During the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party headed by Mao Zedong was about to invade Taiwan until a humiliating defeat stopped their advances.

According to Business Insider, that October, the Communists marched over Kinmen island in the Taiwan Strait, around 10 km (6.2 mi) east of the southeastern coast of the mainland. They planned to finish their military expedition in three days and move on with Taiwan as the next target. 

The bloodbath took 54 hours, and the triumphed forces were the Chinese Nationalists (now more commonly known as Kuomintang (KMT)), led by Chiang Kai-shek . Beforehand, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was still quickly taking over cities and ports, routing and pushing the Nationalists to Taiwan.

The PLA wrongly evaluated that defending Kinmen could be 20,000 men who were inexperienced and unmotivated. 

Then came a plan to conquer the island via two groups of over 20,000 troops. Vessels would deliver the first 9,000 men to the beaches around 7:00 p.m. They were meant to establish a beachhead and pave the way for the second force of around 11,000 men to arrive the following day. 

On the other hand, Chiang supplemented the island with 20,000 more troops who had fought in World War II. He also installed hundreds of bunkers and trenches, planted thousands of mines, and set out anti-ship obstacles on the beaches.

The first bad omen emerged after logistics and command mishaps kept PLA vessels from boarding as planned. The first group would not leave until after midnight. Initially, the PLA arrived free of detection, remained at high tide, and protected from the anti-ship traps beneath.

But the late departure let them leave when the water receded, and the traps took over the vessels.

More to the PLA’s dismay, a landmine in the area unintentionally went off during a routine KMT patrol, warning neighboring defenders. As the PLA invasion force disembarked, searchlights and flares quickly revealed it, setting off a fierce two-hour combat.

Around the same time, the KMT’s army completed their landing on the opposite side of the island, and the PLA force soon found itself outnumbered five to one. At dawn, KMT battleships and B-25 planes entered the battle. They destroyed the trapped boats to contain the advancing force and prevent reinforcements.

Some PLA units were successful in seizing the town of Guningtou. But soon, KMT tanks, aircraft, and soldiers rounded up the area on October 27. By the end of the day, the PLA soldiers who had fled to the beaches had also surrendered. KMT won the 3-day combat that resulted in more deaths from the PLA’s side.

The PLA later dropped its eyes on Kinmen to focus on the Korean War. In the end, the PLA acknowledged that it lacked the capacity to take over Taiwan.

The Kinmen battle, also known as the Battle of Guningtou, put a stop to the Chinese civil war and led to the birth of greater China’s only democracy.

Now, Kinmen hosts multiple military museums and monuments, shrines dedicated to the fallen on both sides of the Guningtou conflict. 

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