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Nemoto Hiroshi: Shadow warrior behind the 1949 Battle of Guningtou

Nemoto Hiroshi

The Battle of Guningtou in 1949 is often cited as a glorious chapter in the Kuomintang’s military history. But little do people know that Japanese military officers, who were the Kuomintang troops’s enemy during the Second World War, were instrumental in the Kuomintang’s victory over the Communists in the battle.

One of such Japanese military officers was Lieutenant General Nemoto Hiroshi (pictured). He commanded Japan’s North China Area Army just as World War II was ending.

On August 15, 1945, Japanese Emperor Hirohito gave a recorded radio address to the nation in which he announced the surrender of Japan. 

Seeing the Soviet Russian army looting in Manchuria, Nemoto defied the Japanese emperor’s order of surrender and fought with the Russians and their Chinese Communist sidekicks. Although the odds were against him, Nemoto defeated the Soviet army and turned to Chiang Kai-shek, the Allied commander-in-chief of the China Theater. Chiang was very impressed by Nemoto’s victory over the Soviets, and received him in Beijing.

Although Nemoto had to be repatriated to Japan, he was eager to return to Chiang. With the help of friends, he bought a ship and sneaked to Taiwan with a few friends. At the time Chiang and his Kuomintang troops had retreated to Taiwan, but the Civil War with the Chinese Communists was still ongoing.

Nemoto and other Japanese officers served as advisors to the Kuomintang army.

When Chiang learned that Nemoto had arrived in Taiwan, he sent Nemoto to help Kuomintang General Tang En-po in Fujian, which was the only province not yet fallen to the Communists.

After seeing Fujian, Nemoto said there was no way the Kuomintang could hold onto Fujian because of logistics problems, and he advised that the Kuomintang moved their troops to Kinmen, a group of small islands just off the coast of Fujian.

 Nemoto devised a series of strategies to help the Kuomintang troops fight the Communists, including building underground facilities, like the ones the Japanese built in Iwo Jima. Nemoto also correctly predicted where the Chinese Communists would hand on Kinmen.

In the clash, which became known as the Battle of Guningtou, all the Chinese Communist troops landed on Kinmen were effectively lost. The rare victory for the Kuomintang provided a much needed moral boost. The battle also halted the Communists’ advance towards Taiwan.

To thank Nemoto for his help, Chiang Kai-shek gave him one of a pair of precious vases (pictured) that he kept in his office before Nemoto returned to Japan in 1952.

These vases are precious because there are only three pairs. One pair was given to Queen Elizabeth II as a wedding gift and also a celebratory gift to mark China and Britain’s victory in World War II. Another pair was presented to the Japanese Imperial Family, and the third pair was kept in Chiang Kai-shek’s personal collection.

Nemoto’s daughter is scheduled to visit Taiwan in March and donate the vase to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei.

* Pictures 2 and 3 courtesy of Yuenchijai, publisher of the Chinese-language version of a biography on Nemoto (この命、義に捧ぐ~台湾を救った陸軍中将根本博の奇跡~).

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