Xuzhou, China (1948 AD)
The Battle of Huaihai was one of the three great Communist victories of the Chinese Civil War. Following directly after the Liaoshen Campaign in Manchuria and fought simultaneously with the Pingjin Campaign north of Beijing, Huaihai witnessed the almost total annihilation of the main Nationalist army. By the outcome of the battle, the fall of Chiang kai-Shek’s republic was all but certain. Shortly after the battle, Beijing fell, and by the end of 1949 most of the surviving Nationalists had fled to Taiwan, establishing China as one of the world’s major Communist powers.
For the better part of half a century, China had languished under a seemingly endless series of wars between the old imperial regime, opportunistic warlords, a republic of questionable democratic ideals and the communist party. By 1927 the various conflicts began to coalesce into the Chinese Civil War between the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-Shek and the Communists under Mao Zedong. The civil war was suspended in the late 1930s and early 1940s as the belligerents were forced to turn their attention to fighting foreign Japanese invaders.
In 1946, a year after the end of World War II, the Chinese Civil War resumed in earnest. Thanks to the Soviet army, who had liberated Manchuria and turned over huge stockpiles of captured weapons to the Communists, the balance of power began to shifts against the Nationalist regime. From 1946 to 1948 the war raged without a significant advantage gained by either side. However, throughout this period the Communists grew ever stronger.
By September of 1948 the Communists had enough manpower and material to gain the initiative. They won a great victory at Liaoshen in the Autumn giving Mao Zedong control of Manchuria. This victory was followed up immediately by the Battle of Huaihai. In an effort to stop the Communists from moving south, Chiang kai-Shek sent an army of as many as eight-hundred thousand strong to Xuzhou, including most of his best American trained and equipped troops.
However, thanks to a combination of unfavorable conditions, poor leadership and morale, and most importantly excellent intelligence for the Communists, the Nationalist army was destroyed piecemeal. Over the course of two months, the outnumbered Communists managed to bleed the Nationalists dry in a series of bloody engagements. By January 10, 1949 it was all over, and the Nationalist forces had taken over half a million casualties. The Battle of Huaihai, along with the virtually simultaneous victory at Pingjin, sealed the doom of the Republic.
While the Battle of Huaihai raged all around the city of Xuzhou, the engagement is primarily commemorated at the Monument to the Martyrs of the Huaihai Campaign. The primary site of interest is the monument itself, a towering pillar engraved with scenes of the battle. There is also a forest of steles inscribed with the names of the battle participants, and a memorial museum with exhibits on the Chinese Revolution.
The memorial of the Huaihai Battlefield is locate in the city of Xuzhou, approximately 300 miles south of Beijing. The site is open year-round from 9:00am to 5:00pm. The cost of admission was not available at the time of writing. Web: www.huaita.com.cn (official website).