national revolutionary army

As with the British, the Chinese converted some of their Stuarts into turretless command vehicles, as seen here.

(National Archives)

During the April 12th Shanghai Massacre of 1927, a suspected Communist is beheaded by a KMT sympathizer. During the so-called ‘White Terror’ (also applied to similar crackdowns in Taiwan following the KMT withdrawal to the island) some 300 leftists were executed without due process, and 1000 more arrested. Thousands more disappeared without explanation. When workers and students turned out to protest the crackdowns, NRA troops opened fire, killing approximately 100 of them. This incident is considered the beginning of the Chinese Civil War.

(Cody Images)

A young Chiang Kai-shek stands next to Sun Yatsen, the founder of the Republic of China and the Kuomintang (KMT) nationalist party shortly before Yatsen’s death in 1925. Chiang Kai-shek made a bid to inherit the mantle of the KMT leadership, and following the suppression of the warlords during the Northern Expedition, emerged in 1928 as the new leader of a united China. 

The divisions within the KMT however had begun to emerge during the campaign against the warlords, and the year prior to Chiang's elevation  conservative elements within the KMT turned on the Chinese Communist Party, which whom they had previously been allied with, expelling them from the KMT and violently suppressing them and other leftist elements within the KMT in the Shanghai Massacre, on April 12, 1927, the opening salvo of the Chinese Civil War.

The KMT continued their fight against the warlords and concluded their campaign successfully the next year with the capture of Beijing, but in the meantime the Communists weren’t going to take the slight lying down. They regrouped and made their first major counterattack on the Nationalist forces in August, 1927 with the Nanchang Uprising.


“The scene aboard the battleship USS Missouri as the Japanese surrender documents were signed in Tokyo Bay, on September 2, 1945. Here, General Yoshijiro Umezu signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Armed Forces of Japan, Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu (behind him, in top hat) had earlier signed on behalf of the government. Both men were later tried and convicted of war crimes. Umezu died while in prison, Shigemitsu was paroled in 1950, and served in the Japanese government until his death in 1957.”

In Feb 1939, Japan held a display in Nishinomiya, Japan at the Koshien Stadium showing off equipment captured by the Imperial Japanese Army while conducting operations in China. Of interesting note was a line-up of captured tanks, showing the wide-international support that China had at the time.

From left to right:

A French Renault FT

Two German Panzer I Ausf. A light tanks

Two Soviet T-26s 

A British Vickers 6-ton tank 

“A nurse wraps a bandage around the hand of a Chinese soldier as another wounded soldier limps up for first aid treatment during fighting on the Salween River front in Yunnan Province, China, on June 22, 1943.”



1: Major-General, 2nd Route Army, 1926

As a senior officer of the NRA this major-general wears a well-cut uniform and good-quality equipment privately purchased from tailors and military outfitters in Canton. Only the highest ranking officers in the NRA had rank insignia during the 1926-28 campaign, and a standard system was not introduced until 1929. On the general’s left sleeve is the single bar and three-point star of his rank, next to a small KMT sun badge; lieutenant-generals had two gold stars on their rank bar, and full generals three stars. His peaked cap is a superior version of the others ranks’ type, and holds its shape better. He has bought himself a Danish-made version of the German-designed Bergmann M1903 automatic pistol; this M1910/21 version with a ten-round magazine was produced in Copenhagen by the Haerens Tojhus Company. 

2: NCO standard-bearer, 1927

This soldier wears a light brown-khaki cotton peaked cap with the Nationalist sun badge. His plain tunic has a unit patch above the left breast pocket, but the NCO has no rank insignia; his breeches are made from the same material. The khaki woollen puttees are worn over thick white stockings and leather boots. He has been given the honour of carrying the most important flag of the National Revolutionary Army during the Northern Expedition - Chiang Kai-shek’s personal standard, which was adopted in 1926. It has the Kuomintang sun emblem in the centre, and down the hoist are the characters for ‘Commander-in-Chief National Revolutionary Army’; as if to emphasize the point, the pennant above the main flag has the single Chinese character for 'Chief’. The NRA tried to imbue its men with revolutionary spirit by the liberal use of flags bearing the KMT symbol, and even quite small units had their own standard-bearers; these usually carried plain blue flags with a large white central KMT sun emblem. 

3: Infantryman 4th 'Ironsides’ Corps 

Most ordinary NRA soldiers wore slight variations on a plain blue or faded blue-grey cotton uniform. This soldier from one of the crack formations wears a standard peaked cap with KMT sun badge, rough cotton tunic and trousers, puttees, stockings and straw sandals. He has been issued with a Swiss-made SIG MP18/1 sub-machine gun, a slight modification of the German Bergmann original as used in the Great War. Without the custom-made pouches for the gun’s box magazines, he has had to make do with the canvas holdall slung to his hip. In a protective case on his back, attached to his blanket roll, is slung a very widely seen private-purchase item of Chinese soldier’s kit - an umbrella, which was often the only shelter from the elements that he had.