Thursday, April 02, 2009

I was asked to write something on the PLA 2nd Armor Division

So, here it is, enjoy.

A Brief History of the PLA 2nd Armor Division
By Xinhui

The 2nd Armor Division, 12th Group Army, Nanjing MR is one of the PLA’s elite divisions deployed across the Taiwan Strait. This essay outlines the humble beginning of the Division, important events, and details the frequent of order-of-battle (orbat) changes experienced by the Division. The structural evolution of the 2nd Armored Division can be seen as a microcosm of what the entire PLA has gone though from an army of nothing to what it is today.

Chinese Civil War Period:

2nd Armor Division’s linage can be traced back to March 3rd, 1947 when 30 students of the East-China Military Academy’s artillery training daidu (large group) were transferred to the Dongjiang Column (a PLA “Column” was an equivalent to an under-strength early WWII infantry division) to field 6 captured KMT tanks in two platoons under the direct command of the East-China Field Army’s HQ. It was giving the title of Special Tactical Detachment with Captain Wang Chongguo as the commander.

In March 1948, it was temporarily attached to the Jiaodong Military Region’s Artillery Regiment and saw its first action during the epic Huai Hai Campaign. By October 21st, 1948, it was returned back to East-China Field Army’s HQ as a Special Operation Detachment with an enlarged orbat of two zhongdu (mid-sized group) and one reconnaissance platoon with a grand total of 21 operational tanks. After the campaign 200 captured and subsequently defected KMT tank crewmen facilitated another enlargement of the formation. The Detachment was enlarged to become the East-China Armored Vehicle Regiment on March 15th, 1949 in the strategically important region of Xuzhou. The unit’s orbat consisted of two Vehicle Battalions with a total of six companies. 30 US M-3A tanks, ten IJA Type 97 tanks, 24 armored cars, and 87 automobiles of various types along with 1460 personnel made up the formation. During this period Tank Number 102, a captured IJA Type 97, was awarded the honorary title of “Zhu De” for its combat performance. It is currently on display at the Military Museum in Beijing.

East-China Armored Vehicle Regiment entered Nanjing on April 23rd, and Shanghai on May 1949 with rest of the East-China Field Army in pursuit of the retiring KMT forces. It was renamed as 1st Armored Vehicle Regiment on July 1st, 1949 and incorporated a new Amphibious Tank Battalion of captured US LVT Buffalos. Sha Feng, former deputy commander of the 62nd Division, served as its new commander and Wang Shiren as its Political Commissar.

On November 17th 1949, the formation added the 2nd Instructor (Training) Regiment of the 24th Army to became a full division of three regiments. They were: 1st Armored Vehicle Regiment (3 Battalions), Amphibious Tank Regiment (with 1000 personnel transferred from the 24th and 33rd Infantry Division), and a New Armor Regiment (two battalions) consisting of a grand total of 149 tanks, 95 miscellaneous armored vehicles, and 162 automobiles. Xiao Feng became its commander with Liang Chengmei as its Political Commissar.

The formation was renamed the PLA 2nd Armored Vehicle Division on January 3rd, 1950. Subsequently, the 1st Armored Vehicle regiment was renamed to 4th Regiment, Amphibious Tank Regiment renamed to 5th Regiment and the Armor Regiment to 6th Regiment. The 6th Regiment also took on an additional 90 LVT buffalos.

On November 3rd 1950 the formation was renamed once again to be the PLA 2nd Tank Division with injections of the 268th Regiment, 306th Regiment, two military police companies from Nanjing garrison HQ, 4th Battalion of 1st Nanjing Instructor (Training) Regiment, one special operations detachment, and two other additional companies. Its 4th Regiment was transferred out of 2nd Tank Division to serve as a basis for the newly created 2nd Tank Brigade.

2nd Tank Division, November 1950:

Division HQ (Commander Xiao Feng, Political Commissioner Wang Shiren)

- Recon Battalion.
- Engineering Battalion
- AAA Battalion
- Transport Battalion
- Medical Battalion
- Communication Company
- Military Police Company
- Repair and Maintenance Depot
- Field Hospital

3rd Tank Regiment

4th Tank Regiment

Motorized Infantry Regiment (former 258th Regiment)

Mobile Artillery Regiment (former 306th Regiment)

Korean War Period:

On November 11th, 1950, two Soviet Tank Regiments; one from the Ukraine Security Guards and the other from the Moscow Guards arrived in Xuzhou and transferred their equipment to the 2nd Tank Division en masse. Both the 3rd and 4th Tank Regiments received 30 T-34 tanks, six IS-2 heavy tanks, four ISU 122mm self-propelled guns, and two T-34 armored recovery variants each. The Mobile Artillery Regiment received one battalion of twelve ISU-122 and two battalions of twelve 76.2mm field guns and soon they were dispatched to the Korean War. Much as had been the pattern during the Chinese Civil War, in Korea the 2nd Tank Division was not employed as a whole unit, but rather split out to serve as infantry support units performing fire support tasks.

2nd Tank Division’s 3rd Tank Regiment, AAA Regiment, and Engineering Regiment entered Korea on May 30th, 1951 and saw action by June as a support element of the 39th and 43rd Army. They claimed two tank kills and one damaged in 18 engagements but were almost wiped out by UN forces at the same time. The 3rd Tank regiment left Korea on July 20th 1952 and returned back to Xuzhou on August 1st. The following year the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Company of the 3rd Tank Regiment took part in the 1953 National Day Parade in Tiananmen Square.

The 4th Tank Regiment arrived in Korea on June 27th 1952 as a replacement for the 3rd and had a better combat performance while supporting the 23rd and 38th Army. As an example, in eight engagements Tank Number 215, a T-34, claimed five tank kills and one damaged. In addition, it was credited with 26 bunkers, nine artillery pieces and one truck destroyed. As a result, Tank 215 was honored as a “People’s Heroic Tank” in July 1952 and is currently in display at the PLA’s Armor Engineering College in Beijing.

Both the Motorized Infantry Regiment and Mobile Artillery Regiment were deployed to Korea on Feb 15th, 1953, and served as mobile defense units to guard against a possible UN amphibious or airborne operation into China’s supply route into Korea and saw no action. On May 1953, they were ordered to the front to support the 23rd and 24th Army during the Battle of Seoul. The AAA Regiment returned back to Xuzhou on May 19th 1954, and the Mobile Artillery Regiment on December 9th 1954. On March 30th, 1955, the Motorized Infantry Regiment took on elements of 13 companies from the 12th, 20th, and 57th Army to reconstitute its former strength. It was placed under the command of Jinan Military Region on July 1st, 1955.

2nd Tank Division, March 15 1958:

Division HQ:

AAA Battalion
Engineering Battalion
Transportation Battalion
Communication Battalion
Artillery Liaison Platoon
Artillery Command Company
Military Police Company
Repair and Maintenance Battalion

3rd / 4th Tank Regiment (minus IS-2 and ISU-122 companies)
- T-34 Tank Battalion
- T-34 Tank Battalion
- T-34 Tank Battalion

Mechanized Infantry Regiment (Former Motorized Infantry Regiment)
- Motorized Infantry Battalion
- Motorized Infantry Battalion
- Motorized Infantry Battalion
- T-34 Tank Battalion
- Tank-crew Training Battalion (T-34)

Motorized Artillery Regiment (Former Mobile Artillery Regiment)
- 122mm Artillery Battalion
- 122mm Artillery Battalion
- 122mm Artillery Battalion
- Transport Company

After the War:

In August 1960, all AAA assets were temporary transferred to 29th AAA Division, 6th PLA Air Force Army to boost air defense around Jiangsu area during a period of active air combat with the Republic of China Air Force

On July 12th, 1963, 3rd Tank Regiment started to receive 80 domestic Type 59 tanks in four batches. The 4th Tank Regiment received the first of 80 Type 59 tanks on Feb 9th 1964 in two batches.

On August 26th, 1963, 2036 personnel of the 2nd Tank Division took part in the Tianjin flood rescue.

On September 18th 1967, some members of the 2nd Tank Division were transferred out to form the newly created 8th and 13th Tank Divisions. The open positions were backfilled by the members of the 331st Artllery Regiment, 203rd Division, 68th Army. As the PLA was planning to fight an all out war with the Soviets, elements of experienced units were transferred out to be used as the basis of new units in a rapid military buildup.

August 10th, 1969, 3rd Tank, 4th Tank, and the Motorized Artillery Regiment were renamed as 5th, 6th and 7th Tank Regiment. The 7th Tank Regiment received its 80 Type 59 tanks during February 1971 in two batches.

February 1976, 1st and 2nd Company of the Tank Battalion, Mechanized Infantry Regiment were transferred out to form the basis of the new Armored Troop and Political Cadre School of the Central Military Commission. At the same time the 3rd Company was reassigned to form the Armor Technical College. Upon the completion of these transfers the Mechanized Infantry Regiment had the following Orbat:

Armored Infantry Regiment (Former Mechanized Infantry Regiment) March 1967:

- Armored Infantry Battalion
- Armored Infantry Battalion
- Armored Infantry Battalion
- Machine Gun Battalion
- 122mm Mortar Company
- 85mm Howitzer
- Twin 37mm AAA Company
- Transport Company
- Special Operations Company
- Repair and Maintenance Company
- Medical Du
- Training Rotation Du

The 2nd Tank Division was transferred from Jinan MR to Nanjing MR on October 1st, 1978 and dispatched 110 officers and 1579 troops to the 1979 Sino-Vietnam war. It was transferred to 12th Group Army on August 1st, 1986 as part of a one-million troop decommission reform ordered by Deng Xiaoping.

Like other PLA units, its history was tainted by the Tiananmen Massacre of June 4th 1989; 76 personnel from 2nd Company, Recon Battalion and Communication Battalion were airlifted into Beijing and a total of 5300 troops were used in “police” duties in and around the Xuzhou area.

The Armored Infantry Regiment was decommissioned on October 1998 as part of the 500,000 force reductions and restructure ordered by Jiang Zemin. Its ranks and equipments were distributed to other surviving regiments. Following this restructuring the formation was renamed from 2nd Tank Division to 2nd Armor Division.

As of today, The 2nd Armor Division is equipped with two regiments of Type 59D and one regiment of Type 96 tanks. Some reports indicate Type 59D are being upgraded to Type 96G.

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