The Wartime Gains of the Bureau

This posting is part of a series which comprise a draft dissertation chapter. Read more about it here. The first posting is found here. The post preceding this one is here.

The cumulative efforts of the enemy and puppet work of the Communist party in Shandong were considerable, but fell far short of the ambitions of the party. An early 1945 estimate of the total number of puppet soldiers that had been won over in Shandong, based on incomplete statistics, was around 12,000. This was despite the fact that in only the year preceding the report, some 45,000 captured puppet soldiers had been offered the opportunity while under detention. Some of these, it was claimed, had already been captured and released six or seven times, by which time even the rebellious Meng Huo of ancient times had mended his ways. About half of those who were won over came from relatively small groups. Some 140 puppet army units with under 1,000 soldiers each had been won over with a total of around 6,000 rifles.

Three units with more than 1,500 soldiers each, including some 6,500 rifles came over. These were the forces of the three major commanders to defect to Communist control in Shandong during the Japanese occupation: Wang Dao, Ying Zhengmin, and Zhang Xixian. The significant numbers these three defections alone brought over amply explains why, during the war, reports on the work of the Enemy and Puppet Bureau repeatedly lamented its failures to win over larger units. By July, 1945, the number won over had increased to 150 of the smaller units, but only one additional large unit had come over to the Communist side.

If the total number of those won over was indeed around 12,000, this is below the number of puppet soldiers who were claimed as kills up to 1941, let alone the likely far increased kills of later years, when the 115th division and local resistance forces grew more confident and moved to the offensive. Though they are even more likely to be susceptible to wild exaggeration, the cumulative reports of claimed puppet army kills in a selection of wartime chronologies of Shandong regional gazetteers are vastly higher, especially from local skirmishes listed for the summer of 1945 when Communist forces throughout Shandong aggressively attacked strongholds and towns occupied by puppet armies.

It is likely that most of the remaining puppet soldiers, including the 57 units listed in Appendix C1, were in part or whole integrated or reorganized as units in the Nationalist army. Some of these, as we saw in the case of Wu Huawen, would later turn to the Communists when the nationalist cause in Shandong was truly deemed lost by mid-1948.

For the most part, however, when Nationalist forces returned to the province in 1945, beginning with the entry into the province of its new governor He Siyuan, they resumed control of only the small number of towns and strongholds that were still under Japanese and puppet army control. Puppet soldiers as well as Japanese soldiers were instructed to “maintain public order” until the central government could re-established control.

The American marines are welcomed to Qingdao in October, 1945. Above the cannons the text reads, “The merging of Japanese, puppets, and Chiang [Kai-shek’s] forces.” From a selection of Communist propaganda posters from early postwar Shandong. US State Department Central Files China Internal Affairs 1945-1949 893.00B-11-2646

Most Japanese soldiers were eventually disarmed and returned home, though some retained their arms to patrol the streets for months in major Chinese cities and in places such as Shanxi, continued to actively fight in the civil war. Communist propaganda of a “conspiracy” by Chiang Kai-shek to “merge” with the enemy and the puppets was not that far from the truth. The majority of former puppet soldiers in Shandong who were still operating as of August, 1945 would soon have the option of continuing to serve in the Nationalist army. If this was a conspiracy, however, it was one that the Communists shared. If most puppet armies served the Nationalists after the war, it was because of the failures of the Enemy and Puppet Work Bureau to win and retain their loyalty, not because they refused to try.

Next: Traitors, Puppets, and Divided Responsibilities

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