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Battle of Kunlun Pass
Part of the Battle of South Guangxi
Date18 December 1939–11 January 1940
LocationSuburbs of Nanning, Guangxi
Result Decisive Chinese victory[1]
Chinese hold the pass
Taiwan National Revolutionary Army War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svgImperial Japanese Army
Commanders and leaders
Taiwan Bai Chongxi
Taiwan Du Yuming
Taiwan Qiu Qingquan
Taiwan Li Mi
Taiwan Liao Yaoxiang
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.svgMasao Nakamura
5th corps 60,000
200th Division: T-26 240 M1933 tanks
120 CV-33 tankettes
30 BT-5 tanks
5th division (particularly the 21st Brigade) plus various other units, total fighting strength of 45,000[2]
Casualties and losses
5,600 killed
11,000 injured
800 missing
6,416 other casualties
Total:23,816 casualties[3]
4,000+ killed (including 85% of all officers)
4,000+ wounded
100 captured
Total:8,100+ casualties[3]

The Battle of Kunlun Pass (simplified Chinese: 昆仑关战役; traditional Chinese: 崑崙關戰役; pinyin: Kūnlúnguān Zhànyì) was a series of struggles between the Japanese and the Chinese in contention for Kunlun Pass, a stragetically important position in Guangxi province, which the Imperial Japanese Army hoped to cut off aid through China from French-controlled Vietnam and resulted in a Chinese victory.[1]

In this battle, the National Revolutionary Army used the largest recorded number of tanks in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

The battle

The Imperial Japanese army launched a major offensive into Guangxi province. With the objective to cut off the Chinese supply route from French-controlled Vietnam, the elite Japanese 5th Division spearheaded the Japanese offensive. After occupying Nanning in November 1939, the Japanese captured the key point of Kunlun pass and threatened the Chinese rear base that protected Chungking, the wartime capital.

Realizing the danger of being isolated from the outside world and impossible to receive more aid if the Japanese troops were not repulsed, General Bai Chongxi—himself a native of Guangxi—asked the Nationalist Government for reinforcements. Chiang Kai-shek in turn dispatched the 5th Corps from Hunan province to fight the Japanese.

The 5th Corps was the most elite unit in the NRA, and it is also the only Chinese unit that had tanks and armored vehicles. Its soldiers were combat-hardened veterans from previous battles against the Japanese troops, and its soldiers' morale was high as a result. General Du Yuming, commander of the 5th Corps, dispatched two divisions to attack the Japanese-held Kunlun Pass. The new 22nd Division had cut off Japanese reinforcement from the rear and killed the Japanese commander, Major General Masao Nakamura.[4]

The most elite unit of the Japanese 5th Division—the 21st Brigade—was wiped out in the battle. The Brigade had also participated in the Russo-Japanese War, and it was nicknamed the "unbreakable sword". Before Major General Nakamura's death, he admitted in his diary that the Chinese soldiers' fighting ability had surpassed the Russians whom the Brigade encountered in Manchuria. This campaign was the first major victory of the Chinese army since the Battle of Wuhan.

Orders of battle


  • 5th Corps
    • 200th Division - Commander Dai Anlan (戴安瀾)
    • 1st Honor Division
    • New 22nd Division


  • 21st Brigade / 5th Division
    • 21st Infantry Regiment
    • 42nd Infantry Regiment
  • Cavalry Regiment / 5th Division
  • 5th Artillery Regiment / 5th Division
  • Two Regiments / Taiwan Mixed Brigade


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  1. 1.0 1.1 S. C. M. Paine, (2012). The Wars for Asia, 1911-1949. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107020696
  2. "中国王牌机械军全歼日寇一个旅团". 2008-12-31. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 War Study: The Occupation of Nanning and the Failure of Kunlun
  4. Dorn, Frank (1974). The Sino-Japanese War, 1937-41: From Marco Polo Bridge to Pearl Harbor. MacMillan. ISBN 0-02-532200-1.


  • Hsu Long-hsuen and Chang Ming-kai, History of The Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) 2nd Ed., 1971. Translated by Wen Ha-hsiung, Chung Wu Publishing; 33, 140th Lane, Tung-hwa Street, Taipei, Taiwan Republic of China. Pg. 311-318, Pg. 325-327,
  • Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, China 1:250,000, Series L500, U.S. Army Map Service, 1954- . Topographic Maps of China during the Second World War.

Topographic maps

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