Some years ago I was told by some Taiwanese friends that Nationalist troops who had surrendered to the Communists during or after the Chinese Civil War were made to fight for the Communists rather than demobilized. As the story goes, when the Korean War started, these troops were sent to fight in Korea as a way of reducing their numbers.

Is there any truth to this story?

  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it seems a better fit for Skeptics. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 14:34
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    Perhaps the OP (or someone more invested in the question and it's answers) could re-write it, leaving out the "I was told" and make it into something like "what were the percentages of ex-Nationalist troops in those units that fought in Korea?" ?
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 14:54
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    I don't really think this is a Skeptics.SE question. Fundamentally OP asked whether the winning side of a civil war sent their surrendered compatriots out to fight for their side, which is a reasonable and common enough possibility.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 16:01

2 Answers 2


I don't think you can describe it as "get[ting] rid of" former Nationalist troops. However, there is some truth to the basic idea that Nationalist soldiers fought in Korea. Since soldiers had to obey the chain of command, to some extent you may describe that as being "forced to fight", as well

The best example is the PLA 50th Army, which used to be the NRA 60th Army only a couple of years before the Korean War. This unit defected as a whole during the Liaoshen Campaign, at the desperate Siege of Changchun. Incidentally it was the first time an entire formation defected to the Communists during the Chinese Civil War. The PLA 50th Army were part of the first wave of Chinese units to enter Korea in 25 October 1950.

The 50th Army was formerly Nationalist China's 60th Army, which had defected en masse during the civil war.

- Mossman, Billy C. United States Army in the Korean War: Ebb and Flow, November 1950-July 1951. No. CMH-PUB-20-4. Washington, DC: Army Center of Military History, 1990.

Another example is the NRA IX Corps. This unit garrisoned Suiyuan at the height of the Chinese Civil War, and was surrendered when the regional commander, General Fu Tso-i, decided to turn traitor in the hopes of bargaining for some retention of power. The IX Corps was reorganised into the PLA 36th and 37th Armies. They were dispatched to Korea at Fu's instigation in 1951.

The pervasiveness of NRA soldiers in the Communist armies becomes treuly apparent when we look beyond the army formation. When they arrived in Korea in 1950, the 38th, 39th, 40th, 42nd, and 66th Armies had all recently integrated one or more formerly Nationalist divisions. In other words, in the first wave of Chinese intervention, every army sent into Korea had at least divisional strength in former NRA soldiers..

Great numbers of former Chinese Nationalist soldiers - sometimes entire divisions - were taken into the Communist armies. These former soldiers were used in Korea, integrated into the Communist ranks and kept under the watchful eye of the Communist officers.

- Appleman, Roy E. Disaster in Korea: The Chinese Confront MacArthur. Vol. 11. Texas A&M University Press, 2008.

Somewhat tellingly, two thirds of Chinese POWs in Korea opted to defect to Taiwan, the last bastion of Nationalist China, rather than return to the Communist mainland.


Yes, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) included many Nationalist POWs including a whole Nationalist army. The People's Volunteer Army which attacked Korea was made up of PLA units. However, I find no evidence they were considered disposable.

According to The Chinese Communist Army in Action: The Korean War and Its Aftermath by Alexander L. George on page 6, the first wave included armies with significant numbers of integrated Nationalist POWs. (Note: Wikipedia uses the Western term "corps" while this source uses the Chinese term "army").

The 38th, 39th, and 40th Armies (of the 13th Army Group), and the 42nd Army (of the 14th Army Group)--all four of which were selected to be part of the initial intervention force--were said by our respondents to have been especially strong. These armies held the honorary title "Iron" troops. They had fought successfully in the civil war against better equipped Chinese Nationalist armies (CNA) and had subsequently strengthened themselves by incorporating Nationalist prisoners who possessed military skills needed in the PLA. They had generally a longer period of time than other Chinese Communist armies in which to indoctrinate and assimilate these former Nationalist soliders.

The first wave would also include the 50th Army of particular note, it was formerly the 60th Nationalist Army. It had been incorporated in to the PLA for at least a year, fighting against Nationalist forces.

The 50th [PLA] Army was formerly the Nationalist 60th Army, which defected to the Chinese Communists during the civil war and was taken over virtually intact and renamed the 50th Army after taking on communist cadre.

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