The battle of Tai'erzhuang was the first major Chinese victory in the Second Sino-Japanese war. IJA 10th and 5th divisions, aiming to take Tai'erzhuang and ultimately Xuzhou, were instead held up in Tai'erzhuang and Linyi respectively. Stuck in bloody urban combat and cut off, the 10th division gave up the small town and retreated after suffering significant casualties.

There were some crucial errors/failures that the Japanese commanders made:

  • Rensuke Isogai, commander of the 10th division, chose to press forward towards Tai'erzhuang without support from the 5th division or 13th division from the south.
  • Itagaki Seishiro, commander of the 5th division, was unexpectedly held at Linyi, a humiliating outcome at the time. This prevented the 5th division from effectively supporting the 10th during the battle.
  • As the 10th division was bogged down in urban combat and being cut off by Tang Enbo's elite forces, 10th division asked for help and the 5th division broke off the attack on Linyi and headed towards Tai'erzhuang. However, at one point Itagaki inexplicably turned back towards Linyi. He later explained that due to communication errors, he thought that Tai'erzhuang was already taken and therefore no longer needed his reinforcements.
  • All three divisions disregarded Tokyo headquarter's policy for a one-year truce in the first place.

The battle was a close call, with the Chinese defenders suffering 70% casualties and asking HQ for permission to withdraw multiple times, only to be rebuked and asked to fight to the death. Given this, the battle may have turned out differently if the Japanese commanders had not made crucial errors.

Were there any consequences for their failure at Tai'erzhuang? Did anyone bear responsibility? I'm mainly interested in whether anyone was held responsible for the failure or if their careers were harmed somehow.

Note that both Isogai and Itagaki were eventually recalled from front-line service, but to serve as Chief of Staff of the Kwangtung Army and War Minister respectively. On paper neither are demotions.


1 Answer 1


Rensuke Isogai took the blame.

According to Who's Who in Twentieth Century Warfare by Spencer Tucker, which contains a short biography of Isogai,

Isogai took blame for the debacle and never again held active combat command.

His entry on Wikipedia suggests that his career peaked as lieutenant-general in command of 10th division. Soon after being transferred to chief of staff of Kwangtung Army, he was implicated in the Battles of Khalkhin Gol, and was one of the generals forced into retirement1. He was recalled to serve as governor of Hong Kong, however, as WWII ramped up.

Also, judging from the career trajectory of Seishirō Itagaki, chief of staff of Kwangtung Army would be a demotion. Itagaki held the post himself in 1936, being promoted to commander of 5th division in 1937.

1 Nomonhan: Japan Against Russia, 1939, Volumes 1-2 by Alvin D. Coox

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