- Menglianggu Campaign
Menglianggu Campaign Part of the Chinese Civil War Date May 13, 1947 - May 16, 1947 Location Shandong, China Result PLA victory Belligerents
National Revolutionary Army
People's Liberation Army
Commanders and leaders Gu Zhutong
Su Yu (粟裕)
Strength 400,000 200,000 Casualties and losses 14,000 killed
The Menglianggu Campaign (孟良崮战役) was a campaign fought between the nationalists and the communists during the Chinese Civil War in the post-World War II era and resulted in communist victory. The campaign was later used by the communists as a specific battle example in their military science and history, as well as a propaganda piece. The battle mainly took place in Menglianggu of Linyi region in Shandong Province.
- 1 Prelude
- 2 Order of battle
- 3 Commanders
- 4 Strategies
- 5 74th Reorganized Division besieged
- 6 Intentions revealed
- 7 The critical minute
- 8 Fall of the nationalist headquarters
- 9 Nationalist commander’s death
- 10 Conclusion
- 11 Outcome
- 12 See also
- 13 References
From March, 1947, nationalists abandoned their original plan of all-out assault on every communist position, instead, they adjusted their strategy to a much more realistic one: concentrating on attacking the communists in northern Shanxi and Shandong. In the Shandong theater of war, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek named Gu Zhutong, the commander-in-chief of the National Revolutionary Army as the commander-in-chief at the frontline, setting up his headquarter in Xuzhou. Gu Zhutong had 24 army-sized reorganized divisions totaling more than 60 division-sized reorganized brigades at his command, totaling 450,000+ troops. Out of the 450,000+ troops, over 330,000+ in 17 army-sized reorganized divisions totaling more than 43 division-sized reorganized brigades were deployed on the first line, organized into 3 corpses, the I, II, III Corps, spearheaded by the three crack units of the nationalist forces: 11th Reorganized Division, the 74th Reorganized Division and the 5th Army. Out of the 3 corpses, the I Corps commanded by Tang Enbo was the largest and strongest of all, with near 200,000 troops in 8 army-sized reorganized divisions totaling more than 20 division-sized reorganized brigades, and the I Corps was tasked with main assaults on the communists. Form late March, 1947 to mid April, 1947, nationalists succeeded taking control of the regions along the section of Jinpu railway from Xuzhou to Jinan, and the entire southern Shandong region.
The overconfident nationalists subsequently attacked the mountainous region in central Shandong in late April, 1947 but suffered a setback for their carelessness in Tai'an-Mengyin Campaign, losing over 24,000 troops. However, such setback was rather minor that it could be ignored: a mere 5% loss out of the total mighty force. The nationalist continued their original plan of push the arc-shaped frontline continuously deeper into central Shandong, and force the local communist force, the East China Field Army into a decisive battle in which the communist would be annihilated, or the communists would be forced to cross the Yellow River to flee north if they chose not to engage in such a battle. The nationalist I Corps would attack toward Yishui (沂水) and Tanbu (坦埠) regions, and then join forces with the nationalist II and III corpses to attack northward and eastward, destroying the communist base in Shandong. Five nationalist armies were deployed in the region border by Qingdao – Jinan Railway, Jinpu Railway and Tai'an in the south to support the three nationalist corpses, and another two nationalist army-sized reorganized divisions were deployed in Yi (峄) County and Zaozhuang respectively as reserves.
The nationalists totaled three corps with more than 400,000 troops while the communists totaled 10 columns (armies) near 200,000 troops.
- The 5th Army
- The 7th Army
- The army-sized 11th Reorganized Division
- The army-sized 20th Reorganized Division
- The army-sized 25th Reorganized Division
- The army-sized 48th Reorganized Division
- The army-sized 65th Reorganized Division
- The army-sized 74th Reorganized Division
- The army-sized 83rd Reorganized Division
- Other nationalist units mobilized
- The 1st column (army) of the East China Field Army
- The 2nd column (army) of the East China Field Army
- The 3rd column (army) of the East China Field Army
- The 4th column (army) of the East China Field Army
- The 6th column (army) of the East China Field Army
- The 7th column (army) of the East China Field Army
- The 8th column (army) of the East China Field Army
- The 9th column (army) of the East China Field Army
- The 10th column (army) of the East China Field Army
- The specialized column (army) of East China Field Army (unit with armor, trucks, and artilleries)
- Other communist local garrison units
Commanders from Nationalist side included:
- Supreme Commander: Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (Stationed in Nanjing)
- Frontline Commander-in-chief: Gu Zhutong (Stationed in Xuzhou)
Commanders from Communist side included:
- Chen Yi (陈毅): Commander-in-chief and Commissar of the East China Field Army
The strategies of both sides had been changed from their original versions as the battles progressed.
After the destruction of the entire 72nd Reorganized Division in late April, 1947 in the Tai'an-Mengyin Campaign, nationalists became very cautious and concentrated their forces in their movements afterward. This new tactic resulted from the painful experience learned earlier was so successful that the communist plan of defeating the nationalist offensive in Shandong by first destroying a portion of the nationalist force in the center of the frontline could no longer be realized. On May 4, 1947, communist high command radioed the East China Field Army that since it was impossible to fight large nationalist formations because the nationalists had concentrated their forces, the current tactic of waiting for an appropriate opportunity was very good. As long as there was the patient, there would always be the opportunity to annihilate the enemy. Two days later, the communist high command once again radioed the East China Field Army on May 6, 1947 to instruct the local communists on several important points: Never be impatient and never separate the concentrated forces, because as long as the concentrated force are ready to be mobilized, there would always be the opportunity to destroy the enemy. In according to the communist high command, the local communist commanders redeployed their forces in early May, 1947 by withdrew their main force eastward to the region to the east of Laiwu and Xintai, while the communist 2nd and 7th Columns originally planned to deployed to central China were redeployed to withdrew to Ju (莒) County, and the communist 6th Column withdrew to Pingyi (平邑) in southern Shandong. The communists were waiting to ambush the nationalist at the proper moment.
Chiang Kai-shek had erroneously believed that the communist retreat was a sign of weakness and they were no longer able to fight any decisive battles, so on May 10, 1947, he gave the order to pursuit the enemy for eradication. Gu Zhutong subsequently ordered the three nationalist corps under his command to gave a chase toward Boshan and Yishui (沂水). Tang Enbo, the commander-in-chief of the nationalist I Corps at the right flank abandoned the previously proven tactics of prudent push, and acted on his own without coordinate with the nationalist II Corps and III Corps by ordering the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division to advance toward Tanbu (坦埠) on May 11, 1947 from Peach Village (Tao Xu, 桃墟) and Duo (垛) Village, in an attempt to take control of the region along the highway from Yishui (沂水) to Mengyin (蒙阴). To protect the flanks of the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division, Tang Enbo ordered the nationalist 7th Army and 48th Reorganized Division to advance toward Yishui (沂水) in the north, and the nationalist 65th Reorganized Division to guard Mengyin (蒙阴). The resulting rushing had dangerously overexposed the advancing nationalist units.
On May 11, 1947, communists learned that the nationalist 5th Army and 48th Reorganized Division had taken regions including Mia Family’s Bent (Miao Jia Qu, 苗家曲) and Border Lake (Jie Hu, 界湖) by venturing out from Riverine Sun (He Yang, 河阳), and was advancing toward Yishui (沂水), thus was dangerously exposed. The communists decided to ambush these nationalist units and if possible, also ambush the nationalist reinforcement as well. After the order was already give, new intelligence revealed Tang Enbo’s plan and that the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division was advancing toward Tanbu (坦埠). Communist commanders of the East China Field Army immediately begun to analyze the situation and decided that it would be much better to first annihilate the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division because it was most dangerously exposed, and the gap between it and other nationalist units were the greatest, so it was easier to surround and destroy it. The commander of the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division, Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) was considered by many other nationalist commanders as arrogant because he was a favorite of Chiang Kai-shek and was not at the good terms with them, especially with Li Tianxia (李天霞), the commander of the 83rd Reorganized Division. Furthermore, Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫)’s relationship with his direct superior Tang Enbo was not extremely smooth either, so the communist predicted that if the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division was under attack, other nationalist commanders would not be too enthusiastic in saving it. The rugged terrain would limit the mobility of the mechanized nationalist force while communists could take the geographical advantages to hide and move their troops. The nationalist 74th Reorganized Division was one of the top five crack unit of the nationalist force, and once it was completely destroyed, it would be a huge psychological blow to the nationalist morale and good propaganda piece for the communists. Another political reason to destroy the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division was that its commander, Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) had openly proclaimed his goal many times: to feed Chen Yi to fish by driven Chen Yi and his followers into the East China Sea. Communists were therefore determined to destroy their nemesis.
After the communists had changed their mind on their targets, they immediately ordered a redeployment of their forces in the morning of May 12, 1947: they would concentrate at least a total of five columns (armies) to destroy the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division in the region bordered by Menglianggu (孟良崮) Mountains in the north and Tanbu (坦埠) in the south. Communist forces that were on their eastward march were ordered to immediately march in the opposite direction to the east of Mengyin (蒙阴) for new tasks. Communist 1st, 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th and the Specialized Columns (armies) were tasked to attack the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division, while the communist 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 10th Columns (armies) and local communist militias would be tasked to prevent nationalist units including nationalist 5th and 7th Army, 11th, 25th, 48th, 65th, 83rd Reorganized Divisions from reinforcing the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division by blocking them in the regions including Xintai, Laiwu, Linyi, Lintai (临泰) and Riverine Sun (He Yang, 河阳) regions.
74th Reorganized Division besieged
On May 11, 1947, the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division begun their push northward from Duo (垛) Village under the cover of nationalist 25th and 83rd Reorganized Divisions, and by May 13, 1947, it succeeded in taking regions including Yang family’s Camp (Yang Jia Zhai, 杨家寨), Buddhist Mountain Cape (Fo Shan Jiao, 佛山角) and Horse Herding Pound (Ma Mu Chi, 马牧池), and planned to take Tanbu (坦埠) on May 14, 1947. At the dusk of May 13, 1947, the high command of communist East China Field Army ordered the communist 1st Column and 8th Column to take advantage of the local terrain and penetrate deep behind the enemy to sever the links between the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division and other nationalist units nearby. In the evening of May 13, 947, the communist 1st Column and 8th Column deployed a portion of their forces in front of the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division for blocking actions, while the main forces outflanked the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division and penetrated into the nationalist line as planned. The 3rd Division of the communist 1st Column succeeded in taking Cao (曹) Village and highland to the north of the village, threatened Mengyin (蒙阴), and formed a defense position to block nationalist 65th Reorganized Division in the future to prevent it from reinforce the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division. The main force of the communist 1st Column succeeded in taking strategic positions including Yellow Dipper Peak Mountain (Huang Dou Ding Shan, 黄斗顶山), Yao (尧) Mountain, Celestial Horse Mountain (Tian Ma Shan, 天马山), and Border Plaque(界牌), severed the link between the nationalist 74th and 25th Reorganized Divisions. The nationalist 25th Reorganized Division attempted to breakthrough, but its attempt was beaten back by the stubborn enemy and the nationalist 25th Reorganized Division was forced to withdraw back to Peach Village (Tao Xu, 桃墟) to regroup after suffering heavy casualties. The communist 8th Column divided its force into two portions, with a portion of the force taking strategic positions including Horizontal Mountain (Heng Shan, 横山), Old Cat’s Nest (Lao Mao Wo, 老猫窝) to the southeast of Menglianggu (孟良崮) mountains, while the main force taking strategic positions including Peach Blossom Mountain (Tao Hua Shan, 桃花山), Nose Mountain (Bi Zi Shan, 鼻子山), and the Mountain of Heap of Rocks (Lei Shi Shan, 磊石山), thus successfully severed the link between the nationalist 74th and 83rd Reorganized Divisions as planned. Meanwhile, the communist 4th and 9th Column attack the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division head on, successfully checked the nationalist advance by taking regions including Yellow Deer Camp (Huang Lu Zhai, 黄鹿寨), Buddhist Mountain (Fo Shan, 佛山), Horse Herding Pound (Ma Mu Chi, 马牧池), Su Family’s Hotel (Su Jia Dian, 隋家店). The communist 6th Column operating behind the enemy line in southern Shandong reached regions of Guanshang (观上) and White Wharf (Bai Bu, 白埠) to the southwest of Duo (垛) Village from Copper Stone (Tong Shi, 铜石) region in the morning of May 14, 1947 after a forced march.
Up to the point at which the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division was first attacked by the enemy in the evening of May 13, 1947, the nationalists still did not realize how grave the situation was going to be, and the nationalist commanders were still prepared to carryout their original plan of taking Tanbu (坦埠) on the next day. On May 12, 1947, Tang Enbo ordered ordered Major General Li Tianxia (李天霞), the commander of the nationalist army sized Reorganized 83rd Division to send out a regiment to reinforce nationalist 74th Reorganized Division, probing the enemy's weakness while performing its mission. MG Li sent out the (brigade sized) 57th Regiment of the (Division sized) Reorganized 19th Brigade of the Reorganized 83rd Division led by the regimental commander Colonel Luo Wenlang (罗文浪) to take Peach Flower Mountain (Taohuashan, 桃花山), 5 km to the southeast of Menglianggu. However, the nationalist reinforcement was ambushed by the enemy, with the entire vanguard of the regiment being completely wiped out on May 12, 1947, with the battalion commander Major Wang Shouheng (王寿衡) being killed in action. The next day, the rest of the (brigade sized) 57th Regiment of the (Division sized) Reorganized 19th Brigade of the Reorganized 83rd Division was wiped out by the enemy after being cutting off from the rear, and the regimental commander Colonel Luo Wenlang (罗文浪) being captured alive by the enemy. The failure of taking Peach Flower Mountain (Taohuashan, 桃花山), 5 km to the southeast of Menglianggu meant that the link between the nationalist Reorganized 74th Division and its most probably reinforcement had being severed.
After nationalist commanders learned on May 14, 1947 that nationalist strongholds including Celestial Horse Mountain (Tian Ma Shan, 天马山), Horse Herding Pound (Ma Mu Chi, 马牧池) and the Mountain of Heap of Rocks (Lei Shi Shan, 磊石山) had fallen into the enemy hands, they became aware that the enemy was planning to surround and destroy the 74th Reorganized Division, which subsequently retreated toward Menglianggu (孟良崮) Mountains and Duo (垛) Village. The communists chased after the nationalists retreating southward, with the communist 4th Column and 9th Column in the front, and after a night of battle, they succeeded in taking the region along Tang Family’s Valley (Ta Jia Yu Zi, 唐家峪子) and Zhao Family’s City (赵家城子). At dawn of May 15, 1947, Duo (垛) Village, the last nationalist stronghold had fallen into the hands of communist 6th Column (with the help of communist 1st Column). After fierce battle in the Menglianggu (孟良崮) and Lu (芦) Mountains, the communist 8th Column succeeded in taking Ten Thousands Springs (Wan Quan, 万泉) Mountain, thus linked up with communist 1st Column and 6th Column. By the end of May 15, 1947, the communist 1st, 6th and 8th Columns had succeeded in achieving their objective of completely cutting off the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division, which was totally surrounded just like the communists had planned.
Although surprised that their 74th Reorganized Division was surrounded, the nationalists were not scared, in fact, they were joyful at first because this could present the opportunity they had been waiting for: a decisive battle in which their communist enemy would be annihilated by the numerically and technically superior nationalists attacking from both sides. The 74th Reorganized Division would be in the center surrounded by the communists, while another nine army-sized nationalist reorganized divisions would be surrounding the communists in another siege. The nationalists believed that the 74th Reorganized Division was tough enough to withstand communist assaults and hold on to the final nationalist counterassault in which they would attack from both sides of the communists and annihilate the communists. The nationalist high command therefore ordered the 74th Reorganized Division to take its position in the Menglianggu (孟良崮) mountains and wait for reinforcement. The main peak of Menglianggu (孟良崮) mountains extended northwestward toward Mount 540, which was consisted of the eastern and western halves, and at the extreme northwestern end, there was Mount 520. The region named Eagle’s Nest (Diao Wo, 雕窝) was located in the east and Lu (芦) Mountain was located in the southeast. Wen (汶) River was to the north and Linyi – Mengfang (蒙 防) Highway was located 4 km to the south. The mountain range was around 10 km in the east – west direction and there was no trees grown. There was not much grass either and water sources were nearly nonexistent. However, the nationalists believed these would not be a problem because reinforcement would arrive soon, but little did they know that the development of battles in the latter stage of the campaign was totally different. To reinforce the besieged 74th Reorganized Division, the nationalist high ordered nearby nationalist units to rapidly closing the distance between themselves and the Menglianggu (孟良崮) mountains, including: the 11th Reorganized Division from Xintai, the 65th Reorganized Division from Mengyin (蒙阴), the 25th Reorganized Division from at Peach Village (Tao Xu, 桃墟), the 83rd Reorganized Division from at Green Camel Temple (Qing Tuo Si, 青驼寺), the 7th Army from at Riverine Sun (He Yang, 河阳), the 48th Reorganized Division from at Soup Head (Tang Tou, 汤头), the 5th Army from Laiwu. The 20th Reorganized Division from Dawenkou (大汶口) was order to go to Mengyin (蒙阴), while other nationalist units from second line were also mobilized, in the hope of annihilating the communist in a decisive campaign in the regions of Mengyin (蒙阴) and Green Camel Temple (Qing Tuo Si, 青驼寺) regions.
After the failed attempt to breakout in the south, the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division withdrew to the Menglianggu (孟良崮) mountains. The three regiments of the 58th Reorganized Brigade of the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division was tasked respectively to secure the main peak of the Menglianggu (孟良崮) mountains, Eagle’s Nest (Diao Wo, 雕窝) and Lu (芦) Mountain. The 51st Reorganized Brigade of the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division was to secure Mount 520 and Mount 540, while the 57th Reorganized Brigade of the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division was to secure Mount 570 (also designated as Mount 600 in other historical records). Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) setup his headquarter of the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division was on the eastern half of Mount 540, and repeatedly asked the nationalist high command for reinforcements. Chiang Kai-shek believed that this was an excellent opportunity to annihilate the communist East China Field Army in a decisive campaign, so he ordered RoCAF to airdrop supplies to the besieged nationalists, and also ordered a total of ten army-sized nationalist reorganized divisions spearheaded by the 25th Reorganized Division and 83rd Reorganized Division to reinforce the besieged nationalists. As a result, the strategies of both sides became obvious to the opposing forces: the communists intended to destroy the besieged nationalist 74th Reorganized Division while avoiding being attacked and wiped out from both fronts, while the nationalists intended to attack their enemy from both fronts, using their besieged force as a bait, which would held out long enough for the reinforcement to arrive. However, besieged nationalists could not hold as long as they were hoped to, because of the difficult landscape: the vegetation was sparse and there was not any water source. The rugged terrain meant that it was nearly impossible for the nationalist defenders to build any fortification and thus they were directly exposed to the enemy fire, suffering huge casualties. To compound the problem, most if not all heavy weaponries had to be abandoned because they could not be carried to the mountain tops. Furthermore, due to the lack of water, the water-cool machine guns could not function properly even after they were carried up to the mountain tops. The airdrop was completely insufficient to fulfill the daily need of the besieged force either.
The critical minute
Chiang Kai-shek ordered nearby nationalist forces to do their best to save the besieged 74th Reorganized Division, but the communists were aided by the internal fights among the nationalists. Li Tianxia (李天霞), the commander of the nationalist 83rd Reorganized Division was a personal foe of Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫), the commander of the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division, and he was not willing to commit fully to save his foe. In addition, Li Tianxia (李天霞) was very worried that the communists were using the besieged nationalist division as a bait to annihilate his own force, since his own division was not as tough as the 74th Reorganized Division, which could withstand the communist onslaught and survive. If Li Tianxia (李天霞)’s 83rd Reorganized Division were to be ambushed on the way in the open without any fortification on its way to save the besieged nationalist force, it would be certain that his weaker division would be completely destroyed. As a result, Li Tianxia (李天霞) only sent out a single regiment in a symbolic move, and just as he had expected, this regiment was completely destroyed by the waiting enemy. In contrast, the nationalist 25th Reorganized Division under the command of Huang Botao (黄伯韬) ventured out in full strength to carryout Chiang Kai-shek’s order, and by May 14, 1947, they had reached the Yellow Cliff (Huang Ya, 黄崖) Mountain, which was a merely 6 km away from Menglianggu (孟良崮) region, the last natural barrier. Both sides were keenly aware that whoever controlled the Yellow Cliff (Huang Ya, 黄崖) Mountain would decide the outcome of the campaign, and both sent out their crack troop to take the commanding peak of the mountain.
The 16th Division of the communist 6th Column was tasked with capturing and securing the Yellow Cliff (Huang Ya, 黄崖) Mountain, and its 48th Regiment was the vanguard. After a forced march with troops had to eat and even sleep while on the march, the communist 48th Regiment finally reached the eastern foothill of Yellow Cliff (Huang Ya, 黄崖) Mountain. At the same time, a detachment of the nationalist 25th Reorganized Division also reached the western foothill of Yellow Cliff (Huang Ya, 黄崖) Mountain. The 9th Company of the 3rd Battalion of the 48th Regiment of the 16th Division of the communist 6th Column under its commander Zhai Zuguang (翟祖光) scaled the cliff from the eastern slope, and after approximately 50 minutes, the communist company successfully occupied the commanding heights and other positions on the peak. Meanwhile, the nationalists were only 30 meters away, a minute of climbing, but very unfortunately, they were just a minute too late. The communist company immediately opened up everything they had, pouring dense fire power onto the approaching nationalists who almost succeeded, but was forced to make a hasty retreat after suffering dozen fatalities under enemy fire, and the Yellow Cliff (Huang Ya, 黄崖) Mountain would be firmly remain in the communist hand for the rest of the campaign. While the 48th Regiment of the 16th Division of the communist 6th Column maintained the firm control of the Yellow Cliff (Huang Ya, 黄崖) Mountain, adjacent positions including Ferocious Tiger (Menghu, 猛虎) and Ten Thousands Springs (Wan Quan, 万泉) Mountains were firmly in the hands of the rest units of the 16th Division of the communist 6th Column. Although the nationalists launched attacks on the communist positions with battalions and regiments, all of them were successfully repelled. When Wang Bicheng (王必成), the commander of communist 6th Column recalled the situation in an interview 32 years later in Wuhan, he still expressed the fear and appreciation of the communist luck: had the communists were a minute late and the nationalists were a minute earlier, the outcome of the Menglianggu (孟良崮) Campaign would be quite different. Su Yu, the commander of East China Field Army who directed the campaign also expressed the same feeling numerous times.
Fall of the nationalist headquarters
Realizing that they were being in endangered being surrounded from behind, as well as facing counterassault in front if 74th Reorganized Division was not destroyed immediately, the communists decided that they must destroy the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division in time, at all cost, so the communists launched their general assault in the afternoon of May 15, 1947. The communist redeployed their forces, with the communist 1st Column in the west, the communist 4th Column in the north, the communist 6th Column in the south, the communist 8th Column in the north, and the communist 9th Column in the northeast, attacking the besieged nationalist 74th Reorganized Division at five fronts simultaneously. Realizing that the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division was in danger of being wiped out if reinforcement could not arrive in time, in the morning of May 16, 1947, Chiang Kai-shek personally issued another order once again to demand the 10 nationalist army-sized reorganized divisions reinforcing the besieged nationalist 74th Reorganized Division, but progress was extremely slow and by the fastest speed, it would still take days according the progress already made: the advance of 8 army-sized reorganized divisions and 2 division-sized brigades that were closest to the besieged 74th Reorganized Division were all completely checked in the morning of May 16, 1947 by the communist forces deployed on their ways to blocking them. The battles at Mengliangu (孟良崮) region were fierce after the communist launched their general assault in the afternoon of May 15, 1947, with most positions changing hands multiple times.
The communist 4th Column first took Mount 330, and then took the region in between Mount 520 and the western half of Mount 540, thus successfully cutting off the retreating route of the nationalists. Realizing the dangerous situation, the nationalists launched several counterattacks, but all were beaten back with stubborn enemy resistance. With the reinforcements from the communist 1st Column and 9th Column, the communist 4th Column further attacked and took Mount 520 by midnight, killing most of the defenders. The surviving nationalist defenders of Mount 520 fled to Mount 540, but the communists would not give them a break and continued their attack on Mount 540. A detachment of the communist 4th Column scaled the cliff of the western half of Mount 540 and outflanked the defenders and launched a surprise attack. The surprised nationalist defenders could not react in time and rapidly fled toward eastern half of Mount 540, and the nationalist commander Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) was unable to stop his fleeing troops and his headquarter was dangerously exposed to the fire of the attacking enemy. Although the nationalist commander was able to make his timely retreat just in time from the eastern half of Mount 540 with rest of his staffs when he was forced to relocate his headquarter to Mount 570, but due to the heavy casualties of staff officers, the remaining headquarter was only a mere fraction of what it once was and could not function normally anymore like it used to. At the dawn of May 16, 1947, the nationalists counterattacked the western half Mount 540 held by the communists in waves under fire cover, and the strength of their attack forces eventually grew to regimental size from the original company size. Communist troops of the 4th Column guarding the mount were exhausted and the nationalists seemed to be able to achieve their objective. At the last moment, communist reinforcement from the 1st Column and 4th Column arrived just in time, and successfully destroyed the counterattacking nationalist forces. The nationalists, however, were able to successfully driven back the communist attacks headed by the communist 9th Column to the eastern half of Mount 540, but they were unable to prevent the communist 6th Column and 8th Column from attacking toward Lu (芦) Mountain after successfully destroying nationalist forces in the area.
The communist 9th Column launched another offensive simultaneously against the eastern half of Mount 540, Mount 570, and the main peak of Menglianggu (孟良崮) mountains, with a portion of its force attacking the nationalists held eastern half of Mount 540 from the north and northeast, and the remaining forces attack the other two positions in the nationalist hands. By this time, the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division became disorganized and most units were fighting on their own after losing direct contact with the divisional headquarter over the phone, and orders and reports had to be sent via couriers and the few remaining radios. Due to the close proximity of the opposing sides and rapid enemy advance, the supplies and ammunitions airdropped by the nationalist air force in this stage of the war mostly landed on communist positions. The communists also utilized the prisoners-of-wars to operate the newly captured heavy artilleries pieces from the nationalists. The captured nationalist artillery crew was reluctant at the first and shelled the communist force attacking the nationalist position instead. After one of the artillery crew was executed in front of others, the prisoners-of-wars dared not to play anymore tricks and every round landed on its mark. By the 8:00 am of May 16, 1947, with nationalists strongholds at Eagle’s Nest (Diao Wo, 雕窝) and Lu (芦) Mountain falling into the enemy hands’, all nationalist positions on the surface with the exception of Mount 540 had fallen, and most of the defenders were forced into caves. At 1:00 pm, the communist 4th Column gathered five mountain guns and bombarded the eastern half Mount 540 while infantries advanced toward the nationalists held eastern half from the west. Meanwhile, the communist 6th Column also attacked the eastern half mount from the south. By 2:00 pm, Mount 540 had fallen and the nationalist 51st Brigade was completely destroyed. Meantime, units of the communist 6th Column and 8th Column cleared out the remaining nationalist defenders in their caves of Lu (芦) Mountain, completely destroying the surviving 3,000 troops of the nationalist 58th Brigade.
Nationalist commander’s death
When the Communista sent one of Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫)’s own distant relatives (nephew) deliver the request for his surrender, Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) refused and had the nephew executed. The Communists consequently sent captured nationalist prisoners of war back to continue to request Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫)’s surrender, but the nationalist commander stubbornly refused and wanted to have them executed as well. However, his subordinates convinced him not to execute anyone else, as it would only help no one but the enemy propagandists. Still, the inevitable end was near. After learning the nationalist commander refused to surrender, the communists organized several assault teams to charge the nationalist commander’s hideout. Each communist assault team consisted of seven members, and a communist squad commander of the 2nd company of the 1st Battalion of the 69th Regiment of the 23rd Division of the East China Field Army named Ge Zhaotian (葛兆田) was among the last assault team that finally reached their destination after all previous communist assault teams were killed. After fierce battle, the communist assault team only consisted of three members led by a deputy platoon commander when they reached the outside of the cave where Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫)’s headquarter was located, and requested the nationalists inside to surrender. As others went out the cave to surrender, Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) emptied his last magazine of ammunition on the communists, severely wounded the communist deputy platoon commander. This enraged the communists who fired back, and as Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) was fleeing further into the cave, he was shot and killed along with several other nationalists by the submachine gun fire from the communist squad commander Ge Zhaotian (葛兆田) in the assault team. The surviving nationalists shouted to the communist to stop firing because they would indeed surrender and threw out their weapons, and a total of eighty-three survivors came out hiding from the cave and nearby makeshift fortifications (mainly a waist-high stone wall constructed by the nationalists earlier). All were captured alive and led away to the prisoner-of-war camps.
By this time, the communist reinforcement led by a deputy divisional commander named Dai Wenxian (戴文贤) arrived, and seeing Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫)’s cadaver, the communist deputy commander was very upset because capturing the nationalist commander alive would be much bigger and better political propaganda, and that was exactly how communists had wanted, so Dai Wenxian (戴文贤) asked angrily:”Who shot him? And Why?” Not knowing the nationalist officer killed was Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫), Ge Zhaotian (葛兆田) angrily shouted back at his deputy divisional commander:”Why wouldn’t I shoot him when he was shooting at me? I would shoot back even if he was Chiang Kai-shek!” The communist deputy divisional commander could not say anything more and had to excuse his soldier by asking him to help other to march the prisoners-of-war down the slope. Ge Zhaotian (葛兆田) did not find out that he had killed Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) until years later. One of Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫)’s bodyguard named Zhu Fanyou (朱凡友) joined the communists after the campaign and became Ge Zhaotian (葛兆田)’s good friend after being assigned to the same squad. The two participated together in the remaining of the Chinese Civil War and Korean War, and then stationed together at Niechangshan (内长山) Fortification. In was only during this period when Zhu Fanyou (朱凡友) finally revealed to Ge Zhaotian (葛兆田) that the nationalist commander he killed was Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫). Although Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫)’s action well qualified him as a nationalist martyr, the nationalist regime honored its martyr in a different way by claiming that he committed suicide instead, as described in the eulogy titled “A summons to arms of Painfully mourning the (nationalist) 74th (Reorganized) Division” (痛悼74师檄文) wrote by Chiang Kai-shek, who claimed that over 20 nationalist commanders had committed suicide, while in reality, most of them were all killed in action on the frontline during the fierce fight against the enemy. Only the deputy commander of the Reorganized 74th Division, Major General Cai Renjie (蔡仁杰, 1902–1947), and the commander of the Reorganized 58th Brigade of the Reorganized 74th Division, Major General Lu Xing (卢醒, 1911–1947) committed suicide in the campaign.
After the news of their commander’s death was known, the nationalist morale collapsed completely and the battle soon ended in the cloudy afternoon on May 16, 1947. The communist had fired over 33,000 rounds of artillery shells on the nationalist position at Menglianggu (孟良崮), a shock to the nationalists who believed their communist enemy lacked artilleries and could not achieve such dense firepower. As the communist units reported the nationalist casualties, the total number did not add up right: there was a difference around 10,000 between the sum and the supposed strength of the nationalist Reorganized 74th Division. Su Yu ordered all communist units to search the battlefield again, and it was soon discovered that nationalist survivors were quietly hidden in a valley between the main peak of Menglianggu (孟良崮) and Mount 570, waiting for the communists withdraw from the battlefield so that they would be linked up with the nationalist reinforcement afterward. These nationalist troops were observed earlier by various communist units at the higher ground but all mistakenly believed that they were the friendly forces. As the communist 4th, 6th, 8th and 9th Columns approached the surviving nationalists who had run out ammunition, water and supplies, the only option the surviving nationalists had was to surrender and there was not much of a fight, and by 5:00 pm on May 16, 1947, the campaign was over.
While the battles were raging on at Menglianggu (孟良崮) region, other communist formations fighting in other areas had also successfully achieved their objectives of stopping the nationalist reinforcements. The communist 10th Column checked the advance of the nationalist 5th Army near Laiwu, and the communist 3rd Column checked the advance of the nationalist Reorganized 11th Division at the Xintai – Mengyin (蒙阴) Highway. The communist 2nd and 7th Columns checked the advance of the nationalist Reorganized 48th Division and the 83rd Division at the region of Green Camel Temple (Qing Tuo Si, 青驼寺), with the nationalist 83rd Division losing an entire regiment totaling around 1,000, half of the casualties nationalist reinforcement suffered. Other local communist militias threatened Linyi, preventing the nationalists sending additional reinforcements. Under the orders from Gu Zhutong and Chiang Kai-shek, the nationalist reinforcements tried hard to reach the besieged Reorganized 74th Division, with some of the reinforcement reached within 5 km of Menglianggu (孟良崮), but due to the stubborn enemy resistance, the nationalist advance was finally checked and the fate of the besieged nationalists were sealed. The communist victory was also due to its ability to mobilize 200,000 civilian to support their war effort, a number greater than the actual number of combatants the communists could muster.
Unlike most other nationalist generals killed by the communists during the Chinese Civil War,Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) was buried with full military honor after the campaign by his communist enemy, who had recognized his capability and contribution during Second Sino-Japanese War. Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) was given the same treatment as the communist commanders of equal rank, though the funeral was not as elaborate as that of nationalists due to the communists’ lack of material wealth at the time: nobody could find a new, good and clean nationalist uniform for the general and getting one from the nationalists were certainly out of the question, so Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) was buried with a new communist uniform instead. In an unprecedented move, the communists also allowed Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫)’s nine subordinates captured in the campaign, including a brigade commander with the rank of major general and eight regimental colonels, to participate in Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫)’s funeral. The nationalist commander’s funeral ceremony was held by Xie Shensheng (谢胜坤), the deputy political director of the political directorate of the 6th Column of the communist East China Field Army, who would have an equal rank had the military ranking system existed in the communist force. Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫)’s widow eventually returned to China and settled in Shanghai after the communist revolution, where she spent rest of her life. Chiang Kai-shek personally ordered Tang Enbo to be removed from his post and Major General Li Tianxia (李天霞), the commander of the nationalist 83rd Reorganized Division court-martialled as the failure to save the nationalist 74th Reorganized Division, and Li's position was filled with his deputy, Major General Zhou Zhidao (周志道).
The result of the campaign was a serious blow to the nationalist morale and a great piece of communist propaganda. The communists met the enemy with both the technical and numerical superiority head on, and the entire nationalist Reorganized 74th Division, one of the top five nationalist crack troop units, was completely lost with 12,000 of its 30,000 troops killed and the remaining 18,000 captured. The nationalist reinforcement also suffered 2,000+ fatalities averaging 500 fatalities per day in the four-day long campaign. The nationalist internal power struggle played an important role in the nationalist defeat because most nationalist commanders felt that Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) was too arrogant that when he asked the help from other nationalist commanders with higher rank, he acted if he was giving out orders to those ranked above him. Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) ‘s direct superior, Tang Enbo, for example, was scolded by his subordinate Zhang Lingpu (张灵甫) in a heated argument over the telephone and Tang was so enraged by the action of his subordinate that he withheld his troops for an entire day, providing the opportunities for the communists to regroup and strength their defense against the nationalist reinforcement. Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) was certainly more capable than most nationalist commanders of his time and he and his troops were proud of it, however, Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) and many of his troops chose not to carefully hide their feelings and openly exhibit the feeling, and others were obviously resentful, resulting in the lack of enthusiasm to help Zhang Lingfu (张灵甫) when he needed.
The nationalist “Plan of a Decisive Campaign in Central Shandong” (Lu Zhong Jue Zhan Ji Hua, 鲁中决战计划) was in fact, a good battle strategy, as agreed even by their communist enemy, but the nationalist defeat meant that the nationalist original plan of annihilating their communist enemy in a decisive battle was impossible to reach, and the nationalist offensives against communist base in Shandong had encountered a serious setback. The effect not only affected the battlefield in Shandong, but also to a great degree, other battlefields as well, such as that of northern Shaanxi. Had the nationalist reinforcements succeeded in rescuing their besieged comrades-in-arms, they would have also succeeded in annihilating the enemy’s main force. In this campaign, the nationalist top commanders performed well in that they had correctly adjusted their strategies according to the changing situation on the battlefield, almost succeeding in achieve their strategic objective, but unfortunately, the field commanders were unable to carry out their mission to the fullest and thus resulting in failure.
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