The Battle of Wuhan (武漢會戰) is also referred to as the Defence of Wuhan (武漢保衛戰). It was another full-scale battle between the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) and the Japanese Army, and a major turning point in the war where China began its transition from retreating to contesting with Japan on even footing.
Wuhan is located at the heart of the south-central China and at the junction of the Beiping-Hankou Railway (平漢鐵路) and Guangdong-Hankou Railway (粵漢鐵路). In November 1937, the Nationalist Government moved some of its offices from Nanjing (南京) to Wuhan, and Japan was desperate to seize it for its strategic significance. Realising the ambition of its enemy, the Nationalist Government focused on deploying the defence of Wuhan commanded by Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石). With the newly established 9th War Zone (directed by Commander Chen Cheng﹝陳誠﹞) and 5th War Zone (directed by Commander Li Zongren﹝李宗仁﹞) taking charge of the operation, numerous high-ranking commanders including Xue Yue (薛岳), Zhang Fakui (張發奎), Bai Chongxi (白崇禧), Li Pinxian (李品仙), Sun Lianzhong (孫連仲), and Zhang Zizhong (張自忠) converged in Wuhan for participation. They were joined by the provincial armies of Sichuan (四川) and Yunnan (雲南), naval and air forces employed. The Soviet Union also sent the Soviet Volunteer Group to aid China during the battle.
The battle involving 1.1 million NRA soldiers and 350,000 Japanese soldiers lasted for more than four months (11 June to 27 October 1938), with Wuhan and its neighouring provinces being the centre-stage battlefields. The Chinese soldiers fought tooth and nail in more than a hundred conflicts of different scales, inflicting 100,000 casualties on the Japanese Army at a cost of over 400,000 of their own. Although the Japanese Army succeeded in capturing Wuhan, its ambition of swiftly defeating China failed. Following this battle, China was to confront Japan on even footing.
Japanese warships and seaplanes on the Yangtze River (長江) in Jiangxi Province (江西) in June 1938. It was from this month that the Japanese Army began its fierce assault on the riverside city of Wuhan, which sits near the middle reaches of the Yangtze River. The NRA engaged in a desperate struggle with the Japanese Army in Wuhan and its neighbouring provinces, including Hubei (湖北), Jiangxi (江西), and Anhui (安徽).
On the wall outside the Tuanfeng Pier (團風碼頭) of the Hubei Province Shipping Industry Bureau, a slogan reads, “Guard the Great City of Wuhan”, reflecting the conviction of the Chinese people to defend the city during the Battle of Wuhan.
Japan mobilised its navy, army, and air forces, attacking the NRA with superior firepower during the Battle of Wuhan. Left: Japanese warplanes bombarding Hankow Airfield (漢口機場) in 1938. Right: Japanese warships firing at Wuhan from the Yangtze River.
The Chinese forces engaged their enemy valiantly during the Battle of Wuhan. Left: the NRA mounting a machine gun station amid the rubble. Right: the NRA defending the Yangtze River region.
The NRA shooting the Japanese Army with machine guns during the Battle of Wuhan.
The NRA shooting the Japanese Army during the Battle of Wuhan.
The NRA firing mortars at the Japanese Army on the Wuhan front line.
The NRA engaging the Japanese Army in a bitter street fighting in the rubble when defending Wuhan. The undaunted NRA was committed to guard its homeland even in the face of Japanese far superior firepower.
Apart from the army, China also mobilised its naval and air forces to defend Wuhan. The photos show the warship SS Zhongshan (中山艦) and its captain Sa Shijun (薩師俊). The SS Zhongshan was shot and sank, and Sa was sacrificed in the battle.
Japanese soldiers declaring victory after capturing the military agency of the Nationalist Government in Wuhan. The Japanese Army captured Hankou (漢口) on 25 October 1938, Wuchang (武昌) on 26 October, and Hanyang (漢陽) on 27 October, ending the Battle of Wuhan.
Source of most photos used in this feature piece: Fotoe and misc. photo sources.