National Revolutionary Army
A red rectangle with a smaller blue rectangle inside it. Inside the blue rectangle centered squarely is a white circle with small white triangles emanating from it.
Flag of the National Revolutionary Army (known as the Republic of China Army after the 1947 Constitution)
Active16 June 1924 – 25 December 1947
Country China
Allegiance Kuomintang
RoleGround warfare
HeadquartersNanjing (1928–1937, 1946–1947)
Chongqing (1937–1946)
IdeologyThree Principles of the People
Allies Soviet Union (before 1927)
 United States
 United Kingdom
National Revolutionary Army
Traditional Chinese國民革命軍
Simplified Chinese国民革命军
Hanyu PinyinGuómín Gémìng Jūn

The National Revolutionary Army (NRA; 國民革命軍), sometimes shortened to Revolutionary Army (革命軍) before 1928, and as National Army (國軍) after 1928, was the military arm of the Kuomintang (KMT, or the Chinese Nationalist Party) from 1925 until 1947 in China during the Republican era. It also became the regular army during the KMT's period of party rule beginning in 1928. It was renamed the Republic of China Armed Forces after the 1947 Constitution, which instituted civilian control of the military.

Originally organized with Soviet aid as a means for the KMT to unify China during the Warlord Era, the National Revolutionary Army fought major engagements in the Northern Expedition against the Chinese Beiyang Army warlords, in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) against the Imperial Japanese Army and in the Chinese Civil War against the People's Liberation Army.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the armed forces of the Chinese Communist Party were nominally incorporated into the National Revolutionary Army (while retaining separate commands), but broke away to form the People's Liberation Army shortly after the end of the war. With the promulgation of the Constitution of the Republic of China in 1947 and the formal end of the KMT party-state, the National Revolutionary Army was renamed the Republic of China Armed Forces, with the bulk of its forces forming the Republic of China Army, which retreated to the island of Taiwan in 1949.


The opening ceremony of the Whampoa Military Academy, with Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek.
NRA troops against Sun Chuanfang's private army preparing to defend Shanghai.

The NRA was founded by the KMT in 1925 as the military force destined to unite China in the Northern Expedition. Organized with the help of the Comintern and guided under the doctrine of the Three Principles of the People, the distinction among party, state and army was often blurred. A large number of the Army's officers passed through the Whampoa Military Academy, and the first commandant, Chiang Kai-shek, became commander-in-chief of the Army in 1925 before launching the successful Northern Expedition. Other prominent commanders included Du Yuming and Chen Cheng. The end of the Northern Expedition in 1928 is often taken as the date when China's Warlord era ended, though smaller-scale warlord activity continued for years afterwards.

National Revolutionary Army soldiers marched into the British concessions in Hankou during the Northern Expedition.

In 1927, after the dissolution of the First United Front between the Nationalists and the Communists, the ruling KMT purged its leftist members and largely eliminated Soviet influence from its ranks. Chiang Kai-shek then turned to Germany, historically a great military power, for the reorganization and modernization of the National Revolutionary Army. The Weimar Republic sent advisers to China, but because of the restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles they could not serve in military capacities. Chiang initially requested famous generals such as Ludendorff and von Mackensen as advisers; the Weimar Republic government turned him down, however, fearing that they were too famous, would invite the ire of the Allies and that it would result in the loss of national prestige for such renowned figures to work, essentially, as mercenaries.

Nanjing decade

Immediately following the Northern Expedition, the National Revolutionary Army was bloated and required downsizing and demobilisation: Chiang himself stating that soldiers are like water, capable of both carrying the state, and sinking it. This was reflected in the enormous troop figures with 1,502,000 men under arms, of which only 224,000 came under Chiang's direct control; these, however, were the official figures as Chiang stated later he possessed over 500,000 and Feng Yuxiang who officially possessed 269,000 in reality had 600,000 thus the true figure would likely reach 2,000,000.[1]

During the Northern expedition the KMT formed also formed branch political councils: in theory, subordinate political organs that were under the Central Political councils in Nanjing; in reality these were autonomous political bodies with their own military forces. Feng Yuxiang controlled the Kaifeng council; Yan Xishan the Taiyuan council; whilst the Guangxi clique controlled two: the Wuhan and Beiping; under Li Zongren and Bai Chongxi, respectively. Li Jishen, who was related to the Guangxi clique, loosely controlled the Guangzhou council; and a sixth council in Shenyang was under Zhang Xueliang.[2] Chiang was faced with two options one was to immediately centralise the other to gradually do so, in the spirit of the expedition itself which was to eradicate warlordism and regionalism Chiang chose to immediately centralise the branch councils under the guise of demobilisation systematically reducing the regional troop strength whilst centralising them and building up his own strength.[2] This was done in July 1928 with financial conferences calling for demobilisation and military commanders and political officials echoing the call for demobilisation. Chiang called for the reduction of the army to 65 divisions and gathered political support to begin actively reducing troops counts and centralising the army as well as abolishing the branch councils, this threatened the regional leaders and Li Zongren noted that it was intentionally designed to force the regional leaders into action so Chiang could eliminate them.[3]

Central Plains war

Phase 1

The Guangxi clique rebelled in February 1929 when it fired Lu Diping the governor of Hunan who switched sides and joined Chiang, the Guangxi forces invaded Hunan, however Chiang bribed elements of the army in Wuhan to defect and within 2 months the Guangxi clique was routed, in March the party expelled Bai Chongxi, Li Jishen and Li Zongren and promoted their juniors who sided with Chiang in order to sow dissent within the clique, they later re-grouped and attempted to retake Hunan and Guangdong but were repelled in both provinces.[4][5][6]

Also in May Feng Yuxiang entered the war he was too expelled from the party, once again Chiang bribed his enemy's allies and subordinates Han Fuju and Shi Yousan. Feng's armies were defeated and he fled to Shanxi and announced his retirement from politics, by July Chiang's forces had occupied Luoyang. Having defeated two of his largest enemies Chiang pushed further for demobilisation and announced it would be done by March 1930.[7] This move spurred Feng, Yan and the Guangxi clique to ally to face Chiang as Chiang had taken revenue sources from Yan.[8]

Phase 2

The anti-Chiang coalition had forces totalling 700,000 against Chiang's 300,000. Their plan was to seize Shandong and contain Chiang south of the Long-hai railway and the Beijing-wuhan railway then they would advance along the railway lines seizing Xuzhou and Wuhan whilst southern forces did the same to force a link-up.

The war involved over 1,000,000 of which 300,000 became casualties. Chiang's forces proved themselves capable even when outnumbered routing the southern forces by July, however in the north Chiang's forces were defeated and he himself narrowly avoided capture in June only when the northern forces stopped due to the defeat of the southern forces did the north stabilise. Chiang began negotiations for peace with Zhang as an intermediary however Feng and Yan believing themselves to be on the verge of victory refused. Chiang had utilised the lull in action to gather strength and begin counteroffensives along the railways north aided by the closure of fighting in Bengbu by September Chiang was again closing in on Luoyang and this along with bribes spurred Zhang Xueliang to side with Chiang ending the war.[9]

When Adolf Hitler became Germany's chancellor in 1933 and disavowed the Treaty, the anti-communist Nazi Party and the anti-communist KMT were soon engaged in close cooperation. With Germany training Chinese troops and expanding Chinese infrastructure, while China opened its markets and natural resources to Germany. Max Bauer was the first adviser to China.

The NRA during World War II

In 1934, Gen. Hans von Seeckt, acting as adviser to Chiang, proposed an "80 Division Plan" for reforming the entire Chinese army into 80 divisions of highly trained, well-equipped troops organised along German lines. The plan was never fully realised, as the eternally bickering warlords could not agree upon which divisions were to be merged and disbanded. Furthermore, since embezzlement and fraud were commonplace, especially in understrength divisions (the state of most of the divisions), reforming the military structure would threaten divisional commanders' "take". Therefore, by July 1937 only eight infantry divisions had completed reorganization and training. These were the 3rd, 6th, 9th, 14th, 36th, 87th, 88th, and the Training Division.

Another German general, Alexander von Falkenhausen, came to China in 1934 to help reform the army.[10] However, because of Nazi Germany's later cooperation with the Empire of Japan, he was later recalled in 1937.

Second Sino-Japanese war

A Chinese propaganda poster depicting the National Revolutionary Army.

For a time, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Communist forces fought as a nominal part of the National Revolutionary Army, forming the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army units, but this co-operation later fell apart. Women were also part of the army's corps during the war. In 1937 Soong Mei-ling encouraged women to support the Second Sino-Japanese War effort, by forming battalions, such as the Guangxi Women's Battalion.[11][12]

Troops in India and Burma during World War II included the Chinese Expeditionary Force (Burma), the Chinese Army in India called X Force, and Chinese Expeditionary Force in Yunnan, called Y Force.[13]

The US government repeatedly threatened to cut off aid to China during World War 2 unless they handed over total command of all Chinese military forces to the US. After considerable stalling, the arrangement only fell through due to a particularly insulting letter from the Americans to Chiang.[14] By the end of the war, US influence over the political, economic, and military affairs of China were greater than any foreign power in the last century, with American personnel appointed in every field, such as the Chief of Staff of the Chinese military, management of the Chinese War Production Board and Board of Transport, trainers of the secret police, and Chiang's personal advisor. Sir George Sansom, British envoy to the US, reported that many US military officers saw US monopoly on Far Eastern trade as a rightful reward for fighting the Pacific war,[15] a sentiment echoed by US elected officials.[16]

After the drafting and implementation of the Constitution of the Republic of China in 1947, the National Revolutionary Army was transformed into the ground service branch of the Republic of China Armed Forces – the Republic of China Army (ROCA).[17]


Elite German-trained divisions of National Revolutionary Army before the Battle of Wuhan
A platoon of the National Revolutionary Army marching in Brodie helmets during a parade in Burma in 1943.

The NRA throughout its lifespan recruited approximately 4,300,000 regulars, in 370 Standard Divisions (正式師), 46 New Divisions (新編師), 12 Cavalry Divisions (騎兵師), eight New Cavalry Divisions (新編騎兵師), 66 Temporary Divisions (暫編師), and 13 Reserve Divisions (預備師), for a grand total of 515 divisions. However, many divisions were formed from two or more other divisions, and were not active at the same time.

At the apex of the NRA was the National Military Council, also translated as Military Affairs Commission. Chaired by Chiang Kai-Shek, it directed the staffs and commands. It included from 1937 the Chief of the General Staff, General He Yingqin, the General Staff, the War Ministry, the military regions, air and naval forces, air defence and garrison commanders, and support services Around 14 Million were conscripted from 1937 to 1945.[18]

Also, New Divisions were created to replace Standard Divisions lost early in the war and were issued the old division's number. Therefore, the number of divisions in active service at any given time is much smaller than this. The average NRA division had 5,000–6,000 troops; an average army division had 10,000–15,000 troops, the equivalent of a Japanese division. Not even the German-trained divisions were on par in terms of manpower with a German or Japanese division, having only 10,000 men.

The United States Army's campaign brochure on the China Defensive campaign of 1942–45 said:[19][failed verification]

The NRA only had small number of armoured vehicles and mechanised troops. At the beginning of the war in 1937 the armour were organized in three Armoured Battalions, equipped with tanks and armoured cars from various countries. After these battalions were mostly destroyed in the Battle of Shanghai and Battle of Nanjing. The newly provided tanks, armoured cars, and trucks from the Soviet Union and Italy made it possible to create the only mechanized division in the army, the 200th Division. This Division eventually ceased to be a mechanized unit after the June 1938 reorganization of Divisions. The armoured and artillery Regiments were placed under direct command of 5th Corps and the 200th Division became a motorized Infantry Division within the same Corps. This Corps fought battles in Guangxi in 1939–1940 and in the Battle of Yunnan-Burma Road in 1942 reducing the armoured units due to losses and mechanical breakdown of the vehicles. On paper China had 3.8 million men under arms in 1941. They were organized into 246 "front-line" divisions, with another 70 divisions assigned to rear areas. Perhaps as many as forty Chinese divisions had been equipped with European-manufactured weapons and trained by foreign, particularly German and Soviet, advisers. The rest of the units were under strength and generally untrained. Overall, the Nationalist Army impressed most Western military observers as more reminiscent of a 19th- than a 20th-century army.

Late in the Burma Campaign the NRA Army there had an armoured battalion equipped with Sherman tanks.

Despite the poor reviews given by European observers to the European-trained Divisions, the Muslim Divisions of the National Revolutionary Army, trained in China (not by Westerners) and led by Ma Clique Muslim generals, frightened the European observers with their appearance and fighting skills in battle. Europeans like Sven Hedin and Georg Vasel were in awe of the appearance Chinese Muslim NRA divisions made and their ferocious combat abilities. They were trained in harsh, brutal conditions.[20][21][22][23] The 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army), trained entirely in China without any European help, was composed of Chinese Muslims and fought and severely mauled an invading Soviet Russian army during the Soviet Invasion of Xinjiang. The division was lacking in technology and manpower, but badly damaged the superior Russian force.

The Muslim divisions of the army controlled by Muslim Gen. Ma Hongkui were reported by Western observers to be tough and disciplined. Despite having diabetes Ma Hongkui personally drilled with his troops and engaged in sword fencing during training.[24]

When the leaders of many of the warlord and provincial armies joined with the KMT and were appointed as officers and generals, their troops joined the NRA. These armies were renamed as NRA divisions. The entire Ma Clique armies were absorbed into the NRA. When the Muslim Ma Clique General Ma Qi joined the KMT, the Ninghai Army was renamed the National Revolutionary Army 26th Division.

Unit organization

A Chinese Nationalist soldier, age 10, member of a Chinese division from the X Force, boarding planes in Burma bound for China, May 1944.

The unit organisation of the NRA is as follows: (Note that a unit is not necessarily subordinate to one immediately above it; several army regiments can be found under an army group, for example.) The commander-in-chief of the NRA from 1925 to 1947 was Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

Military Affairs Commission

Divisional Organisation

The NRA used multiple divisional organisations as different threats emerged as well as other factors necessitated a new organisation. The Years below relate to the Minguo calendar which starts in 1911. Therefore, the 22nd year division is the 1933 division.

22nd Year Anti-communist division

The above template was only applied to divisions serving in Guangxi during the 5th encirclement campaign.[27]

60 Division Plan

A new Plan was devised in 1935 to raise 60 new divisions in 6 month batches with divisions to be raised from divisional districts tied to them, in an aim to enhance cohesion and communication as well as simplifying recruitment, officers however were to be recruited nationally and placed into these divisions to disrupt regional affiliations. The 24th Year New Type division was almost the equivalent of western style divisions with the notable difference being the absence of radios in the Chinese division. Planning began in December 1934 and in January 1935 a classified meeting of over 80 of the highest NRA officers was called with a timetable published:

This new army being significantly better armed and trained than the warlord armies would give Chiang a large advantage over his domestic opponents as well as being personally answerable to the Generalissimo.

However, Chinese industry was incapable of producing the artillery or infantry guns in large quantities needed for the 60 division plan and German imports were not forthcoming. Mortars were introduced as substitutes for the infantry guns and later as a substitute for artillery. Horses were also lacking as the new division required many of them and Chinese divisions often used mules oxen or even buffalos as substitutes for the many horses.

10 divisions were organised in 1935 on the new model but equipment was lacking. A further 20 were reorganised by the Marco Polo Bridge Incident but equipment was again lacking meaning these divisions were not to be the modern equivalent of Western style or Japanese divisions.[28]

24th Year New Type Division

For a total of 10,012 men and 3,219 horses with the field artillery regiment. With the Mountain artillery regiment the total is 10,632 men and 3,237 horses

Wartime adjustments

However, as the war progressed and masses of equipment was lost the 60 division plan was abandoned as were larger divisions in general as the Military Affairs Commission switched to a smaller more mobile division suited to the reality of the situation. This was after an initial reorganisation in 1937 which incorporated the type 89 grenade launcher which impressed the Chinese. It must be noted, however, that even though this 1937 reorganisation maintained division strength at slightly under 11,000 men, less than 4,000 (the frontline personnel) were issued small arms such as rifles.[30] In 1938 a further reform was brought about by He Yingqin at the behest of Chiang Kai-shek. He's report called for an integrated numbering and designation of units from the regimental level up and a standardised financial and supply system and the appointment of loyal commanders. A new division table was also organised: the 27th Year (1938) division, which created the field army as a fixed unit, abolished divisional artillery (often a paper force due to the chronic shortage of field artillery) and coordinated artillery support at the army level; although the division remained at roughly 11,000 men strong this template was not followed with few divisions being re-organised on this pattern due to the constant campaigning of the Central Army and the refusal of the warlords to adopt the new organisation. Nonetheless, the division still proved too large and they were reformed into triangular divisions (a division with a divisional HQ and 3 infantry regiments rather than the previous square division with 2 brigades each with 2 regiments); this 1938 organisation remained the most common formation until the end of the war although it was modified with 16 divisions receiving Anti-tank companies and 20 receiving anti-aircraft companies. Artillery remained in a chronic shortage only partially remedied by the production of 82mm mortars, but these mortars were far from universal even by the end of the war.[31] Further changes were made in the 1942 re-organisation with the 1938 division losing all of its non-combat formations. These formations were moved to the field army level, and with the universal adoption of the triangular division formation the 1942 division had a strength of 6,794 officers and enlisted 60% of the strength of the 1938 division.[32]

1942 division

This gave a total of 8,251 men per division it is important to note the complete absence of any Anti-air, Anti-tank or artillery at a divisional level a sign of the dire state of equipment shortage in China.[32]

Dare to Die Corps

During the Xinhai Revolution and the Warlord Era of the Republic of China, "Dare to Die Corps" (traditional Chinese: 敢死隊; simplified Chinese: 敢死队; pinyin: gǎnsǐduì) were frequently used by Chinese armies. China deployed these suicide units against the Japanese during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

"Dare to Die" troops were used by warlords in their armies to conduct suicide attacks.[33] "Dare to Die" corps continued to be used in the Chinese military. The Kuomintang used one to put down an insurrection in Canton.[34] Many women joined them in addition to men to achieve martyrdom against China's opponents.[35][36]

A "dare to die corps" was effectively used against Japanese units at the Battle of Taierzhuang.[37][38][39][40][41][42] They used swords.[43][44]

Chinese suicide bomber putting on an explosive vest made out of Model 24 hand grenades to use in an attack on Japanese tanks at the Battle of Taierzhuang.

Suicide bombing was also used against the Japanese. A Chinese soldier detonated a grenade vest and killed 20 Japanese soldiers at Sihang Warehouse. Chinese troops strapped explosives like grenade packs or dynamite to their bodies and threw themselves under Japanese tanks to blow them up.[45] This tactic was used during the Battle of Shanghai, where a Chinese suicide bomber stopped a Japanese tank column by exploding himself beneath the lead tank,[46] and at the Battle of Taierzhuang where dynamite and grenades were strapped on by Chinese troops who rushed at Japanese tanks and blew themselves up.[47][48][49] In one incident at Taierzhuang, Chinese suicide bombers obliterated four Japanese tanks with grenade bundles.[50][51]

Penal Battalions

During the Chinese Civil War the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) was known to have used penal battalions from 1945 to 1949. A unit made up of deserters and those accused of cowardice, the penal battalion was giving such tasks as scouting ahead of the main forces to check for ambushes, crossing rivers and torrents to see whether they were fordable, and walking across unmapped minefields.[52]


The military was formed through bloody and inhumane conscription campaigns. These are described by Rudolph Rummel as:

This was a deadly affair in which men were kidnapped for the army, rounded up indiscriminately by press-gangs or army units among those on the roads or in the towns and villages, or otherwise gathered together. Many men, some the very young and old, were killed resisting or trying to escape. Once collected, they would be roped or chained together and marched, with little food or water, long distances to camp. They often died or were killed along the way, sometimes less than 50 percent reaching camp alive. Then recruit camp was no better, with hospitals resembling Nazi concentration camps like Buchenwald.[53]


Main article: Military ranks of the Republic of China (1912–1949)

Commissioned officer ranks

The rank insignia of commissioned officers.

Rank group General officers Senior commissioned officers Junior commissioned officers
Early 1929[54]
Title 特級上將
Tèjí shàngjiàng
Yījí shàngjiàng
Èrjí shàngjiàng

Other ranks

The rank insignia of non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel.

Rank group Non-commissioned officers Soldiers
Early 1929[54]
Title 上士

American-sponsored divisions


T.V. Soong at the behest of Chiang negotiated US sponsorship of 30 Chinese divisions which were to be designated assault divisions due to the fall of Burma. This plan was adopted concurrently with Y-Force which was the Chinese army in Burma.[57] The divisions of Y-Force were similar to the 1942 divisions’ organisation. With the addition of extra staff especially in communications as well as an anti-tank rifle squad with 2 anti-tank rifles, radios were issued as were bren guns with the number of mortars raised form 36 to 54 to accommodate the lack of heavy artillery. The demands of the Chinese Military Affairs Commission to add additional support staff and divisional artillery were all rejected by the Americans and the idea of a centralised Y-force with the 30 divisions being grouped together was never realised. General Chen Cheng commanded the largest contingent of 15 divisions, Long Yun commanded 5 and 9 under Chiang himself.[57] Prior to the Salween offensive each division was allotted 36 bazookas though actual numbers ran below requirements and rockets were in short supply.[58]

Long Yun the Warlord and Governor of Yunnan inspects the members of the Chinese expeditionary Force.
Y-Force Strength March 1943[57]
Army Old Strength New Strength Actual Strength Reinforcements

en route

Chinese expeditionary Force(Chen Cheng)
XI Group Army 107,200 124,300 55,550 49,000
XX Group Army 56,400 61,100 30,600 15,000
Total 163,600 185,400 86,100 64,000
Yunnan-Indochina Force(Long Yun)
I Group Army 20,400 20,400 15,650 4,650
IX Group Army 56,400 71,400 18,400 9,290
Total 66,800 91,800 34,050 13,940
Reserve Army(Chiang)
V Group Army 125,200 131,220 86,785 37,269
Grand Total 355,600 408,420 206,935 115,209

The Chinese army due to sustained combat was grossly under-strength and whilst Chiang promised over 110,000 additional reinforcements. Further reinforcements after this were not forthcoming due to ongoing combat. Nonetheless, Y-Force grew to over 300,000 men with rifles, mortars and machine guns in abundance.[58]

A Y-force division contained 10,790 officers and men with 4,174 rifles, 270 submachine guns, 270 light machine guns, 54 medium machine guns. 27 AT rifles, 36 bazookas, 81 60mm mortars and 30 82mm mortars this was a large improvement over the 1942 division especially in terms of equipment with some divisions additionally receiving Anti-tank companies with guns ranging from 20-47mm. The army troops of a Y-force army contained over 3,000 horses and mules and 16 trucks with 8,404 officers and men with 21 additional machine guns and an artillery battalion with 12 guns and an anti-tank battalion with 4 guns though due to supply limitations over The Hump artillery and anti-tank weaponry did not arrive in large quantities until late 1943 and early 1944.[59]

Chinese troops operating Stuart tanks in Burma a feat only possible due to the commitment of troops and material to the Burma theatre by the Western Allies and China.

30 Division Force

General Stilwell envisioned a 90 division strong regular army the first 30 divisions being the aforementioned Y-Force which would re-open the Burma road which would allow for the formation of the next 30 divisions via direct supply delivery. The remaining 30 divisions would be garrison divisions with a reduced force the remainder of the Chinese army would be gradually demobilised or used to fill out the new forces and act as replacements to save resources and supplies. In July 1943 the US War Department agreed to equip the first 30 divisions and 10% of the second batch to facilitate its training which was to be named Z-Force. Stilwell wished to consolidate the existing forces in east China into 30 divisions per the plan but was rebuffed by the Chinese who wanted the lend lease to be used by existing forces. Stilwell persisted and proposed again his 90 division plan with an additional 1-2 armoured divisions with all forces to be ready assuming the opening of the Burma road by January 1945. However, after the Cairo conference the British and Americans did not agree to an amphibious landing in Burma to support an offensive by Y-Force so the plan was dropped as the Burma road would not be opened anytime soon as long as the Japanese remained there.[60]

US Sponsored armies and their condition by late 1945[60]

(with 3 divisions)

Strength %




New 1st Army 43,231 100% Excellent Gaoling,Guangxi
2nd Army 23,545 100% Satisfactory Baoshan, Yunnan
5th Army 35,528 88% Satisfactory Kunming, Yunnan
New 6th Army 43,519 100% Excellent Zhijiang, Hubei
8th Army 34,942 93% Satisfactory Bose, Guangxi
13th Army 30,677 88% Satisfactory Lipu, Guangxi
18th Army 30,106 99% Very Satisfactory Yuanling, Hunan
53rd Army 34,465 30% Unknown Midu, Yunnan
54th Army 31,285 100% Satisfactory Wunming, Guangxi
71st Army 30,547 96% Very Satisfactory Liuzhou, Guangxi
73rd Army 28,963 100% Satisfactory Xinhua, Hunan
74th Army 32,166 100% Very satisfactory Shanshuwan, Sichuan
94th Army 37,531 79% Very Satisfactory Guilin, Guangxi
Total 436,505

Strength and distribution in early 1937

Distribution of NRA soldiers Within China[61]
Province Central Government Troops Warlord Troops Provincial Troops Total

(not including East Hebei)

51,000 39,800 12,000 102,800 soldiers
Chahar 17,000 17,000
Shanxi 17,000 43,800 9,000 69,800
Shandong 55,500 8,000 63,500
Suiyuan 20,500 30,700 61,200
Shaanxi 100,000 39,000 8,000 147,000
Gansu 63,000 63,000
Ningxia 27,000 27,000
Qinghai 12,000 11,000 23,000
Xinjiang 24,800 24,800
Zhejiang 52,000 8,800 60,800
Jiangxi 49,000 49,000
Henan 113,300 16,000 129,000
Anhui 54,000 16,000 3,000 73,000
Hubei 72,000 10,000 82,000
Jiangsu 109,400 9,000 118,400
Hunan 68,000 68,000
Sichuan 26,000 126,600 152,600
Xikang 16,000 16,000
Guizhou 36,000 36,000
Fujian 60,000 12,000 72,000
Guangdong 42,000 51,000 93,000
Guangxi 54,000 54,000
Yunnan 21,900 21,900
China 972,200 519,700 94,600 1,586,500
Chiang and Soong reviewing the troops during the 2nd Sino-Japanese war.

(Former Northeastern army troops are included in the Central Government Column given the arrest of Zhang Xueliang following the Xi'an incident)

The above categorisations are not the sole indicator of loyalty it is how they were categorised at the time.

An alternative figure and breakdown is given by Field a US analyst in July 1937 (brackets indicate numbers given by Bin Shih):[62]

Formations and allegiances of the NRA forces.[62][63]
Formations* Chiang's army Loyal to Chiang Semi-autonomous

provincial troops under Chiang

Only loyal in an

anti-Japanese war

Useless or disloyal troops CCP forces and

Manchurian partisans




2nd 5th 6th 13th 16th 25th


7th 11th 15th 17th 26th


33rd 34th 35th 3rd


33rd 32nd 53rd 63rd

10th route army (21,900)
Divisions 1st-4th 9th

Nanjing divisions

16 divisions of the NE army
no formation


100,000 Guangdong troops 60,000 and 90,000 guangxi regulars

and irregulars 250,000 Sichuan troops

150,000 CCP forces

150,000 Manchurian partisans (overstated)

Total numbers 380,000 520,000 300,000 278,100 421,900 300,000

*not all formations are assigned a loyalty therefore this list does not constitute an exhaustive list of NRA formations.

Arsenals of the NRA

These arsenals listed below are those established before the beginning of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War.[64]

Gongxian Arsenal

Established in 1915 in Henan, the Central Government took over the arsenal in 1930 and full production resumed in 1931. Employing 2,400 workers it was producing 1,800 rifles, 12 Maxim guns and 20,000 grenades each month. In 1934 production of rifles had risen to 3,200 per month.

Jiangnan Arsenal

Established in 1865 in Shanghai, the arsenal was captured by the Central Government in 1927. Its production in 1931 was 8 75mm mountain guns, 31 Type Triple-Ten machine guns, three million cartridges and 600lbs of smokeless powder each month. However, following the demilitarization of Shanghai following the 1932 battle, the arsenal became dormant with its light machinery moved to other arsenals whilst the heavy machinery remained until 1937.

Hanyang Arsenal

First began production in 1895 in Hubei, it was captured by the Central government in 1926. Between 1895 and 1938 the arsenal produced 876,316 Type 88 rifles. In 1934 the arsenal also produced 240 Type Triple-Ten machine guns and 4 75mm field guns.

Taiyuan Arsenal

Established in 1898 in Shanxi, the arsenal was expanded by Yan Xishan. Production in 1930 was 500 pistols, 1,500 rifles, 50 machine guns, 300 mortars a month as well as a theoretical 30 mountain guns a month though none were in actual production. The arsenal however deteriorated and by 1937, the Central Government took the machinery and used it for other arsenals.

Jinling Arsenal

Established in 1865 in Nanjing, the Central Government captured the arsenal in 1927. In 1936 after investment from the government, the arsenal was producing 610 machine guns, 3,600,000 cartridges, 480 mortars, 204,000 mortar shells and 34,000 gas masks annually.

Guangdong Arsenal

Established in 1874, in 1917 production was 600 rifles, 500,000 cartridges and 6 machine guns. However the production quality of the arsenal deteriorated and following a 1935 inspection only 10% of the cartridges were found to have passed inspection. The arsenal came under the control of the Central Government following the defection of Yu Hanmou to Nanjing during the Liangguang incident.

Sichuan Arsenal/Chongqing Arms Depot

Established in 1878, the arsenal's production in 1913 was 15,000 rifles, 7,500,000 cartridges and 45,000lbs of smokeless powder annually. However, due to warfare in Sichuan the arsenal was closed, then finally moved to Chongqing in 1932. In 1933 it produced 6,000 KE7 machine guns.

Jinan Arsenal

Located in Shandong, by the mid-1930s this arsenal was producing 3,000,000 cartridges and 60,000 grenades every month.


For a more comprehensive list, see List of Chinese military equipment in World War II.

See also: Development of Chinese armoured forces (1927–45) and Development of Chinese Nationalist air force (1937–1945)

A Chinese Nationalist Army soldier equipped with a German M35 helmet and a ZB vz. 26.
German-equipped Chinese troops practicing a march at the Chinese Military Academy at Chengdu in 1944.

For regular provincial Chinese divisions the standard rifles were the Hanyang 88 (copy of Gewehr 88). Central army divisions were typically equipped with the Chiang Kai-shek rifle and other Mauser type rifles from Germany, Belgium and Czechoslovakia. The standard light machine gun were imported or domestically produced of the Czech Brno ZB vz. 26 in the standard 7.92 mm. There were machine guns from other sources, such as Belgian, French and from the Soviet Aid Programme. In general, there were 6-9 LMG's in an infantry company, with the monthly ammunition supply being around 5,000 rounds (for 5 days consumption). Heavy machine guns were mainly locally-made Type 24 water-cooled Maxim guns (which were based on the commercial version of the German MG08), and Type Triple-Ten M1917 Browning machine guns chambered for the standard 8mm Mauser round. On average, every Central Army battalion contained a machine gun company with 5-6 heavy machine guns. They were allotted a monthly supply of 20,000 rounds. The most common sidearm for NCOs and officers was the 7.63 mm Mauser C96 semi-automatic pistol. Submachine guns were not part of any TO&E, but many were inherited from former warlord armies or locally produced. They were generally carried by the guards of divisional or corps commanders or special service platoon/companies. Some elite units, such as the X Force in Burma used Lend-Lease US equipment.

US-equipped Chinese Army in India marching.

Generally speaking, the regular provincial army divisions did not possess any artillery. However, some Central Army divisions were equipped with 37 mm PaK 35/36 anti-tank guns, and/or anti-air guns from Oerlikon, Madsen, and Solothurn. Each of these infantry divisions ideally had 6 French Brandt 81 mm mortars and 6 Solothurn 20 mm autocannons. Some independent brigades and artillery regiments were equipped with Krupp 75 mm L/29 field guns, Krupp 75 mm L/14, or Bofors 75 mm L/20 mountain guns. There were also 24 Rheinmetall 150 mm L/32 sFH 18 howitzers (bought in 1934) and 24 Krupp 150 mm L/30 sFH 18 howitzers (bought in 1936). At the start of the war, the NRA and the Tax Police Regiment had three tank battalions armed with German Panzer I light tanks and CV-35 tankettes. After defeat in the Battle of Shanghai the remaining tanks, together with several hundred T-26 and BT-5 tanks acquired from the Soviet Union were reorganised into the 200th Division.

Infantry uniforms were basically redesigned Zhongshan suits. Puttees were standard for soldiers and officers alike, since the primary mode of movement for NRA troops was by foot. Troops were also issued sewn field caps. The helmets were the most distinguishing characteristic of these divisions. From the moment German M35 Stahlhelms rolled off the production lines in 1935, and until 1936, the NRA imported 315,000 of these helmets, usually seen with the Blue Sky with a White Sun emblem of the ROC on the sides. These helmets were worn by both the German-trained divisions and regular Central Army divisions. Other helmets included the French Adrian helmet, the British Brodie helmet and later the American M1 helmet. Other equipment included straw shoes for soldiers (cloth shoes for Central Army), leather shoes for officers and leather boots for high-ranking officers. Every soldier was issued ammunition for his weapon, along with ammunition pouches or harness, a water flask, bayonet, food bag, and a gas mask.

See also



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Further reading