The site of the decisive battle to reopen the Burma Road.
The site of the decisive battle to reopen the Burma Road.
The Songshan mountain was the fortified bastion of the Japanese invading forces closing off the Burma Road during WW-II.
Long range shelling from Songshan could reach both the bridge site and the exposed sections of the Burma Road on the east bank of the river.
On May 11, 1944, some 32,000 soldiers of the Chinese Expeditionary Force (before known as Y-force) crossed the Nujiang on bamboo rafts and American supplied inflatable boats. Later to be followed by more men and thousands of pack animals.
As soon as a bridge head was secured the Huitong Bridge got restored. At first only with under floor cables, this allowed foot soldiers and mules to cross while a new bridge tower was build on the east bank.
On June 4, 1944 the attack on Songshan started. Japanese army forces had dug themselves in there already from well before the campaign and a complex network of fortifications interlinked by trenches covered the mountain. The Chinese dug attack trenches covered by metal plates towards the top while being mortared from above. This First World War style of fighting accumulated into the construction of two, hundred fifty meter long, tunnels under the two command bunkers which were blown up with the use of 50 and 70 boxes of American TNT respectively. The holes left by these explosions still can be seen today.
The mountain was finally captured on September 7, after more than three months of heavy fighting at a cost of 7,600 Chinese soldiers and some 3,000 Japanese defenders. On January 20, 1945, after nearly eight months of fighting the whole of Yunnan was freed of the last Japanese invaders.
The Songshan battlefield as a historic site got forgotten because it was a Kuomintang battle site.
The Songshan monument even got destroyed during the Cultural Revolution by Red Guards.
It was up to the local inhabitants to preserve the history. Just after the war the locals collected the metal parts left behind at the battlefield for their scrap metal value and most remains got molten down.
More recently bits and pieces still found in the fields around Songshan are collected by the local farmer and amateur historian Yang Guogang for his private museum he constructed.
He collected as well all the local stories like those of his grandfather who was sent up the mountain to retrieve the wounded soldiers under the cover of darkness. Yang Guogang spend 80,000 Yuan over the last 20 years to build up his collection. A considerable amount of money for a farmer.
Nowadays an official visiter centre with exhibition has been opened.
In the changed Chinese political climate more attention is paid to the Kuomintang period and especially since the airing of a TV-series “West Yunnan in 1944” depicting the battle of Songshan and the activities of the Chinese Expeditionary Force.
This attention has resulted in the resent construction of walkways over the former battlefield to ease the visitors. Various other new buildings and a visitor centre are planned as well. It is hoped that this will not result into a battlefield Disneyland that is often the case in China.
However nothing beats a guided tour by Yang Guogang himself who lived whole his life here at the battlefield and knows all the sites and stories.
During the Cultural Revolution the Red Guards destroyed the monument because it honoured the Kuomintang army. In 2004 the Songshan monument was reconstructed. Only a few of the original stones, those that had been reused in the floor of the local school, survived.
In 2013 a new monument was constructed at Songshan. Heavily inspired by the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an this replica army is made out of concrete and instead of chariots there are two American Jeeps. Songshan was the first place in China where Jeeps were used during the war.
Like their terracotta predecessors every statue at Songshan has its individual face and scattered among the Chinese soldiers are the visages of some of their American advisors.
At the time of construction 84 soldiers were still alive out of the 100,000 Chinese forces that were involved in the campaign. These 84 are depicted in their present day appearance. Central in their group is Fu Xinde who was the main physician of the Chinese Expeditionary Force. He was born in 1899 and died at the age of 114 just after the official opening of the monument in September 2013. More on Fu Xinde can be found in this article.
The monument is a symbol as well of the changed political climate in China. Until recently the only monuments that were created were those for the PLA. So an monument for Kuomintang soldiers is something new.
While capturing Songshan a group of women was found that were held captive by the Japanese Army as "Comfort Women".
For more on this topic see our Longling page.
Both pages relate to articles about the 'Comfort Women' captured/liberated at Songshan.
There are no books in English describing the "Battle at Songshan" but there are two good Chinese publications:
Songshan battle. ISBN: 978-7-5489-0439-7
Songshan Kangzhan Lishi Wenhua
The "Songshan Battle" book has an interesting collection of original pictures from both Chinese and Japanese sources. It contains battlefield maps and diagrams of fortifications.
This book has chapters on recent excavations, battlefield maps and maps of fortifications, diagrams of fortifications, list of finds with their geographic location and interviews with local people who took part in the action.
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