Sunday, March 3, 2013

Documents related to the Battle of Chamdo I

Translated by Jianglin Li
Edited by Matthew Akester

Document 1

Source: Military Papers by Mao Zedong since the Founding of The People’s Republic. Beijing: Zhongguo junchi chubanshe & Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 2010. P. 183. 

Inquiries Regarding the Advance to Chamdo
(August 18, 1950)

Southwest Bureau; 

All your telegraphs regarding advancing to Chamdo have been received. It certainly will be good to advance into Chamdo this year, but the problems are: (1) whether the construction of the long road from Ganzi to Chamdo can keep up with the speed of the attack and be opened for traffic; (2) whether an airfield suitable for airdrop can be constructed in Chamdo and; (3) whether attacking Chamdo with one regiment is enough. The Tibetan army seems to have very strong combat capacity and we must be prepared for a few fierce battles. Do you have adequate assessment on this aspect or not? We are not sure about the above points yet, please investigate and report by telegraph.

Mao Zedong
August 18

Document 2   

Source:  Liberation of Chamdo. Compiled by Office of Editing and Research, Political Department, Chendu Military Area Command and Tibet Military Area Command. Chendu: Sichuan Renmin Chubanshe, 1991. Pp.1-3.
Note: Notes added by translator. 

Southwest Bureau’s Report to Chairman Mao
on Plans for the Battle of Chamdo

(August 20, 1950)

I. For the Battle of Chamdo we decided to mobilize the main force of 18th Army consisting of four regiments and two battalions, with 13000 combat soldiers, making 16000 altogether with the command post. Weaponry is good (mostly recoilless rifles and automatic weapons). In addition, an engineer regiment with about 2000 men serves as reserve for the campaign.  According to current information, enemy forces around Chamdo, including Hei He[1]  in the west, and Ning Jing and Yan Jing[2]  in the south, consist of about 6 to 7 thousand, or about 8 to 9 thousand with the militia. Their deployment is dispersed, making it difficult to reinforce each other. We have calculated that so long as we have one regiment (3000 men) massed together, the enemy is not strong enough to break through; if the enemy masses 6 or 7 thousand men in one place, with our heavy guns and explosives, (we) can break through. Tactically, it is advantageous to us if the enemy is concentrated together, disadvantageous to us if they disperse (fighting guerilla war), therefore we will adopt (the tactic of) mobilizing our main force on the right wing (north), circling to the west of Chamdo, forcing the enemy to concentrate in Chamdo, and then annihilate them.  We have calculated that based on enemy force’s current position, mobilizing four regiments and two battalions, supported by a small number of troops from Yushu[3]  and Cayu[4] (Yunnan troops) will be enough. Of course, if more troops can be added we can be surer, but food will be more of a problem.  It is better to have a smaller but more effective force.

II. Combat capability of Tibetan army is not strong at the moment, but there is possibility that it may be gradually reinforced.  We once mobilized two companies to fight the forces led by two of the enemy’s Depons (generals), and one of our platoons broke through one Depon’s forces.[5] The enemy found out that the number of people on our side was small, and immediately organized a counterattack. Due to our command problems (mostly due to underestimating the enemy and having troops fighting in platoons and companies in a dispersed manner), battles were not successful. In the end both sides withdrew. We had over 20 casualties, the enemy suffered bigger losses than us. We captured more than 20 cattle and small number of captives and weapons, and killed a Depon’s second-in-command. This battle ascertained that the enemy’s combat capability is not that strong, at the same time it was a lesson not to underestimate the enemy. (Your) telegraph instructing us to prepare for a few fierce battles is important. We also told the comrades in the front line not to underestimate the enemy, we will warn them again. Our concern is that the enemy does not fight a decisive battle with us, or that they withdraw to Heihe, or disperse and fight a guerilla war with us, taking away our initiative.
III. We consider that so long as the road to Ganzi[6]  can be open to traffic by the end of August, occupying Chamdo in the first half of October can be done. The problem is how to handle the situation after Chamdo is occupied. We will work hard to realize scheme I, that is, to bring the main force back for winter and leave three thousand men to guard Chamdo, making it the base for advancing to Lhasa the following year. Food is still the key point. Scheme II is that if the supply problem cannot be solved, bring all the troops back to the east of Jinsha river[7]  (main force will withdraw to the east of Kangding), leaving a small number of mobile troops west of the river. We have no other choice, but as long as the enemy can be annihilated in Chamdo to force political change, it is worthwhile.
IV. We did consider not taking Chamdo this year but waiting until next year to take it all at once. First, we worried that if the matter is not settled promptly, twists and obstacles might arise later. Enemies could use the whole winter to make preparations, but we couldn’t. Second, it would be advantageous to push for political change. Thirdly (the distance) from Jinsha river to Chamdo is about 700 li, from Chamdo to Lhasa is about 2000 li. [8]  Every sector we can advance will make the military and political preparation better ensured. For this reason, we will push hard to occupy Chamdo this year and to leave 3000 men to consolidate it after the occupation.
V. Supplies to support the troops advancing into Tibet are very well prepared, only the transportation has not been ensured yet, thus many high ranking officials went to the front line by themselves to supervise and give directives on road-building and transportation. Troops for road-building and transportation work hard under extreme conditions. As long as the heavy rainfall in the last two weeks does not cause any trouble, the advance can be ensured on schedule. If bridges are destroyed and road damaged by heavy rainfall, occupation of Chamdo is bound to be delayed until next year.
VI. It is intended to build the road up to the bank of Jinsha River this year. The road from Jinsha river to Chamdo has many problems, and needs to be surveyed. The work cannot be started till next year. It is possible that it cannot be counted on even next  year, and the major means of transportation will be yaks and manpower.
VII. Conditions for airdrop in Ganzi are not bad in recent days. Trial flights have reached Tongpu[9] on the west of Jinsha river with the intention of doing a trial airdrop there. Based on this experience, it is possible for airplane to fly over to Chamdo (no reliable intelligence yet regarding whether an airfield can be built in Chamdo). Right now we are considering to upgrade the airfield in Ganzi (the existing runway is too short), and if airplanes can land in Ganzi, a trial flight to Chamdo can be conducted. However, since the existing airplanes are too old, at most only seven can be used for airdrops. Before the winter, when the weather is relatively good, at most only 500,000 jin can be dropped every month. If airplanes can be increased to 30, then over two million jin[10] can be dropped every month. In that case our difficulty will be significantly reduced. In the long run, aviation must be established in Tibet.  This is for the Central Military Commission’s consideration. 

Document 3
Source: Military Papers by Mao Zedong since the Founding of The People’s Republic. Beijing: Zhongguo junchi chubanshe & Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 2010. Pp. 186-188.

Note: Most original footnotes omitted. 

Strive to Occupy Chamdo This Year
and Advance to Lhasa Next Year [11]

(August 23, 1950) 

Southwest Bureau,  also transmit to Northwest Bureau:

The telegraph dated August 20 has been received. [12](1) The plan to push for occupying Chamdo this year and to leave three thousand men to consolidate Chamdo is good. You can actively make preparations according to this plan, and when it is ascertained by the end of this month or the beginning of next month that the road has reached Ganzi without obstruction, the advance can go ahead. It is expected that Chamdo will be occupied in October. That would be advantageous for pushing for political changes in Tibet, and marching into Lhasa the next year. (2) Now India has issued a statement recognizing Tibet as China’s territory, only expressing hope that (the issue) can be settled peacefully, not by force. Great Britain didn’t allow the Tibetan delegation to go to Beijing before, but now they have agreed.  If our army can occupy Chamdo in October, there is the possibility of pushing the Tibetan delegation to Beijing for negotiation, begging for a peaceful solution (of course there are other possibilities too). Right now we are using the strategy of urging the Tibetan delegation to come to Beijing and reducing Nehru’s fear. When Tibetan representatives arrive in Beijing, we plan to use the Ten Points[13] already decided as the basis for negotiation, urge the Tibetan representatives to sign it, and make  the Ten Points an agreement accepted by both sides. If this can be done, it will make things easier for advancing into Tibet next year. (Your plan) to leave 3000 men in Chamdo for the winter after occupying it, not to advance into Lhasa this year, and withdraw the main force back to Ganzi may be seen by the Tibetans as a gesture of good will. (3) (The matter of) 30 airplanes is in process, but it takes time. You should not count on them in the short term. (4) All the provisions for the 16000 men marching from Ganzi to Chamdo have to be carried by manpower and yaks, and 3000 men among them will need provisions for winter. Please investigate and report whether Ganzi already has that amount of provisions and whether the troops and yaks have the transportation capacity. (5) Part of the grain and meat (needed by troops) may be purchased in Chamdo etc., and have you prepared some gold, silver and goods that Tibetans need, such as silk, to take with you? 

Mao Zedong
August 23

Documents Related to the Battle of Chamdo II

Documents Related to the Battle of Chamdo III

[1] Nakchu.
[2] Later combined to form Markham County.
[3] Kyekudo.
[4] Dzayul.
[5] The word ‘Depon’ is used in the Chinese accounts to describe a regiment of the Tibetan army; it is an adaptation of the Tibetan word ‘Dapön’ (mDa’ dpon) meaning a commander of a regiment.
[6] Kandze.
[7] Jinsha River: Drichu
[8] 700 li, c. 350 km; 2000 li, c. 1000 km.
[9] Dongpu, in today’s Jomda County.
[10] 500,000 jin: 250 tons; two million jin: 1000 tons.
[11] Original note: This is Mao Zedong’s telegraph to the Southwest Bureau of CPCCC.
[12] Original note: Referring to the telegraph sent to Mao Zedong by Southwest Bureau of CPCCC. (Partial content of the Southwest Bureau telegraph cited in the original note omitted. The Southwest Bureau telegraph dated August 20 see Document 2. )
[13] The ten points listed in the original note omitted.  The ten points were drafted by the Southwest Bureau with Deng Xiaoping as the First Secretary, Deputy Chairman of Southwest Military and Political Committee and Political Commissar.

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