Su Yu

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Senior General
Su Yu
Su Yu 1955 formal.jpg
Su Yu in 1955
Personal details
Born August 10, 1907
Huitong County, Hunan Province, Qing dynasty
Died February 5, 1984(1984-02-05) (aged 76)
Beijing, People's Republic of China
Military service
Allegiance Communist Party of China
 People's Republic of China
Service/branch People's Liberation Army
Years of service 1927–1984
Rank Senior General of the People's Liberation Army
Commands Deputy commander-in-chief of the Eastern China Field Army, Chief of the General Staff
Battles/wars Northern Expedition, Hundred Regiments Offensive, Second Sino-Japanese War, Chinese Civil War, Sino-Indian War

Su Yu (Chinese: 粟裕; pinyin: Sù Yù; August 10, 1907 – February 5, 1984) was a Chinese Communist military leader. He was considered by Chinese Communist Leader Mao Zedong to be among the best commanders of the PLA only next to Lin Biao and Liu Bocheng. Su Yu fought in the Second Sino-Japanese War and in the Chinese Civil War. He commanded the East China Field Army (renamed 3rd Field Army in 1949) during the Chinese Civil War.

Early life[edit]

Su Yu was born in Huitong County, Hunan province on August 10, 1907 to an ethnic Dong family, but he considered himself a Han Chinese. He was the third child among six siblings. Su's father was Su Zhouheng (粟周亨), his mother was Liang Manmei (梁满妹), and the family depended on the 30 mu of inherited farmland for survival. By the age of 18, Su Yu entered the Hunan Provincial 2nd Normal School at Changde for his post-secondary education.

Encirclement Campaigns and the Long March[edit]

In 1926, he joined the Communist Youth League of China, and in 1927 joined the Communist Party of China. He took part of the Northern Expedition and later the Nanchang Uprising. He emerged as one of the ablest guerrilla commanders in the Jiangxi Soviet during the 1930s. He did not join The Long March because he was tasked to fight against the nationalist troops for a delaying action, and stayed in the South of Zhejiang until 1937.

Second Sino-Japanese War[edit]

Su Yu in the Second Sino-Japanese War

In the Second Sino-Japanese War, he won the Cheqiao Campaign against the Japanese Army. After this, he had some other campaigns in Central Jiangsu. He was also responsible for expanding communist power bases in Shandong and Jiangsu provinces by attacking nationalist-controlled cities; the nationalist forces under General Gu Zhutong retaliated by wiping out a large segment of communist troops in the New Fourth Army Incident, which marked the end of the united front.

During the war, Su Yu was the commander for New Fourth Army's first division, he established himself as one of the Communist armed force's most capable commander, won a series of skirmish campaigns against overwhelming enemy - KMT Army, Puppet regime force and Japanese Army. By the end of war, he was made Commander in Chief for Communists' Central China's Military Region, cover a vast region in East Central China.

Chinese Civil War[edit]

Su Yu, second from the left, was surveying the battlefield before the Menglianggu Campaign started in 1947.

During the Civil War, Su Yu started as second in command for Communists's East China Field Army, eventually made to second in command of Third Field Army by the end of war.

The successes of the battle persuaded Mao Zedong to change his military strategy of the Chinese Civil War, from traditional guerrilla style warfare to a more mobile and conventional approach. In July 1946, he led 30,000 communist troops which triumphed over 120,000 American-armed nationalist troops in seven different engagements, captured and killed 53,000 Kuomingtang soldiers and stunned the country. The Central Jiangsu Campaign was the first of many of the brilliant campaigns that defined his legacy. He was also the commander of the PLA in the famous and much propagandized Menglianggu Campaign. In this campaign, the elite Nationalist Seventy-Fourth division was completely destroyed after Su Yu succeeded in encircling the unit.

He was the major commander during the Huaihai Campaign (November 1948 to January 1949). It was at his suggestion on January 22, 1948 that the two armies of Liu and Su followed a sudden-concentrate, sudden-disperse strategy that led to this decisive victory in late 1948, with the destruction of five Nationalist armies and the killing or capture of 550,000 Nationalist soldiers. Su's army alone destroyed 4 nationalist armies, and was the decisive force in destroying the fifth.

After the establishment of the PRC[edit]

Su Yu in 1955
Hong Xuezhi, Xiao Hua, Su Yu, and Chen Geng in 1955 (left to right)

When the Korean War broke out in 1950, it was rumored that Su Yu was the commander that Mao wanted to lead the Chinese People's Volunteer Army into Korea, because of his experience of commanding a large number of troops. However, because of his illness (caused by shell fragments in the 1930s), neither Su nor Lin Biao (also rumored to be sick) was able to command the CVA. In the end, Peng Dehuai was selected.

He was made a da jiang (Grand General) in 1955. He served in numerous positions, including Chief of the People's Liberation Army General Staff Department in the 1950s. In his later years, he published The Memoirs of Su Yu (粟裕回忆录). He died in Beijing on February 5, 1984 at the age of 77.


Su Yu, Chu Qing, and their two sons Su Rongsheng and Su Hansheng in Shanghai, September 1949

Su Yu married Chu Qing (楚青) in February 1941. They had three children, all of whom joined the PLA. The eldest son Su Rongsheng (粟戎生) was born in 1942, followed by the second son Su Hansheng (粟寒生), and the youngest, a daughter Su Huining (粟惠宁), who married Chen Xiaolu (陈小鲁) in August 1975. Chen Xiaolu was the youngest son of Chen Yi who was Su Yu's direct superior during wartime. According to Su Rongsheng, Su Yu was an extremely strict father. When Su Rongsheng was only three years old, Su Yu forced him to learn how to swim by giving him only a piece of bamboo as a float, and pushed him into the water in front of his mother, and prohibited anyone from attempting to save Su Rongsheng. Su Yu's wife, Chu Qing was outraged and asked Su Yu angrily whether he was not worried about Su Rongsheng being drowned. But Su Yu answered that Su Rongsheng would have never learned how to swim any other way and besides, he was not being drowned. At age of 20, Su Rongsheng joined the PLA and remained in service for 45 years, rising from an ordinary soldier to a lieutenant general when he retired as the deputy commander-in-chief of Beijing Military District at age 65.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Nie Rongzhen
PLA Chief of General Staff
Succeeded by
Huang Kecheng