Yangtze Raiders

Summary of the locations of Yangtze Naval Unit (YANGU)



  • The Yangtze Naval training camp opened Mid July, 1944, at Mankiang (now Manjiang) [lat. 28-50, long. 114-25], Jiangxi , Kiangsi (now Jiangxi) Province

  • The camp moved in the beginning of October, 1944 to Liantang (now Nanchang) [lat. 28-41, long. 115-52], Kiangsi Province

The Yangtze Naval Unit (YANGU) also called the “River Unit”, officially began in mid May, 1944, when LT Joe Champe was ordered,  “Equip and start for Poyang Lake in Kiangsi” (Miles 1967, p 227).  The mission was to disrupt Japanese supply lines to Central China, especially along the Hankow-Canton Railroad and the Yangtze River.  Their assigned area of action was the territory between the Tungting (now Dongting) and Poyang Lakes in Hunan, Hupeh (now Hubei), and Kiangsi (now Jiangxi) Provinces.

Lieutenant Champe and Chinese Col. Tong Shien left Camp Two at Nanyo on May 24, 1944, along with 4 Americans and only 100 Chinese guerrillas.  “He’ll need more,” said Gen. Tai; the Japanese lines were just 30 minutes out of town (Miles, p 216).  They headed north 50 miles to Changsha, which was preparing to defend against the new Japanese offensive.  Lieutenant Champe convinced the local high Chinese command to allow him to mine the roads into Changsha in order to force the Japanese onto the Siang River, which he also mined.

While at Camp Two, LT Champe had developed and then taught techniques for mine laying and sweeping; especially useful was his program to recover Japanese mines and plant them elsewhere. The land mines deployed at Changsha were handmade.  Lieutenant Champe  had purchased all available glass candy jars, even empty ones, and then filled them with some explosive, electric caps, small pieces of scrap iron, and sharp rocks. These mines were buried in trenches in the roads and detonated by hand.

Although Changsha fell to the Japanese several weeks later, the defense caused the deaths of about 5,000 Japanese. The River Unit, with Chinese guerrilla component reduced to 25, traveled by boat, truck, rail, sampan, jowdsah, horse, and foot to get to their semi-permanent headquarters at Mankiang (now Manjiang) [lat. 28-50, long. 114-25], 35 miles south-southwest of Hsu Shui or SiuShui (now Xiushui) on the Wuning River.  They arrived on July 9, 1944.  The sixteen-day passage from Changsha, a little more than 100 air-miles in a northeast direction, was planned to be 300 miles by ground but turned into 900 because of Japanese positions. Lieutenant Champe quipped “almost had the Japs surrounded” (Miles, p 230).

The first class, less than 300 men, graduated on September 13, was divided into four groups, and was immediately deployed. The camp was moved 90 miles east to Liantang (now Nanchang) [lat. 28-41, long. 115-52], Kiangsi Province during the beginning of October, 1944.  Instructors and students studied, ate, and slept in cold, wind, snow, and ice; they lived in rooms without heat and held classes outdoors.  Their principal diet was rice and sweet potatoes.  The winter was the coldest in memory; the Americans adopted the Chinese officer’s eefu, a cotton-quilted suit, for winter wear.

The training of 250 men was completed November 17th; another class, which formed “Detachment Two”, graduated near the end of December, 1944.  By the end of April, 1945, the Yangtze Naval Unit had trained 850 Chinese in guerrilla warfare and intelligence reporting.

These men were organized into three large field units that intermittently included Americans and four sabotage units containing 12 to 20 Chinese each but no Americans.

On April 20, 1945, the 3rd Field Unit attacked an ammunition train near Wuchang about ten miles southeast of, and across the Yangtze River from, Hankow (now Wuhan).  The locomotive and seven cars full of munitions were blown off a cliff; 30 Japanese were killed and about 70 wounded.

On June 26, 1945, the 300 men the 1st  and 2nd  Field Units were attacked by 800 Japanese and forced out of Yangon 80 mi southeast of Hankow.  Rather than retreat, they regrouped and retook the village; they killed about 200 Japanese while losing only two of their own.  Yangoon became the headquarters for the River Unit Second Company.

By mid-July 250 more men were being trained and 1,000 were being recruited for future classes. The 1st Field Unit took the surrender of the 6th Puppet Division; these were Chinese troops who worked for and were paid by the Japanese.  The surrender included 380 officers, 4,065 men, four heavy mortars, eight light mortars, six heavy machine guns, 62 light machine guns, 406 pistols, and 2,296 rifles.

 “Since August 1944,” [General Tong’s] report read, “we have been carrying out General Tai’s and Commodore Miles’s instructions.  Sixty-three separate operations were attempted, fifty-five of them achieved.  Destroyed: two Japanese cargo ships; eleven locomotives and several railroad cars; two Japanese warehouses; thirteen bridges; ten radio stations, pillboxes, and industrial factories; two trucks.  Killed 213 Japanese and 103 puppets; captured six Japanese and fourteen puppets.”  There was more to the report but it ended by saying, “The Japanese equipment destroyed was worth five billions in Chinese currency.”

The general didn’t mention the more than seven hundred good men who had been trained and who were constantly increasing their ability to hurt the enemy.  And he did not refer to the good will that had been earned among the local population.  Neither did he mention the mutual respect that he and Joe had developed for each other, or the strength they had built into their unit after the two of them, differing so greatly in culture and background, had first locked horns, and then had learned to work together. (Miles, 1967, p 376)




  Wounded 226
  Captured 6
  Engines 6
  Cars 32
  Track (Sec) 16
  Railroad Bridges 1
  Highway Bridges 11
  Motor Vehicles 3
  Military Buildings 11
  Boats 0
  Steamers 3
  Planes 0

Cited reference:

            Miles, M. E., 1967,
A Different Kind of War, Doubleday & Co, Garden City, NY. 629 p.


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