View Full Version : An Excerpt from my Grandfather's Sino-Japanese War Stories

05-18-2012, 09:07 PM
Don't know if this is the right place to share, or even if anyone is interested, but I thought I'd post an account given to me by my paternal grandfather of his early experiences during the Sino-Japanese War.

It's a theater of WW2 that is not very well covered, in my opinion, in western media. Therefore, I hope I will be able to provide you all with a bit of history you may not have heard of before.

My grandfather grew up on the outer northern edges of Chahar province, a region of modern day Inner Mongolia and then a possession of the Chinese. As a nomad, he spent most of his early days living in relative obscurity, and admits to me that he knew very little about the world outside of his homelands before the outbreak of conflict.

His name is Chogyal. No one is sure, but most of us believe he was born between 1914-15, probably in the summertime. In 1936 he volunteered to fight with the Inner Mongolian Army, a force that was being mustered to help combat the Chinese alongside Japan and liberate enough territory to create a pan-Mongolian nation in northeast China. He tells me that he mainly did it because there were rumors that the volunteers would receive good pay, and also that after the planned victory against China they would have the honor of being the first to declare themselves freedom fighters for pan-Mongolianism, something that would definitely make his family and community proud.

My grandfather was brought to a barracks where he began to receive some basic training with the help of Japanese advisers. Below is a quote of his experiences during those first few months (note that I've done my best to translate this from our Mongol dialect, so apologies if some of the grammar is a bit off):

"It was very hectic. We were grouped into parties of maybe twelve, maybe thirteen, and the outsiders (his term for Japanese) came one at a time for each group, looking us over and saying 'Ok, this man- give him a rifle. This man- a grenade.'
They chose some of the bigger among us to train with a single machine gun, for this is all we had in the camp. They took me and another and gave us a rifle, and together we each held five rounds, with which we were to practice during the course of the day. No uniforms, gear, or anything of that sort we had. We trained in our home clothes, and had to take turns in teams of six to pass around a single rifle for practice."

He says that for a month or so they were taught the very basics in how to aim down a sight, work a bolt, load a gun, and prevent jamming. Apparently by the time they were considered "ready" for combat most of them still only had about half a uniform to wear, and a good number apparently carried only sabers or pistols. About a third of the guys in my grandfather's platoon had rifles, and the rest made do with whatever weapons they could find.
He was given a cap and trousers, but had to keep his footwraps and coat that he had brought from home. Because the instructors had deemed my grandfather to be a relatively decent shot, they trusted him with a machinegun and he was assigned to a three man crew operating a Nambu Type 11 (I have deduced this weapon's identity based solely on my grandfather's descriptions of it). One of the guys in his team was a Manchu, and the other a fellow Mongol.

Although he is unsure of the exact date, my grandfather estimates that they were marched out some time around late September or October. The year I am sure was 1936, because he was sent to participate in the Suiyuan Offensive, which took place on that date. After trekking for several miles, my grandfather was told to take a position at the rear of the company and lay down a base of fire while the cavalry charged towards enemy positions at a place called Hongort. Below I have transcribed his account of that first day of fighting:

"The word was given, so my friends and I set up our gun on a small hump in the dirt, with the bipod settled at the base. We had I think fifteen sets of rounds (a "set of rounds" meaning a five round stripper clip, from his description) between us, which meant we would be able to empty the weapon three times. After this, we promised each other to take out our knives and follow the horsemen on foot.
After a few minutes of waiting, we heard the orders and the horses began riding across the ground towards the Chinese. They were holding a town, and our men out in the open. Many fell to their bullets. I saw a horse crouch down on his knees while the rider was thrown face forward over his head. The animal was wounded in his leg, and was bellowing out his death cry as the others rode past him, leaving him to pass away. My comrades and I tried to focus our shooting to the outline of the enemy walls, swinging the barrel left, right, left, right, to try and make them keep their heads down and stop shooting at our comrades.
I don't remember exactly how long it was, but one of us was hit, and he fell over onto his side. They must have been a good shot, who hit him, because the blood was coming from a hole in his cheek, and the man was dead at once.

Only I and the Manchu were left to man the gun, so we alternated. I fired off the bullets in the gun, then rolled over and let him take charge while I would hand him the sets of rounds. Then, when he was done, he would move aside and I would resume control, and so on and on. We used our rounds very quickly, and soon we found ourselves alone amongst the bodies of those who had fallen during the first moment of fighting. We could hear the shouts and cracks of the rifles from where our horsemen had tried to engage the enemy, but could not see because of all the smoke. I told my friend that we must go to the rear to fetch more bullets, but he said it was useless, all ammunition was ahead with the others. We decided that one of us must move forward and try to scavenge ammunition from the dead, while the other stayed behind to mind the gun. Being the more foolish, I volunteered, and so got to my feet and ran, with my head bent low to my chest to seek bullets. I remember telling to myself 'The spirits guide you. You can not fall. You must help your friend.'

I was not very much afraid of dying, I think, but more about the thought that I might not be able to come back with the ammunition my comrade needed for the gun. When I approached the first dead man I could find, I knelt down next to him and began to tear apart his clothes, looking for supplies. I found nothing, so got up again and moved forward, trying to find my way with my eyes shut tight as they would go (my grandfather started laughing while telling me this, saying that it was probably luck that kept him from walking right into the point of an enemy muzzle.)

Second man I came to had no eyes. I searched this man too, and this time I did find a few bullets. Taking them in my hand, I was going to get up and move to the next body, when a loud noise hit my left ear and I felt as though a dog had just bitten me below my neck. I am not proud of it, but I fell down onto my back, and saw only white spots. I told myself 'Damn you, why are you sitting? Your comrades are dying. Get up!'
I looked down at my shoulder and saw that my coat was torn near to the collar. I could witness my flesh visible under blood. I got up, passing the rifle bullets into my right hand, running forward to the next body."

My grandfather says that he kept up like this for what seemed ages, moving from one dead comrade to the next, trying to find stripper clips for the Type 11. Eventually, he saw that what remained of his unit were puling back from the Chinese defenses, and decided to follow suite. He managed to make it back to safety, but says that at first he had some difficulty locating his fellow gunner. The wound he sustained was apparently not bad enough to keep him out of action, because after his friend helped him stitch it closed they both took part in another assault the following day. Despite their efforts, my grandfather and his fellow soldiers were unable to take Hongort from the Chinese, and ended up having to retreat after a large counter-attack by KMT forces. He lost the Type 11, and was apparently given some serious hell for it when he got back. Because of the heavy losses they had suffered during the campaign, the Inner Mongolian Army would not see action again until 1937, when they finally managed to take parts of Suiyuan and neighboring territory from the Chinese. My grandfather fought in this battle too, and has told me many stories about his experiences there and what it felt like encountering the enemy at a more up close perspective.

I realize this post is rather long (though I have tried to chop it down a bit) so I apologize for that. I just thought I'd give you all a bit of an insight into what it was like for someone fighting during the Sino-Japanese conflict. All of us in my family are very proud of my grandfather Chogyal, and hope that he will continue to live with us for much longer. At close to a hundred years old (we are not sure of his exact age) he still manages to keep up some of that old fighting spirit I'm sure he must have possessed during the war, and gives us all strength in watching him continue to pass through history.

Thanks to all, and I hope you enjoyed.

05-19-2012, 06:10 AM
Most interesting! Post more if you have material.

05-19-2012, 09:00 AM
It is the right place to share, and we're very interested...thanks for your contribution...

05-22-2012, 09:45 PM
Yes, this was interesting to read. We don't see a lot of stories from that time period. If you have any more we would all like to rewad them, and pictures if there are any available.