National Revolutionary Army

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Flag of the Republic of ChinaFlag of the Republic of China National Revolutionary Army
( 國民 革命 軍 )

Flag of the NRA
Commander in Chief : Chiang Kai-shek
Military leadership: National Military Council
Headquarters: Nanjing
Military strength
Active soldiers: 5,300,000
Eligibility for military service:
Founding: 1925
Replacement: 1947

The National Revolutionary Army , abbreviated NRA ( Chinese  國民 革命 軍 , Pinyin Guómín Gémìng Jūn , W.-G. Kuo-min Ke-ming Chün ), before 1928 often shortened to Revolutionary Army (革命 軍) and between 1928 and 1947 as the National Army (國 軍), was the Army of the Republic of China (1912–1949) , which included the Air Force of the Republic of China and the Navy of the Republic of China .


The Xinhai Revolution of 1911 led to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty dynasty. The soldiers and cadres of the modernized New Armies played a leading role in the overthrow of the monarchy. Sun Yat-sen , the founding father of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the main initiator of the revolution, compromised on the establishment of the republic by appointing Yuan Shikai , the Qing military commander who had been entrusted with suppressing the revolution, as president of the newly created republic China appointed. Yuan Shikai tried with the support of the largest New Army , the Beiyang Army, which had been formed in northern China, to establish an authoritarian state and to restore the monarchy with himself as monarch. Other Chinese military leaders protested against his claims and a civil war broke out. Yuan's death in 1916 left a power vacuum in which the central government in Beijing became the pawn of various military commanders who, due to their regional power base, could act autonomously as warlords. Some of these warlords controlled several provinces in the country.

In 1923, Sun Yat-sen established the base of his movement in Canton with the aim of uniting China under a central republican government. In the same year, Sun Yat-sen took up contact with the Soviet Union via the Comintern , which was supposed to support the establishment of a national army to break the power of the warlords. With Soviet help, the Chinese nationalists founded the Whampoa Military Academy in Canton. This served as the nucleus of the Kuomintang armed forces. Chiang Kai-shek became the head of the academy and succeeded him at the helm of the Kuomintang after Sun's death. In 1925, Chiang founded the National Revolutionary Army . The Army's first large-scale operation was the Northern Expedition that same year. As a result, the nationalists achieved an incomplete reunification of the country under the KMT government in Nanjing . In order to secure the support of the Soviet Union, the KMT leadership entered into an alliance with the Communist Party , whose personnel were also included in the ranks of the NRA. Chiang Kai-shek installed a political officer system based on the Soviet model which was supposed to spread the ideology of the KMT in the troops. At the beginning of the northern expedition, the NRA comprised around 100,000 men. By the end of the operation in 1928, the KMT force had grown into an actual national army of China with 2.2 million soldiers. Before the end of the northern expedition, the Kuomintang terminated its cooperation with the communists, expelled them from the army and also sent around 130 Soviet military instructors home. From this point on, the communists became opponents of the KMT in the Chinese Civil War .

The national revolutionary army was initially recruited from volunteers. In 1933 a law on conscription was created based on the German model . This was only used after the outbreak of the First Sino-Japanese War . A total of around 14 million conscripts were drafted between 1937 and 1945. The Republic of China thus exhibited a significantly lower degree of mobilization than other warring parties in World War II. Due to the low pay which during the war was below the wages of menial jobs such as rickshaw drivers , as well as the poor food, military service was very unpopular. Above all members of poor families who could not afford bribes or illegal representatives were drafted. The military service of a male family member providing for the family often represented the first step to the financial and social ruin of the family. Just as unpopular was the civilian work for the army, which often tried to solve logistical tasks by requisitioning civilians.

The army itself suffered from a heavy and private-interest bureaucracy. Likewise, the officers often had to perform civilian administrative tasks, which significantly restricted their performance. In many areas the army remained the only tangible state administration. On average, a KMT officer could only spend around three days a week with the military training of his unit.

The NRA received German military aid from the early 1930s under the aegis of Hans von Seeckt and Alexander von Falkenhausen . By the outbreak of war with Japan in 1937, 19 NRA divisions had been trained according to the German model and some were equipped with German material.

Military operations

The NRA had its first deployment in 1926 in Sun Yat-sen's planned northern campaign against warlords in northern China. The aim was Chinese reunification, for which the Kuomintang and Communist Parties formed a first united front . During the campaign, the alliance broke up. The break led to the Chinese Civil War , so that the soldiers of the National Revolutionary Army fought on several fronts from 1927. The northern campaign ended successfully in 1928.

Other missions followed, for example:


National Revolutionary Army officers and soldiers helped build the armed forces of the Republic of China after the Kuomintang withdrew to Taiwan .


  • Ah Xiang: "Red Terror vs. White Terror - Political, Social, Cultural, Historical Analysis Of China" 1998
  • Multiple authors: "Post Japanese" The Shanghai Triad and the KMT . In: Takao Club Taiwan 2012 History Project Publications Takao Club

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Edward A. McCord: Warlordism in Early Republican China. in David A. Graff, Robert Higham (Eds.): A Military History of China. Lexington, 2012, pp. 176-190
  2. Chang Jui-te: The National Army from Whampoa to 1949 in David A. Graff, Robert Higham (ed.): A Military History of China. Lexington, 2012, pp. 195-197
  3. Xiaobing Li: National Revolutionary Army. in Xiaobing Li (Ed.): China at War - An Encyclopedia. , Oxford, 2012 p. 307 - p. 309
  4. a b Chang Jui-te: The National Army from Whampoa to 1949 in David A. Graff, Robert Higham (ed.): A Military History of China. Lexington, 2012, pp. 202-205
  5. Chang Jui-te The Nationalist Army on the Eve of the War. in Mark Peattie, Edward Drea, Hans van de Ven (Eds.): The Battle for China - Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937 - 1945. Stanford, 2011, pp. 102f