Taiwan's Tanks Managed to Do What Hitler's Mighty Panzers Failed to Do at Normandy
For Taiwan, the hero of the battle would always remain the little Stuart tanks of the First Battalion, commemorated as the "Bears of Kinmen."
The Kuomintang victory at Kinmen Island was of immense consequence: instead of blowing open the door to Taiwan, Chinese Communist forces found it slammed shut and realized how much they needed to improve their air, naval and amphibious capabilities. Unlike the Allies at Normandy, the Tenth Army forces had gone in with inadequate fire support, inaccurate intelligence and insufficient transport. The PLA night attack still nearly established a defensible foothold, but the lightly equipped troops had lacked survivable sea transport to bring in urgently needed reinforcements and heavy weapons to neutralize the Nationalist tanks.
The subsequent invasion of Hainan Island in 1950, though not without hiccups, ended in a decisive victory for the PLA, and in 1956 the PLA Navy and Air Force demonstrated remarkably improved firepower, planning and logistical capacity in the capture of the fortified Yijiangshan Islands. Kinmen Island would be relentlessly pounded by intense artillery fire from the mainland over the subsequent decades, but the PLA never attempted to storm the island again. Today, tourists from mainland China flock to visit the abandoned beach defenses on the once heavily fortified island.
For Taiwan, the hero of the battle would always remain the little Stuart tanks of the First Battalion, commemorated as the “Bears of Kinmen.” These had achieved what Hitler’s mighty Panther and Tiger tanks did not, crushing an invasion while it was still on the beach, ensuring the survival of the Republic of China.
Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.
Image: M5A1 at Armor School History Museum, Republic of China. Wikimedia Commons/Public domain