BIRTH OF AN ARMY
12. Kill All, Burn All, Loot All!
|THE main aim of the Japanese was to wipe out the regular force of Liu Po-cheng, or to make their existence impossible, to annihi1ate people's bands and to terrorize the countryside so that the people would abandon both their arms and resistance. In four years of war, they had learned much about Chinese tactics and they now adopted tactics of their own to combat the menace of what had once been their rear, but had now become their main front in China.
Although these tactics were many and varied, I shall mention here only one - "The Prisoner's Cage Tactic." To a Western military ear, this name may sound with a quaint and ridiculous ring, but to the Japanese it meant a particular way of attacking and to the Chinese it meant a matter of life and death. The Prisoner's Cage Tactic was a stratagem designed to bottle up the Chinese in a small area so that the Japanese could move in at will in criss-crossing columns and wipe out all troops caught in their box.
Using cities as locks in this military prison, the Japanese built connecting ditches along railways and roads, twenty feet wide and to the depth of moats. Then across roads and fields about the area they wanted attack they erected earth walls. So long and numerous were these walls that Po estimated they would go around the earth one and a half times if put end to end. If this seems exaggerated, I can only offer the testimony of my own eyes. Going across the plain, I saw so many pillboxes, ditches and walls that it is almost inconceivable that the Chinese could have existed in the midst of them. Once the walls were erected, the Japanese would build roads between railway lines and forts all along the roads. Then they would gradually close in on all areas, cutting up the prison like bean curd so that in the end there was no territory anywhere larger than ten miles in which Chinese troops could operate.
|尽管如此，日本军队仍然消灭不了抗日武装。于是，在一九四一年冬和一九四二年春，他们提出“杀光，烧光，抢光”的口号，开始了见人就杀，见物便烧的大扫荡。||Yet the Japanese did not succeed in annihilating the forces opposing them. So, in the winter of 1941 and the spring of 1942, they began to burn and kill everything and everyone in their path. Their slogan was: "Kill all, Burn all, Loot all."|
As they moved into an area on their mopping-up campaigns, they killed all young men, destroyed or stole all cattle and broke or made off with all farmers' tools and grain. Their object was to create a no man's land in which nothing could live. At the same time they reinforced their economic blockade, halted all salt and cloth from entering the guerrilla regions and tried to starve the population out of resistance.
How could the Chinese combat such tactics? As the Japanese had had to
invent new methods to fight guerrilla warfare so the Chinese also had
to invent new methods to fight the Japanese annihilation tactics.
| The most famous method adopted in
the area, however, was one known as, "Emptying the House and Clearing
Up the Field." It could be called a tactic of attrition. Before the
Japanese advanced, furniture, grain, cattle and anything of use to the Japanese
would all be moved to caves or buried in a prepared hiding place. All people
would evacuate the area. Not a guide could be found. If the attack were
in the mountains, militiamen would take up positions on every peak; if in
the plains, in underground tunnels.
When the Japanese advanced, they were fired at by snipers from all sides. These were not fortuitous snipers, but the best shots picked out of village units for that purpose. Thus attacked, the Japanese would be afraid to split up. Hearing shots from one mountain, they would say: "There's the 8th Route Army." But when they climbed the mountain with their mortars and heavy equipment, they would find no one. Again, they would move forward, again they would be sniped at from another peak, and again they would sweep and search the hill in vain.
After repeating this process two or three times and finding nothing, they would begin to feel safe. Their scouts would be drawn in and they would move forward swiftly. Just at this time, a regular detachment which had been held back and concealed for the purpose would strike them in force and inflict heavy damage on them before they could recover. In addition, as the Japanese tried to penetrate further into the mountains, they would run into homemade land mines planted all over the hill slopes. If the Japanese were in some strength, the militia would not attempt to attack them, but would content themselves with sniping. But if a small detachment split off from the main group, the people would attack with bird rifles, homemade mortars and anything to hand. Such tactics developed a messy military situation. It might last a week. Then the Japanese would get out of supplies and retreat and the farmers would go back to their homes, dig up buried grain and wait till the next attack.
The war of attrition that is implicit in the phrase "Emptying the House and Clearing Up the Field" is a kind of war that can be carried out only by the co-operation of almost all members of society. This cooperation is seldom found in the industrialized societies of the West and not often in the agrarian villages of China either. But in some areas, especially in the mountains, it was carried on to an almost unbelievable extent, as the following story illustrates.
There is in the Taiyueh Mountains of Shansi a county called Chingyuan
in which there are sixty thousand people. The center of the county is
a town, bearing the county name, which was once surrounded by a wall that
the people knocked down after the Japanese invasion. The residents of
this region are independent by nature and during the war were so patriotic
that not one traitor or collaborator was found throughout the whole county,
a rare thing for China. Chingyuan became a thorn in the Japanese side
so, in February 1942, they decided to knock it out of the war. For this
purpose, they sent a regiment along a motor highway to occupy the city
while another regiment was disposed to the south.
Not only the local militia, but all able-bodied young men obtained
arms, and with ten thousand rifles they took up positions in the moun
tains. Those living in the mountains divided their land, cotton and animals
with the refugees while all children were distributed around the few available
houses. Unable to fight the heavily equipped Japanese, the people decided
to lay siege to the city and its supply artery.
| On the plains of the Border Region, it was even
more difficult to maintain the war against the Japs than in the mountains.
In southern Hopei Province, for example, any place that did not have Japanese
soldiers within six to ten miles was called a "base." Since the
Japanese were everywhere, the Chinese could no longer maintain a large mobile
army. Units were so dispersed that on the plains there was not a larger
echelon than a battalion.
Some of the mud- and plaster-hut villages on this plain are extremely large and often the Japanese would be found living in the western part of the village while Chinese guerrillas lived in the east. Even under these circumstances, the Chinese units were seldom surprised and Japanese attacks did little damage.
This seems incredible, but the Communists lay their ability to exist like this on their work among the people and the puppet troops of the Japanese. In the plains, the guerrillas always knew four hours ahead of time when an attack was coming. Whenever a large mopping-up campaign was coming, the Chinese would be informed by the puppets. Children, pregnant women and wounded men would he sent into the towns and put under the care of puppet families, doctors and nurses. In their attacks on guerrilla villages, the Japanese would always put their puppet troops first and these would fire in the air and shout loudly: "Where is the 8th Route Army?" There was always ample time to get away.
| The guerrillas also dug hundreds of trenches across
the highways so that Japanese cars had to make constant detours through
the fields. The guerrillas, however, could go up and down the trenches at
will and escape easily.
Finally, the guerrillas, militia and underground workers in the plains built a vast system of tunnels beneath the fields where units could hide in time of danger and directing organs could carry on work. These tunnels were entered from a carefully concealed hole in the wall or floor of a government worker's house. They extended from two to five miles, coming up not only in different houses, but in different villages. They had many pathways, entrances and exits and many turns at which in time of danger armed guards would always stand in case the Japanese ever got into the tunnels. They seldom did. So the underground government would sit in peace in their houses, not even paying attention to the Japanese if they entered the village. If the Japanese should come to the door of a house, the guerrillas would put up a brief fight and then disappear one by one into the tunnel. Should the Japs enter the house, they would find nothing, except perhaps an old lady sitting quietly in a chair.
The Chinese in this fashion were able to maintain their governments and their fighting organizations, but despite all their heroic efforts, their base grew smaller and the number of regulars in their armed forces was knocked down from one hundred thousand to seventy thousand. The militia force however had grown to over five hundred thousand.