Operations of the 198th Infantry Division in the Battle of the Salween River
Burma, September 1944, Major Lay Cheng-Lian, Regimental Commander.
The purpose of this archive is to cover the operation of the 198th (Chinese) Infantry Division in the Salween River offensive, from its advance on MNon-Guu-Doo through the victory in Teng-Tzung, 14 September 1944. In order to provide a common understanding and a sufficient orientation for this discussion, a short resume of events leading up to the battle of the Salween River follows.
Japan had temporarily paralyzed Allied Naval forces in the Pacific and enveloped all of Southeast Asia threatening both India and China, and by the end of May 1942 the Japanese had occupied all of Burma. The Burma Road had been China’s life line to the outside world. The closing of the Burma Road, first by Japanese diplomatic pressure, left China stranded for supplies. It was now essential for the United Nations to hold India and China bases where both aerial and overland offensives could be prepared and launched for the reconquest of Burma and the liberation of Asia. The most successful campaign in Burma during the spring of 1944 was fought in the north by Chinese troops, which had been sent into India by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, and American troops under Gen Joseph Stilwell. The purpose was to cover the construction of the Ledo Road, to coordinate the campaign and effect a junction at Bhamo, two Chinese Army Groups crossed the Salween River (May 12-15 1944), by-passed two Japanese Divisions and threatened to advance astride the Burma Road to Bhamo. The 198th Infantry Division belonged to the 54th Corps of the Twentieth Army Group, The 593-CT was one unit of the 198th Infantry Division. The Division crossed the Salween River from the north flank. The history of this battle now follows.
Burma, Salween River, Geographical Features
The zone of the projected operation was in that section of the borderland between China and Burma known as Kao-Li-Kung Shan, part of the Himalayan Mountains. The Kao-Li-Kung Shan consists of dense forests and jungle, topped by snow-covered peaks and glaciers. There are only two routes into the area, from east to west, pack-animal trails over the mountains. Movement is restricted, fields of fire obstructed, maneuver impeded, and logistical support seriously handicapped. The Salween, the major stream, runs southeast along the foot of the mountains and parallel to the range. This river is about 250 feet wide, and the current is very fast. It is, of course, unaffordable and temporary bridges cannot be constructed. East of the river rough and semi-mountainous terrain extends about 50 miles up to the Burma Highway head. Along the east bank of the river there are only two or three ferry sites. To the west, in the area around Ia-Min-Kuan, Chao-Tou, Wa-Ding, Kiang-Chu-Kai, Lung-Ling, and Teng-Tzung, lies a large valley, Teng-Tzung and Lung-Ling are the main towns in this area, and important highway centers embracing the best farm land of the region.
Critical terrain in this area is :br>
(3) North Tzai-Kung-Fang
Villages in the area are :
All of the above villages are located to the west of the mountains Kao-Li-Kung Shan.
(1) Mon-Kou-Dooh to North Tzai-Kung-Fang; no vehicles can pass; pack-animal trails exist, but are very difficult
(2) Sung-Hung-Chao to Ta-Tung-Tze, trails for individual carriers and for pack-animals
(3) Hui-Tung-Chao to Shung-Shan, a highway, but blocked by the Japanese
One surfaced motor road from Pao-Shan to Lung-Ling
During summer, the Rainy Season, is characterized by inclement weather; there are sudden, violent storms. In the higher mountains there are thick fogs, strong winds, and temperature extremes, but at the foot of the mountains it is extremely hot, Malaria and dysentery are very prevalent.
Enemy Situation and Offensive Positions
(1) – a : Enemy ground forces were committed to defensive action throughout the Burma and India theater. The enemy was capable of continuing this defense but was not capable of meeting a new and unexpected offensive on a new front
– b : Enemy Air could not prevent the activity of the 10-USAAF and 14-USAAF
(2) – a : In the area of Salween there were approximately 35.000 enemy troops, including elements of two divisions. Enemy forces consisted of the 56th Infantry Division, and 3 regiments reinforced from the 5th Infantry Division and the 52nd Infantry Divisions, antiaircraft units and miscellaneous supporting troops
– b : Enemy forces at Huai-Po, North Tzai-Kung-Fang, Chao-Tou, and Ma-Min-Kwan were estimated as 1-RCT, organized by the 148th Infantry and the 1/114th Infantry and 1 Reconnaissance Troop, with 20 artillery pieces
– c : The enemy had organized strong fortified positions at each critical terrain feature, and decided to fight it out to the end.
The 198th Chinese Infantry Division
The Chinese 198th Infantry Division (Chinese 54th Corps) was disposed with three Infantry Regiments, the 592, 593 and 594, one pack Artillery Battalion, one Engineer Battalion, one Anti-aircraft company, and service troops. It was partly equipped with American weapons. Prior to its departure for the front this Division had one month of mountain training at Yuan-Ping. On May 3, the 198th Infantry Division moved up to an assembly area in the vicinity of Da-Ma, 10 miles from the river bank, by order of the 54th Corps. At 0800, May 9, the CG, 198th Infantry Division received the 54th Corps’ order to attack, pertinent extracts of which follow :
(1) – The 14-USAAF will support the offensive, covering the Corps crossing of the Salween River.
(2) – 54th Corps will seize crossings of the Salween River and attack to the west, to capture North Tzai-Kung-Fang and prepares to continue the advance to Teng-Tzung along with the 53rd Corps
(3) – a : 2d Infantry Division. Attached : Undertakes operations on May 9, to close the Salween River from Chiao-Jan to Lu-Kou and protects the Corps’ right flank
– b : 198th Infantry Division. Attached : 15th Engineer Regiment (-), 2d Heavy Mortar Regiment, Service Troops. Seize crossings of the Salween River on May 12 in the vicinity of Mon-Kuo-Doo, and attack to the west to capture North Tzai-Kung-Fang, prepared to continue the attack to the south on Corps’ Order
At 1400, May 9 1944, the Commanding General 198th Infantry Division consulted with his staff and unit commanders concerning the accomplishment of this mission, finally issued an oral order, extracts of which follow :
– 198th Infantry Division will seize crossings over the Salween River attacking at 0500, May 12, and will capture and seize North Tzai-KungFang and continue the advance to the south.
– 592d Infantry Regiment, Attached : A Co, 45th Engineer Combat Battalion, 5th Heavy Mortar Battalion, seize crossings over the Salween River in zone, capture Hsiao-Hung-Kou, and attack to the west to capture North Tzai Kung-Fang, objectives A and B.
– 594th Infantry Regiment, Attached : B Co, 45th Engineer Combat Battalion, the Heavy Mortar Battalion, seize crossings over the Salween River in zone, capture
Husi-Po and attack west to capture North Tzai-Kung-Fang, objectives C and D.
– 5th Heavy Mortar Battalion, attached to 592nd Infantry Regiment
– 6th Heavy Mortar Battalion, attached to 594th Infantry Regiment
– 4th Heavy Mortar Battalion and the 198th Pack Artillery Battalion will be in general support reinforcing the fires of the 5th Heavy Mortar Battalion.
At 0500, May 12, the Division started to cross the river from the east bank, and destroyed the enemy’s strong resistance, On the morning of May 13, it captured the 1st objective, Hsiao-Hung-Kou. At 0100, May 14, it seized the critical terrain, Huai-Po. The coordinated attack by the 592nd and 594th Regiments was launched as planned towards North Tzai-Kung-Fang, against the strongly fortified Japanese positions, but met stubborn resistance, up to the afternoon, May 15, their attack was not progressing. At 1800, May 15, the Commanding Officer of the 593rd Regiment received the following message from the Division Commander :
Move your Combat Team, led by two Natives Guides (Kashin) to the rear of the enemy, attack Chao-Tou and Ma-Min-Kuan to prevent enemy movement of reinforcement and supplies from Lung-Ling to the north. Air drop supplies available on call.
The 593rd Infantry Regiment moved forward. There was no contact with the enemy, but the terrain was almost impassable. The advance was slow and very difficult. There were no trails except gullies and drains. It was a steep climb up nearly all the way, Sometimes weapons were hoisted up. by ropes, Terrible weather presented an additional difficulty. Thunder storms made progress very slow, But all these difficulties were overcome due to the high morale and determination of officers and men alike, After this long and difficult advance over 32 kilometers in ’36 hours, the combat team reached the vicinity of Ma-Min-Kuan about 1900, May 16, strong surprise attack was launched. One battalion of enemy reinforcements was defeated and wiped out, and the commanding officer killed. All of the enemy storehouses and installations were destroyed or burned. This attack was entirely unexpected by the enemy. Its success isolated their fortified position at North Tzai-Kung-Fang, which was taken 20 days later, and the advance continued on to Teng-Tzung.
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European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
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Email : gunter [at] eucmh.be
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(NB : Published for Good – March 2019)