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Battle of Changsha
Part of the Second Sino-Japanese war
DateSeptember 13 – October 8, 1939
LocationChangsha and proximity
Result Chinese victory
Taiwan National Revolutionary Army, Military region 9 Japan Imperial Japanese Army
Commanders and leaders
Taiwan Chen Cheng
Taiwan Xue Yue
Taiwan Guan Linzheng
Japan Yasuji Okamura
160,000 troops in 5 Army Groups, 1 Army, and 7 Corps. 100,000 troops in 6 Divisions, scores of ships and more than 100 motor boats.

Battle of Changsha (September 17, 1939 – October 6, 1939) was the first attempt by Japan to take the city of Changsha, China, during the second Sino-Japanese War. It was the first major battle of the war to fall within the timeframe of what is widely considered World War II.

Battle of Changsha 二戰紀錄片

Background and strategy

The war had already reached a stalemate after two years of fighting. In early September, Japanese General Toshizō Nishio of the "Japanese Expeditionary Forces to China" and Lieutenant-General Seishirō Itagaki set out to capture Changsha, the provincial capital of Hunan. The Japanese 101st and 106th Divisions were deployed on the western bank of the Gan River in northern Jiangxi, and the 6th, 3rd, 13th, and 33rd Divisions marched southward from southern Hubei to northern Hunan. Two of the primary motivating factors for the Japanese in launching the attack were the signing of a non-aggression pact by their German ally with their Soviet enemy, and their defeat by Soviet forces at Nomonhan. A large attack on Chinese would therefore restore morale.[1]

Altogether, it became obvious that the 100,000 strong Japanese force was to converge on Changsha. The Chinese strategy was to counter the enemy column in northern Jiangxi and then encircle the line on the path southward.

Order of Battle for Battle of Changsha (1939)

Course of Battle

The Japanese launched the attacks on September 17, when their forces in northern Jiangxi attacked westward toward Hunan. However, the Japanese stretched too far out westward and were counter-attacked by Chinese forces from the south and the north, forcing them to retreat eastward. On September 19, the Japanese then proceeded to attack the Chinese along the Xinqiang River (新墙河). Even though the use of poison gas was prohibited by the Geneva Protocol, the Japanese army employed it on Chinese positions. On September 23 the Japanese drove the Chinese out of the Sinchiang river area, and the 6th and 13th Divisions crossed the river under artillery cover and advanced further south along the Miluo River. Heavy fighting continued after the 23rd and the Chinese retreated southward to distract the Japanese while supporting battalions arrived on the east and the west for encirclement maneuver. On September 29 the Japanese reached the outskirts of Changsha. However, they were unable to conquer the city because their supply lines were cut off by the Chinese. By October 6 the Japanese forces at Changsha were decimated while the remnants retreated northward.


Changsha was the first major city that did not fall to the Japanese advances. The commander of the city's defense, the colorful General Xue Yue, who was a graduate of Whampoa Military Academy and loyal to Chiang Kai-shek, soon gained prestige from his victories at Changsha. Retaining the city allowed the Chinese to prevent the Japanese from consolidating their territories in the South of China.


  1. Van De Ven, Hans J., War and Nationalism in China, 1925–1945, pg. 237.

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