Operation Apple (ii)

This was a Chinese airborne raid by the 1st Parachute Commando to cut the Japanese lines of communication near Kai-ping in the Pearl River delta region (12 July 1945).

This and other comparable missions were the results of the establishment of the Chinese Operational Group, itself created specifically to form, train, equip and attach US personnel for 20 Chinese commando units. This concept came about as a result of January 1945 conferences between Major General William J. Donovan, who headed the Office of Strategic Services, Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer, who headed the US effort in China, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the head of the Chinese Nationalist government, who agreed that small units of Chinese troops, trained and supported by combat-experienced US officers and soldiers, would fight more effectively than the normal Chinese division.

The nucleus of the US personnel allocated to this task comprised men of the operational groups which had been parachuted into France from North Africa and the UK, and an operational group which operated in an amphibious role against the Japanese on the coast of Burma from Ceylon. Additional officers and men were recruited from replacement centres in the USA, and in personnel strength the total American commitment was 160 officers and 230 enlisted men under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Alfred T. Cox.

Each of the Chinese commandos comprised 154 Chinese soldiers, 19 US troops and eight interpreters, and was organised as a small headquarters, three rifle sections, one 60-mm (2.36-in) mortar section, one light machine gun section and one demolition section.

Although the overall plan was based on the use of more than 3,000 Chinese troops, only about a quarter of this number was deemed adequate for the task in terms of their physical condition and military training, and this was enough for an initial strength of only five commandos. The provision of better food, intensive physical training and high-quality instruction by the attached US troops soon produced good results in the eight-week training period, and those who made it to this stage then received parachute training in the form of four days of ground activity and four jumps.

Seven commandos were used operationally, and the training of later units was terminated by the end of the war.

The first Chinese commando unit was codenamed 'Apple', the designation which was also used for its initial operation on 12 July 1945. On this date the 1st Commando was parachuted into the 7th War Area, dropping to the south of the Xi Jiang (west river) tributary of the Pearl river near Kai-ping from 14 Douglas C-47 transports. The task of the commando was the interdiction of Japanese road and river traffic along the Xi Jiang. The unit’s presence very rapidly became known to the Japanese, who pursued the commando for several until it reached safety at Lo-ting.

The same commando was used for a second operation, which was mounted on 5 August against Japanese fortified positions at the junction of the Xi and Namkong rivers. The commando fought very well in what was its first engagement, revealing discipline under fire that was markedly superior to that which generally characterised Chinese troops, and performing well in house-clearing tasks. The commando lost three men killed and seven wounded, and inflicted on the Japanese an estimated 25 casualties including 12 confirmed dead.

On 13 August, a small sub-unit of the commando placed mortar and gunfire on a strongly held position at Takhing, inflicting an unknown number of casualties. When hostilities ended, the commando remained at Lo-ting until ordered to move to Canton for attachment to the 2nd Command, a task completed on 28 September, whereupon the last US troops were withdrawn.