He Long wearing Blue Sky with White Sun emblem Eighth Route Army was making grenades The Eighth Route Army () was the larger of the two major Chinese communist forces that formed a unit of the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China which fought the Japanese from 1937 to 1945. In contrast to most of the National Revolutionary Army, it was controlled by the Communist Party of China and not the ruling Kuomintang. The Eighth Route Army was one of the main military forces of the Communist Party of China, active during the Chinese Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War. The political leader of the Communist Party of China was Mao Zedong, and their military leader was communist general Zhu De.
The communists' Red Army (later the People's Liberation Army) had first been formed in 1927 when the Nationalist 27th Division mutinied. After ten years of fighting, though, in 1937, Japan invaded China proper. To counter this threat, the Communists and Nationalists formed the United Front (the anti-Japanese alliance between the Chinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Communists). Most Communist forces wore either Nationalist uniforms or civilian clothes.
The two main Communist forces were the New Fourth Army and the Eighth Route Army (the larger of the two), called such after their nominal designations in the Chinese national army. Consisting of three divisions (the 115th, the 120th, and the 129th, commanded by Lin Biao, He Long, and Liu Bocheng respectively, the 8th Route Army's main advantage during World War II was its ability to blend in with Japanese forces when behind enemy lines. Also, the Communist forces could easily attack Japanese supply lines and small garrisons. The 8th Route Army had also engaged in political and propaganda work, helping to increase communist support among the populace.
Formed in 1937 at the time of the second United Front, the 8th Route Army was headed by Mao Zedong's old comrade in arms Zhu De but was placed under the overall direction of the Nationalist government. In 1938 the 8th Route Army was reorganized as the 18th Army Group under the 3rd Military Region commanded by Nationalist Yen Hsi-shan. In practice, however, the army remained under Zhu De's control and operated independently of the Nationalists, especially after 1941, when relations between the Communists and Nationalists had deteriorated.
At the start of World War II, the 8th Route Army infiltrated itself behind Japanese lines in Northern China, where it established many bases of operations. It recruited Chinese semi-trained militia. The army grew from 30,000 troops in July 1937 to 156,000 in 1938 and 400,000 in 1940. Reduced to about 300,000 by the fierce fighting between 1941 and 1944, its size almost doubled to a total of 600,000 men in 1945.
Following the end of World War II, the 18th Army Group was incorporated into the new People's Liberation Army. Units from the former 8th Route Army were active in the 1948 capture of Northeast China from the Nationalists, which placed the communist forces in a position to take North China and turn the civil war in their favour.
The 8th Route army fought in Hundred Regiments Battle and Battle of Pingxingguan. English adventurer and local Chinese folkhero George Hogg stayed in the Shanxi 8th Route army for a time and also befriended general Nie Rongzhen.
Many of the experienced veterans would move on to fight in both the Chinese Civil War and later the Korean War as high ranking officers in the People's Volunteer Army against the United States and South Korean forces.
- People's Liberation Army
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