- The Chinese Communist troops who stormed Kinmen island in October 1949 anticipated a fast victory.
- Instead, the Chinese Nationalist forces defending the island routed the attackers.
- The battle illustrates some of the hurdles Beijing would nonetheless face if it tried to invade Taiwan.
Around 1:30 a.m. on October 25, 1949, some 9,000 Chinese Communist troopers stormed ashore on the island of Kinmen, barely 6 miles from China’s coast.
They have been the first of what was meant to be a 20,000-strong People’s Liberation Army drive despatched to seize the island from Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese Nationalist forces, often known as the KMT.
Fresh off a string of victories and with excessive morale, the PLA anticipated the battle to be its subsequent triumph, bringing much more territory into the newly established People’s Republic of China and shifting the PLA one step nearer to its closing goal: the KMT bastion of Taiwan.
PLA commanders believed the defending drive to be weak with low morale and anticipated the preventing to be over inside three days. The timing was the solely factor the PLA received proper.
Three days later, Kinmen was nonetheless in KMT palms, three PLA regiments had been successfully annihilated, and the Chinese Communist forces had suffered the first examine on their seemingly unstoppable advance.
The KMT was in near-constant retreat by fall 1949. The PLA, led by Mao Zedong, had crossed the Yangtze River in central China that spring and superior south over the following months, capturing nearly all main cities and ports whereas struggling few defeats.
Soon all of mainland China was below Communist management. Mao formally established the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Chiang and the relaxation of the KMT, in the meantime, have been retreating to the islands off China’s coast. The largest, Taiwan, grew to become the capital of the Republic of China.
With management of the mainland, the PLA set about taking management of the islands, hoping to safe them earlier than launching a closing assault on Taiwan.
Kinmen Island, 59 sq. miles in measurement and residential to some 40,000 folks, was important to this plan.
KMT forces on Kinmen may watch the waters round Xiamen, which the PLA had captured solely a few days earlier than, for any mobilization of forces to attack Taiwan.
To take the island, the twenty eighth Corps of the PLA’s tenth Army would land roughly 20,000 troops in two teams. Three regiments of some 9,000 males would land on the seashores at night time and safe a beachhead so a second drive of about 11,000 males may land the following day.
The PLA navy was nonetheless in its infancy with few ships or skilled sailors, so the troops may solely be transported by motor-less wood fishing boats and junks commandeered from native fishermen. The PLA air drive was additionally nascent, so to keep away from the KMT’s navy and air drive, the first group would should land at night time.
After dropping off the first group below cowl of darkness, the vessels would return and decide up the second group.
The PLA estimated that the KMT had a poorly motivated and skilled garrison of about 20,000 troops from its twenty second Army on Kinmen.
In truth, Chiang was decided to defend and maintain Kinmen. He despatched an further 20,000 males from the elite 18th Army and a battalion of 21 M5A1 Stuart tanks, operated by troops who had fought in World War II, to Kinmen. (The PLA invasion drive had no armored items.)
The island itself was become a fortress. Hundreds of bunkers and trenches have been constructed, 1000’s of mines have been laid, and anti-ship obstacles have been positioned on the seashores.
PLA troops started boarding their vessels round 7:00 p.m. on October 24, however logistics points and command missteps saved them from setting off till after midnight. Almost instantly, all the pieces went incorrect.
The Communist troops arrived and disembarked unnoticed. They approached at excessive tide, however their late departure left them with little time earlier than the waters receded. The anti-ship obstacles, submerged once they arrived, finally ensnared all of the PLA boats.
By likelihood, a routine KMT patrol in the space by accident set off a landmine, alerting close by defenders. Searchlights and flares quickly uncovered the PLA invasion drive because it was disembarking, sparking a large two-hour firefight.
The KMT’s 18th Army had coincidentally completed its personal touchdown on the different aspect of the island round the similar time, and the PLA drive was quickly outnumbered five-to-one.
At daybreak, KMT warships and B-25 plane joined the fray. They destroyed the caught boats, trapping the invading drive and protecting reinforcements at bay.
Despite the chaos, some PLA items managed to push inland. They seized the city of Guningtou and established a defensive perimeter. But the drive, composed solely of infantry, had no hope.
They have been quickly surrounded by KMT tanks, plane, and troopers. Guningtou was retaken after intense city preventing on October 27. By day’s finish, the PLA troops who had retreated to the seashores had additionally surrendered.
China’s rising attain
Of the roughly 9,000 PLA troopers who landed on Kinmen, about 3,000 have been killed and greater than 5,000 have been captured, successfully wiping out three PLA regiments. KMT casualties included over 1,200 killed and nearly 2,000 wounded.
The PLA captured other islands from the KMT, however Chiang’s forces held onto Kinmen and several other others, together with Taiwan. The loss compelled Mao and the PLA to acknowledge that invading Taiwan would not be straightforward.
Later plans for an invasion have been delayed by the PLA’s involvement in the Korean War and finally known as off altogether. Ultimately, the PLA admitted that it didn’t but have the functionality to tug off such a grand amphibious feat.
Kinmen itself grew to become a central half of the PRC-Taiwan rivalry. Taiwan fortified it, and China shelled it intermittently — together with two rather intense episodes in 1954 and 1958 — till 1979, when the US formally acknowledged the People’s Republic of China.
Beijing has by no means actually given up on its final objective absorbing Taiwan, which the Chinese Communist Party describes as “reunification,” although it has by no means managed the island.
At the twentieth celebration congress in October, President Xi Jinping said that though the PRC would like peaceable unification, “we will never promise to give up the use of force and reserve the option to take all necessary measures.”
China’s navy has superior significantly since 1949, with a lot of its modernization done with a Taiwan scenario in mind.
The PLA now has the largest navy in the world, with greater than 355 warships. It has a roughly 40,000-strong marine corps with trendy armored amphibious assault autos. Its ground force additionally has six amphibious mixed arms brigades comprising 30,000 personnel with 2,400 autos.
But the roughly 100-mile strait, the place situations are sometimes poor, and the PLA’s lack of actual amphibious-assault expertise — to not point out Taiwan’s own increasingly robust defenses — are main obstacles for the PLA.
But after a long time of navy upgrades and enlargement, Xi might finally grasp what Mao may solely attain.
The Pentagon’s 2021 report on the Chinese navy mentioned an invasion “of a medium-sized, better-defended island” like Kinmen “is within the PLA’s capabilities.”