Operation Blackberry

This was a Chinese special forces undertaking by the Provisional Parachute Battalion to take Tanchuk airfield (18 July/3 October 1945).

‘Blackberry’ was the codename of a provisional airborne battalion created by the temporary grouping of the Chinese 8th, 9th and 10th Parachute Commandos, and this unit was created for a specific mission, namely to take and hold the airfield at Tanchuk and then to move to the east along the Xi Jiang (west river) tributary of the Pearl river ahead of the advancing Chinese armies.

The unit was airlifted to Liuchow on 18 July, and from there made its way down river by sampan to reach Tanchuk on 28 July. Here it was planned to attack and take the airfield on 3 August in collaboration with the 265th Regiment of Lieutenant General Wang Guanghan’s 89th Division of the 13th Army, which was to deliver the assault after the commando unit had taken the high ground that commanded the area.

The commandos successfully accomplished their phase of the mission and gave the agreed flare signal, but the regiment did not move in and this led to heavy losses among the commandos, who were then forced to withdraw after holding their position for six hours. The, during the night, the Japanese withdrew and the 265th Regiment moved into the town and the airfield on the following morning. The commandos lost 22 men killed and 31 wounded, and prisoners taken later by the 89th Division at Wuchow reported that the Japanese had lost 164 men killed and an unknown number wounded.

This undertaking confirmed that the commandos were not suited to the frontal assault role, and senior commanders were instructed that the commandos were to be used only as originally intended, trained and equipped. What was evident, however, was that this was the first instance in which the Japanese had actually been driven from a position they wanted to hold. When the Japanese surrender ended World War II, the ‘Blackberry’ unit remained at Tanchuk until ordered to move to Canton and come under the control of the 2nd Command.