflict that the armed forces of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) were nominally incorporated into the National Revolutionary Army (while retaining separate commands)

Although shattered and forcibly disbanded during the Second Sino Japanese War, some elements of the National Revolutionary Army continue the struggle against the Japanese invaders, whilst others have thrown in with the new Reorganised Government, forming the Secret Army to defend the nation.

History[edit | edit source]

Founding[edit | edit source]

The NRA was founded by the KMT in 1925 as the military force destined to unite China in the Northern Expedition. Organized with the help of the Communist Internationale and guided under the doctrine of the Three Principles of the People, the distinction among party, state and army was often blurred. A large number of the Army's officers passed through the Whampoa Military Academy, and the first commandant, Chiang Kai-shek, became commander-in-chief of the Army in 1925 before launching the successful Northern Expedition. Other prominent commanders included Du Yuming and Chen Cheng. The end of the Northern Expedition in 1928 is often taken as the date when China's Warlord era ended, though smaller-scale warlord activity continued for years afterwards.

In 1927, after the dissolution of the First United Front between the Nationalists and the Communists, the ruling KMT purged its leftist members and largely eliminated Soviet influence from its ranks. Chiang Kai-shek then turned to Germany, historically a great military power, for the reorganization and modernization of the National Revolutionary Army. The Weimar Republic would send advisers to China, but because of the restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles they could not serve in military capacities.

Chiang initially requested famous generals such as Ludendorff and von Mackensen as advisers; the Weimar Republic government turned him down, however, fearing that they were too famous, would invite the ire of the Allies and that it would result in the loss of national prestige for such renowned figures to work, essentially, as mercenaries.

Nanjing Era[edit | edit source]

Immediately following the Northern Expedition, the National Revolutionary Army was bloated and required downsizing and demobilisation: Chiang himself stating that soldiers are like water, capable of both carrying the state, and sinking it. This was reflected in the enormous troop figures with 1,502,000 men under arms, of which only 224,000 came under Chiang's direct control; these, however, were the official figures as Chiang stated later he possessed over 500,000 and Feng Yuxiang who officially possessed 269,000 in reality had 600,000 thus the true figure would likely reach 2,000,000.

During the Northern Expedition, the KMT formed also formed branch political council. In theory, these were subordinate political organs that were under the Central Political councils in Nanjing. In reality however, these were autonomous political bodies with their own military forces.

Feng Yuxiang controlled the Kaifeng council; Yan Xishan the Taiyuan council; whilst the Guangxi clique controlled two: the Wuhan and Beiping; under Li Zongren and Bai Chongxi, respectively. Li Jishen, who was related to the Guangxi clique, loosely controlled the Guangzhou council; and a sixth council in Shenyang was under Zhang Xueliang. Chiang was faced with two options one was to immediately centralise the other to gradually do so, in the spirit of the expedition itself which was to eradicate warlordism and regionalism Chiang chose to immediately centralise the branch councils under the guise of demobilisation systematically reducing the regional troop strength whilst centralising them and building up his own strength.

|This was done in July 1928 with financial conferences calling for demobilisation and military commanders and political officials echoing the call for demobilisation. Chiang called for the reduction of the army to 65 divisions and gathered political support to begin actively reducing troops counts and centralising the army as well as abolishing the branch councils, this threatened the regional leaders and Li Zongren noted that it was intentionally designed to force the regional leaders into action so Chiang could eliminate them.

Central Plains War[edit | edit source]

Phase 1[edit | edit source]

The New Guangxi Clique rebelled in February 1929 when it fired Lu Diping, who promptly switched sides and joined Chiang. As the Guangxi forces invaded Hunan, Chiang bribed elements of the army in Wuhan to defect and within 2 months, managed to route the Guangxi Clique forces. In March, the KMT expelled Bai Chongxi, Li Jishen and Li Zongren and promoted their juniors who sided with Chiang in order to sow dissent within the clique. These men later re-grouped their forces and attempted to retake Hunan and Guangdong but were repelled in both provinces.

In May, Feng Yuxiang entered the war against Chiang, for his action he was too expelled from the party. Taking this opportunity again, Chiang bribed his enemy's allies and subordinates Han Fuju and Shi Yousan to join his forces. As a result, Feng's armies were defeated and he fled to Shanxi and announced his retirement from politics. By July, Chiang's forces had occupied Luoyang. Having defeated two of his largest enemies, Chiang pushed further for demobilisation and announced it would be done by March 1930. This move spurred Feng and the Guangxi Clique to ally with leader of Shanxi, Yan Xishan. As Chiang had taken revenue sources from Yan.

Phase 2[edit | edit source]

The anti-Chiang coalition had forces totalling 700,000 against Chiang's 300,000. Their plan was to seize Shandong and contain Chiang south of the Long-Hai railway and the Beijing-Wuhan railway. Subsequently, they would advance along the railway lines seizing Xuzhou and Wuhan whilst southern forces did the same to force a link-up.

The war involved over 1,000,000 men of which 300,000 became casualties. Chiang's forces proved themselves capable even when outnumbered routing the southern forces by July, however in the north Chiang's forces were defeated and he himself narrowly avoided capture in June only when the northern forces stopped due to the defeat of the southern forces did the north stabilise.

Chiang began negotiations for peace with Zhang Xueliang as an intermediary. However Feng and Yan, believing themselves to be on the verge of victory refused. Chiang however had utilised the lull in action to gather strength and begin counteroffensives along the railways in the north, which was aided by the closure of fighting in Bengbu. By September, Chiang was again closing in on Luoyang and this along with bribes spurred Zhang Xueliang to side with Chiang ending the war.

When Adolf Hitler became Germany's chancellor in 1933 and disavowed the Treaty, the anti-communist Nazi Party and the anti-communist KMT were soon engaged in close cooperation. With Germany training Chinese troops and expanding Chinese infrastructure, while China opened its markets and natural resources to Germany. Max Bauer was the first adviser to China.

In 1934, General Hans von Seeckt, acting as a military advisor to Chiang, proposed an "80 Division Plan" for reforming the entire Chinese army into 80 divisions of highly trained, well-equipped troops organised along German lines. The plan was never fully realised, as the eternally bickering warlords could not agree upon which divisions were to be merged and disbanded. Furthermore, with embezzlement and fraud being commonplace, especially in understrength divisions (which was the state of most of the divisions), reforming the military structure would threaten divisional commanders ill-gotten gains. Therefore, by July 1937 only eight infantry divisions had completed reorganization and training. These were the 3rd, 6th, 9th, 14th, 36th, 87th, 88th, and the Training Division.

Another German general, Alexander von Falkenhausen, came to China in 1934 to help reform the army. However, because of Nazi Germany's later cooperation with the Empire of Japan, he was later recalled in 1937.

Second Sino Japanese War[edit | edit source]

For a time, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Communist forces fought as a nominal part of the National Revolutionary Army, forming the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army units, which operated in the rear of the main theatre, acting as a local insurgency force. Women were also part of the army's corps during the war. In 1937, Soong Mei-ling encouraged women to support the Second Sino-Japanese War effort, by forming battalions, such as the Guangxi Women's Battalion.

However, with the lack of support until the very end, the NRA would fight almost losing battles against superior Imperial Japanese forces, although without struggle. Chinese soldiers would die in droves through acts of heroism, with the most famous being the "Dare-to-Die" Corps, which launched suicidal attacks against Japanese armour and infantry units.

Despite some success against the Japanese from the beginning of 1939, with the unprecedented defeat of the Japanese at Battle of Suixian–Zaoyang, 1st Battle of Changsha, Battle of South Guangxi and Battle of Zaoyi. These outcomes encouraged the Chinese to launch their first large-scale counter-offensive against the IJA in early 1940; however, due to its low military-industrial capacity and limited experience in modern warfare, this offensive was defeated.

Afterwards Chiang could not risk any more all-out offensive campaigns given the poorly trained, under-equipped, and disorganized state of his armies and opposition to his leadership both within the Kuomintang and in China in general. He had lost a substantial portion of his best trained and equipped troops in the Battle of Shanghai and was at times at the mercy of his generals, who maintained a high degree of autonomy from the central KMT government.

During the offensive, Hui forces in Suiyuan under generals Ma Hongbin and Ma Buqing routed the Imperial Japanese Army and their puppet Inner Mongol forces and prevented the planned Japanese advance into northwest China. General Ma Biao led Hui, Salar and Dongxiang cavalry to defeat the Japanese at the Battle of Huaiyang.

After 1940, the Japanese encountered tremendous difficulties in administering and garrisoning the seized territories, and tried to solve their occupation problems by implementing a strategy of creating friendly puppet governments favourable to Japanese interests in the territories conquered, most prominently the Wang Jingwei Government headed by former KMT premier Wang Jingwei. However, atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army, as well as Japanese refusal to delegate any real power, left the puppets very unpopular and largely ineffective. The only success the Japanese had was to recruit a large Collaborationist Chinese Army to maintain public security in the occupied territories.

1941 Onwards[edit | edit source]

During this period, the main Chinese objective was to drag out the war for as long as possible in a war of attrition, thereby exhausting Japanese resources while it was building up China's military capacity. American General Joseph Stilwell would comment that this strategy was "winning by outlasting". The NRA adopted the concept of "magnetic warfare" to attract advancing Japanese troops to definite points where they were subjected to ambush, flanking attacks, and encirclements in major engagements. The most prominent example of this tactic was the successful defense of Changsha in 1939 (and again in the 1941 battle), in which heavy casualties were inflicted on the IJA.

Local Chinese resistance forces, organized separately by both the CCP and the KMT, continued their resistance in occupied areas to make Japanese administration over the vast land area of China difficult. In 1940, the Chinese Red Army launched a major offensive in north China, destroying railways and a major coal mine. These constant guerilla and sabotage operations deeply frustrated the Imperial Japanese Army and they led them to employ the "Three Alls Policy" (kill all, loot all, burn all) (三光政策, Hanyu Pinyin: Sānguāng Zhèngcè, Japanese On: Sankō Seisaku). It was during this period that the bulk of Japanese war crimes were committed.

By 1941, Japan had occupied much of north and coastal China, but the KMT central government and military had retreated to the western interior to continue their resistance, while the Chinese communists remained in control of base areas in Shaanxi. In the occupied areas, Japanese control was mainly limited to railroads and major cities ("points and lines"). They did not have a major military or administrative presence in the vast Chinese countryside, where Chinese guerrillas roamed freely. However, with the strengthening of the Collaborationist KMT Government, that would change.

Current Day (1962)[edit | edit source]

Although the National Revolutionary Army was forcibly disbanded after the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, remnants of it still remain resisting against the Japanese and the collaborationist Chinese government. Additionally, some members would join the new Reorganised Government's administration, however, their loyalty is still with the original NRA.

Notable remnants include the Communist-led New Fourth and Eighth Route Armies, who would march into Indochina, meeting up with the Viet Minh in northern Vietnam, regrouping and continuing the struggle in Vietnam. In Mainland China, the 24th and 40th National Revolutionary Armies would continue the fight, with the 24th establishing itself in Xikang, and the 40th establishing itself in Golmud.

In the border regions of China, remnants of the Chinese Expeditionary Force near the Burmese border would continue the struggle in Yunnan, hiding in the various mountains and along the Burma Road whilst in Xinjiang, KMT and Communist Forces have established a Border Defense Region.

These NRA remnants show that the battle for China has not truly ended, as they wait in the shadows to strike again, for a Free China, rid of Japanese oppression and exploitation.